Career Story: Middle School Music Teacher

Middle School Music Teacher

Job Title: Music Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a school district on Cape Cod.

Education: Masters, Education

Previous Experience: I worked as a recreation director as a young person.

Job Tasks: I work with 7th and 8th graders who have elected chorus, band or orchestra in their schedule. I enjoy working with junior high students and seeing how their study of music can enhance their lives. I see students in groups of 15-26. They all play different instruments and their abilities vary widely. I have 5 groups every other day and teach 160 students each week with small groups of jazz singers and players and small ensembles before and after school. I take the chorus and band to a judging festival each year so that they learn from professionals where they rate against other students their age, while at the same time building teamwork and school pride as we represent our town and school.

My challenge is to make sure that students know that it doesn't matter how much skill they already have, but that it is my job to help them learn from there. I also want them to know that they are important to the whole ensemble and that they make a difference. We make each other look and sound better with our contributions. I hope that they learn this as a life lesson too because the quality of our lives depends on our attitude. Students are used to playing sports where you try out and either get eliminated or, when you make a mistake, are asked to sit out instead of playing the game. In a chorus or band, everyone's performance is important to the whole team and errors in playing/singing aren't going to force anyone to the bench.

Another focus of my job is to educate students and parents about the value of a fine arts education. Evidence of the value of music education grows each week as research continues to show the growth in brain connections in turn help critical thinking skills and math connections. The study of music in school also improves self-discipline, cooperative learning and the development of an overarching sense of aesthetics. I believe that students become more sensitive people through their study of music. I think that making music is food for the soul to us all.

I also work with young drama students each year in producing a musical with the help of high school students as assistant directors. Students learn staging, stage craft, singing, dancing, costuming and acting skills. Students have to audition and learn from high school students who become wonderful mentors for them.

Though I would love to have students want to be professional musicians or teachers, I really want students to know that they can make music all of their lives thus improving the quality of their lives.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The most enjoyable part of teaching is witnessing the enthusiasm of students learning and succeeding in making good quality music. I love seeing students want to learn more music and request extra help with their studies. I love seeing students work together who might not normally be friends.

I dislike assigning grades to students twice a term. I want to be honest with the grade that a student should receive, but I want to be encouraging. Very few students are naturally talented or gifted, but all students can learn with time and encouragement.

Job Tips: I would encourage future music teachers to observe as many teachers as possible and pay attention to their their teaching styles. Learn to play the piano as well as possible, and to sing as well as possible. Students deserve a teacher who is professional but who also loves kids. It has helped me to learn as many different styles of music as possible so that I can provide for student differences and interests.

Additional Thoughts: There are two points that I would make in considering a teaching as a profession. First, though I have been teaching for 31 years, every year and every day is interesting because every child is different and every group dynamic is different, challenging and exciting. I want to be better every year for my students,and aware of every student's needs so that I can reach them.

Secondly, I have been involved in the state music education association which has allowed me the opportunity to work with talented educators to advocate for music education in the state, to provide opportunity for students beyond their school and to mentor young teachers. I have appreciated the friends I've made during these years of leadership service.

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