This post originally appeared on the blog Emily Conroy’s Class.
I remember my first few years of teaching. It seemed like I was constantly learning something new (and by learning, I mean messing something up and then scrambling to fix it). I could probably write volumes (or have a very long phone conversation) on all the things I wish I had known as a new teacher, but for this post, I have narrowed it down to seven. I hope you enjoy reading and find a few new tips along the way.
1. Don’t Over-Plan
This might seem like common sense, but I have known dozens of music teachers over the years who take on way too much and end the year exhausted and burnt out. If you are someone who thrives and gets energy from having a packed schedule, then by all means, don’t let me hold you back! But if you are like me, you will need to simplify things to maintain your sanity throughout the year.
The most important area for new music teachers to limit is the number of programs you plan. It is also vital to find out if your students have any district-wide performances. I taught in a large district that provided three separate performance opportunities for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders each year. That meant that I already had three programs to prepare students for before planning anything at my school!
After district performances have been taken into account, begin planning your own performance schedule. I planned a MASSIVE all-school concert my first year… a big mistake! Looking back now, I would have been better off doing three smaller performances with K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 or something similar. Also, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to prepare students for the performance. If I were just starting out, I would plan my first concert in November or December and the other two in the spring. I would also plan the kindergarten concert last to give them plenty of time to acquire the skills necessary to walk onto risers and stand for 30-40 minutes!
2. Put Concert Dates on the Master Schedule
Before you finalize your concert dates, get access to the building calendar (ask your building secretary) to make sure there are no conflicts. Make sure to put your concert dates on the calendar, so no one else takes your date! Also, remember to consider holidays, half-days, and parent teacher conferences when choosing dates.
3. Repeat Lessons for the First Few Months
If you already have plans for each grade level for the first few months of teaching, then disregard this point. But if you are stressing about what to teach, let me give you permission to give yourself a break. For the first month or two of school, consider teaching the same lessons to K-1, 2-3, and 4-5. After all, the most important things for your first few months as a new teacher are 1. YOU SURVIVE and 2. YOU FOCUS ON CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT AND PROCEDURES. So if planning a lesson for every grade is going to take your focus away from those things, then cut your planning in half for a while.
In need of a way to keep track of what you did with each class? Download my free editable class schedule tracker below. (You will need to change the schedule and classroom teacher names to fit your schedule)
If lesson planning is still stressing you out (even after minimizing your work-load), consider spending some money to get your sanity back. I recently created a new product that contains 120 lessons plans for grades K-5 and over 1,300 pages of resources (PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, posters, songs, MP3’s) to go with each lesson. If you purchased each grade individually, it would cost you $130, but I am discounting the bundle to $95. While I know that $95 is a lot of money for most teachers, it is SIGNIFICANTLY lower than other lesson plan products on the web and will save you hundreds of hours of planning. Click the link below to take a look or click here.
4. Focus on Classroom Management
Your job will be easier if your students master your classroom rules and procedures at the BEGINNING of the year. So spend time each class (around 15 minutes) for the first month or two teaching and practicing your classroom expectations. I plan to write a more detailed post on classroom management in the future, but here are a few simple tips:
a. Do not allow a class to enter your room until they are quiet and in a straight line
b. Have a seating chart (for both risers/chairs AND the carpet) for EVERY SINGLE STUDENT in the ENTIRE school. Yes, you read that correctly. The other specials teachers in my building thought I was nuts for doing this because it took so much time. But I had very few problems with transitioning from the carpet to chairs because of my seating chart. This is especially important for a subject like music where students are moving around a lot.
c. Have a procedure for what students should do if they forget their assigned seat as they enter the room. In my class, older students were to line up behind the seating chart (which I left on my music stand) and wait their turn to find their seat. Younger students were told to sit at the carpet and wait for my instructions.
d. Have something for students to do or think about as they enter the room. I used Question of the Day Cards. Visit the link below to view this product from my TpT store.
e. Line each class up several minutes early and instruct them to play a line game while you organize the room and prepare for the next class. I used a game called the Freeze Game. Instructions for this game are located in the product below:
5. Invest in a Reading Corner
Buy some music-related books, and place them in a corner or designated section of your room along with a chair for you to sit on. As a new teacher, I used my reading corner to give myself a breather during stressful days or with classes I just couldn’t seem to control. Visit the “My Classroom” section of this blog to see a picture of my reading corner.
6. Discover Music K-8
Music K-8 is a website and magazine full of kid friendly songs with rich accompaniments and mp3 tracks. They also have original programs and other resources like the Recorder Karate program. You can view the website by clicking here.
7. Don’t Worry About What Other Teachers Think of You
It is so easy to obsess over having a good reputation as a new teacher. You may want other teachers to view you as competent or to think you have great classroom management. But truthfully, it takes time for many teachers to become competent, and that is okay. It is perfectly normal to struggle at something you have minimal experience at.
So the next time another teacher catches a glimpse of your room at the exact moment your kids were talking out of turn or getting up without permission, remind yourself that they were once new too and that your ability to control large groups of children is not a reflection of your worth as a person.
Emily Conroy has her bachelor’s in Music Education and her master’s in Counseling and has experience teaching music in low socio-economic environments. She loves blogging about topics that help music teachers improve their emotional health. She also loves designing detailed lesson plans and curriculum that allow music teachers to decrease stress and improve the quality of their instruction. You can connect with Emily by visiting her on TpT, Pinterest, or Instagram. Also, check out her blog where you can subscribe to a free resource library and get access to other helpful tips.