Some things i have discovered while urban teaching music
Fifth graders do not like Metallica. First graders do, especially “Enter Sandman”.
Bluegrass > country
Fifth graders like Verdi’s “Dies Irae”
You will be begged to watch Annie
Boys are more open to the Nutcracker if you show them sections where the male is lifting the female a lot (ex. The Arabian Dance)
If you talk about how ballet dancers dance on their toes, be prepared for half the class (mostly boys) to try it and fall on the ground.
Students will whine about doing rhythm cards until you put a backbeat to it.
Students like to show off; bring in an audience (principal/teacher/secretary/ etc) and they will automatically use their best effort. PS It’s not just you; they will do it to everyone
If you have a dreidel in your hand, their listening skills multiply X3
Young children will dance to anything
Turn it into a game and they will learn it much faster
Kids can pronounce my name easily and will correct adults
You will want to scoop a few kids up and take them home instead of giving them back to their parents
The child has been molded by the parent; children are not “bad” by default
Instruments are a good bribing method
Hugs will make your day
Sometime all kids need is someone who will listen
And the stories they have will break your heart
With music, sometimes the best way to teach is just through exposure
Play is often a greater teaching tool than you gabbing
Seeing children teach each other while you simply monitor makes you feel like Superman
Seeing other teachers as exasperated as you are makes you feel a heck of a lot better
Children can have two faces; one with their peers, and one with you. The second one is the more honest one.
If you play/sing for your kids, it will probably blow their minds
Not every day will be productive, especially during testing or right before a break. That’s okay.
Lesson plans are not set in stone. Not even close.
I stutter a lot and the kids either don’t notice or don’t care
Utilize student helpers; make it something to be earned rather than something given for a favorite
IF you feel crappy, remember how you felt your first day and realize how far you have come.
One of my students said she wanted to go to high school online instead of regular school.
I asked her why.
She said, “Because kids in high school get shot”.
Remember this when you want to complain about high school and be thankful that this wasn’t your reality (and if it was, I am very sorry. I wish things were better).0
I’m so proud of this class project that I had to tell you
Backstory: I teach music to urban prek-5th grade kids. This is fifth grade.
I did a school-wide unit on Fantasia: Music tells a story. I love Fantasia and wanted the students to experience it. The result was very positive and some of the teachers were jealous!
Fifth grade watched “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Fantasia and “Flamingos” and “Steadfast Tin Soldier” from Fantasia 2000. We talked about how the creators of the movie listened to the music first and then designed the story off of what they heard.
I had fifth grade listen to “Infernal Dance of the King” from Stravinsky’s Firebird. The students had to create a story from what they heard in the music. I played through the section twice so they could take notes and then write out the story fully. Some kids’ stories took up an entire page.
After they wrote them, I reminded them that they were animators and had to animate their story. I used a four-panel comic book template for them and they could make more than four panels if they wanted. They had to tell their story in the panels without using words.
Next week they will finish them up and color them. I will then hang their drawings alongside their stories on my bulletin board so that anyone who sees them can get the artwork AND the story behind it. I am very excited to see how each student individually interpreted the music.
First year teacher has the creative juices flowing.35
Yay for successes!
When I started, all of my students were one to two grades below their curricular grade level for music.
Yesterday, third grade reached grade level. I had to bump them up to reading 16th notes because they were moving so fast. They have also surpassed my fourth graders as of right now.
I’m super stoked and I ran around and told everyone because I was THAT excited.
I even told my principal and got a high five.
This would be more accurate if the teacher looked stressed out because she was being watched by a personification of testing/test scores/NCLB.
Teachers HATE stifling creativity. But when you have a curriculum, you have to follow it.
When you’re out with your significant other and you see your teacher
When you’re out with your significant other and you see your student(s)
I hate my job this week
It’s funny really. When I started, everyone kept coming up to me saying, “IF you need anything, let me know. I’m always here to help.” Well, that’s crap. It’s total bullshit. People only want to help you if their mood is full of sunshine and rainbows and they are full of free time with no work to do whatsoever. Only then are they available.
