Tag Archive: networking

“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”- Orrin Hatch

Where have the past 4 years gone? It seems like just yesterday I started college and began my journey towards becoming a music educator and now just a few days ago I walked across the stage and received my Bachelors of music degree. Now after a short four years I am finally ready to do what I truly have a passion for; teaching music. While the past four years have definitely been a challenge I have learned and grown more as future educator than I ever could have imagined. When I began this journey I never thought I would get to the point I am at now. Also, I never realized the opportunities that I would be given as an undergraduate especially at a small college. Through this journey I have found that whatever you put into your four years as an undergraduate is what you will get out of it. Over the past few days I have reflected upon my undergraduate experience and what I have learned throughout the past four years of my life. Below is some advice I would give to all music education undergraduates, regardless of your year, to help you make the most out of the college experience.

Advice for a Successful Undergraduate Career

  1. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity- I have found that it is extremely important to take advantage of every single opportunity that is given to you whether large or small. You never know when an opportunity could turn into something big. Also these opportunities help you to begin building your résumé and experiences. For example last year I was given the opportunity to be one of 15 Grove City College students to participate in the second ever #MusEdChat. I took advantage of this opportunity and because of that have gotten highly involved in the music professional learning network and the twitter network. Also without this opportunity I would have never started this blog. Taking advantage of these types of opportunities will help to shape you into the music educator that you want to become.
  2. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute-Many times I hear undergraduates pass up opportunities or don’t go to workshops because they say “I have time I am only an underclassman.” One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to get involved now. Don’t wait until your junior and senior year to start getting involved and taking advantage of opportunities because then it may be too late. It is never to early to start getting involved and start learning. One of my advisors always says “This is your profession (music education) so why wouldn’t you want to get involved from the start.” This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take advantage of opportunities towards the end of your undergraduate career, but you don’t have to wait until then to start.
  3. Enjoy Every Moment-  Enjoy every moment of this journey because it will fly by and be over before you can imagine. Being a music education major is very hard and challenging in many ways, but it is also an amazing experience. There will be days where you won’t enjoy everything you are doing, but make the most out of every moment and realize that each challenge you are face with is helping you to become a better educator. Enjoy every moment and take advantage of all the opportunities given to you during your undergraduate career, but don’t see this as the end. So many people have told me not to look forward to graduation because after that you just enter the ‘real world’.  Instead, I can’t wait to begin teaching so I can put to use what I have all ready learned and continue to learn more.
  4. Cherish Your Friendships-I know this sounds cheesy, but I honestly can say that the friendships you will make during your 4 years in college will be life-long friendships. The friendships I have made mean so much to me and I am so thankful for them. Also friends are great to go to for advice and pointers. There were countless times throughout my undergraduate career where I would go to my friends to ask them their opinion, seek advice, ask questions, or even just to talk. As I said being a music education major is a challenge so it is very important to have a strong group of friends that you can go to when times get rough.
  5. Get a Diversity of Experiences- We all have preferences of what we would like to teach when we finally graduate, but as music educators we are certified K-12. I have heard many music education undergraduates say ” I want to be a band director so choral conducting doesn’t apply to me” or something similar. I get very annoyed when I hear this because I believe we should learn as much about our profession as possible so we can be a well-rounded music educator. For example if you are an instrumentalist you should also be in a choir, observe general music classes, learn piano, and get comfortable singing. We never know where we may end up or what we may end up teaching. I have heard many stories of educators getting their first job in the area they wanted to teach the least. If we get as much experience as possible in all areas now it will make our transition into teaching easier. I also believe it is important for current educators to stay informed in the areas they aren’t teaching because you never know when your district may change your position. See my past posts Importance of Learning Secondary Instruments and I don’t Sing I am a band Director to read more of my ideas on this subject.
  6. Don’t View Anything as Pointless- Many times I have heard music undergraduates say the phrase “this is pointless” or “I am never going to use this information again.” I will admit I often caught myself saying the same things. I know there are many non-major classes we are required to take are many times pointless, but I have heard these phrases said for music classes such as solfeggio, guitar, piano, or education classes such as educational psychology. I have now learned that classes like these are not pointless and will once come in handy even if it doesn’t seem like it now. For example last year at one of my observation the teacher I observed talked about and asked me a lot of theorists such as Gardner and Vygotsky. She also asked me to play warm-ups for her elementary choir on the spot. This is when I realized that no music or education courses are pointless, it just make take a while till you need to use them.
  7. Your GPA Isn’t Everything–  Grades are important and you need to always try to do your best, but I believe it is necessary for all undergraduates to realize that there other things that are also important. Just because we get one bad grade or have a bad semester doesn’t mean that we can’t be a good teacher. Instead of putting so much focus on our grades we need to put emphasis on doing our best and taking advantage of every opportunity we are given to help us become the best teacher possible.
  8. Always Have the Eyes of a Teacher- Throughout your undergraduate experience start to try and look at everything with the eye of a teacher instead of the eye of a student. It is important to begin changing your viewpoint as this will help to make your transition into student teaching much easier. For example when sitting in an ensemble rehearsal pay more attention to what the director does and how they handle different situations. Also begin to think how you would handle the situation if you were in the directors shoes.
  9. Soak Up Everything- The field of music education has so much information and as I said before a lot of it at times seems useless. As music education undergraduates we need to be sponges and absorb all the information we can so that one day when we need it we have it to reference. We can soak up all the information that is given to us daily by being attentive, taking notes, keeping handouts for future reference, and being an active participant not just an observer. The more information we acquire now as an undergraduate will help to make the transition from student to teacher a little easier.
  10. Professional Development- Even as an undergraduate it is never too early to start attending professional development events and workshops. Professional development events help undergraduates learn more information to help them become better educators. Joining organizations such as MENC and PMEA and attending events such as state workshops, Music Education Week, and the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic are some great examples of professional development. Many of the organizations and events also have workshops specifically geared for music education undergraduates which can help you better prepare for student teaching and your first teaching job.
  11. Save Everything- If you are like me throughout your undergraduate career you will receive so many papers and think that you will never need them again, but then one day 4 years done the road you will remember that a certain professor gave you a specific handout and you wish you could find it. I recommend to save anything that is pertinent to music education because you never know when it may be helpful. There were many times during student teaching where I pulled resources from many of my classes and was very glad that I saved them. My suggestion is to find a way of organizing that works for you and file all of your college papers into categories for quick reference in the future.
  12. Networking- All music education majors should begin to create a professional learning network during their undergraduate career. Network and collaboration are great way to gain knowledge and ask for advice from current educators. In today’s society networking is made simple through means such as Twitter,#MusEdChat, and MPLN.
  13. Advocacy- As undergraduates we don’t really see ourselves as advocates, but I believe that it is never too early to being advocating for music education, especially in today’s society. As music educators we will all have to be advocates at one point or another so we might as well start now. Even just learning about advocacy or spreading the word about the importance of music education is a great way to start. Check out my advocacy page for some great resources of how to get started.
  14. Make Mistakes- Teaching music is a very challenging job and there are is a lot for us to learn. I have learned that making mistakes is a good thing and that we should not be afraid to make them. Making mistakes helps us learn and shows us what we need to work to improve. I believe that some of the best educators are ones that aren’t afraid to make mistakes and then work towards fixing those mistakes.
  15. Never Stop Learning- I believe that as a teacher we should never stop learning even after we get our undergraduate degree. With the profession of education there is something that we can always be learning and trying in our classrooms. Use your undergraduate career to set you up for life long learning. One of my music professors always says “The day that we quit learning we should get out of the profession of education. As teachers we should be learning something new every single day.”

