“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influences stop.” Henry Adams

If I had to sum up my week and what I learned from teaching this week in one word it would be perseverance. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, being a music teacher is challenging, hard work, and even frustrating at times, but in the end it is all worth it and is so rewarding. I found that you must have perseverance and not give up easily. This week I experienced one of my first success stories that definitely came from perseverance. In my general music class we have learned about rhythmic notation and counting. The students were really struggling with concept. I kept varying my teaching strategies, doing review activities, using visual aids etc. It was definitely a frustrating experience for me because it seemed like no matter what I did the students still weren’t getting it and I wasn’t sure what to do differently.  Finally, early in the week my students  began to understand and began participating more in class, asking more questions, and their scores began improving also. This was an awesome experience for me because it made me realize that my perseverance finally paid off for my students.

Advice/Lessons Learned– Below is some advice and lessons I have learned through teaching this week.

  1. Take Care of Yourself– It is very easy to burn-out as a student teacher and first year teacher because you are at school for long hours and then come back and have rehearsals and have lesson plans to complete. It is very important as a student teacher or beginning teacher to take care of yourself. This week was a challenging week for me in many ways and I wasn’t getting much sleeping or eating well. By the middle of the week I noticed myself becoming more stressed and fighting getting sick. After getting some more rest and making sure I was taking care of myself I  began to feel better. I believe it is important to take care of yourself to help prevent getting sick and burning-out.
  2. Set High Expectations from the Beginning- I found out that as teachers we need to set our expectations high from the start. If we set our expectations high our students are more likely to work to reach those expectations. In high school band this week I made sure my students knew what my expectations for our rehearsals are. Once the students knew my expectations rehearsal began to run more smoothly and the students seemed to be performing at a higher level to meet those expectations.
  3. What Sounds Good on Paper Doesn’t Always Work Well- Often as teachers we have a great lesson planned out on paper, but when we actually teach the lesson it doesn’t work out like we were expecting. This happened to me in general music this week. I had a great idea in having the class create a grand staff on a poster I created by having them each come up and put up the different parts of the staff that we talked about. The lesson was by no means a disaster, but it didn’t go as well as I would have liked. It was a great idea, but I didn’t carry it out well. After the lesson I thought of many ways I could have done things differently. I think the important thing to remember is that our lessons aren’t always going to workout how we would like them, but it is our job as teachers to later reflect on them and make changes.
  4. Be Willing to Leave Your Comfort Zone– I know I have talked about this in earlier posts, but I believe it is very important. As music educators we all have our areas we feel more comfortable with, but we are certified K-12. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting comfortable and getting experience in all areas and being willing to go out of your comfort zone. I am now teaching an independent study to a 7th grade drum set player and needless to say drum set is not one of my strengths and teaching him has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone, but thankfully it is going very well. I believe with a good attitude, using what you have learned in college, and just using basic teaching and musical skills we all are able to teach even areas that we aren’t as comfortable with.
  5. Communicate With Others- The last lesson I learned is that is important to communicate with others (besides just your co-op and supervisor) during your student teaching experience. Of course one way to do this is online through MPLN and Twitter. Also talking to other student teachers or even other undergraduates is a great way to get advice or just share experiences. I had the opportunity this week to have many long conversations with some of my closest music major friends and got some wonderful advice that helped me get through some of the challenges I was faced with this week.

Challenges

  1. Pacing- In general music this week one challenge for me was learning pacing. it is very hard to know how much you can fit into one lesson and how long it is going to take the students to complete an activity or understand a concept. This is why it is important to always have extra materials and be flexible. I believe that learning how to pace a lesson is something you can only learn through doing and I hope that I will continue to get better at it as I get more experience.
  2. Administration- Even though this doesn’t deal directly with my teaching experiences I learned this week how challenging dealing with administrators as a music teacher can be and how important it is to advocate to them. This week the elementary principal told the elementary music teacher that he believes it is more important for him to teach math in his classes instead of music because of the PSSA’s. This reminded me of some of the many frustrations we will and do face daily as music educators.
  3. Classroom Management- Again this is a challenge that I feel takes time to get better at. One thing I struggled with this week is knowing what the best strategy is to deal with disruptive students. I found that the best thing is to just be consistent. For example if you are constantly telling one section to not talk between pieces make sure you are not allowing anyone to talk. In general music I have on student who is very disruptive and is an attention seeker. I found that the strategy that works best for him is putting him in the front near me so that I can correct his behavior quicker. The challenge with classroom management I am learning is that every student is different and there is not one cure-all strategy that works.
  4. Staying Firm- This week a few of my students commented on me being firm with them and not letting them talk enough during rehearsals. I talked with my co-op about this and she reminded me that I need to stay firm and stick with my classroom management strategies. It is important to remember that you are not there to be their best friend, but you are there to be their teacher. In the long run your students will appreciate you for being firm.
  5. Percussion- One of my greatest challenges this week was my high school percussion students. As my co-op said this week high school percussionists are a different breed (no-offense to any percussionists). They don’t want to do anything during rehearsal and are unmotivated. They also often play without music and just improvise their parts. It is also challenging because a lot of the pieces we are doing have condensed scores so I don’t know what the percussion is supposed to be doing. I am trying to be firm with the percussion and have high expectations, but they are not responding well because they are not used to have to doing anything in band rehearsal. I asked my co-op what she suggested and she said that she wishes she knew the answer. I have a feeling this is going to be a continual challenge over the next few weeks, but hopefully it will continue to improve.

I learned this week, that we don’t see results or rewards immediately, but when we do we then realize that all the challenges and frustrations we faced were well worth it. One of the greatest things I love about becoming an educator is eventually seeing the impact that we can make on our students as long as we continually persevere. It is a wonderful, but scary thought to know that we have the opportunity and able to change and impact each one of our students through teaching music!!

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