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A Day in the Life of an Elementary School Music Teacher

A Day in the Life of an Elementary School Music Teacher

Music teachers usually start as musicians before they start teacher training.

Jill Hare, Editor |

One Day in February

6:30 Wake-up and sneak out of the bedroom without waking my husband. Put on the clothes set out the night before. Pour some coffee and grab a drinkable yogurt from the fridge.

6:54 Get in the car and jam to some morning radio to wake-up and get energized for the day.

7:11 Arrive at school and sign in at the front desk.

7:15 Arrive in classroom and drop off bag. Report to morning duty, closed-circuit morning show. Prepare student scripts for the day. Fire up television and microphones for testing. Scan through work email. Say hello to other teachers in hallway.

7:30 Four students arrive to practice for morning show. Student crew runs through Pledge of Allegiance, patriotic song, lunch menu, student birthdays for the day, and technical aspects of show. Drink breakfast.

8:00-8:05 Morning show airs school wide. When completed, students return to homeroom classes.

8:05-8:25 Tune all classroom guitars for guitar classes. Post today’s objectives and class procedures on the board for the first three classes. Get guitar songs and books ready on music stands.

8:25-9:05 Fifth grade students arrive. Survey seating chart quickly for absences and reassign students new partners where applicable. Students get their guitars, music stands, and music and return to their seats. Guitars have been labeled as famous guitarists, so students always know “who” their playing. As all students get situated, I get students quiet quickly by holding up “1” finger. Students know this is position 1 and relax in their seats with guitars in rest position. I go over expectations for the day and assign songs for students to practice on their own for the next 15 minutes. We pinpoint the musical elements in each song that require practice. During this time, I walk around the room and give students individual attention. When the 15 minutes is up, we play the practiced songs as a class, in groups or as solos. With less than 20 minutes of class remaining, we move to the carpeted space in the music room and away from our chairs. The fifth grade teacher team has been working on a global unit, and this class is focusing on Japan. As a part of their final grade project, each class is presenting information and a song to the other fifth grade classes. We practice our Japanese pronunciation, rhythm and melody, then put it all together. As class time draws to a close, we review what we’ve done for the day and I give an extension assignment for class practice of the Japanese song. I let the line leader for the class borrow a practice CD of the song to take back to class.

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9:05-9:10 Class lines up at the door to be picked up by fifth grade teacher, who is running late. Next fourth grade class arrives early and their teacher runs to a meeting. I’m now with two classes in the hall and eager to set-up my next class. Music teachers need patience and flexibility!

9:14 Fifth grade teacher finally shows up after I page the office to find her. She comes apologizing and I hurriedly usher in my fourth grade class to get started.

9:15-9:50 Fourth grade guitar class begins and continues very similarly to fifth grade. However, this fourth grade class is very energetic and needs to get moving. For the last 10 minutes of class, we practice our choreography and singing for the upcoming spring musical. One boy can’t seem to stop being the class clown during our dancing, and I worry that he’ll injure another student with his erratic movements. We exchange a glance and I point to the edge of the room. He knows this means he’s out for the time being. Only a minute later, he wants back in the action, so he I give him another chance to return to the group. He behaves and is proud that he’s part of the group again. The fourth grade teacher arrives early to pick up her students so she can watch their progress on the musical. The students beam to see that their teacher came to watch what they’re doing outside their homeroom class.

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