Now that the school year has ended and summer school teaching has wound down for me, I finally have a chance to reflect on my first year as an elementary music teacher. My first three years in the field were spent at the middle school level – what a change it has been! I was so used to the attitudes, the resistance to learning, and an overall negative aura in classes (these were general music classes – where students got dumped if they were not in a performance group), that I was taken aback when I began teaching my new students last September!
I have learned so much from this year that I wanted to get some of it down to remember. Of course, this year has taught me so much more than I can fit in this post, but these were definitely some of the highlights (in no particular order):
- Keep a stockpile of tissues and hand sanitizer at all times! As cute as they are, elementary kids are a walking pile of germs! In one year alone, I’ve seen enough nose-picking and pants-digging to make a grown man cry!
- Never underestimate what elementary kids can do. Coming from the middle school level, where I was able to make wonderful music with the choirs, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much with younger kids. I was happily mistaken! These kids LOVE to be challenged! The musical ability of students as young as 1st grade astonished me and I realized that elementary is incredible because of just that – I am the one that gets to foster these abilities and instill a passion for music in these students before they get to MS.
- Communication is key! Even though this applies to every level of teaching, I found that I made more phone calls and wrote more emails this past year than I did in the last two years of teaching combined! Parents WANT to be involved at this age, something that differs slightly from the MS level. Once they leave elementary, I have found that a lot of parents dismiss music as “not a real class.” I found that elementary parents want to know how their children are doing and how they can improve when they are in my room. It’s actually quite refreshing and has gotten me over my dislike for making phone calls.
- Homemade is always better. I never expect to receive anything from my students, so I am always grateful when they think of me for special occasions. I have come to learn that while store bought cards are very sweet, I really love the homemade cards and gifts that I’ve received. I love how many different ways children spell my name and the crooked letters make them so much more endearing! I make sure to keep a file of things I’ve received for one of those not-so-happy days….they are sure to make me smile!
- Celebrate the little things. Elementary school children are small, but they have such huge hearts. They have taught me that even the smallest triumphs and successes can and SHOULD be celebrated!