Have you ever felt things were getting stale in your teaching? Have you ever felt like you didn’t quite know what steps to take next in growing your program? We can all get stuck in a rut from time to time and lose our sense of vision for our own growth as teachers. Here are four steps to finding a vision for yourself and your music program.
1. Find out where you are
It’s hard to be truly honest with ourselves about where we are as teachers because of one of two problems. We are either blind to areas where we may need improvement (willingly or unwillingly), or we are so critical of ourselves that we don’t get an accurate picture. One way to get an idea of where you are as a teacher is to keep a teaching journal and ask yourself a few questions:
Asking yourself these questions on a daily basis will get you thinking about your teaching in a neutral non-judgmental way, as well as establishing a record for your progress over time.
Another way to get an accurate view of your own teaching is to video tape yourself as you teach. A word of caution on this one though: Strongly consider getting your principals permission and asking about precautions you may need to take such as being careful not to show students faces in the video or perhaps even letting them know they are being recorded.
Why is this effective?
Because you get a third person view of yourself as you teach and you can hear and see everything you say and do to examine how effective your procedures are. It’s painful to watch (and you will likely hate your own recorded voice) but it is incredibly valuable to understanding where you are as a music teacher.
2. Accept your shortcomings and recognize your strengths
After you get an accurate picture of where you are you may notice that you aren’t where you want to be in several areas. Worse, you may even feel like you don’t measure up as an elementary music teacher. This is where gentleness comes into play. Maybe you aren’t where you want to be but when you accept that you are where you are today then you can move on to improvement for tomorrow.
One Trick is to find two strengths for every shortcoming that you notice. For instance maybe you talk too fast for your little ones to follow. Now look for two positives, maybe you are great at modeling a good singing voice, and you teach xylophone mallet technique very well. When you recognize your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you don’t discourage yourself to the point where you feel like giving up.
3. Find out what you want and why
If someone came up to you and asked:
“Where do you want your music program to be in a year? How about in five years?”
What would you say? It might be difficult if you haven’t spent much time actually thinking about it. In order to move your program forward and to grow it, you must know what you are aiming for.
Here are some questions to get you started:
What ensembles would you like to add that you have been thinking about for a while? Maybe Ukulele? Steel Drums?
What performance opportunities are available for you to participate in the coming years? Local holiday performances? All-County or All-State? Disney or other local theme parks?
What areas of music education can a better teach to my students? Music History? Music Theory? Steady Beat?
What is one unique thing I want my program to be know for? Having the best choir around? Adding dances to our songs and instrumental pieces? Having a snazzy uniform?
Many times we don’t know what we want because we don’t know what we can have. Taking time to contemplate your program and what you want can bring all of the many possibilities into focus.
4. Reconnect with your purpose
“He that has a why to live for can bear almost any how” -Friedrich Nietzsche
One of the most important parts of developing a vision for your music program is knowing your purpose. Your purpose (also known as your why) drives you forward and is the fuel that helps you actually get things done.
To give an example: one of my purposes that I recently reconnected with is something I like to call “Waking people up”.
Many times our students (and let’s be real, ourselves) are caught up in a sort of “cultural hypnosis” where they let things get defined for them by others. Things like what they can’t do, or what they will never amount to. So many times we, and our students are fed a message that we simply “Can’t” and I like to wake my students up to the possibilities that await them. I like to help my students discover who they are and what they can really do. I like to empower them to take educated risks and be who they were meant to be.
So here is my question for you.
What is your purpose? You can have many, but you have to connect with at least one to feel a drive in improving yourself and your program.
What drives you? Let me know in the comment section, and let me know what your vision for your music program is.