Confessions of a Kodály Music Teacher

Archive for January 2014

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.

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