By: Mary Correia
As a newly retired teacher of thirty-five years, and having had more than a hundred student teachers during my career, I am passionate about ensuring effective music education for all students.
My purpose for writing this is to inform you of my efforts to mentor new music teachers navigating their way from their initial teaching license to professional status. Embracing the New Music Educator is a mentoring service currently comprised of a database of thirty professionals who have volunteered their services to those who will benefit from them. There is no fiduciary support for this program, just generous gifts of time and talent given by the mentors. There is no charge for membership.
I was one of the original mentors trained for my school district and was elected to the mentoring board. I was, however, the only music educator on this committee to serve this population. Although district-based mentoring is an absolute in grounding and immersing new staff to an educational culture, it does not address the unique needs of a music educator who is often isolated in their assigned building and may have an itinerant schedule as well.
I applaud The Office of Educator Preparation in its dedication to improving the academic and preparation of new teachers; but how do we hold on to that teaching talent that we have taken such great care to cultivate? If we are going to support a “career continuum,” then subject specific mentoring, especially in the arts, is a necessary component to avoid attrition.
The Massachusetts Music Educators Association is looking to adopt and replicate this mentoring program! Our goal is for each program to have a representative from higher education who will help in making the connections between mentors and mentees. This will help the colleges and universities track their graduates and utilize their input to improve their teacher preparatory programs.
Grassroots programs like Embracing the New Music Educator are the beginning of teachers helping teachers in communicating best practices gleaned over many careers. I presently have teachers traveling more than one hundred miles to attend these meetings. There is an outcry of need for this type of program amongst new teachers and those re-entering the field. It is imperative that we bridge the gap between graduation and professional licensure, for if we continue to ignore the hiatus in the profession, the fragmentation could bear devastating results.
I sincerely hope all those who can, will take “note.”
What is Embracing the New Music Educator?
Embracing the New Music Educator is born out of the desire to support beginning music educators with a flexible program that is inviting, engaging, and individualized. Many district-sponsored induction and mentoring programs are unequipped to meet the specific needs of music educators who often travel among schools, teach large classes, have public responsibilities beyond the typical delivery of instruction, and must navigate the awkward coexistence of the arts with the perceived true core subjects (math, science, language arts, and history).
Furthermore, it is often a challenge to find mentors within a school who understand the unique role of the music educator, as many districts employ only one music teacher per school or across several schools. Interactions with beginning music teachers in the region produced conversations around feelings of: isolation; fear; disappointment with administration support; and lack of connection with people who understand the physical, emotional, and pedagogical requirements of the profession.
Description of Context
Embracing The New Music Educator is a mentoring program that started through the collaboration of the state MEA, District MEA organization, and a local college/university. The program focuses on connectivity: among those who are new to the world of music education; among those who teach in music education preparatory programs of colleges and universities; and among those mentors who wish to share their best teaching practices, wisdom, and passion. Membership is free of charge to all music educators who may benefit from this resource
Embracing the New Music Educator coordinators maintain a mentoring database of professionals who have volunteered their professional services to beginning teachers participating in the program. It is through the sacrifice of time and expertise of experienced music educators that Embracing the New Music Educator offers the following: onsite classroom observations; onsite rehearsal clinics; mentoring via phone; mentoring via e-mail; video or audio review of teaching and pedagogy, and quarterly dinner meetings where individuals develop relationships with peers and mentors informally. The structure of the program allows novice music educators to ask pertinent questions in a safe environment.
The combination of formal and informal collaboration and mentoring serves to meet the needs for pedagogical and emotional support often articulated by music educators entering the field. Embracing the New Music Educator has tripled in size over the three years since its inception with beginning teachers from beyond the district and across the state participating. Partnerships with local school districts, colleges/universities and area businesses have been forged and continue to develop. Through the program both beginning and experienced music educators have expressed newfound energy and enthusiasm for teaching music to young people.
How Can I Start My Own Mentoring Program?
Ascertaining Mentors: Try contacting past and present co-operating teachers of practicums via local colleges and universities which offer music education preparatory programs. It’s recommended that mentors have a professional teaching license with a minimum of six years teaching experience.
Mentor Cover Letter: Here’s a sample cover letter that invites selected educators to participate in a mentoring capacity.
ETNME Mentor Questionaire: Here’s a sample questionnaire that includes specific areas of experience for mentoring (choral, instrumental, general classroom, ensembles), levels (elementary school, middle school, high school), and mentor availability (phone, email, onsite visit, digital recording).
Ascertaining College Component: Enlist a college professor, such as an individual in a music education preparatory program. This person will serve as an advisor for screening mentors and assigning mentors, assessing program effectiveness and direction and will attend quarterly meetings.
Ascertaining Facilitator: Enlist a music educator who will collaborate with the college professor in implementing all areas of the mentor program. Embracing The New Music Educator requires this person must have a professional teaching licensure, a minimum of 10 years of experience in music education. The facilitator should attend and address district membership meetings.
Ascertaining Mentees: It’s recommended that you create a contact list of new and recent graduates from colleges and universities and reach out to them via email to garner interest.
Meeting Invitation: Here’s a sample letter with the ETNME mission st atement and provided services encouraging new teachers to join ETNME.
ETNME Membership Questionaire: A questionnaire that includes teaching experience, music area and level specifics, areas of need to be addressed, type of mentoring requested, with an option to suggest additional mentors.
Meeting Dates: Meetings should be scheduled with consideration to “Back to School Nights” in the fall, Concert dates, School Vacations. Spread the word about meeting dates through group emails, on any related websites, and on social media (consider making a group page!).
Discussion Topics: Poll members for specific needs and or interests. Topics can be tailored to academic needs and/or classroom management in the fall or the spring in preparation for the upcoming school year, concert repertoire ideas in the fall or winter etc.
Agendas: The agenda should include time for general discussion, celebrating joys, and commiserating concerns.
Guest speakers: Speakers are invited to address the membership, when possible and when applicable to topics
Advertising: Advertisements are placed in state publications, on websites, and through local college and university alumni publications which offer Music Education Preparatory Programs.
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Kristen Rencher, Social Media Coordinator. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)