Apparently, I will be a music teacher now -- advice/materials recommendations appreciated
  • Hi everyone:

    I got a call from the principal of a Pre-8 Catholic school yesterday, and she offered me a job as their (part-time) music teacher, on top of my duties as (also part-time) music director at my parish. (I did not apply for this job; she's a parishioner at my parish and likes what I've done with the choirs here, so she just called me up.)

    I have no experience as a parochial music teacher and not a ton of experience working with kids outside of what I've done with my parish's youth schola, but everyone around me--musically inclined or otherwise--has encouraged me to accept it, and so I will and see what happens; if it doesn't work out well, at least I tried it.

    So I will accept the position on Monday, barring anything unusual happening. Then I have a month or so to figure out what I want to do with each grade. Here's what I'll have to work with:

    * I get each classroom once a week for about 40 minutes -- yes, that's it. There are two classrooms in each grade level. I will not work with the preschoolers, so it's K-8.
    * They have a concert/pageant for Christmas and a themed concert in spring every school year.
    * I do not know the level of musical skill in the students, though I will quickly figure that out as I start.
    * The choir for school Masses will not be my responsibility.

    I will be talking to at least three music teachers in my area, but I'd like your input as well: where do I start? If I have a budget for materials (books/instruments/whatever), do you have recommendations for things to purchase, presuming they're not already on hand?

    My head, as you might imagine, is spinning a little bit because this is happening very quickly. But if I do this, I want to do it right. If you can offer wise words, I would be quite grateful.
    Thanked by 2Kathy Carol
  • Treat them as little adults, not as little "teen-Mass" types. You're not prepping them for Mass anyway, but what I mean is this: cultivate their sense of wonder, their ability to listen and sing; don't do high-sugar stuff.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    You lucky duck! Teach them to chant

    http://www.chantcafe.com/2013/12/new-years-resolution-more-chant-for.html?m=1

    http://www.chantcafe.com/2016/10/teaching-singing-to-little-children.html?m=1

    http://www.chantcafe.com/2017/06/teaching-little-children-to-sing-k-1st.html?m=1

    If the school can afford it, ask them to send you to the Benedict XVI Institute's upcoming workshop on how to lead a chant camp.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160

    If the school can afford it, ask them to send you to the Benedict XVI Institute's upcoming workshop on how to lead a chant camp.

    I'm going, Kathy. You coming up?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    Haha, I wish!
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, having divested myself of all duties a year ago, I've decided to go back and resume my K-8 duties as my successor's gone onto FT employment. (Tim, I'm thinking about what to share with you of my 14 years of parochial school experience.) The push to enhance music literacy was a fairly didactic enterprise last year. So, I'm oriented towards music literacy through the distinctive enterprise of chant/notation. In parish experience I know that square notes is far more intuitive and legible than standard; why shouldn't that be a prelude for kids' acquisition of both? And we know what miracles MACW hath wrought.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    I absolutely agree!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,463
    There are standards which specify what should be learned at each grade level. They are a bit dry to read, but I found them helpful. Associations of music teachers can also clue you in to available resources.
    Thanked by 1TimTheEnchanter
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    CharlesW, don't you find the standards to be a little abstract for children?

    Give them 4 years of successful singing, listening, and a notation style, then they'll have something to think about.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    I spent most of my teaching career teaching first grade in a parochial school, however, my last year teaching I taught music classes for 3 year olds to 8th graders. Although I did not have a music degree I often had more musical knowledge than the person hired as a music teacher when I taught first grade. Most parochial schools don't spend money on the music program so, unless you are very blessed, you will find little to nothing to work with. Many schools introduce recorder as an instrument and teach simple music reading to 3rd or 4th graders. If you do this, parents are usually expected to buy a recorder for their child and send it to school. Charles is correct that there will be a set of standards (curriculum) for each grade level. Your principal should provide it to you or direct you to a website. Be careful about being assigned extra coverage such as lunch duty or recess duty which may be part of your day.

    One way to plan is to divide the 40 minutes into chunks. One chunk could be listening to and learning about classical composers. One chunk could be learning songs for the Christmas or spring concert. That will take longer than you think because the weeks go by quickly and with days off and special trips or assemblies there isn't that much time to prepare for a concert.

    Classroom management styles tend to vary by age. Try to give positive attention to behaviors you want (catch kids being good) and correct negative behaviors calmly and with consistency. Treat your students with respect and they will usually treat you that way. Be collaborative with the older students when possible because then they will "buy in" to what you want them to do. Be yourself as much as possible, kids can spot a phony a mile away. Set up routines and realistic expectations at the beginning and follow through. Use the classroom teachers as a resource if you see they are talented teachers.

