“The experienced teacher invited rather than compels the student and is pleased by the emergence of differences.”- Ernst Bacon

Unfortunately last week I was unable to post my reflection for the week so I am hoping to post both last weeks and just this past weeks experiences over the weekend. Last week I began to take over a few classes, but I was still mainly observing. While, of course I want to teach and get hands on experience there is a lot of valuable knowledge that you can learn just by carefully and closely watching to veteran teachers. It has also been a great experience because I am getting the opportunity to see two completely different approaches to elementary general music and two different styles of teaching. Teaching elementary general music is a completely different world than high school instrumental music is, but I am really enjoying it and feel that this placement is really challenging me and helping me to grow as a music educator in many ways. Since during last week i still didn’t take over many classes, I thought I would use this post to share a few of the main differences that I have found between teaching high school and elementary music.

Schedules-

At the elementary level the schedule is completely different than in high school. Below are some of the scheduling differences I have found between my two placements, bust I am sure these vary from every elementary to high school. One big change is with elementary I am at school a lot less. I arrive at school around 8 and leave at 3:30. In my high school placement I arrived around 7 or shortly after and usually stayed to close 5 for after school activities. It is great getting out earlier, but with that being said my schedule throughout the day is much busier at the elementary level. Most days we do not get a planning period throughout the day. Our only planning period is in the morning when the teachers get there and while the students are getting settled in. This makes for a long and tiring day. At my high school placement we had 1 planning period plus 1 or 2 study halls a day which was a great break. Travelling between buildings also makes the schedule at my elementary placement busier. Because of the lack of prep time most of the preparation has to be done outside of school because the morning is usually taken by helping students and laying out all of your materials for the entire day because most days we do not have ANY downtime between the classes.

Amount of Students-

At my high school placement I was able to get to know the students on a much more personal level which is something I really enjoy and feel is important. One thing I am struggling with at my elementary placement is not getting to know the students as well. I feel like in some of my classes I barely know the students and I am still struggling with learning names. This is a big change because a the high school level I saw a lot fewer students and most of them I saw a few times a day because they were in different ensembles. Now I only see the students once a week for 40 minutes and am at three different schools throughout the course of the week. I have 30 general music classes throughout the week which leads to me seeing close to 600 students in a week. This is definitely a challenge for me, but is part of what comes with teaching elementary general music.

Energy-

Another difference between high school and elementary general music is not only the amount of energy the students have, but the amount of energy that you must have to keep the students excited and engaged during the entire class period. Unfortunately at the high school level many times the students do not want to be there, but are forced to be there for some reason or another. Also the students at the high school level often have less energy because they have much more going on in their lives. On the other hand, elementary students have a ton of energy and for the most part seem to really enjoy music class. I really love this aspect because as the teacher you can feed off of their energy and really have a lot of fun. Going along with this I am more exhausted after teaching multiple general music classes than I was when I taught high school ensembles. I feel that elementary general music requires more focus and energy at all times. I am not saying that high school doesn’t require energy because it definitely does just in a different way.

Back to Basics-

The last major difference that I have noticed is at the elementary level you have to remember that you are going back to basics. This was a big adjustment for me because at the high school level we were working more on being musical and all the technical elements of music. With the elementary students you are working on all the extremely important fundamentals such as rhythm, melody, and steady beat. I have caught my self a few times going to much in-depth with a concept, not explaining something clear enough, or using too many musical terms that the students have not been introduced to yet. As elementary teachers we have to remember for some of the young students this is some of their first formal encounters with music. I love teaching the basics and beginning to instill a love of music into the students, but it is a completely different frame of mind from teaching high school. It is important to remember though, without these basics and teachers to teach our students these basics we would not be able to get into the higher level concepts with the high school students.

While switching from high school to elementary has been a huge change I am still really enjoying it. I love working with the younger students and love how much energy and excitement they bring into the classroom. Going into my student teaching experience I was hoping that I would get a better idea of what level I wanted to teach at. Unfortunately I have still don’t know. There are aspects I love about each level and now I am just enjoying teaching music no matter what level. Look for a post at the end of my experience reflecting what I enjoy and don’t enjoy as much about each both elementary and high school. This past week I just finished was full of challenges and a lot of lessons learned as I began to take over most of the classes. Look for another reflection post coming soon.