What Happens After College?

Graduation - definitely something to sing about!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.
      • Use hashtags such as #musedchat, #edchat, #mused, and #mpln to find helpful advice and weekly chats that have to do with topics that interest you and are relevant to your position
      • Many of the points found in this post came from reaching out to my PLN using the above hashtags to ask what THEY would tell a pre-service teacher (thanks to @mecsings@jguarr@justine_robin, and @kfreesen for their contributions).

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/

13 responses

  1. Hey Julie, congrats on your first blog post!

    1. Thanks so much, Mack! Great to “meet” the founder of #blogchat!

  2. These are fantastic bits of advice Julie. Welcome to the blogosphere! I look forward to following your blog.


    1. Thanks so much, Jim! It means a lot that you took the time to read my first entry!

  3. Great job, Julie! As a veteran of the education wars, I’ll throw my 2 cents in here. I was an older student, having returned to school when my daughter was in elementary school and graduating when I was 38. What struck me the most was that I realized I had learned next to nothing about how to teach music. I could analyze a Bach Chorale and divide music into historical periods and play a Mozart Sonata and sing a German art song, but it just didn’t translate into the classroom. Just try not to panic the first year, read your music ed journals and go to state conventions to get ideas.

    Also, go into it knowing that just because you love music, not all your students will and your administrators may have no idea what it is you are trying to accomplish. Realize that it is what it is. I heard so many stories from other teachers who had gotten their jobs when the former teacher had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t understand it until I gotten into the classroom.

    Music teachers are also artists and many may be too sensitive to deal with the day-to-day issues of motivating and disciplining students and operating in the public education environment. I found that was the case for me (although I didn’t go absolutely mad before I left!). I loved the students, but I had a string of bad administrators and just couldn’t handle the stress. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I left education after only 9 years and with 2 music degrees. However, I love teaching privately and though that door was closed, many other windows have opened.

    I’ve so much enjoyed your tweets about your elementary classroom. K-3 general music ed classes were always my favorite and I can relive the experience vacariously through you.

    Wishing you a song in your heart,
    Miss Leslie @ Music with Miss Leslie.com

    1. Miss Leslie,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! It means a lot that you took the time to read and leave such great tips.

      I agree – I felt completely unprepared for all of the things that teaching threw my way the first year. Gotta love that Finding Nemo quote “Just keep swimming…” because that’s what I felt like I had to do!

      I’m sorry to hear that you had some unfortunate admins, but I am so glad that it opened such a fantastic door for you and your studio. You share such wonderful resources with us, and I can personally attest to how much they have helped me in my own classroom.

      Thank you again – it has been a pleasure conversing with you on Twitter and I look forward to sharing more resources and stories in the future.


  4. There is no better person than you to talk to such a group of people eager to get insight from you! And wow, I hadn’t realized you’ve been teaching for four years. How time flies! Congrats!!

    I agree on interviews. What great advice to give them! I too was always taught to take as many interviews as possible, go into the interview and enjoy it, and let it teach you.

    Great tips all around, be honest and be yourself is another one. You’re right, dishonesty will come through in the interview. Plus that’s not a good foot to start off on. I was talking to someone I work who does the hiring. He said that he gets tired of the answers he gets when he asks the question, “What are your weaknesses in the workplace?” He said that the interviewees always state a weakness and turn it around to be a positive and he gets tired of it. I hear of so many that do that. Yet that’s not being yourself and is a bit dishonest in a way. Plus it certainly doesn’t stand out when others are doing the same thing.

    I’ve learned a lot in the interviewing process, especially after going through TAPS in the military, which was outprocessing tips for us to switch to the civilian world. They brought in employers in HR who do the hiring for their companies. We would practice our “elevator pitch” and have practice interviews and they would give us tips. One tip I learned is to know that, in most situations, the interviewer is just as nervous as the interviewee. So have fun with it and if you can lighten them up and make them comfortable they will love you!

    Also thanks for teaching me a new term. I didn’t know what PLN meant until I got further down into your post.

    Great tips! I may not be in the music world but you are right, many of these tips are transferable, to any career field. Now I just need to get myself onto twitter and take advantage of the networking options!

    Thanks Julie!
    I look forward to reading your upcoming posts! Great post to start your new blog with!

    1. Thank you so much for this awesome comment, Aubrey! Time really does fly when your having fun – I almost didn’t realize I have been teaching for four years, either!

      You’re absolutely right about the person doing the interviews – they are responsible for finding the person that is the “best fit” for their position and district, so there is some pressure on them as well. Can you imagine how many times they hear the same things? Making yourself stand out, but in a positive way, is definitely key.

      I had no idea that the military provided that service – that’s fantastic! It’s actually very similar to the class that we had to take when student teaching our final semester in undergrad. We created our interview books and even got to practice with live interviewers. That was one of the best experiences I had!

      By the way, so glad to see you on Twitter! I hope you get as much out of it as I have!


  5. I finally got a chance to read your entry! This is really helpful and I wish it had been around when I was beginning to look for my first position. I’ll be sure to pass it on to anyone starting out in music education!

    1. Thank you for reading and passing this along, Justine! I really do hope it can be helpful to someone else!


  6. Julie-
    Great short post with a lot of info. The link of reciprocity is a great thing to include. I honestly didn’t know about that site. Love chatting with you on twitter and thanks for the shout out!

  7. Kyle,

    Thank you for the comment – I’m glad you got a chance to read the post! It’s amazing what information we can find on the internet. I can’t even imagine trying to find state requirements for various states back when the internet wasn’t an option!

    Twitter has been such an amazing tool and I’m so glad I finally jumped on the bandwagon! I’m very happy that you are a part of my PLN. =)


  8. […] of my advice for new teachers is to stay organized. Even though this is my fourth year of teaching, it’s my first in this […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: