Monday, February 22, 2016


Encouragement for New Directors | Pictures From The Classroom

Encouragement for New Directors
by Josh Garoutte

As the spring semester gets underway, many teachers tend to experience less "I am going so fast I feel like my hair is on fire" moments and more times they feel "in the groove." Many teachers at this point in the year begin to start questioning their motives, methods, and directions toward which they will concentrate their efforts. I wanted to put together a list of advice and words of wisdom from the music community at large to serve as a "pick me up" for this time of the year.

Note: This was originally intended for an audience of young (1st and 2nd year) directors, but I found that almost all the ideas shared below could be helpful to directors of all ages and experience levels. Most of these ideas did not come from me, rather they are the wisdom of directors from across the nation. Special thanks goes out to those that contributed to this list (many of whom I consider my personal mentors); you folks are awesome!

General Truths/Advice

- This too shall pass.
- You are NOT your band.
- Work hard, but save time for yourself/family.
- Figure out a way to have fun in your life, whether that happens at work or not.


- Assume the best in people.
- Get to know and keep in touch with everyone from the janitor to the superintendent. Make your program a community project.
- Get to know your administrators, help them know you and your program, that way they have a deeper understanding when you need something down the road.
- Be the best at responding to phone messages or emails promptly.
- Admit when you have made a mistake.
- Don't take anything a kid says personally, especially if it is a middle schooler speaking.
- Don't be afraid to laugh along with the kids if something funny happens.
- Figure out what you will and what you will not tolerate, and make sure the kids know.
- Connect with parents by mailing handwritten positive notes home. You are building a positive relationship with them that will pay big dividends.
- Being a successful educator frequently requires us to educate parents, community, other teachers, and administrators along with the kids. Educate others that even though your classroom may be very different than most subjects, there is still quality teaching and learning going on.

Planning/Looking Ahead

- Rome was not built in a day, the same is true for successful programs.
- Change frequently happens at a glacial pace, get used to it.
- Begin with the end in mind. Set high expectations.
- Create a one year, three year, and five-year plan for how you want your program to progress. This can provide guidance and help you with pacing and guidance for your program components.
- Journal things as you try them, including what you did, how the kids reacted, and how you might change it for next time.
- Your group will change its strengths and weaknesses will change from year-to-year...choose music and activities that highlight the people in front of you.
- Don't job hop, try to create the perfect job for you.

Professional Development and Collaboration

- Take any and all opportunities for professional development; even if the activities aren't great, you can still connect with colleagues, which can be a great boost down the road.
- Ask your principal to let you go observe master teachers on PD days.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help, even if you think you should know the answer or are embarrassed by asking. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.
- Find a director you respect, and ask them "What do I need to know that I didn't learn in college?"
- Create a network of educational colleagues that includes music teachers and non-music teachers. Observe them teach, take their best practices, adapt them for your classroom, and increase the effectiveness of your teaching. Every teacher out there does something well.
- When surrounded by successful veteran teachers, let your ears do more work than your mouth.

Overall, don't forget:

No matter whether you are in year one, or one year from retirement, the general consensus is that the second year (and most years thereafter) get easier. You can do it. Now get out there and teach like a rock star!

Josh Garoutte
Palen Music Center Educational Representative, Springfield, MO
[email protected]

A native of southwest Missouri, Josh Garoutte attended Missouri State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Educational Administration degrees in 2006 and 2014 respectively. Mr. Garoutte taught in Missouri public schools for 8 years, the last 7 of which were with Spokane R-VII Schools, where he was responsible for all aspects of instrumental music as Director of Bands and also served as the District A+ Program Coordinator. In his time teaching, Josh was honored to be a faculty member of two Missouri Gold Star Schools, a U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School, and has served as an adjudicator, clinician, arranger, private lesson instructor, and drill writer for bands in the area. His professional association affiliations include the National Association for Music Education, Missouri Bandmasters Association, National Education Association, Missouri State Teachers Association, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity. Josh currently resides in Ozark, MO with his wife Ashley and their son, Rhys.


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