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Career Story: Elementary School Music Teacher

Elementary School Music Teacher for an Urban Public School

Job Title: Public School Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a school district in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Education: BA, Music Composition, Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) •• Teacher Certification, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Previous Experience: I worked in professional theater, taught private music lessons for several years, and freelanced in bands and as a studio musician in Boston. I also spent a year working in music retail as an education consultant. After returning to school I received my teaching certification and became a public school music teacher.

Job Tasks: I teach general music classes at an elementary school, where I see close to seven hundred students each week from kindergarten through fifth grade. Classes meet once per week in forty minute periods. We learn about music, learning theory, the lives and works of famous musicians and composers like Beethoven or Mozart. Students sing songs and learn to play classroom percussion instruments and recorder. I also teach students about music from many countries and cultures around the world. We study the families of instruments of the orchestra and take a field trip each year with the fourth grade students to see a North Carolina Symphony concert.

I also have other non-instructional duties, such as assisting at carpool in the afternoons. In addition, I have two extra-curricular choirs of third, fourth and fifth grade students that meet weekly before school and perform concerts in the winter and spring at school and at various places in the community. I also periodically teach workshops both at my school and to teachers around the state on both music and technology. I have been the chair of our School Improvement Committee for the past two years, and work with the committee to create and revise our school improvement plan yearly. I also assist with keeping a website for our staff on the "blackboard" program.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the opportunity it affords me to work with students, watching them grow and learn, and knowing I am changing their lives through what I teach. It is also rewarding to be able to use music in my job every day.

The worst part of my job is the stress of knowing that when budget shortfalls happen, music and art programs are in jeopardy, because they are not always valued as highly as "academic" subjects.

Job Tips:
1.) Spend time in a music classroom as a volunteer or observer and see as many different teachers and teaching styles as you can. This will give you ideas you can draw from later.

2.) Try teaching privately, in a one-on-one setting to see where you have strengths or weaknesses.

3.) Work with community groups or church groups as a director or assistant.

Additional Thoughts: To be a successful music teacher, you must have patience, dedication, a love of your art, and personal musicianship. One thing that is surprising is how much you learn yourself as a teacher as you work with your students, and how much they bring into the classroom. Each day is different, and even when you teach the same music or topic to a new group, your lessons change and respond to the personality of the class. Even the most challenging of classes can become the most inspiring.

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