Confessions of a Kodály Music Teacher

Hi All,

I’ve played with several blog sites, and have decided to move my blog to blogspot/blogger.  I’m leaving my old posts here with a link to them on my new blog.

Please find me at 


Good morning,

I live in North Texas now (Dallas/Plano/Frisco area), so I am close to the Music in Motion showroom and warehouse. They are having their showroom sale this month, so of course I had to go check out what was available :).  I hit the jackpot with picture books!  All of these books were from their deep sale room, and were under $40 total!!!



I can’t wait to really go through them and figure out how to use some of them in my classroom! Watch for a series of posts about how I use picture books and literature in my classroom 🙂

Many of us will run across this dilemma in our careers.  You have moved to a new school, in a new place, and the kids are ALL new to you.  Maybe you just wanted a change, maybe you were laid off from a previous position or didn’t like the climate of your old school, but regardless, you are now in a position of being the ‘new’ music teacher, even though you aren’t a new teacher.  You’ve left behind students who knew your expectations, respected how you wanted your classroom run (hopefully), and the school community had bought into the things YOU did for kids everyday.  Now you are in a new school, with new families, new coworkers, and you feel like a brand. new. teacher.  All over again.  Sure you know how to sequence skills MUCH better now, you had hit lessons that you can’t wait to use with your new students.  Then you walk into the classroom and walk into a brick wall.

“That’s not how <insert previous teacher’s name> did it!”

“We have to watch ballet?  Eewww…”

<Previous teacher’s name> just let us bang on the xylophones!!  Why won’t you?

“You’re new.  I don’t have to listen to you!”

…The list can go on and on.

I was fortunate enough to spend my first eight years in one school district (the last one was in a different building, but I knew about 1/2 of the kids already).  Then, the dreaded Reduction in Force hit.  So back to the drawing board.  50+ applications and a couple interviews later, I find myself moving 1000 miles cross-country for a position in an amazing school district for music education in North Texas. “This is great!” I thought as I set up my new classroom (in a 2-years since major renovation building – awesome).  The staff was welcoming.  Then came the kids.  Kinder through second grade were a breeze – still young and weren’t COMPLETELY attached to their old teacher.  The older kids, well, not so much.

So how does the “new” teacher cope and thrive in this situation?  Well, first, know that the first year will probably not go as smoothly as you expect.  You will run into bumps and places where you will have to change the way you do things, especially with your older students.  Second, know that you CAN still set high expectations for your students, and you should.  Know that your new students might not be as willing to hold hands or have boy-girl partners as your old students, but that will come with time.  Spend time, especially at the beginning of the school year getting to know your students.  Play their favorite games from their previous teacher.  It shows that you are not dismissing their past experiences as unimportant.  But also set up your expectations, especially with your harder-to-reach classes.  I’ve found myself “waiting” quite a few times for students to get to a focus level so that I can teach.

Know that your students may not be where you expect them to be musically – even if you are in a place with a rigorous curriculum.  You will have to spend some time figuring out where the students are and what concepts they did and didn’t get to in the past.  This may mean that you have to finish concepts from a previous year, or reteach skills they should already know.  That is not a bad thing.

Finally, remember that you WILL get there with these students, just like you did with your previous students.  It will take a few years, but you will make a difference and you will be able to build the program you want again.


…And I’m feeling good about this new year (yes, the Bublé reference was intentional).

As I said in an earlier post, I’m back to teaching elementary (K-5) music in a DFW-area school.  The school year started on Monday, and we are off to the races!  This is my ninth year of teaching, and I had nerves as bad as my first year – weird.  I have to admit, I wasn’t anywhere near as prepared as I hoped to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I was ready for the new year with first week plans, but setting up a completely new classroom (and not being able to find my word wall kit in all of my boxes from moving), made for a stressful start.  Not to mention having to start over getting to know over 450 students!

I’m now in a district with an amazingly rigorous Kodaly-inspired curriculum.  There is not a minute to waste in instruction, and that means it’s critical to set up the year for success during the first few classes.  There’s so much to squeeze into the first 50-60 minutes of instruction to make sure that the students have a good year.  From learning names, even if you’ve been in the same school for a while, to rules and procedures, these first few minutes are (I believe) too important to gloss over in the name of curriculum.

My next post will explore this idea much more in-depth, and include suggestions for rule-creation, room setup, student seating, and breaking the ice with students.

Since I last posted.  What a year it has been!  Somehow I’ve survived being a middle school band director for 186 days, being laid off due to budget cuts, and thus searching for a new job.  My new position puts me back in elementary-land, which is truly where I belong.  I am so excited to be back with K-5 students and teaching general music, so hopefully I won’t let the blog suffer as much this year as I did in 2012-2013.

Stay tuned for more updates on this new adventure and hopefully many new posts to come.

The first three weeks of middle school teaching have been, well, enlightening.  The first two weeks, I felt like Dori from Finding Nemo… “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”  I’m quickly learning that I remember more than I thought I would about band pedagogy, and that 7th and 8th music appreciation is quite challenging to teach, not because of the content, but to keep the kids interested.  Our class periods are rather long – 55 minutes – and to be honest, many days I have trouble focusing for that long!’

More to come…


<ascends to soapbox> 

After watching the Opening Ceremonies today, one thought comes to mind. Although I could do without the commentary, I thought about what makes the Ceremonies so poignant. It is hands-down the music and artistry. Watch without the sound on, and there’s no chills, no wow factor. Are we leaving the next Olympic opening ceremonies producer/director/composer/musician or actor behind when we cut arts programs in our schools? Is the next architect of an Olympic stadium being left behind because he or she isn’t getting art class taught by an expert in the field on a regular basis? The children’s choirs and that amazing, angelic young boy from the opening scene could be sitting in our classrooms, their potential forever unrealized because they only have music class a few times each year and their only vocal “model” is Justin Bieber. 

When we put all of our focus on tested areas, we forget about the areas that make us human, make us feel emotion and empathy. When we can finally realize that goal in our schools, then and only then can we say that we leave no child behind. 

<descends from soapbox>


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