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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 |

9:50-10:15 Planning…well, not really It’s seems like it’s just enough time for a quick regroup, a.k.a. bathroom/email break. I quickly check my email to see if anything has come from the school office that day. I see several emails from student’s parents about after-school musical rehearsal that I reply to. With just a few minutes left, I write the objectives on the board for my last three classes and make sure the manipulatives I’m using in class are set up on the counter.

10:15-10:50 Third grade class arrives and sits around the edge of a large carpet in the music room. We continue to practice reading space and line notes on the staff. The class sorts themselves into groups of four. On the large staff board, I notate a succession of notes. Each group has to figure out by reading the notes on the staff what word is spelled. This is a great way to get students excited about reading notes. We do about five of these, and then each group comes up with their own word to “stump” the class. This class has really gotten this concept well except one student who does not speak English as her first language. I sit next to her while each group takes a turn instructing and help her. Once this review is done, each student gets a music book and we sing several songs, naming notes on the staff along the way. One of the songs lends itself to Orff instruments, so after deciding what notes on the staff accompany the song, I write a rhythm on the board. Each group takes turns playing the rhythm on the Orff instruments as the other groups sing along. We line up about one minute early, and I use the time for a quick staff game. Going down the line in order, students say their lines and spaces staff names using the rhyme (Every good boy deserves fudge or F-A-C-E). Students that don’t remember the next letter have to go to the end of the line.

10:50-11:30 Lunch…eventually. The music classroom is the farthest away from the school office, but it’s the only time of day that I have can go check my physical mailbox in the office for messages. It takes about 10 minutes round trip. I walk through the lunch room and see the kindergarten and first grade students at tables eating. I feel like a celebrity as they all wave to get my attention. I am slowed down by all of the extra hugs, but it’s totally worth it to see their cute little faces. Once I get to the office, I run into our principal, who asks how the school music rehearsals are coming. I give a good report and say “hello” to our administrative staff- three of the sweetest ladies ever. The assistant principal requests that I go into her office and sign my evaluation she just completed. It was a good one – yeah! By the time I return to my room, I’ve got about 15 left to eat lunch, which I do with a dear friend and colleague. Chatting with the art teacher is one of my favorite times of the day since it’s the most “adult” conversation I get all day. The nights of the school musical, the art teacher hosts a student school-wide art show before the musical begins. We go over a few details and everything seems to be progressing fine. We define a few points that each of us need to review with the PTA and then we get ready for our next class.

11:30-12:10 My kindergarten class is playing quiet mouse as they wait in the hall. The class comes in and sits on the carpet and I immediately grab my guitar and start singing our warm-up songs. We go straight into several dancing songs and then review our basic rhythms. Then we review songs and movements for our upcoming parent program. We talk about performance etiquette and they couldn’t be more excited to perform for their parents. Forty minutes is a long time for this age, so the last five minutes of class, I read a big story book of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed…” and they sing along. I grab my guitar and sing a song (Willoby Walloby) calling each of their names to line up. This is one of their favorite parts of music class as everyone sings their name to line up. I have to admit- I love it, too!

12:10-12:15 First grade set-up. Orff instruments need to be brought back out.

12:15-12:55 First grade class arrives. They’ve been working on an animal unit in class, so I agreed to help the teachers by teaching them songs about animals for an upcoming first-grade presentation. One song has a dance, one is just singing, and one has Orff accompaniment. We practice all three and review what parts need more work, then try again.

12:55-1:35 My second grade class arrives and with it my grade cycle of classes for the day is complete. We’ve been studying Beethoven, and to complete our unit have been watching “Beethoven Lives Upstairs.” After the movie is complete, I reveal the set of questions I’ve written on the board about the movie. We discuss Beethoven as a person living in a different time and how amazing he is as a musician. They can’t get over how silly the wig he wore was, and this always makes me giggle. We sing a silly song from “Beethoven’s Wig” and it’s time for their class to end for the day.

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