Congratulations! You’ve just received that long-awaited job offer you worked so hard for! Now that the offer has finally come, you can hardly contain your excitement -- and for good reason! You are about to enter one of the most fulfilling career fields out there.
But now that you have the job offer in hand… What do you do?
Don’t worry, friend! It’s normal to feel all different types of emotions once you’ve landed an elementary music job. Excitement! Nervousness... Joy! Anxiety... Those are all totally normal, I promise you!
Once you’ve worked your way through the extremes of your emotional rollercoaster, take a look at these recommendations for what to do next:
1. Take care of the paperwork
This one may seem obvious, but make sure you take care of all of the HR/business stuff before you do anything else. Talk to your HR person about the details of your contract, how to get enrolled in insurance benefits, and anything else you may have questions about. They’re there to help, so don’t feel bad about asking questions!
2. Check out your new room!
You have your very own music room now! Whether this is your first job, or you’re coming here from another school, this is one of the most exciting parts! When I first got my job, I couldn’t WAIT to be in my space.
I got a feeling of where my desk was going to be, what kind of storage space I had, and what supplies were already in there. It helped give me an idea of what I had on hand so that I could start lesson planning right away! (After all, it’s hard to do a ukulele unit without ukuleles!) And speaking of instruments...
3. Take inventory
If you’re lucky, this part may have already been done for you. (Even so, I recommend double checking it just in case!) See what types of instruments you have, and what kind of condition they’re in. Do they need cleaning or repairs? Better to take care of that stuff now instead of later when you’ll need them!
Also, I recommend making an inventory of any books or other resources you have in your room. I made myself a spreadsheet of all the books I have, and it has come in handy so many times!
4. Think about your routines
Try to picture what your day is going to be like. What is your schedule? When is your lunch? Not only that, also start thinking about routines for your classes. For example, I start each of my classes with some sort of mindfulness or focus activity and I end my lessons with a recap/cool down activity.
How do you envision your lessons? It’s okay to not have all the answers yet, but definitely start thinking about it!
5. Take a breath and celebrate
You’ve got this! You did the work. You aced the interview. You got the job! Even though there are a lot of things to think about and plan for, please take comfort in the fact that you are now part of one of the most supportive career fields out there.
You have the opportunity to impact the lives of wonderful kids through the power of music! Take some time tonight to celebrate this amazing accomplishment - you’ve earned it!
Congratulations again, music teacher friend! You are going to be amazing! Whether you’ve been in this field for your entire adult life, or this is your first teaching position, a new job is an exciting time in a person’s life. That excitement can also be coupled with a lot of questions and uncertainty.
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If you’re looking for a community of elementary music teachers who will help and support you every step of the way, you should join the General Music Mastermind group on Facebook! Can’t wait to see you there!
This article was submitted by Rachel Ammons, contributing author for ThatMusicTeacher.com. Interested in becoming a contributing author? Email resume and writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s face it. We’ve all gotten some pretty terrible advice for how to teach elementary music. On top of that, the majority of this advice is entirely unsolicited.
I asked a group of elementary music teachers on Facebook to share some of the worst advice they’ve ever received, and let’s just say that some of these are pretty… special, to say the least.
1. "The students are only misbehaving because they don't like what you're teaching."
This isn’t necessarily the case. This might be my time in special education showing, but it's often important to think about the function of the behavior we are seeing in our classroom. On top of this, I think we as educators really need to think about what types of emotional baggage our students are bringing with them.
Sometimes a student is acting out because they don’t get attention at home. Sometimes it comes down to a student trying to emotionally cope with an upcoming change. Sure, sometimes a kid is just being disruptive. But I would argue that more often than not, our students act out for a deeper reason.
2. “The ultimate goal of music education is for children to read music.”
I just have to say that I strongly disagree with this. The goal of music education (at least in my classroom) is to create lifelong lovers and participants of music. Reading music might help in this, but it’s not the goal.
Don’t get me wrong, reading music is important. It’s just not everything. Plenty of popular professional musicians and artists don’t know how to read music. Being able to read music is definitely something we should be teaching our students, but I believe that it should be as a tool to experience music.
