I’m kind of addicted to this Music Teacher’s Facebook Group.

I mean, it’s a TON of really awesomesauce advice  and I LOVE the personal anecdotes and sharing, the immense help that everyone offers newbies and less-than-newbies….*sigh*…the camaraderie is something really special- especially considering the group is 17,000+ strong and from all over the world!

This morning (the morning I’m writing this, not publishing it…) before I headed into school, I posed the question:

What is the #1 thing you wish you had known before becoming a music teacher?

I guessed by the time I got back this afternoon there would be a few responses- but I had no idea that it would be such a heated topic!

I’ve had a chance to read over the responses that have been made [there are more coming in almost every minute] and I’ve aggregated, selected the most repeated ones, and am posting them here for your reading pleasure.

  1. …How much I would be burned out with music at the end of every day. 

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From not wanting to listen to the radio, to learning the value of silence, and not even practicing your instrument or singing anymore at home, this is definitely something we all wish we had known before jumping in.

Some of the tips to avoid getting annoyed with music:

• start enjoying talk radio and podcasts [personally, I LOVE StarTalk Radio]

• take time every day to enjoy silence

• keep one instrument for fun [For me this is guitar. I will never teach guitar because it takes all the fun out of it!]

2.…How important it is for you to take care of your body.

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From being completely exhausted to having voice and hearing issues, the physical strains of teaching music are unparalleled in the teaching profession [sometimes I fantasize about becoming a gym teacher…*sigh*]- it is clear that there is a very real physical aspect to our job and you absolutely cannot neglect it. I mean, have you tried to find a SUB that will take on a music class recently? Sheesh.

So here’s what you need to do:

• make sure you eat right, exercise, and get some sleep. No excuses.

• get a good ENT and schedule an annual visit with them.

• schedule time to renew yourself every day– whether that’s reading, or a soak, or a run, or whatever you do to unwind and be YOU. Every. Day.

I recommend checking out “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. I’ve always had a very steady morning routine, but since I started following the guidance in this book…well…it’s been life-changing. Click the image below and get your copy now:

3.…How to deal with administrators.

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From not having experienced administrators, to principals that expect concerts and programs WITHOUT additional contract time (aka. ‘money’, ‘compensation’, or ‘FTE’)…dealing with these people is one of the great challenges of our jobs. And yet, if we want to keep our jobs, it’s one of the most important.

Some tips for how to deal:

• try to understand their point of view. These guys want to be good managers, and yet hey have to put up with the bottom 10% of the school- you know, the kiddos you’d prefer never walk in your classroom, AND all the financial rigors of managing a mid- to large-size business entity.

• get a hold of their management style- whether they prefer to be subtly dealt with or are more direct, the sooner you can figure it out and respond in kind, the better!

• don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell them what you need and why. It’s their job to support you, not vice versa.

Photo Credit: mattjanson.com

4.…So many more classroom management techniques.

From keeping it cool when your lesson plan gets side-tracked, to how to deal with that handful of kids who seem to always be the ones doing the side-tracking, you can’t learn enough about how to keep things moving. Needless to say, this lead to one of my favorite quotes:

• We don’t teach music, we teach children.

• Learn what you can from their classroom teachers. They’ve been at it with those same kids day in and day out and are likely very willing to give you some pointers. You can also find lots of great stuff on Pinterest. Or aforementioned Facebook group.

• Always have more to do than you plan. Stay flexible.

5.…The lack of ‘dream jobs’ out there.

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Look, Dolly Levi had it right: If you have to live hand-to-mouth, you’d better be ambidextrous. That holds true with music teachers. If you want to have a job- because, let’s be honest there aren’t that many full-time jobs out there- then you had better be as comfortable teaching choir as general music as orchestra as middle school band.

I am so thankful that my mentors at BYU had this in mind already- because here I am having to teach elementary music when my emphasis was in secondary instrumental. But guess what! I’m comfortable- even with all the fart jokes- because those smarty pants professors made us learn how to teach all grades, all levels, all disciplines. So keep in mind:

• Be prepared to take any job and learn it as you go if you have to.

• Curriculum can be flexible in music [hooray!]. Use that to your advantage.

• Take advantage of all the help you can get– and there is a TON of help out there for you.

And to round out this post…

6.…How to keep balanced- especially with my family life.

life-is-all-about-the-ebbs-and-flows-you-just-need-to-learn-how-to-sail

Boy have you hit the nail there! Now, please understand, I was married before I graduated. I was pregnant with my first baby my senior year of college, and I was still nursing while student teaching. I spent a full school year pregnant with baby #2. That’s not to mention the super-needy husband [drummer. What can you do?]. So I feel I can speak a little to this. But I’ll let some of the other post commentators say this:

• Family is first. Always.

• Dedicate at least one day a week to family only. [I would supplement that with scheduling out dedicated time every day.]

• Remember, when all of this is past and you’ve retired after 40+ years of teaching, what will be left? Students have moved on, but your family relationships will be what lasts.

Honestly, though, you will never be able to do it all. You will never find a ‘perfect balance’. But you will find that as your balance shifts, you can compensate.

This was honestly one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written [including all my posts on trails365.com]. The responses in the group keep coming and I have no doubt there will need to be another post like this soon, one specifically intended to share to people NOT in the world of music education- but all those who should see why we do what we do in spite of all that we didn’t know that we should know.

Because the idea really is this: music educators need to be prepared for the actualities of the job, not the hypotheticals.

Yes, we need to know how to be excellent performers, but we also need to know how to craft a performance- even with 6 year olds.

Yes, we need to know how to teach 13 year old boys how to blend their vowels, but also how to respond when that same 13 year old boy threatens to kill himself in our class.

Yes, we need to know how to suck up to the secretary, but we also need to know how to ask for more money for our salary, confidently, assuredly, and masterfully. Even if the principal is a little unsure and worried about the next mandatory testing window in ELA.

Thank you, thank you, all of you who contributed to this comment thread, and thus this post. I feel more inspired than ever in my own mission to help teach teachers how to secure funding, gain influence, and have more time for the things that really matter…like our health, and our families.

And all those sweet little souls that every day enter our classrooms- may we all remember that they are on a journey and we are their guides.

There are so many other thoughtful responses from music educators, I wish I could cover them all. If you aren’t already in the group, click on over and ask to join. You won’t be disappointed.

And as always, I can’t wait to hear what YOU wish you’d known before becoming a music teacher. Comment below, or please don’t hesitate to send me an email. I’m here for you, bro.