    If you like what you are doing this year, and are disappointed with the way the classroom is equipped, I wrote grant a with a music teacher and was able to get $600 worth of REMO drums. You may find a similar way to get more instruments, etc. The internet has so much for free, if you know how to use it. Obviously be very wary of what you use off the internet.

    Most of all, God bless you for stepping up! If music in your school is like music where I was, you will find so much left to teach your students.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,463
    Standards give you a direction in which to go with results that you hope to obtain. If your school has any kind of proficiency testing it will be based on standards. Yes, kids can learn to sing, but the standards tend to cover that, as well. If you want to make them little chant scholars, that is another matter and is outside the scope of most standards. Standards wont help with that. But they will tell you what students should learn and master at each age and grade level. Standards are not dogma but represent goals to achieve.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    The standards include pre-K students explaining "musical ideas."
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,463
    If by musical ideas you mean loud-soft, high-low, fast-slow and such, then yes, pre-K students can do that.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    Of course. But they can also sing like angels. That's not in the standards.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    My first day teaching kindergarteners, two of them busted out with Uptown Funk.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • henry
    Posts: 198
    I was thrown into a K-8 music position also. The school had General Music textbooks (teacher's edition only - no books for the kids). I think it was Silver-Burdett "Making Music" or something like that, from the 90s so I'm sure it's obsolete. Luckily it included cds with the text book for most grades. See if you can find something like that. Also - make a lesson plan for each class. Mine were 40" also, and I divided it into practicing music for school Masses, general music from the textbooks, and some solfege from the Ward Method books by Justine Ward. Also some fun stuff - almost all the age groups enjoyed that (especially around Halloween, Christmas, etc). I would insist that you have the teacher from K and possible 1st and 2nd also stay in the room with you because that age group is difficult to handle alone. Best of luck.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Charles,

    I think Kathy's problem with "standards" is that they're not much better than skeletal unless/until they have meat on them. When I had to write a set of such otherwise mindnumbing eduspeak, I decided to put as much of my curriculum into eduspeak, rather than make my curriculum fit into whatever standards already exist. As a home-schooling Dad, I know many people who find ways to call all sorts of otherwise normal activities something eduspeakily fancy.

    Tim,

    At some point, you'll have an instruction (standard) which says something about learning about scales. Here's where you add modes into the mix. With the younger kids, especially, the new sound of modes will stand out immediately. (They may not be able to put into words what it is about the modes, but they'll recognize each mode before the year's end, if you're careful.

    You'll also have some instruction (standard) about international music. Here's your opening to Latin. I taught Credo I to an elementary choir some years ago. The kids loved it. I divided up some into semi-choruses, but the beginning and end were tutti.

  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    It is the verbage, but it's a dozen other things too. Why start with metrical music? Why start with polyphonic (accompanied) music? Is it possible to learn melody by immersion, and if so, wouldn't that be chant? Is it possible to learn singing by imitating the songs of nature? Does "children's music" have to be illiterate to be simple? Aren't there melody-only masterpieces? How can children discover their own voices? Is it possible to avoid that whole shout-singing phase altogether, even at Christmas pageants? Is it possible that every child can carry a tune, if you start young enough? Etc etc.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,256
    I have a concern kindred to Kathy's. Chant, as noted by more than one of our great composers, is the foundation of all our unique Western musical patrimony. Let your children experience this sublime evolution.
    Thanked by 2Kathy CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    Yes, exactly. Follow the order of history--the order of discovery.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,043
    I booted the curriculum of my diocese and the state of Florida. Its all horrible and so watered down that the kids would barely be able to read by 6th grade. I created my own using RSCM materials, solfege and chant and some use of Kodaly and the Ward method. I now have 2nd and 3rd graders reading neumes, doing the handsigns for solfege and reading notation. My 7th and 8th graders learn music history straight out of Grout with listening examples and cross taught with the world history teacher. We sing at school mass every week so they learn the hymns and the Marian antiphons and the mass ordinaries (we sing chant ordinaries for school masses). In essence, the liturgy and the chants and hymns drive my curriculum. Junk the curriculums produced by the book companies and the state. Make your own and teach them to sing...the heart of making music.
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    The above advice about asking the lower grade teachers to stay is probably not going to fly. Often regular classroom teachers contractually are entitled to a preparation period each day so they will not want to give that up unless they are staying in their own classroom anyway correcting papers, etc. If the classes have a teacher's aide she would usually stay with the class for "specials." Start by taking stock of what materials/instruments are on hand and what other resources you have access to. Classroom teachers love when the "specials" follow on a theme they are using in their class, e.g., a bug song when they are learning about bugs.
  • Thanks, everyone. I have accepted the job, and we're in the hiring/paperwork process. I got some confidence boosters from virtually everyone in my life, including a retired music teacher, whose first reaction was, "You'll be great at it."