3. "You're wasting your talent teaching elementary school."
Yeah. That’s not how this works. You wouldn’t call a pediatrician any less of a doctor because they work with younger kiddos. They’ve just decided to specialize in that field. The same is the case when it comes to elementary music teachers. We refine our craft of teaching music in the same ways that secondary educators do.
I’m not really sure where this idea came from, but teaching music at the elementary level is so important. We are often some of the first interactions a student has with music, and we have the incredible opportunity (responsibility) to allow our students to experience music in a way that creates lifelong appreciation of music.
4. “Don’t smile until Christmas.”
No. Just no.
Somewhere along the line, this phrase became a common piece of advice for new teachers. I really hope that we can agree that it’s pretty terrible advice.
You can have control of your classroom without making your students afraid of you. I would argue that students that know you genuinely care tend to be easier to manage because they want to do right by you.
Smile at your kids. Smile on the first day, the last day, and every day in between.
5. “Remember: You’re just here to give the teachers their planning period.”
This is one sentence that gets under my skin. We are not babysitters. We are not a body in a room that fulfills a contractual obligation for the homeroom teachers. We are professionals with specialized knowledge in our content area.
I’ll say it again for those in the back: we are experts in our content area. Not only that, but we have pedagogical knowledge for teaching these concepts with our students.
Remember, you are the expert music teacher in your school. Take the advice of outsiders with a grain of salt and remember that what you are doing matters. Remember that you make a difference in the lives of your students, no matter what anyone else says.
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For better or for worse, most states' music teacher licensure includes certification in Kindergarten through high school. While this can be incredibly helpful when it comes to job security, it comes at a cost.
For obvious reasons, most undergraduate colleges and universities try to fit their music education degrees into a four-year time frame. With so many different areas and age groups to learn about, obviously there are going to be areas that don't get focused on as much. Unfortunately, this often is the case when it comes to preparing music educators for the elementary realm.
Below are 5 things I learned while teaching elementary music that I wish I could've learned during my time earning my undergraduate degree:
1. You have to be five steps ahead.
I didn't fully understand just how important looking at things with a "big-picture" attitude was until I started trying to figure out my curricular sequence. In elementary music, you are teaching the fundamental concepts that will be used in their music education for years to come.
Being aware of prerequisite skills is something that can make or break you at the elementary level. Take it from me, it is really easy to assume that your students are able to start learning musical notation and then find out that they are still learning how to track from left to right!
2. You'll likely be creating your own curriculum.
While there is a chance your district will have a curriculum map or guide for you to follow, the reality is that you will probably be creating your own curriculum from scratch.
While we talked about learning sequences and how to make sure lessons build upon each other in undergrad, it's one thing to know that learning should be sequential and knowing what to teach when.
3. How to plan a performance without going crazy.
Performance is obviously a large part of what music is and how it is taught in the public schools these days. The thing is, sometimes we as music educators get too focused on the final product and forget about the musical moments along the way.
While I personally think that performance experiences in general music are incredibly important, I also believe that they should be stress-free and demonstrative of actually happens in our classrooms!
I wish I would've learned how to program a concert at the elementary level while I was working on my undergraduate degree. It definitely would have helped me keep my sanity during my first year of teaching.
4. Classroom management is key!
While this is true at all levels of teaching, it's incredibly important at the elementary level. If you've ever tried to get 25 Kindergartners to make a circle without killing each other, you'll understand.
I wish I would've been able to have more experience in undergrad creating a classroom management plan for the elementary. I mean, let's be honest, when you give a class of fourth graders a recorder, you want them to know when not to play.
5. Lessons take hours to plan.
It can take multiple hours of planning and researching when creating a 30 minute lesson. I know, it sounds incredibly overwhelming and impossibly unrealistic.
But if you're new to elementary music and aren't familiar with repertoire, activities, and resources, you can easily spend hours on Pinterest, in books, and online creating a new high-quality lesson.
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Don't get me wrong, I love teaching elementary music. I just wish I could've been a little bit more prepared when I came out of undergrad when it came to some of the aspects of teaching general music.
