Monday, May 15, 2017

Ten Reflections on First Year Band Teaching
by Dylan Noble

Every first year teacher has growing pains throughout the year. For a band director, this is no different. In order to help folks out who may be entering the profession for the first time, or may be changing jobs to the middle school band setting, I hope my thoughts can bring insight to what this profession may look like for you from my perspective of my first year teaching. There are my best thoughts of the year, in no certain order.

1. Start working early in the summer. I came in to my classroom in early June to a huge mess. There was no function or order to how instruments were kept, no music library, and a ton of cassettes from the 1980's still in the back office cabinets. Before any learning could occur in my classroom, I first had to know what I had available to me. Our music library is still a work in progress, but summer projects are on the radar.

2. Form good relationships with your administrators, secretarial staff, and custodial staff. Coming in during the summer is a great time to be able to have meaningful conversations and to start making a good impression before you've ever taught a lesson in your building.

3. Develop what kind of budget you need for the entire school year. Sheet music, auxiliary percussion, drumheads, mouthpieces, and sticks are all used throughout the year. I walked in my first day with no French horn mouthpieces, which meant I needed to acquire some before checking out instruments. Repairs and regular maintenance are also something to think about to have a budget for as well.

4. Develop and monitor your budget. If a budget doesn't exist, or the administration doesn't seem to be able to stretch their money enough for what you may feel you need for the year, think about having band fees for your students. All students in my program pay $30 in fees that helps to cover all the above-mentioned items.

5. Start finding contest music early. Sheet music takes a longer time to receive than you might think if you're first starting in the profession. Try to know the strengths and weaknesses of your ensemble, and try to find music that fits those criteria. This is something I struggled with, because I had little knowledge of a variety of middle school band pieces that would be good fits. I love looking up repertoire lists on the Internet from reputable directors, as well as reaching out to previous teachers on suggestions. This will be one main area that will develop over time.

6. Listen to other ensembles of the same age. Just like in college and taking lessons, we want to surround and immerse ourselves in a community of people who do the same things as us. Reach out to these people to find what they do well in the areas you struggle in.

7. Take a deep breath when the struggle gets real. Just received a less than favorable email from a parent who doesn't quite see eye-to-eye with your direction? Breathe. Every director and teacher will receive these in his or her career. Ask for second opinions often and make sure your administration is aware of the situation before they raise hell to the next level.

8. Don't try to change your program overnight. The culture of your school and the other members of your band staff have a past with the district and want to run things a certain way. It is okay to implement new ideas, fundraisers, and other things you have seen be successful, but Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your program.

9. Continue with professional development in the music field. Go to conferences, meet new directors in your state and region, and network with people who are innovators.

10. Take time for yourself. I struggle often to leave work and go home. I love work. I love band. I love teaching. And most importantly I love my band kids. But you may have a partner at home who wants to spend time with you as well. Don't forget about your life outside of band. Take vacations and find a hobby.

What other ideas do you have? I once heard that most learning for teachers occurs on the car ride to and from work compared to what goes on during the school day. Take time to reflect on what is going well, and develop strategies for things you want to change within your program for the short and long-term.


Dylan Noble
Belton Middle School Band Director
[email protected]


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