Jedi Music

A Resource for the Beginning Elementary Music Teacher


Getting to Know You (the students, that is!)

OK, so after putting time, effort, and energy into the task, you should know the student’s names with pretty good accuracy.  Now, your next goal is to get to know them well as PEOPLE. 


Getting to Know You (Their Names, That Is!)

Knowing the names of the students you teach is so important that I cannot emphasize this enough.  We show the respect that we have for our students by calling them by name.  When my husband began coaching soccer, this was the one valuable piece of advice I could offer him…he could not be on the sidelines of the field yelling “Hey you, YOU!! The one in the blue!…”. Knowing the student’s names is essential to success in the classroom.  I have heard that nothing is as pleasing to hear as the sound of your own name.  Although, in my home, the constant “Mom, Mom, Mama, Mommy, Mom, Mama, Mama, Mommy, Mom, Mom, Muh-umm” gets a little old!!

So, easy advice to give, but it is difficult for a music educator to succeed in this area.  For one thing, we see more students in the course of a week than some teachers see in twenty years of teaching!  Our performance groups are large, and many of us see every student in several schools for general music as well.

Here are some ideas to help you as you learn to the names of your students.  If one doesn’t work, then try another until you get a system in place that suits your style of learning.

ü  Make it a game.  I allowed my students to give me a “report card” and grade my abilities to remember their names. See Role Reversal: Grade the Teacher.
ü  Let them know that you really want to know their names and that it is an important goal for you.  They will forgive your mistakes when they know that you are sincerely trying.
ü  Many teachers, especially on the secondary level, rely on seating charts.  That could be a great system for them and anytime you have a system that works, use it!  I don’t go the seating chart route for many reasons. One is that I like my students to choose their own seats as a good behavior incentive. Also, on a personal note, I think that I would become very reliant on the charts, and if I misplace the charts (very possible!)  I would be LOST! Another concern is that if I come across a student in the halls or out in the community, I still don’t know their name.
ü  Review often! If I find that I am mixing up or messing up names often, I take time for review.  This can be as simple as greeting them by name at the door as they come into class or calling out names to line up at the end of the class.


Role Reversal: Grade the Teacher

When I began my current placement, I taught over 700 children in the course of a week. My goal was to learn all of their names as quickly as possible.  One idea that was a tremendous help was "Grade the Teacher".


Back to School...Already!?

That's right, I'm heading back to school after less than a week of summer vacation! I'm going to Duquesne Unversity today and tomorrow for an Early Childhood Music Initiative Professional Development Workshop!  I'm looking forward to learning some new strategies, and meeting new people.  And another big plus is that this professional development opportunity is FREE!  That doesn't happen very often, so I'm glad to take advantage!


Set a schedule…and stick to it!

As a parent, I really dislike when my child is participating in an activity and I get the feeling that the coach/director/leader is “flying by the seat of their pants”.  With as much advance notice as possible, I need to know when practice is going to take place, when the games or concerts will be, when we need to be there, when they need picked up, what do they need to bring, etc, etc, etc! 

Parents are extraordinarily busy, and I hope that I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed at times most of the time!   For this reason, in my role as director of chorus, I take the time to set a schedule for the entire year at the very beginning.  I include this schedule with the participation agreement for chorus so that even before the student agrees to participate in my group, they (along with their parents) are very clear on the commitment involved.


Teacher Attitudes: Fallibility and Embracing Your Imperfection

Have you ever known someone who just couldn’t be wrong?  How about people who only value their own opinion?  Did you ever try to work with someone who doesn’t accept input from others?  “Miss Can’t Be Wrong” or “Mr. Perfect” can be your worst nightmare in the workplace.

One of the unlikely attitudes I’ve come to embrace as a teacher is that of fallibility.  Accepting my imperfection means that I can be wrong and that I probably will be wrong on many occasions.  My responsibility is to learn from my mistakes, and to try my best to correct any wrongs that I have caused.  Adopting the attitude of the “perpetual student” who is always learning, along with constantly adjusting my lesson delivery keeps my teaching fresh and interesting (a benefit to both me and my students!)


Why Jedi Music??

Maybe you think I must be a huge Star Wars fan, hence the title "Jedi Music".  I'm sorry to disappoint anyone who is google-ing to find their dream woman, but I didn't sleep outside in a tent for months to see "Return of the Sith", nor are my children named Luke, Leia, and Yoda.  I'm just a child of the eighties who saw the original three movies (I mean "Episodes IV, V, and VI" for those die-hards amung you) and didn't think too much about them after that.  I saw parts of the latest three movies in between nodding off at key points. Other than an experimental double bun childhood hairstyle phase, it just wasn't my thing.

I had a revisiting to the "Galaxy Far, Far Away" recently when my eight year old son became interested in Star Wars via Legos.  My husband, who was sorely disappointed in my lack of interest (or consciousness, for that matter) in Star Wars, was only too happy to dust off the old DVDs and introduce a new generation to George Lucas's brainchild. Offhandedly paying attention as usual, one particular scene did catch my attention and led to much thought.


Welcome to all who may stop by here!

This is a resource for the pre-service or beginning service elementary music teacher. I have enjoyed mentoring and cooperating with music students, student teachers, and other teachers in my twelve years in the field of education, and my goal is to organize my thoughts and advice to those just starting out in their careers. As a mom to three young children, a wife to my husband, and full-time teacher to over 700 students each week, I need some organization in my life!

This place is to eventually be a collaboration spot, with the readers sharing their own ideas and commenting (I hope often!) on my posts. Please don't feel that if a post is not current, that you should not share a comment. Because of the nature of student teaching, you could be coming across a particular issue at any time, and something in my archives may help you. Please, comment often and share the love!

Please know that I am far from a Know-It-All, as I tell my students and my own children: I am learning every day! We are so fortunate to live in this very connected world, and it just makes sense for us to utilize every resource we have to gain the knowledge to do the very best job we can in our professional lives. This blog is a communication tool to help us learn together.