Doing it all: HELP!

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    I’m hoping there’s someone out there in a similar situation that might have ideas, insight, on how they make it work. Here’s my situation: I teach pre-k thru 8th general music, all of which come to me once a week. Three of the grades come to me combined in one period, meaning 30+ students in those classes. The reason? I am a .8 employee. I only teach 4 days a week. Besides trying to teach to the standards, for which there is no true curriculum to use as guidance, nor the materials to implement a curriculum if there was one, I am expected to prepare a winter and spring concert with the k-3 grades. On top of that, I also direct the band and chorus, which is open to 4th thru 8th grade students, which means instrument lessons during the school day, and rehearsals before and after school. Thirdly, I am the music director for the school musical- an assistance position to the director of the musical. To meet the needs for all of these students, standards, performances, IEPs, etc., etc., I have exactly 3 preps. IS THIS POSSIBLE?


    Ugh, that’s an awful situation. With all of those responsibilities they are really at fault for not making you full time. I’ve been there, however, and it comes down to money. They’d have to give you a full benefits package when you are full time and that’s very expensive for them …. well in comparison to what you’re likely getting now.
    Despite the fact that you are not part of the Union you should still fall under the contract … as in class size limits. The same thing goes for preps. You should be more than entitled to a daily prep (in my district your prep is equal to your longest class period). I encourage you to ask a union rep about that.
    I’ve never heard of three grades being combined. That’s awful…. for classroom management but more importantly for teaching objectives!! Them giving you that large a group to me says they only want babysitting and are not worried about what the kids learn… which is terribly disturbing.

    The only way I can think of to effectively teach that variety of ages is to have the older kids do centers while you work a little with the youngers, then have them watch a video and you work with the olders. Are there any paras / assistant teachers which come with these groups? IF so, put them to work running centers.

    Re: curriculum, there are plenty available online. Plenty of districts put theirs on their website. Sometimes they are called Scope and Sequence. (Long story, but one of my admins wanted me to customize a scope and sequence for our students. I googled and was very happy to discover several inspirations.) 🙂 Don’t reinvent the wheel – steal from others 😛 just kidding but you get it.

    After and Before-School rehearsals: are you getting paid for them? Even if you were, that’s a ton of work to do. Are the parents and admins supportive of your efforts? You are doing more than a full-time job. 🙁
    I sadly can understand your pain in being required to put on concerts with such conditions (combined classes). I was a permanent sub for about two months right out of college – October thru December. In the interview I hesitantly asked the principal if she expected a winter concert; she said yes. (WHAT??) On top of that the choir met during the last two periods of the day on Fridays!! And when I asked, the principal refused to let me pull kids for a few minutes from recess or class. I ended up teaching concert songs to all of the older classes… in the name of “do what’cha gotta do.’ Nobody questioned me; I think they only cared that there was a performance.

    In your situation in the group of three grade levels together, I might have the older kids teach the littler kids a song, lead them in a singing game etc. In that way you can combine them.

    HOW do do it without supplies / books. Internet to the rescue!! Check out Beth’s Music Notes Blog. She has tons of little folk songs / childrens songs and lesson ideas for free. I subscribed to the extra materials but it wasn’t anything I could use- $10/month. In the same breath, I have used and printed a lot of her resources. I recommend getting yourself a few CDs of children’s songs. Kids can sing with them, then have them sing a capella and with an accompaniment (guitar, piano, xylos, karaoke tracks, whatever ya got). Also check Teachers Pay Teachers for some fabulous ideas and resources. Some things seen on TPT I’ve just made on my own with MS Word or such. Do you have Kodaly training or access to John Feierabend books? Both are fabulous resources for songs, singing games. If there’s a budget, I recommend either InTune Magazine (from NAfME) or Music Alive magazine. Both have fabulous articles about current artists and relevant stuff which middle school students are more prone to enjoy.

    As per possibly relinquishing some of your responsibilities, I’d find a colleague or friend who would be interested in helping you or taking over the play. That way you’re not just quitting, you’re solving your own problem. The last thing admins want is another problem / something else to do.


    Thanks so much for the thoughtful response, Maria.

    A lot of what you mentioned I have done. My first 2 years I spent hours upon hours at home, every night and on weekends to find materials, build some sort of scope and sequence, research ideas/units. But, what I found is I was still always behind, with something, and thus, always playing catch up, and unfortunately, at the expense of the students.

    Now, only in my 3rd year, I’m wiped out and frustrated with the district. If in their “vision” part time with 3 preps a week is enough for adequately teaching music, then they get what they get. I know it sounds bad. But I think you’re right. For the powers that be, its really about baby sitting so that classroom teachers get their preps, and they get to see them perform a couple times a year.

    And I apologize. I wasn’t clear about the combined grades. I didn’t mean 3 different grades are combined during the same period. There are 2 sections of each grade. Both 2nd grade classes come to me combined (34 students). During another period, both 4th grade classes come to me together (30 students). And then another period, both 5th grade students come to me together (33 students). Still…

    Again, thanks.

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