Now that school is over and half of our house is packed and in Mississippi, I’ve had some time to reflect on my first 3 years of being an educator. Of course, there are the simple lessons like, “kids will be kids,” and, “don’t change anything your first year,” and, “if you hold the toner cartridge the wrong way it will spill everywhere and a new artistic design will appear on your clothes.” We all learn those fairly quickly, if not more than once!
In my reflecting, I’ve narrowed my takeaways down to 3 overarching lessons that really shaped how I ran my classroom, specifically during this last year.
- Students want to be challenged, and they need to know that what they are doing in your classroom is important. When I first stood in front of my Concert Choir, they thought I was a choral nightmare. I set high expectations immediately and asked them to do things they thought only “talented singers” could do, like sight read music without hearing it on piano first. When I showed them that ANYONE could sight read and that a lot of schools don’t teach those literacy skills, they developed a new sense of pride and confidence in themselves. Students wanted to be better sight readers and work towards All State. They started favoring the collegiate level repertoire I gave them because it was hard, different, and challenged them vocally and musically. They realized they didn’t have to be a supreme vocalist in order to be a smart musician. Best of all, they learned what they were capable of as a choir, and the value of teamwork. It is just amazing what students will achieve when you ask them to believe in what they are doing, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be. This has inspired my future studies, and I hope to one day impart that knowledge to future music educators, in hopes that we stop seeing “whip and nae nae” choir videos on FaceBook, and start seeing some profoundly talented young musicians! They just need to be challenged!!
- The experiences we can provide for our students will be memorable to them forever. When I first started teaching, I quickly learned that my own high school experience is not common. My hometown was predominately wealthy, low crime, and our school district is often ranked in the top 100 in our country. Some of my students had experienced grief and struggles that I may never experience in my lifetime. Once I realized this, I knew that their high school years were going to be the only time these students will have the same opportunities as one another, as some came from wealth, poverty, good family units or broken homes. If I could create opportunities and experiences for them now, they could end up being some of the most profound moments for them in their lifetime. That’s why participation in honor choirs and festivals are so important. It’s not about the scores, it’s about the experience.
- Your classroom may be the only place students receive character education. Use this opportunity. I have always valued leadership skills and outstanding character from the beginning. It became my overarching theme for my discipline structure. That’s why I created my Zero Tolerance Policy, because I knew that if someone was holding them accountable, especially for an organization they cared about, it would challenge them to keep in mind their actions wherever they were in the building or outside of school. Let’s face it, some kids can just be mean, and we can either intervene and show them how their actions effect the greater good of the ensemble, or we can let them turn into mean adults, and we have enough of those, too! Use your content to teach character. You could change the world, as minute as it may feel, and it WILL matter.
I’m very grateful for my first years of teaching, and while I won’t be in the classroom for a few years, I’m sure that my time at school will prepare me for my next chapter as a music educator.
What valuable lessons have you learned this year? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aarontait/