Being a music education major is definitely an amazing, but challenging experience just like the profession of teaching. My four years of college definitely changed my viewpoint on a lot of issues and helped me to find out who I am as an educator. I believe the biggest piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of every single opportunity that is given to you. This is the time to learn and grow as a future educator so don’t be afraid to take advantage of what you are given whether big or small because you never know where it may lead you in the future. While it may not seem like it now your undergraduate career will fly by and before you know it you will be like me, just graduated and reflecting on your undergraduate career. While I know everyone’s undergraduate experience is much different I hope the above tips and advice help you to have a wonderful undergraduate experience like mine. While I am writing this post as advice for undergraduates I also believe that a lot of the above ideas can be applied to other situations and can help music teachers of all ages. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions from your undergraduate experience or from your experience as an educator.


The Beginning of a Journey

Many music undergraduates enter their freshman year excited to meet new people, gain some independence, be a part of higher-level ensembles, and most importantly do what they love doing, making music and teaching kids about music. Amidst all this excitement there are usually a lot of nerves wondering if they made the right decisions. Many undergraduates have days during that first semester wondering if music education is truly for them. It often seems like graduation and finally getting to teach music is so far away and not possible, but truly loving what you are doing is what often keeps us going through the tough days. Sound familiar to you? This is exactly how I felt only a short four years ago. Now, I have already finished my senior-recital, am starting student teaching, am graduating in less than four months, and getting ready to find my first teaching job. Looking back I cannot believe how incredibly fast the past four years have went. They were some of the most challenging, but best four years of my life. As I am getting ready to start student teaching in only a few days I have done a lot of reflecting on what I have learned through my undergraduate career. After looking back on the past four years I thought I would write a post giving advice to music education undergraduates based on what I learned. Below are some tips that I believe will help you to have an incredible undergraduate experience and help you become the best music educator possible. Continue reading