Hey, check out this post on my new blog, Beg, Borrow and Steal!
Yes, it is true. I have survived my first nine weeks teaching elementary school music.
Was it stressful? Yes.
Did I cry almost every week because I was terrified each time I had to start a new lesson? Yes.
Was I so exhausted I basically ate dinner and collapsed in bed every day after getting home from work? Yes.
Did I absolutely love it?
Teaching music truly is a fantastic job, and on top of that, I am incredibly blessed to be at a school where the staff are some of the most supportive and helpful people I have ever met. I haven’t felt ostracized, belittled or condescended to because of my “BT1” (1st Year Beginning Teacher) status, and all of my questions are met with clear and friendly answers, no matter how small or silly. I cannot express how grateful I am to the teachers and staff who I work with, especially since I started school two weeks late (because it is a year-round school, they began classes back at the end of July, but the principal set my hire date for after Alex and I got back from our honeymoon because she is amazing!).
Here are some pictures of what I have been doing to my room so far! As I said before, I started late, so as of now I have only had one teacher work day, which is not really much at all. Things as they are, I haven’t been able to decorate or arrange my room quite how I want to yet, but slowly I’m adjusting it and making it my own. Students have commented on my constant re-arranging of things. “Do you move that board every week, Mrs. Tigges?” They ask, referring to the board with the lesson plans of each grade posted on it. “Yep!” I reply cheerfully because… pretty much… I do hahaha. I keep trying new things to see what I like best (which is what being a first year teacher is all about, right?).
So, as of right now, I don’t have enough chairs for all my students. The gym teacher let me borrow these rubber floor dots though and I’ve found them quite useful! I assign each student a color and tell them as long as they sit on the right color they’re good, it doesn’t matter which one. Then, I’m free to rearrange them however I want for each class– like this one, who did some group activities.
I assigned each color a different job. The red dots were in charge of the markerboard, and no one else was allowed to write on it. The purple dots presented what their group wrote down. Etc, etc.
One of our group activities with the Orchestra– I divided students into pairs, and each pair had to write with a dry-erase marker on the “Orchestra Map” where they thought each family of the orchestra sat (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion). Then we looked on the Smartboard and used a corresponding app to discover if they were right or not. I have since laminated these “maps” so that I don’t have to use the slippery cover sheets anymore, thank goodness!
My mantra for this year: “We are a Music Making Team!” I am the music making coach, and my students are my music making athletes. As a team, we have to work together towards a common goal, even if we don’t like each other. It’s a tough concept for some kids… but I feel very strongly that one of my jobs as a music teacher is to show how to work with someone to make something, regardless of whether they’re your friend. Below are my 5 rhythm sticks positions– more on that later!
This is my take-a-break table. When students need to take a break, I send them there. It’s not always for behavior issues; sometimes I notice a student is distressed or seems overwhelmed by something and unable to participate. I want the take-a-break table to be more like a place to safely collect yourself. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to successfully accomplish this my first year though. Classroom discipline is so hard! I, like every first-year teacher before me, am struggling with it. I’ve recently rearranged things so that the table is not next to the book shelf. Still not sure if I like it or not. Speaking of books, though, anyone have any ideas for good elementary school music books?
I’m so excited to have my own classroom! It’s really big too, which is fantastic for me. I love having all the space, because I love to teach using movement, and my students have already been learning some dances. In 2nd grade we did Alabama Gal (New England Dancing Masters), and in all grades except Kindergarten we’re learning a dance with the song Fatou Yo in order to learn about Rondo form. Rondo is a form where the first theme, “Theme A,” comes back after every new theme. For Fatou Yo, each theme has a different dance move we do. Most students seem to have fun with it, and I think it helps when they can actually participate in the form of the music instead of just being told about it.
Speaking of Rondo…
All grades except Kindergarten have been focusing on Rondo form for the past three weeks. This is the “Rules Rondo” (You can print it out on this website!), which has 4 themes. Theme E was one that I had each class create. Every theme had it’s own special instrument and rhythm to play on that instrument. The students really loved it because they love to play instruments! Playing the “floor” meant we patted the rhythm on the floor, which students thought was cool too (even though honestly I made that up at the last minute because I didn’t have enough of one type of instrument to give to everyone at the time. Yay improvisation!).
Here’s another Rondo I did with my classes at the end of this week because we just went on break so we had a half-day. It’s found in the 3rd grade Making Music textbook, and it’s a speech-piece in rondo form. I had students perform each form not only with speech but with boomwhackers coordinated to the color of the markers. Students love the boomwhackers!
My boomwhacker setup for Bananas and Cream. I actually ended up switching the little red ones and the purple ones so that when students rotated they wouldn’t have to play Theme A twice in a row (Theme A was both types of red, Theme B was green, and Theme C was purple).
Oh, and last but not least, the board that I keep moving around every week haha. It has music staffs on the other side, but unfortunately it’s pretty unstable so I’ve only been able to use one side of it (hence the “Do Not Touch” sign taped to the bottom). Hopefully this week during break one of the janitors might be able to help me fix this so I can roll it around safely during class!
If you have any suggestions for me about layout or lesson ideas, please let me know by commenting below! I hope you like what I’ve shared and I can’t wait to post some more music-education related things in the future! I’m working on a short post about classroom management that will probably go up later this week, and I also have to tell you about Eagles Center Stage, my first chorus!
I hope you have a fantastic week!