Time to Move

Boxes are packed and stacked, ready to go.  It is just about time to move into my new place in a new area to start my new career.  The feeling is altogether surreal; knowing that this was what I set out for six years ago.  I am entirely too analytical about these life moments.

In any case, there are so many things to do before school begins in just over a week and a half!  As a new teacher navigating the trenches, I am finding that the more I find out, the more questions I have.  At this point, I almost just want school to start so I can figure out my bearings, meet the students, and have a solid view of what it is I am preparing for.  Substitute teaching really helped to move past a fear of walking into an unknown situation and being prepared, but this is so much more.  How do you develop a curriculum based on hundreds of students you have never met?  Where do you begin?  This is what I hope to keep in mind as the school year begins:

Procedures.  My plan, and the countless teachers I have heard from is to focus on classroom routines, behavior expectations, and logistics until everyone is comfortable.  The first week of classes and into the second, is now set.  The specials have a four day rotation, each group needs to know and understand how the class will run, and have a bit of fun along the way, it is music after all!  For elementary students, this will mean repeating how we enter the classroom, where we sit, how we sit, how/if we ask to leave the room or move from our seat.  What are the discipline procedures?  What are the rewards systems?  Students are the most comfortable when they know what to expect.  When developing our procedures, I must be prepared to consistently exhibit and enforce every aspect to a T.  That is not to say a rule or routine never change.  There has to be flexibility, and if something is ineffective, inefficient, or disruptive, there will be changes.

Flexibility.  Looking forward, I should stretch!  There are going to be many new situations and students I have never worked with before.  And we have to be ready to face those moments and solve those problems!  Accommodations for various needs, changes in the lessons on the fly, making use of teachable moments.

Perhaps that is what really drew me to teaching, the problem solving.  I love math and puzzles, anything to challenge the brain to bend in different ways.  This is a much grander scale with a classroom full variables that can change drastically in seconds.  Social science at its finest.  How far down the rabbit hole?

Forgiving.  I know that I need to prepare myself for some bumbling around along the way.  We will never be perfect, but we can be resilient!  If a lesson goes astray, move on.  Reflect later why it did not work, learn from it, and grow.  This is a learning environment and we will learn!  Forgive the blunders, use them as an opportunity to bounce forward.

Attitude.  A teacher’s perception of a task has a great deal of impact on the “buy in” of the students.  Take pride in the details of transitions, setup of the class, organization of the board.  Create a positive energy where they will thrive and feel supported.  Take to heart that each action has a consequence, and try to make them positive.  Remember your favorite teachers and classes, why were they your favorite?

Reflection.  This is vital to improvement.  Have some appreciation for where you have been, what worked, what did not.  Keep track of great ideas and bad ones, too.  Encourage students to do the same as this promotes ownership and critical thinking skills.  I will be keeping a journal each day as well as updating here each week.  Work through the problems, savor the successes as we go!

This is a process with many steps, or rather a collection of hundreds of little projects and people.  So even though countless others have walked this path, our stride is unique and the journey is our own to enjoy.

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Finding the Job

You walk across the stage, have your diploma holder in hand, what will you do now?!  Find a job!

I’m done! Right?

Experiences with landing your first teaching position vary greatly.  I’m certain this is also true when you decide to change schools.  Finally finishing the degree and being ready for work is an absolutely wonderful feeling, hold on to it!  It’s a great accomplishment that should be celebrated.  Stay positive, because now comes the elusive, undetermined path to employment.

First, decide where you want to go.  Are you staying in state?  Do you have a few school districts in mind?  Are you willing to move or commute?  Now find out where positions are posted.  I created a spreadsheet of URLs for each state linking me to banks of job listings.  As a music educator, each state has a music educator association website, many of which include job postings.  The best thing to do is check back regularly at district websites.  Typically they update once a week.  Peak months for postings are February through May, but there are still districts looking for teachers long after that.  Have summer contact information for references.

Next, have every piece of information for an application ready to go.  In a word document for copy/paste, all of the essay questions, address info for you and references, work history, and whatever else that may come along.  Dedicate a folder for scanned images of teaching license, school transcripts, driver’s license, and social security card.  Take time to develop a solid cover letter template that will change slightly depending on the district and position.  And your resumé, spend time making it look sharp, easy to digest, and do not be afraid to change it as you go.  One application may take 30-60 minutes to fill out, so anything that shaves off some time is a good plan.

Keep track of positions you have applied for.  Music teachers are not as common in schools as math or science, often there will be one for the school.  It took about eight months of regularly applying for positions to land my first teaching gig.  In a spreadsheet or document, list the position, where it is, job specifics, when it closes, when you applied.  When a school calls for an interview, it is much easier to find the information again if there is a record!  (Just like management, right?)

Interviews!  Exciting, nerve-wracking, a step in the right direction!  There are so many resources for interviewing and specifically for interviewing as a teacher.  I will leave you to those because they’re all true.  Be yourself, be informed, answer the questions, but mostly, be yourself.  Yes, they want to hear about discipline in your class, your expectations for achievement, 21st century learning, but it is most definitely to find the right fit.  This is for the school and you.  It is no big deal if the position does not feel right.  Move on.  Going into this profession, there is a tendency to idealize that we can do anything and open the eyes and minds of the younger generation, but it is still a job.  We will be working with other adults and bosses; if it does not feel right, it probably does not feel right to the folks interviewing you either.  My best interviews ended up as conversations and it was obvious that the setting was right.  Oh, if they claim they will call to say either way, only expect a call for a second interview or if offered the position.  On the flip side, send a thank you to the interview committee for their time.  That puts you back in their mind later on and says that you are serious about the position, even if they neglect to call you back.

Appropriate for leaving an interview?

Keep an open mind.  Substitute teaching is great experience out of the gate.  Classroom management skills, thinking on your feet, exposure to different areas, subjects, students.  Plus it is nice to make your own schedule.  Not much pay, but excellent for getting your feet wet and not always being stuck filling out applications.

Biggest thing I have learned, it takes time and persistence.  The first position that looks exciting is most likely not the one you will land as a first year teacher.  Friends from school will have jobs before you do or may still be looking a year later.  Really it does not matter, but it can certainly be tiring to keep looking.  Remind yourself why you spent all that time working on a degree.  Stay positive.  It will happen!  Then the fun really begins!

Introductions, Purpose

Greetings!

As a new teacher entering the workforce, there are so many things that I know I will learn over the next year.  From classroom setup, management, working with colleagues, to day-to-day variations with students, it’s going to be an experience!  I am looking forward to the challenges and hope to remain positive through each step.

This blog will be a place to reflect each week on the good, the bad, and all of the things I will be better prepared for next time.

About myself, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and Music Performance from Metropolitan State University of Denver in the fall of 2013.  Instrumental music has been a passion for the past sixteen years; I play violin, trombone, horn, some percussion, but primarily euphonium.  Conducting experiences with my quartet as we travel the country performing with volunteer orchestras have been amazing.  Marching band along with drum and bugle corps rounds out my prior-to-teaching background.

Teaching has been my career path since I was in eighth grade and had the best math teacher.  Given the opportunity to help my peers, see them flourish, was just what I needed to feel purposeful and driven to help more.

Often over this next year, I will talk about the parts of education I am entering into and how my classes are going.  As with any job, this isn’t my whole life, so I may insert pieces about conducting, performing, or anything else that needs to be said!

Let’s go on a journey!