The Top 10 Things I Have Learned From Teaching Music for Four Decades!
By Connie Root, Hudson
You can’t possibly learn everything you need to know about being a great teacher in four years of college. SEEK help and ASK for advice from friends, peers, colleagues and mentors. TAKE classes and workshops that are available locally or across the state line. ATTEND music conferences and conventions and attend the sessions. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone in order to learn to become a more effective teacher!
Listen to your administrators, colleagues, students and parents of your students. Your teaching style, how and what you teach and whom you teach will change through the years. Find what works best for you, your students and your community. You should always have a game plan, but be ready to alter or change it to be a more effective teacher.
If you don’t love what you do you will have a LONG road ahead of you. Take time to self-assess. Why DO you teach? Why did YOU choose music? Keep YOUR fire lit! However, love yourself too – make/take time for yourself. If you are happy, rested and fulfilled, your positive attitude will transfer to your job and students.
4. MOTIVATE & PERSERVERE
A colleague of mine recently commented to me that I don’t “give up” on students. If the motivation to be involved in music was there initially and the student loses it at some point we can try to find a way to spark that interest again. Suggest a multitude of opportunities for them to try. Find that thing, or things that make them excited about learning and growing. Maybe they need a new path. Maybe they need a slight nudge or a few words of encouragement. Maybe they need a great big PUSH! Every student is worth saving.
5. SELL & ADVOCATE
No, I don’t mean fundraisers, unless you have to! Sell being involved in music. Advocate for the importance of what we do. Share it. Speak it. Post it. Type it. Be positive about what you do and encourage your students to continue to keep making music after they leave your classroom. Explain the many possibilities that are awaiting them, whether they continue to perform or if they become supporters of the arts for the rest of their lives.
Make your intentions clear, have a plan for everything and communicate those expectations! Behavior expectations, concert procedures, practicing strategies, rehearsal and lesson expectations, etc. – all of the things you expect your students and parents to do and know about need to be shared. Create a band/choir/orchestra handbook. Put all pertinent information on your own classroom website or portal. Include upcoming events on your concert programs. Send informative emails or REMIND blasts out to students, parents, fellow staff members and administrators.
Become a member of YOUR professional music organizations. Read the articles written by your music colleagues. Join your professional organizations and attend their conventions, conferences and workshops. Attend your local music association meetings. If they don’t meet, make arrangements to meet. Networking is a great way to get ideas from others.
8. BE ORGANIZED
Have a plan! Make checklists (concert procedures/solo & ensemble festival/large group festival/beginning band signup, etc.). Plan what you want them to learn. What vehicle(s) will you use – Their concert music/music theory/composition assignments/lesson assignments in lesson books or supplements, guest clinicians, field trips? Ask yourself: WHAT do they know? WHAT do you want them to know? WHAT do you need them to know? HOW will you assess what you have taught them? Organization is the key.
Teaching music is a rewarding profession. Your students’ growth as musicians and as human beings is measurable. The impact we make on them is life-long. Congratulations for choosing to be a music teacher! Enjoy the ride!
Twenty-five years ago at our WMEA conference, my high school orchestra director (who had since retired from teaching and was working for a uniform company) approached me as I was visiting the booths at the WMEA conference. I happened to be standing in between his booth and the WMEA /WSMA booth. He pointed to the WMEA/WSMA booth and asked me why I wasn’t involved at the state level. I didn’t really have an answer! So I went to the booth and signed up to volunteer. The rest, as they say, is history. I have been so fortunate to serve on several committees and the WMEA board for the past 20 years. I have worked alongside other music educators, clearly dedicated to supporting our Wisconsin music educators and their students. This involvement transformed my teaching, introduced me to now life-long friends and music colleagues, and made be a more effective educator.