I also have the double whammy of being a first year teacher AND a specialist. Nobody wants to talk to me or get to know me aside from the other specialists. I can’t approach anyone for help without feeling like I’m interrupting something. It’s got to the point where my mentor told me to stop apologizing when I come in his room to ask him something. I constantly feel like I’m stupid and I’m a burden. First year teachers need SO much support. And they wonder why new teachers hang around until they get tenure and then leave.
I also found out today what happens when you have to discipline a staff member’s child. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I am NEVER doing it again.
I really feel like I’m getting the rookie treatment. Teachers talk to me in a completely different manner than other teachers. When I have to help out in the main classroom, some teachers make me copy and hand out papers for them. They don’t do that for any of the veteran teachers.
I feel like I’m drowning in the ocean with a beach full of people who couldn’t be bothered to help. All while they are standing at the water’s edge yelling at me for not teaching three hundred children how to swim.0
I always forget how much freedom I have
My school is seriously the best, and the hard parts have me forget that.
I get to design my own program. The previous teacher was disliked and the students had a sub for six months, so I don’t have to compete with previous notions and previous programs. I follow the district curriculum and I have textbooks the school uses. Other than that, I’m free to do what I wish.
My coworkers, bless their souls, have no idea what I do. They come in and observe me and they love it. They end up saying “I don’t know what she’s doing, but it seems to be working/looks cool”. We musicians tend to forget that our methods look a little strange to those who are used to a traditional classroom.
My principal even gave me a little money (I KNOW RIGHT. IT DOES HAPPEN SOMETIMES). I could order whatever I needed for a certain amount of money. I got recorders for my third graders that they will pay me back for, a portable boombox, 4 sets of boomwhackers, and a 10-inch head djembe that was on sale. I also can fundraise for other stuff as much as I want.
The reason this came up is because I observed my mentor at her school, and I will say that I don’t envy her schedule. She has three different duties, only gets a short time to see the kids, and almost never gets lunch. She also has super high expectations put upon her and gets thrown into events where she only has about a month to make it happen. I have to start a chorus and have a simple unison number prepared by November. No big deal.
I just want people to know that freedom in teaching does still exist, and that it rocks. The end.3
Tattooed and employed: My school rocks.
Why is my elementary school awesome?
Well, it’s pretty awesome in a few ways. But this is one.
Our dress code is “professional casual”.
We have “professional dress Mondays”, where we wear our nice dress clothes. And it’s kind of funny to me because that’s how they wanted me to dress every day when I was in PA.
I can wear jeans. I can wear shirts that are nice but not the stuff that is marketed as “professional” and all seems to be made from the same polyester and are marked up 50-100%.
I was able to put my other earrings back in. I have 3 in each ear, and in PA most schools only let teachers have 1 in each ear. I am able to stretch my first holes up to my goal size. I can have visible tattoos. Most of the teachers have at least one visible tattoo. One has a nose ring. Because the trend right now is “sheer”, it was so hard for me to find nice tops that covered my shoulder tattoo and didn’t break the bank. Now I don’t have to worry.
People don’t understand how much more efficient and happy people are when they get to dress in a way that shows who they are. I’m young and quirky and my style is a bit more bohemian and artistic. I feel like I can be a better teacher because I can be who I am and not just parading around in “business attire”.
Oh, and you know how people say that your students won’t respect you if you have tattoos/piercings/more casual clothes? Honestly, that’s crap. My school is uniform, which probably does make a difference. My kids always complement my outfits. I have a group of little girls who just adore that I have 3 earrings in each ear instead of one. I wore a dress that shows my shoulder tattoo and I got a complement from a colleague (I’m a music teacher and my tattoo is an eighth note with wings) and a curious comment from a kindergartener. The kids didn’t see my tat and decide to cause anarchy. It was just something interesting.
I’m really thankful that my school and principal let us be us. It rocks.16