I’ve always known I wanted to go into music education. Even as an elementary school student, my biggest idol was the school’s music teacher. When I reached middle school, though, I knew immediately that I wanted to be a band director. This was confirmed even more as I graduated to the 9th grade, and by the time I hit my Junior year of High School, there was absolutely no question that I was going to be a High School band director when I “grew up.” It was with this attitude that I began my degree at UM. High School band or bust!
In fact, I never really had any experience teaching or working with elementary students at all until this semester. I had one teaching experience back in the fall of my freshman year with a beginning trumpet player, but other than that, all my experience so far had been with high schoolers. After all, it’s those students I wanted to work with as a teacher-why bother with the elementary kids, anyway? In all honesty, I think a big part of it was intimidation. I was comfortable working with teenagers, but I had so little experience with the younger kids that I was worried if I would be as effective working with them.
Despite my reluctance, this semester presented me with two opportunities to hone my skills working with elementary-level students. The first came through one of my courses at UM-entitled “Classroom and Behavior Management.” The course title is very self-explanatory, and the class comes with a 20-hour field experience component which must be at an elementary school. I was assigned to Frances S. Tucker Elementary, with Mr. Kurt Engbretson in the music classroom. While most of my experience in Mr. E’s classroom has been observing, I had the opportunity to do a mini-lesson with the kids a few weeks ago, in which I taught them about the families of instruments (brass, woodwind, string, percussion) and demonstrated my trumpet for a bit. It went surprisingly well, and the kids really loved the trumpet demo. Their favorite part was my demonstrating the “wah wah” characteristics of the harmon mute. I ran into a bit of trouble with talking/behavior as the students became more excited with the material, but once I reminded them that “the more time you guys spend talking the less fun trumpet stuff we get to talk about,” the room quieted down! All in all, the lessons (I taught three of the same lesson-to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders) went extremely well! I left the school feeling great about how I was able to create such interest in a subject for the students!
My second opportunity came to me as a member of Tau Beta Sigma. TBS, which is a service organization for the college band, also has a national initiative for chapters to help local troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts gain their badges/patches in music. As such, we welcomed about 35 girl scouts to the UM campus this past Saturday, for a music workshop. The girls ranged in age from 3rd grade to 6th, and were split into four rotations. The members of TBS who were present also were split up, and I had the opportunity to work with my good friend and fellow sister Tyson and the scouts on “action songs” for the afternoon. In our rotation, we sang songs that had actions associated with them. We chose four songs, with increasing levels of difficulty, which culminated in the “Joe” song about the man who works in the button factory-by the end of the “lesson,” everyone in the room was pushing pretend buttons with their elbows, knees, head, butt, and tongue! It was a blast, and all the girls had an incredible time. It was a blast having the opportunity to sing these songs with the girls, and have as much fun as they all were! It was another successful day of working with elementary-age students!
Have these experiences changed my preference as to which level I want to teach? Not at all-I’m still gung-ho towards High School band. That being said, though, I am no longer afraid of the elementary classroom, and now am looking forward to my course in teaching elementary general music next fall! These experiences have helped me expand my teaching ability and confidence, and hopefully will open the door for my becoming a much more well-rounded music educator!