You’ve visited the school and gathered some background information. There’s still more preparation to do.
A preview of relevant books is helpful, but avoid burying yourself in them. Set aside the heavy reading for the nights and weekends to come. Many concepts will be clearer after you start teaching.
Start work on an ensemble or class handbook, even if it’s just a rough outline of classroom procedures and rules. Use a Google search to get an idea of what other directors find important. Stay flexible—you might need to change what you write later.
Think about your goals over the long term and in the context of steady improvement. You don’t need to change everything right away, and you may not want to change some things at all.
Give students a clear picture of your expectations and how to meet them, but be ready to adapt. The conditions in the classroom you inherit may need a special approach—students might need time to build discipline or an “off the beaten path” program to rekindle their enthusiasm.
Pick easy music to start the year with. Don’t assume students can sight-read or play. Get real music into their hands first before you think about any performances.
If there are other music teachers in the district, find out who they are, and contact them. Their advice and impressions are worth listening to—especially what students have done in the past and what they are capable of. That’s the level you’ll want to make general plans to work at and improve.
Contact your local Music Educator’s Association (MEA). They can help you meet other teachers and find a mentor to use as a sounding board. Never assume more-experienced teachers don’t want to help you—they’re often just waiting for an invitation.
The first year is often about survival and learning the ropes. You’ll have difficulties you can’t predict. Much of what you learned in college are ideals. Work toward them as goals, but keep in mind it may take years to make the kinds of changes you want. Focus on the basics and finding out what you don’t know.
Keep your eyes on the big picture. Experience takes years to develop. For the present, remember to have fun and make your students happy. As “Oldsbone” said on the NAfME forum, “You have the best job on Earth—you get to help kids learn to make music all day long!”
Back to Part 1.
Relevant resource—Strategies for Teaching Beginning and Intermediate Band
Tips collected from the MENC Band Forum.
—Paul Fergus, September 2, 2011. © National Association for Music Education