Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Top 5 Things I Would Tell My First Year Teacher Self

Reflection, self-awareness, consciousness, mindfulness.  We hear these words often, particularly within the educational realm.  Looking back upon my 24 years of teaching, what would I tell my first year teacher self? 

Teaching is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

You don't have to do it all in one year, or in the first three, or first five years.  For most of us, we don't really "figure out" teaching; content, classroom management, protocols of school, student development, how to deal with those "frequent fliers", political/social/emotional context of school, etc. until about year four or five! 
Create/make/enjoy five lessons and activities that worked well the first year, add five more the next year. Within four years you will have TWENTY slam dunk lessons and activities.  But don't stop changing them - never feel like you are "done" with lessons - always change them to meet the students needs and whatever direction they choose or need to take them.

Get into Orff!

Find a local chapter and get involved in workshops and in the organization.  It will change your teaching and the students learning in a beautiful, musical, artful, creative, and wonder-filled way!  I didn't really know about Orff until year 6 of teaching!  Oh how I wish I had known about it earlier and gotten Levels courses earlier!  Open yourself to all the experiences - your teaching and your students will be drastically changed - for good!

Be Kind, Then Be Kinder.

Be kind to those teachers who call you "green", or treat you as inferior simply because you are new. You have value, ideas, and strengths to contribute. Be kind to those who come over to slam your door or complain because they placed you next to the reading teacher and she can hear your music. Be kind to the front office staff, the school secretary, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and the janitors.Their jobs are hard and full of juggling and discouragement.  Be kind and then be kinder to students - they are little and someone loves them- yes, even the ones who frustrate and annoy you to beyond the world's end - they are someone's sweetheart, and sadly, if they are not, YOU need to find a way to love on them.

Love the Cactus Kids.

Prickly, sticky, mean, grumpy, dirty, matted, annoying, frustrating.  Describe any of your students?  These are the kids who need you the most- not the perfect singer or dancer, not the kid who can rap like crazy and throw down "beats". The ones who you know are not getting enough - food, shelter, hugs, warmth, affection, and yes, love. What the world needs now is love, sweet love - it's not just a song- it is the sad reason many school shootings have happened.  Find a way to make the outcast become part of, not apart from.  Love the unlovable and lead by example. You never know what seeds you are planting. A little kindness goes a long way.

It's OK, Just Breathe.

Your first year will be stressful - reach out to others for help and advice.  There will be very busy times and not so busy times - breathe and ask questions. There is a wonderful network of teachers who are wanting and waiting for you to ask questions.  I started teaching pre-internet (dinosaur era) and now teachers have access to thousands of years of experience via facebook and online groups for music teachers. I wish I had spent more time asking what I felt were "stupid questions".  Suck up your pride and ask.  Stay balanced with a healthy amount of school time and maintain your other "you" - continue to read historical fiction, make jewelry, go antiquing, take walks, perform, etc. Your identity as "music teacher" is not your only identity.

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