Welcome back from March Break! We hope it was a refreshing experience and you are returning to work ready for an exciting spring. Maybe you are a new(er) teacher heading into your first big concert season. Here is an article that was featured in The Recorder by veteran teacher and OMEA Director Carolyn Otto that you just might find some great advice in.

The view from the other side of the baton…or…

Things I wish I knew about 30 years ago (as a new teacher)

Carolyn Otto 

1. Even if you’re a new teacher, you know some things that others may not. Try to go boldly into the fray each day.

2. The truth is, even after 20 or 30 years you’ll still have more to learn.

3. You know more and can do more than your students can.

4. Be ready every now and then, for “that kid” who has that extra interest and thirst for more, more, more information. Look them in the eye and give them your time. It’ll be a great learning adventure for both of you, and it can be a very inspiring for other students to see what happens when a learner seeks to go beyond expectations.

5. Not every music teacher gets involved in community music, due to family commitments, scheduling difficulties, etc. You owe it to yourself (and to your students) to try to find time to get out there and make music. Join a band or a choir in your town. It will keep you current and stimulated. As a result, your students will believe you when you talk! The bonus is that when you retire you’ll have another avenue open for how to spend your “unassigned” time.

6. Try to sit down and eat lunch (haha!… yes, I know how silly that sounds) with your non-arts teaching colleagues once in a while…even once a week. You’ll have more support as they get to know you, and you deserve to decompress a little in the middle of the workday anyway, don’t you?

7. Are you alone in your department? Or at least feeling alone? It is guaranteed fact that you have staff in your school who played or sang when they were teenagers or pre-teens. Why not invite them to sit in, or even just come and watch a bit of your rehearsal? They may be quite shy, especially if they haven’t played for years, but the kids will love to see other staff taking an interest in what’s going on in the rehearsal room. I have a friend whose principal is quite an accomplished pianist. It is very inspiring to her students to have him accompanying an assembly in the singing of O Canada.

8. Every few years, (or more often if you can) offer a beginner guitar, vocal or instrumental class just for staff. They will see your skills and challenges in a whole new way. I assure you, it’ll be fun for everybody.

9. Fair is fair. Get out and watch the school sports teams and at clubs. Support goes both ways. Chances are if you spend some time watching the soccer team, the volleyball team or the debate team, then if you ask the coach to help sell tickets at your concert, he/she will do it.

10. Learn to do some simple repairs. It will stretch your budget, save on equipment downtime, and you are more likely to get admin financial support if you can show that you try to economize with a bit of DIY.

11. Apply for music grants. There is money available to revitalize your inventory. Try MusiCounts Band Aid  www.musicounts.ca, CARAS grants www.stjohnsmusic.com, etc.. Seek them out.

12. Play, sing and demonstrate –often! Show your students that you’re able to do what you’re asking of them, or that you’re at least willing to give it your best shot. Isn’t that the work ethic we try to instill in kids? We must mentor that growth mindset. Oh, you don’t play that instrument? Why not get together with a music education colleague or a post-secondary music student who can get you started with a few basic lessons, perhaps over the summer?

13. Let kids learn to lead and conduct. It’s a great way to improve their understanding of the rehearsal process. It will give them a newfound respect for your role as leader and their responsibilities as an ensemble member.

14. Take your students out-of-town. Some of the best memories and learning take place outside the rehearsal room.

15. Collaborate with another school on the performance. You and your students will learn what’s great about your group and get new ideas to try at the same time.

16. Stay in touch with your subject association every year. This will help you to maintain contact with a pool of expertise and resources for those times when you are just plain out of fresh strategies.

17. Check out the resources on www.omea.on.ca. A significant amount of work has been done writing and collating these excellent supports. If you haven’t taken a look yet, you owe it to yourself and your class/ ensemble to try them.

18. Share an idea or a great activity with others by writing an article for the Recorder or E-Notes. If you’re a social media user, post a link to an interesting item you’ve seen on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. There maybe someone else who is looking for that exact thing, at that moment. One of your ideas may just help someone to achieve a successful end to a difficult week.

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