We hope you found the viewpoints presented last week by our panel educators to be helpful. If you are taking your first look this week, welcome!
In an effort to provide some additional tools to aid in your success, we have posed questions to educators from across the country; each with different experiences, focuses, and student demographics. We will post new questions and responses each week, so continue to check back.
We also hope that you will contribute ideas born of your own experience by commenting and continuing the conversation. If you have a question you would like to submit, please message us with “Music Ed. Question” as the first line in the question.
I just graduated from college with a music education degree focusing on secondary instrumental music. I have an interview for an elementary position, but am not enthusiastic about teaching at that level. However, I need a job, and know that I have to start somewhere. Should I hold out and interview only for positions that may be a better fit for my interests or proceed with trying to convince this school that I am a good fit?
Lance LaDuke: If you are deceiving an interviewer to get a job that you don’t want, how will you look the students in the eye? Not to be blunt, but you really have two choices. You can either look at the upside to working with elementary students (enthusiastic kids, fewer after school activities, amazing growth in the students in a short amount of time, turning kids on to a life enhanced with music), or only interview for positions that “fit” you. You do the interviewer, the rest of the staff at the elementary school, the parents and ultimately THE STUDENTS a huge disservice by accepting a position that doesn’t interest you.
Dr. Jeff Phillips: This really depends on the person. What you’ve been “training” to do may or may not be what life has in store for you! I wanted to be a college trombone professor and had no desire to do high school band: I’ve been a high school director for 30 years and I love it. I have colleagues that were all “band” and now are successful orchestra directors, general music teachers, and choral teachers. Many of us found ourselves in jobs we weren’t planning on getting but things have worked out great! You also may find that you deal with younger children better than older ones. Again, be open to the possibilities and remember that students with a great elementary general music experience will someday be in a high school band. Do you want someone less capable than YOU teaching them?
Monica Leversay: When you are called to be in a position that best fits you, you will know it. But, sometimes you don’t know the difference until you’ve wandered many different paths. Before finding the position I currently teach in and feel I am honestly called to serve in, I spent many years teaching numerous part-time jobs just to make ends meet. This ranged from teaching in public school, to private clarinet lessons, to leading a church orchestra group. I gained experience from others around me as well as grew into a more mature adult.
Those times were not always easy in the least bit. But, I persevered; a skill you must learn to embrace and grow strong in within the field of music education. When the job I am currently entrusted with opened up, and the position was offered to me, it all felt right. Each morning when I walk into the band room, I feel at home. The kids in this school are like my own. When you find an atmosphere and a niche like that, you will have a greater appreciation for it than you thought you ever could.
Try and take on a different perspective in regards to the position itself. Instead, think about the children you will be teaching, and what you can take away from that experience if you do indeed go for it. I am a firm believer that the Good Lord will take care of you in His timing and teach you what He sees fit. But, what does it hurt to explore and reach your branches toward new heights? Allow the administration interviewing you to see a passion for the students that will walk through your doors daily, and the talents you have to offer them through instruction, and things will work out how they are supposed to in due time.
John Bingaman: First off, there are alternatives in the meantime if you choose not to pursue a job as an elementary teacher. Private lessons and tech work are excellent ways to get in with a staff and build some credibility that can go quite a ways to you landing that secondary position eventually. If you are not in a position to do that or simply don’t have the desire, being a great musician and caring about students should resonate in your interview. Also, being dependable as a person is paramount to principals even more so at that level because your musical prowess may not be as important to them as your ability to follow up on grades, accommodation sheets, or simply consistently showing up to work. I would accentuate a sense of responsibility, ability to communicate with parents and staff, and again, an overall concern and heart for kids.
Dr. Russ Gavin: You want to have an ideal job in which you can grow and impact the world; however, sometimes you have to get another job before that ideal job! Only interview for the position if you believe you can positively impact your students, while also growing as a teacher. The first several years teaching are SO important to your development, and you don’t want to be in a place you feel resentful towards.
Ryan Moseley: When I first entered the job market, I was set on getting a job in secondary music education and knew that I did not want to teach elementary music. However, my first job ended up being as an elementary general music/choral teacher. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. Elementary school gave me a whole new perspective on where students start learning music. It increased my lesson planning skills and gave me a whole new appreciation classroom management. I was also blessed with a fantastic related arts team who helped and supported me in my first three years of teaching.
Remember, just because you get a job in an elementary music position, it does not mean that you are stuck there. If a secondary position opens up in your district, you can always transfer to that position as a current employee of the district.
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