Ask any teacher about their first few years teaching and it’s likely their response will be equal parts nostalgia and relief that they are over. The exuberance of finding their first position is quickly replaced by fear and anxiety during what for many are the most difficult years of their career. Most can probably still recall their first day, stepping in front of a room full of students waiting for direction, and thinking, “Now what do I do?”
It’s no different for music teachers. In fact, with larger classes, equipment to inventory and maintain, literature to select, and performances to plan, the first few years can be more intense than their counterparts in core studies. A college program can only prepare a teacher for so much. As a student teacher, there was always another teacher in the room to guide you and have your back when things got tough. It’s difficult to prepare for managing classroom behavior; establishing an effective and meaningful grading system; unexpected additional duties (I trained for band, now they want me to run the choir, too!); and many other concerns.
Expectations are high for teachers, and the pressure can be huge in those first few years. Turnover rates among young teachers are staggering, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone.
Regardless of your focus (band, orchestra, or choir), there is help out there to get you through your first year. State organizations can be a great help. Many have established teacher mentoring programs where veterans help new teachers through that all-important first year — answering questions, giving them advice and guidance through that challenging time. These mentoring programs are extremely valuable in providing guidance and support for teachers who either don’t know where to turn for help or are uncomfortable admitting that they are having trouble.
In addition, there are also many helpful publications that can provide a wealth of valuable information for a wide range of issues. Many were written by veteran educators who have experienced the same challenges and have researched and developed helpful, effective solutions.
There are many sources young teachers can turn to for help, if they know where to look. By working together, we can help them get a positive start to a long and fulfilling career. Whether the sources are fellow educators, state organizations, or the music industry, it’s important that young teachers know that there is help out there for them. If you know of someone who would benefit from this article, please forward or reference this article to them.