    I feel much more at ease now that I have a base of ideas to work from. I will be busy the next few weeks, especially!
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Carol
  • Incardination
    Posts: 480
    Best of luck to you Tim. Teaching can be hard (very hard), but it carries with it its own rewards and graces.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    Btw establish classroom discipline at the beginning. Change the seating chart whenever you think it's necessary.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,463
    When I started teaching a veteran teacher said, "Don't let them see you smile until after Christmas." I understood what she was getting at. Let them get away with too much initially and you won't be able to call it back later in the year.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,890
    Get “Sound Connections” by Dr. Don Ester. Also consult the State standards for music for whichever State you are in. If you are not in the US, consult via Google search the 1994 MENC National Standards for music. They will serve as a guide to the things music educators strive to include, teach, and do in our music classrooms. The IN state standards are fairly comprehensive and include ancillary standards for general music (K-H), band (6-H), choir (6-H), orchestra (6-H), music history (H), music theory (H), and music technology (H). They also include applicable reading and writing standards for cross-curricular instruction (get used to that term: principals love cross-curricular). I am making my cross-curricular focus this year heavily focused on reading achievement, as I just completed a research study that suggested that reading achievement leads to music achievement, so anything we can do in the music classroom to help that goal actually helps us too.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    CharlesW is right, but also remember that teaching is not an adversarial relationship. Keep your expectations high, including the expectation that students will behave rightly and then nearly all of them will. Keep them busy, since it is true that idle hands are the devil's workshop. Always have something extra in abeyance so you can turn to it if your original plan doesn't work as you thought it would. Especially true if there is technology involved be sure to have a plan B.
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    If you have specific questions in the future, especially if they relate to the lower grade students, I would be very happy to try and help. I am sure you will do well since you have skill and enthusiasm. Children can recognize expertise and they respect it.
    Thanked by 1TimTheEnchanter
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    One more thing- find out if you will be giving grades on the report card and if so what kind of grades. Plan your lessons with grading in mind. Some principals will allow grades to be based upon participation/effort and some will expect something based on content taught (usually based on grade level). If you are giving grades, be aware that some helicopter parent will probably question you about it at some point.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    Also, find out whether the other "specials" teachers give meaningful grades. You don't want to be sweating for days over half points on each kid if the art and PE teachers give an easy A to every student regardless.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Carol
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 639
    Since this is a parochial school, be sure to get your diocesan standards for the grades you will be teaching. Also, find out what textbooks (if any) they have for music and be sure to get teacher's editions of them. Some textbook publishers also include a test bank for testing and workbooks.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Forty minutes, once a week, K-8 and grades? Strikes me as counter-intuitive.
    Thanked by 3Kathy CHGiffen Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    Me, too, but I had to do it music for K to 8th grade. At times, over my most recent tenure of 14 years in a parochial school, I also had to give percentage report card grades to first graders, and for a time even mid-terms and finals! That pendulum can really swing fast! At another time in a public school the "progress" report was a skills-based list where you had a choice of usually, often, or rarely. A colleague said she was very tempted to add "tartar" next to rarely.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,890
    The trick with grades is to have a wide variety of different types of assessments to evaluate. There are three domains of learning and you can google easy explanations and examples of each: cognitive domain, psychomotor domain, and the affective domain. Try to have assessments in each domain, and make them appropriate to the age level of the students. I would advise against the “easy A” practice. This undermines the importance of music as a subject.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Here's my trick should the question arise this year- prep time notwithstanding- the classroom teacher should attend each session whenever able, and make an ongoing assessment based upon a small number of criteria, not the least of which is the quality of participation. I have the same load as Tim as I return to the K-8 classroom this year, and I assure anyone, including parents, I'm not going to remember 200 urchins' names, much less subjectively assess skills according to unreasonable standards via 30-40" sessions once a week.
    This is kind of what slays me about the ethos of curricular, general music: if each grade, each dedicated choir/bell choir can demonstrate absolute confidence in performance, isn't that really the bell weather of success? Sure, not all are created equal of ability, but unlike sports, and definitely unlike the sciences, everyone's on the team when performing. Try having a public algebra final in front the entire community.
    Thanked by 2bhcordova Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    I like the way you think, but I still would be very surprised if the classroom teachers are willing to attend music class every week. How nice that your school is as large as 200 students!
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 639
    Melo, I could probably handle the public algebra final, but then I'm a math and science nerd. I do differential and integral calculus for fun!