“When one teaches, two learn”- Robert Half

Last week marked the halfway point of my student teaching experience and this past Monday I switched from high school instrumental to elementary general. Last week I was not able to write a reflection because I participated in the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Band held at Juanita college. The band was under the direction of Dr. Mark Scatterday from Eastman School of Music. This was an incredible experience and I learned a lot of valuable information both as a performer and music educator. Dr. Scatterday gave a lot of great pointers for future music educators and shared a lot of stories, which as a current student teacher I was able to relate to quite well. I feel as teachers there are a lot of valuable lessons that we can learn through our own rehearsals and performances. My high school placement was a great experience and I feel that it helped me to grow tremendously as a music educator. While there were plenty o f hardships and challenges  I learned more  lessons than I ever could have imagined and began to find myself as a music educator. Over the past seven weeks I have shared a bunch of the lessons I have learned so instead of repeating those I thought I would share what I would do differently if I were given the opportunity to re-do this placement.

Things I Would Do Differently

  1. Be More Firm from the Beginning– If I were able to do my high school placement over again I would be more firm from the start. My first week or two of teaching I wasn’t very strict or firm with the students because I was trying to build relationships with them and didn’t want my firmness to hinder those relationships. Thankfully I was still able to gain respect and control of the classroom even though I didn’t start firm. Reflecting back on the experience I believe that I would have had less classroom management problems, especially at the beginning if I would have been more strict from the beginning. Especially as a young teacher it is important for the students to know that you are in charge and gain their respect. I believe that to do this you must be strict and let you expectations be known right from the beginning. I found that when I really pushed my students and raised my expectations they continually raised the bar to meet those expectations. On my last day many of my students even told me that they appreciated how hard I pushed them in rehearsals, which meant a lot to me.
  2. Capture Student Progress– Over the past seven weeks I noticed so much progress in my students playing and ability levels. From day one when I heard them until the night of the concert they sounded completely different. I was able to hear and see this progress on a daily basis, but now looking back I wish I would have captured this progress. If I were to re-do this experience I would record my students during the first week and then record them again during my last week. This way not only would I see the progress, but I could show the students how much they improved. This is also a great way to show the importance of your program and show that learning is taking place in your classroom.
  3. Establish Routines Quicker– This is hard as a student teacher because you mainly have to follow the routines that your cooperating teacher already has established. With that being said you are still able to establish a rehearsal routine that works for you and your teaching style. While I had a rehearsal routine by the end of the placement, I wish I would have established it earlier on. At the beginning of my placement I would do warm-ups and tuning, but I didn’t do it consistently because I was more focused on getting into the music and seeing where the students were at, so I would know what needed work. If I would have established these routines earlier on I believe it would have been easier for both me and the students and I would have saved myself some headaches when trying to establish these routines later in the placement.
  4. Be More Proactive– I feel that there are some areas where I could have been more proactive. While my classroom management skills improved over the course of the past seven weeks, I believe that if I would have been more proactive I would have been faced with less classroom management problems. One way to be proactive in regards to classroom management is to make sure that you clearly state your behavioral expectations from the beginning. This is something I really didn’t do because I figured my cooperating teacher already had these in place. While my co-op did have these expectations in place, reflecting back on the experience I realize that I should have made my behavioral expectations clear from the start.
  5. Rehearsal Techniques– While I was pleased with most of my rehearsal techniques and how my rehearsals went, there is one thing I would change. I continually struggled with getting the percussion to cooperate and participate during rehearsal (this is also something my co-op said she struggled with on a daily basis). A lot of the problem is that their parts are very easy for them and they feel that they don’t need to rehearse as much as the rest of the band. This was a daily challenge for me and many times I felt like just ignoring it so I could have a productive rehearsal with the rest of the band. If I were to do this placement over again I would find more rehearsal strategies and techniques to involve the percussion so that they participate and aren’t bored.

These past seven weeks have definitely been some of the most challenging/stressful, but yet best weeks of my undergraduate career. Over the past weeks there have been a lot of eye-opening experiences that have really made me think and grow as an educator. Going into this placement I was a little nervous because I never saw myself as a high school band director, but I can definitely say that my opinions have changed and I can easily see myself teaching high school instrumental music. Leaving my students was definitely a bittersweet feeling. I am excited to move on and see what new experiences lie ahead, but it is also hard to leave the students that I have worked with for the past seven weeks. This week I got to conduct 2 numbers at their concert. This was an amazing experience and was great to see and hear how much the students grew over the past seven weeks. While the performance by no means was perfect, I am confident that both the students and I learned a lot, which is what matters the most.   This past week I started my elementary placement which is full of new challenges and experiences. Be looking for a reflection post on my experiences during my first week in elementary general music within the next few days.