I am linking up with Shelley Tomich from Pitch Publications to talk about my first year of teaching!  
It’s hard to believe this is my 20th year teaching!  (Especially since I just turned 29!)  *hee hee*

I had the most unorthodox start to teaching – I was a performance major in college who “dabbled” in education.  I taught early childhood music classes but didn’t have an education degree nor student teaching experience.  I moved from Michigan to Texas to go to graduate school, but my heart wasn’t in it.  At the last minute, I decided to take a year off and teach privately while trying to figure out my next steps.  I went to a district on the west-side of Houston and applied to teach private flute lessons.  Instead, I was offered a job to each elementary music.  It was a Friday morning.  I interviewed with two principals that afternoon and had a signed contract by 5 pm.  School began Monday.

What subject/age and where was I teaching?
So like many first year teachers, I taught at two elementary schools.  I was the support person for the full time music teachers.  I taught Pre-K, Kindergarten and a few First grade classes.  I loved my first year of teaching!  Each school scheduled classes quite differently.  My morning school allowed me to see my Pre-K kids every day for 20 minutes.  It was sublime!

What was your first classroom like?
Each school had very different set-ups.  At my morning school, I had my own classroom which I shared with the ESL teacher.  She and I taught on different days and I always had the entire classroom to myself.  At my afternoon school, I had one half of a portable building.  I shared it with the full time music teacher, but we had only a set of shelves that separated our rooms.  It wasn’t the most ideal teaching situation as we could hear each other while we taught.

Were you given supplies and materials?
Both of my schools had enormous budgets for music through the PTA.  I didn’t have my own budget, but what I needed was provided by my principal or the full-time music teacher.

What do you remember about your first day?
I remember having the cutest little red-haired boy throw up on my brand new shoes.  Kind of hard to remember anything after a 5 year old pukes on you.

What was the hardest part of your first year?
For me, it was learning how to be a good colleague – especially to those who don’t have the same pedagogical approach as me.  I worked with two music teachers – one who used Orff as her foundation for learning and another who used Kodaly.  Although I didn’t have an education degree, most of my work and experience was using Music Learning Theory.  I had wonderful conversations with my Orff friend, but it was difficult to work with my Kodaly friend for a variety of reasons.  I’ve since learned that although how we teach may be different, we often have more in common than we think.

What was the best part of your first year?
It was, always has been and will continue to be working with kids.  I love, love, love teaching.  I loved working my students that first year.  They taught me SO much!  There were times I felt like I was a day ahead of them and there were days when I thought I should be paying them for teaching me so much about how to teach.  It was such an incredible first year!

What did you discover your first year that you didn’t learn in college or student teaching?
Well, like I said, my degree was in performance and I didn’t student teach.  I was hired on an emergency permit with the condition that I enroll in a teacher certification program as soon as possible.  For many people, this would have been a recipe for disaster.  For me, it was the perfect scenario.  I could teach the way that felt was right for me without trying to be like someone else, or try not to be like someone else.  I truly believe it made me the educator I am today.

What is one thing that you know now that you wish you knew then?
  • You are going to learn as much from your students as they are going to learn from you.  Embrace it!  
  • You’re going to have lessons that fail and it’s ok!  My best lessons are the ones that tanked the first time because I had to go back and retool them, figure out what didn’t word and why.
  • You’re going to get sick – alot.  You can never wash your hands too much.  Never. Ever. (ever…)
  • It’s always about relationships.  Your most challenging kids are not acting out to drive you nuts.  They are acting out because they lack and desperately want one person to care about them.  Do not take their behavior personally.  Instead, tell them you are about them and ask them what they need to be successful.  Seriously.  And if it doesn’t work the first time, ask again and again and again until they believe you.  Our toughest children often have home lives that would break our hearts.  Their behavior towards you is not personal.  Build relationships.  Meet them in the morning as they come in the building.  Invite them to have lunch with you one day with a friend.  Give them a high 5 as they leave and tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow.  Build positive relationships with your students and you will get the best from them.
  • Make an effort to contact parents with a positive about their child.  It doesn’t have to be a phone call, it an be a note, catching a parent in the drop-off/pick-up line – anything!  I will never forget calling a parent about her son.  From the moment she answered the phone, you could hear the anxiety in her voice as she prepared to hear something awful her child did.  I was calling to tell her something beautiful her child did.  She cried throughout the call because no one had ever told her something nice about her child.  He was a 4th grader.  Share the positive with parents!  Parenting is hard and we all need a kind word about our child.  And it makes the difficult conversations a bit easier because they know you care about their child.

If you’re a new teacher – what questions do you have about your first teaching?  If you’re a seasoned pro – tell me your funniest moment during your first year of teaching!