As a part of our last-day-before-break-lesson yesterday, I taught my 1st and 2nd grade students a Thanksgiving Song that I learned when I was their age. It was always near and dear to my heart, and it really hit home to be on the teacher side of the song this time around. I will admit, I got choked up.
Hearing all of the children’s voices singing, “There are many things I am thankful for…” made me really start to think. This is the time of year that everyone starts to speak up about the people and things that they cherish, and I am no different. I would like to think that I show how much I appreciate everything on a daily basis, but the truth is, we can always do more.
An unexpected loss always makes you reevaluate the way you handle yourself and your life. Did I tell my family members that I love them often enough? Do I thank people for the little things? Do I reach out and connect/re-connect with the people in my life that I am missing? Did I offer help/support to someone in need? These are the things that I have been thinking about the past few days, even months.
- I’m thankful for the family that I still have, no matter how far apart or out-of-touch we may be.
- I’m thankful for the few close friends that I hold dear.
- I’m thankful for the many new connections that I have formed through undergrad, grad school, my job, and my wonderful PLN.
- I’m thankful for having a job that makes me happy and gives me a sense of purpose.
- I’m thankful that I have been afforded the opportunities that I have been – my life was in a very different place 5 years ago.
- I’m thankful to be alive and healthy and happy.
Life is so very fleeting and you never know when things will change – cherish what you have now and don’t ever throw away the chance to be with someone you care about or the chance do something that makes you happy. Don’t wait for a holiday or an unexpected event – start now.
I was recently asked to have an informal chat with a group of pre-service music educators about what happens once school is over – how to find a job, the interview process, and surviving the first year of teaching. It was quite an honor!
I began to worry that having only four years of teaching under my belt, none of which were the same position as the year before, put me at a disadvantage. What could I really have to offer these soon-to-be educators? Here are just some of the things that we chatted about and some of the resources I was able to share with them:
Finding A Job
- In Pennsylvania, the first place that pre-service teachers want to look is PA REAP – most school districts post position, even if only for 24 hours, on this site. Creating a profile can be a bit tedious, but it is worth it in the end.
- If you plan to teach in a state other than the one that is certifying you, start looking into “certificate reciprocity” – what you need to do to ensure that you can teach in another state. Each state’s requirements can be found HERE
- Take as many as possible. No one really loves to go on interviews, but it is great practice!
- Don’t let interviews get you down! If you leave with a not-so-great feeling, that job probably wasn’t the best fit for you or the district.
- Bring organized documents and examples. I used an interview portfolio that contained my resume, certifications, letters of recommendation, sample lesson plans, concert programs that I had been a part of and anything else that I felt was relevant to who I was as a musician and teacher. A stack of disorganized papers that you have to dig through does not send a great message!
- Be honest and be yourself! Don’t pretend to know something that you really don’t – it always shows. One of my favorite lines that I used when I was asked a question that I wasn’t sure of: “What I lack in experience, I make up for in ability to learn quickly and desire to better myself as a teacher.”
Surviving the First Year
- Stay organized! I did not have a classroom or a desk my first and third years of teaching – I taught out of my bag and was always on the move! Even in the toughest of situations, organization is key – for your own sanity and for your reputation. If we expect the students to come prepared, we need to set a good example.
- Professional Development: attend as many conferences and workshops that you and your pockets can handle! Not only do you gather wonderful resources for your lessons and classrooms, but you make new contacts that may prove invaluable in the future. Great organizations in the Philadelphia Area are:
- PAOSA (Philadelphia Area Orff Schulwerk Association) www.paosa.org
- NAfME (National Association for Music Education) www.menc.org
- Develop a PLN (Professional Learning Network)! This was the point that I stressed the most when speaking to the students. I cannot begin to describe the positive impact that joining and really using Twitter has had on my professional development. I never knew the amount of people out there that are willing to help and share with you, without even knowing you on a personal level. The connections I have made are incredible – we have shared lessons, encouraged one another, solved problems and even talked socially.
There are so many things to think about as you are getting certified and trying to find a job – these are just a few of them. If you had the chance, what would YOU share with pre-service educators? Please offer your advice and tips in the comments below!
Photo credit: http://www.musicnotes.com/features/promo/graduation/