As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes all too real, many of us are transitioning to teaching remotely. This offers a serious challenge to all educators, especially music teachers.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here is a list of some of the resources that I am using in my new online "classroom."
I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that this is going to be at the top of my list for allowing students to explore music technology in my classroom and at home.
I've been using the updated version of my Chrome Music Lab Task Cards to guide my students' exploration. These cards have a Bit.ly link that take students to the experiment they need to complete each of the tasks.
2. Treble Clef & Bass Clef Worksheets
These free worksheet allows students to label the lines and spaces on the treble staff, and also create their own mnemonic device for the order of the lines and spaces!
My students always make me laugh with all of the different phrases they come up with to help them remember the order of the notes on the staff.
These reading selections are great for having your students learn about some of the great composers. Each worksheet has a set of questions to help guide the reading and comprehension of the reader.
Dice Composition is an awesome way to have students create their own rhythmic compositions.
Students roll dice to decide what rhythms to create their own eight measure compositions.
This set contains three worksheets of varying levels.
Musicplay Online is an amazing online resource for music education. This site is the creation of the amazing Denise Gagné.
What's even better is that due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, students can log in for free through July. To log in, use username "snow" and password "2020."
Let’s be honest, one of the amazing things about being a music teacher is that we get to see so many students in one school day. By doing this we are able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students in a single day, which if you ask me is absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, we also need to be aware of letting one class’s behavior affect us after they’ve left our classrooms. It can be so easy to let one class put you in a funk and to carry that with you when the next class comes in for their music lesson. I’ve done it for sure. It can be hard to give each class the best of ourselves when we just got done with a particularly rough class before they entered the room.
However, for the sake of our students (as well as our own sanity), we need to make a conscious effort to start fresh at the beginning of each class and not carry the stressors from earlier in the day change the way we make music with our students.
This isn’t easy. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m sometimes not able reset. I’m definitely guilty of carrying over some stress from the previous class, and it rarely goes well.
So here are a few of the ways that I regroup between classes to make sure that I am always in a good headspace for my students.
Write Down a Positive Moment
Even in the roughest of classes, there will likely be at least a couple of moments that are positive. Maybe it's a quiet student that is finally trying to sing. Or maybe one of my students who has experienced a lot of trauma was able to make it through the entire class without needing to take a break.
Even in the worst moments, there are likely gems of magic that are happening too. Not only is this a great exercise after a particularly rough class, but it’s also an incredibly healthy way to view the class as it’s happening. I’ve found that it's a lot easier to make it through a difficult class when you are looking for the positive moments.
After the students have left and the dust has settled, take some time to think about why the lesson flopped. Had the students been testing all day? Were they not in the right headspace for what you tried to do? Was it too simple or too difficult? Did you give your students the tools they needed to be successful?
Take some time to think about whether or not anything was wrong with the lesson itself, or maybe it was just a problem in timing. Look at the entire lesson and see what was successful and what could have gone better. Take a look at the sequencing and make sure that you've given your students the tools that they need in order to have been successful with the lesson.
Take a couple of deep breaths. Take a moment of mindfulness and try to relax a little bit. If, like me, you don’t have any time between classes, you can even have your students join you.
Mindfulness is something that our students need to practice as well. If you need to take a moment and breathe and listen to music at the beginning of class to reset, then have your students join you. This can also be incredibly beneficial for our students as they transition into the music classroom.
There is a great episode of the Music Teacher Coffee Talk podcast that is all about mindfulness in the music classroom. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you want to learn more about how you can implement mindfulness into your classroom.
We've all been there: you spend an hour on a lesson and are so excited to finally get to share it with your students. You prepare all of the manipulatives and resources and jump right in with your students. Then the worst happens: the lesson completely flops.
There's nothing quite as unnerving as realizing the lesson you've worked so hard on isn't being received by your students in the way you had expected. It happens, and it stinks. It can be such a nasty blow to our confidence, and we begin to second guess everything.
Unfortunately, this is all just part of the gig. Lessons fail. Sometimes lessons fail for things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes the deck is just stacked against you. It is what you do after the lesson that really matters.
Take some time to remember why you teach, and work as hard as you can to leave one class’s behavior stay in that class and not bleed into the next!