“Teaching is useless unless you learn from your students and experiences.”- Martin Dansky

It is hard to believe that my first week of student teaching has come and gone already. I am hoping to use these weekly reflections to help me grow as a teacher and share my experiences, mistakes, challenges, and lessons learned. My goal for these posts is that they will be a learning experience for everyone involved. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. As I mentioned in a earlier post I am at Reynolds High School in Greenville Pa. I love my co-op and we get along very well. Even though I have not done much teaching yet I can’t believe how much I have learned in just 4 short days. The week has had some challenges, but I absolutely love it and am so excited for what I am going to experience throughout the next 13 weeks. Below are some of my experiences, lessons learned, and challenges from my first week as a student teacher.

My Weeks Experiences

I was amazed by how much I learned this week through just mainly observing. This week I did a lot of tasks such as copying papers, running errands throughout the school, and grading papers. Even though these seem like minimal tasks it was a great way to see what all is required of music teachers. I also was able to see how much of a teachers day is spent doing organizational tasks. It shocked me how little the percentage of  making music is during the day. Much of the day is spent fixing instruments, lesson planning, budgeting, grading papers, completing assessments such as playing tests, and duties such as cafeteria and lobby duty.  I also got the opportunity to work with students on an individual basis. I ran a few small sectionals, helped some of the percussionists with rhythms during band rehearsal, and helped students complete a worksheet on scales and transpositions. After school I come back to the college and on certain nights have ensemble rehearsals here. After being at school all day this week I noticed a big change coming back for rehearsals. When I am in a rehearsal now I see things much more from a teacher and directors perspective than from a students perspective.

Lessons LearnedAs I said I have learned a lot this week, but below are a few of the main lessons I gained from my experiences during my first week.

1. Confidence- I quickly realized how important it is to have confidence and not be nervous when you are in front of the students. The first few times I took over some of the rehearsals I was very nervous and started doubting my abilities. For example I got the opportunity to conduct the jazz band on 2 pieces because my co-op wanted to play with them. I wasn’t confident in myself and began to follow the ensemble (not keeping a steady tempo) instead of forcing them to follow me. After being up in front for a few seconds I began to realize that there was no reason to be nervous and that I needed to trust myself and my abilities. The next piece I conducted was much better and the next day I felt much more comfortable and confident when in front of the ensemble.

2. Singing Voice Previously I wrote  a post on and directors needing to be comfortable with using their singing voice. I definitely got to witness this first hand. Many of the students are not good at reading rhythms so they need you to sing their part before they are able to play it correctly. Many times throughout the week I had to go around the ensemble and sing the different parts to help the students get back on. My co-op sings all the time so the students expected the same from me, requiring me to do this immediately. It is amazing how much quicker students pick up on a part when they hear you sing it to them

3. Don’t Assume- I think this was probably the biggest lesson I learned all week. i learned to not automatically assume that the students know students. My students are lacking in basic skills which I didn’t know about prior to my experience. We were working on a scale worksheet and I assumed the students knew the order of the sharps and flats and the names of the notes, lines, and spaces (many of the students know how to finger a note when they see it, but they aren’t able to tell you the note name). Many of the students turned in their papers incorrect. After wondering why I quickly realized the students didn’t know these basics. After reviewing the basics with the students they were able to complete the worksheet more easily. By assuming this more student confusion was caused. Now before giving assignments I make sure I either review these concepts with the students or ask them if they know it before we start.

ChallengesAs with everything we do there are challenges. Below are some of the challenges I faced this week.

1. Transitions- One of the biggest non-teaching challenges for me was getting used to a completely different schedule and routine. Going from college student to student teacher is a big transition. You have to get up later, you have extremely long days, you are more active, and you have to do lesson plans plus any college activities after a long day at school. Before student teaching I recommend getting used to getting up early, eating breakfast, being more active, and going to bed earlier. Doing these things will help make the transition easier. By body is slowly getting used to the new schedule, but it is definitely a challenge and huge transition.

2. Learning Names- Learning student names is going to be another huge challenge for me. As music teachers we see so many students each day making this even more challenging. I was not expecting this to be as hard as it has been this week. If I am still struggling by next week I am going to have the students create name-tags to put on their desk or stand until I begin to learn them better.

3. Teaching Styles- My biggest challenge and frustration this week has been with teaching styles for the 7th grade general music class. My co-op basically treats this class as a lecture class and basically just reads from the students note packets and then assigns homework. The students are very bored and a lot of them are struggling to comprehend the material. This is not my style of teaching for general music as I like to add more creative ideas and have the students be more interactive. I am hoping to add some of this as I begin taking over the class, but my co-op is not very open to that. This is definitely going to be a big challenge and frustration for me, but I am hoping it will be a great learning experience and will get better over time.

Overall I had a wonderful week and am very excited for the coming week. This week I will be starting to rehearse both the junior high and senior concert bands, plus the jazz band for part of their rehearsals. By the middle of the week I will be taking full responsibility for the 7th grade general music class. Feel free to leave any comments or advice that you may have and stay tuned for next weeks reflections about teaching my first full lessons!