Da Capo: Starting the First Year, Part 1

How to Prepare Before School Starts

The first year looms ahead of you—an exciting new beginning, but a daunting one, too. As member Michael V. Smith points out, as you start your first year, “You are making two beginnings at once. As you head off to your first teaching position and, at the same time, begin a new year in a new school with new students, some relatively simple steps should be taken.” Here’s what he recommends.

  1. Take care of yourself. Staying healthy will help both you and your students have the best experience possible. Get plenty of rest, eliminate extracurricular activities if they become too much, eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water. See the August NewsLink for more tips on staying healthy and avoiding burnout.
  2. Find a mentor who can answer your questions and offer you support along the way. If you can, find several mentors:
    a. a fellow teacher in your building who can tell you the school’s ins and outs,
    b. an experienced teacher who is familiar with your grade level and genre, and
    c. peers from your music education program who are going through similar experiences.
  3. Research the program you’re taking over. Before school starts, check out old music programs, the music library, and the inventory.
  4. Talk with your principal. Talk through plans for field trips, reserving the auditorium for concerts, and other logistics. This will help the administration help you be as successful as possible.

This article has been adapted from “Small Steps for Big Beginnings: Some Practical Advice for Getting the First Year Started” by Michael V. Smith, originally featured in the January 2006 issue of NewsLink.

–Shauna Leavitt, August 27, 2008, © National Association for Music Education