Monday, April 25, 2016

First Year Flashback

Today, I tried to link up with Shelly over at Pitch Publications to reflect on my first year teaching and how far I (and my students) have come! Click her blog name above to read her post.  I am in my 7th year teaching, which may not seem long- but my teaching style and lesson planning sure has changed! I know her post was a while ago and I can't officially link up but I thought it was still fun to reflect. (This blogging with a baby thing is HARD!) :)  Still head on over to her site to check out the other posts of those who did link up in time!

What Subject and Age Were You Teaching??

Luckily, I am still at the same job I started in because I LOVE IT! I hope I can stay at my "Wonderful Wilson School" for my entire teaching career.  I started out (and currently) teach 1st - 6th grade GM and 5th/6th Chorus.  Soon Kindergarten will be added.  At first I had students for a total of 60 minutes a week (bigger kids 1x for an hour, and littles 2x for 30 minutes each).  I now have each group for 50 minutes 1x a week. 

What Was Your First Classroom Like? 

My first room was a normal sized classroom smack dab in the middle of the building.  There was no air-conditioning, but I convinced them to give me a wall unit. It was pretty tight for the big kids and no fun having to be quiet during testing days, etc. Right now I am in a portable and actually really like it because I can control my temperature, be as loud as I want and I have a whole portable (2 classrooms) to myself. In 2 years we are getting a brand new building and it will have a music wing! I cannot wait to see what my new classroom will look like! I wasn't too picky with the plans- I just said there needed to be room to dance, sing, and play (and of course, store all the instruments and equipment I have). 

Were You Given Supplies and Materials?

I came into a WONDERFUL program.  I was given many resource books, story books, manipulatives, music and a full classroom set of orff instruments, drums, and other classroom percussion.  I also had an Ipod given to me- but I never used it. 

What Do You Remember About Your First Day? 

Absolutely nothing.  I do remember a lot of good, and not-so-good moments from my first year though.  I was probably terrified, but excited- as I never student taught elementary (only High School and Middle School Choral). I knew after my methods class I was meant to teach elementary, but I did not have a ton of experience with it- I am so lucky I got this job! The best memory from that year was my first chorus concert- for the schools 50th anniversary (can you tell why we are getting a new building now?) We did songs from each decade the school was open and it was so fun. My parents even came to watch :)  I am sure those 5th and 6th graders thought I was crazy, but I got a lot of encouragement from staff and parents and then I felt like I
could really do this job.

What Was The Hardest Thing About Your First Year?

I was following a music teacher who had retired from over 20 years of teaching at my school. Luckily there was one year of another teacher as a buffer, but there was still a lot of backlash from parents when I accidentally tried to change things (like the chorus uniform, etc.).  There were things no one told me about that I learned were traditions through pages long emails from upset parents. I now finally feel like these kids and this school is mine, as my current 6th graders were in Kdg. my first year.  I am also kind of shy so many it was kind of isolating that first year. I am so glad I wasn't in the modular classroom that year because it would have been so much worse! I remember my 3rd or 4th year being excited about getting a new washer/ dryer deal while eating dinner during conferences and a teacher told me it was the first time she had heard me talk! Crazy! 

What Was The Best Thing About Your First Year? 

Oh man.  This one is hard- there were so many great moments.  It was just amazing to finally be doing what I had wanted to do since middle school (after I had an AMAZING chorus teacher).  I had so much fun singing, dancing, and playing instruments to share the joy of music with these kids.  

What Did You Discover In Your First Year That You Did Not Learn In College or Student Teaching? 

Classroom Discipline looks WAY different for younger kids than it does for older kids. Wow. Having to change gears so often that year from teaching 6th to 1st to 4th, etc was hard.  Luckily now, my day starts with 6th and I have 6, 5, 4 in the morning and then 1, 2, 3 in the afternoon.  I am still working on classroom discipline a lot- and am always looking for new strategies- if you have ideas- please share!  I also realized that while melodic and rhythmic concept planning is a strength, teaching about composers, other more obscure music vocab is something I have to work really consciously about to make sure students get what they need in those areas. 

Where Did You Draw Most of Your Lesson Planning Inspiration From?

I referenced my elementary methods notes SO MUCH during my first year.  I did have great mini-Kodaly training from my college (go Capital!) but I barely ever touched the orff instruments that year- mainly because I hadn't figured out an efficient way to get them off the shelves.  I also was supplied with many great books that were left by the previous music teacher- some gems that are barely sold anymore or out of print- such as the Simple Gifts Resources, Song Garden Books, 150 American Folk Songs and more.  I used these books so much.  I rarely touched our text books (and still rarely touch them).  Still though, look back at many lessons from that year I often wonder "what was I thinking??" 

Is There Anything You Taught Your First Year That You Still Teach Now? 

I use a lot of the same folk songs, but in new, better ways along with a lot of new folk songs as well. I have learned many more ways to make reading and writing music fun with manipulatives, board work, SMARTboard files, TPT games and much more.  We are more active in every aspect of music learning now.  

What Is One Thing You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

I wish that I knew that it would be ok if my students didn't get as far as I thought they should in my sequence.  I felt really "behind" my first year (and 2nd and 3rd) but not seeing my students in Kindergarten AND only seeing them for 50 minutes a week (and sometimes not even that) makes my ideal Kodaly sequence really hard.  I now focus on making sure students are really confident with rhythms, solfege, vocabulary, and composers that we are working on and while I have goals of concepts to get through- I don't stress when a group takes a little longer to get something solid.  My students are already learning more than I learned (or at least remember) in elementary music so I just need to meet them where they are at and push forward- while still making music a JOYFUL experience. 

This was so fun to reflect back on my first year. Be sure to check out the Pitch Publications post as well as all the others who have linked up!