Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Beginnings!

This is truly a time of new beginnings for me!  I’ll be starting at a new school this year which means a new classroom, all new students, new colleagues, a new administration, and new parents!  I also recently moved and got married this summer, and after thinking about it for quite a long time, I have finally started this blog! 

I am excited for so many new beginnings, but I have found myself lately thinking a lot about my past teaching experiences and what affect they will have on my new teaching experience.  Having taught in several different buildings, I can truly attest that there are no two schools that are alike.  I have been busy the last few weeks preparing plans for my new classes, but without ever meeting my students or even seeing my classroom, I was only able to get as far as writing my Kindergarten curriculum and song lists for each grade.  I have been itching for our school’s master schedule to be finished so I can start planning some lessons! 

While I have not been able to finish writing any of my yearly plans, I have been thinking a lot about my goals for myself professionally.  Here are my goals for myself for this school year:
  1. Collaborate more with general classroom teachers.
For the past two years that I have taught in my district, I have always had at least one other general music teacher at my school along with a band and a strings teacher.  Collaborating with the other music teachers has actually gone quite well, however I feel like I have fallen really short when it comes to working with non-music teachers.  I’d really like to find ways to work with my general classroom colleagues to make connections between what the students are doing in the classroom and what I’m teaching in the music classroom.  As a Kodály teacher, I’ve become a little snobby about the songs that I choose to teach (for authenticity’s sake as well as musical value) so songs that are composed so that they can be “cross-curricular” do not appeal to me.  However, I think I can definitely work hard to find ways to make the songs and units that I teach relate to what students learn in their general education classrooms.  Since I will be in a new school this year, this may be a little tricky at first since I’ll still be learning who people are, but I’m really hoping this works out J.

  2. Find consistent ways to get to know students outside of my music classroom.
At my previous school, my scheduled was PACKED.  I’m talking, 10 music classes a day (yes, I said 10!).  So naturally, I didn’t have a lot of free time.  I did, however, have a few students that really needed to make a personal connection with me before they were able to engage in music class.  It took me most of the year to realize this fact, but when I did I began using the twenty minutes I had at the end of the day to invite students to spend some one on one time with me a couple days a week.  For most students, I gave them mini-piano lessons or let them try out my guitar with the point being that we would have time to really get to know each other (I knew this, they just knew I was spending extra time with them).  For these kids it made all the difference in the world.  While I was glad that this extra time worked so well with the kids I implemented it with, I was also disappointed that I could not make time to do this for more of my students.  While the master schedule is not yet complete for this year, from what I have heard I’ll have a little more flexibility (definitely not 10 music classes a day, yay!) and I definitely plan on using that time to get to know my students outside of my classroom.  I’ll definitely write more on how I hope to make that work when I figure it out!

   3. Engage parents and keep them connected with the learning that is taking place in music class.
I hope I’m not alone in this, but most of my parent communication happens when something is needed or something is wrong.  If I need students to be at school for a certain time for a chorus rehearsal, I send letters home.  If I’m having discipline issues with a student, I make a phone call home.  I haven’t really engaged parents in what happens in my classroom on a day to day basis or attempted to give them information on what learning is happening.  A colleague of mine from another school I taught at a couple years ago would periodically send out “Ask Me” sheets that basically had suggestions to parents of what to ask their children about what they were learning in music.  For instance, in a first grade class an Ask Me sheet might say “Ask me to tell you about what rhythm is and ask me to perform the rhythm while singing Engine, Engine.”  I remember thinking that this was such a great idea, and now I’m ready to try it out for myself! 

   4. Seek out information on other methodologies and how they can enhance my Kodály curriculum.
I just finished Kodály Level III this summer!  And I have to admit, for the past few years I’ve kind of been living in a “Kodály box”.  My entire teaching style has been motivated by my Kodály background the past few years, but I think that has caused me to turn a blind eye to everything else.  When I was growing up, I attended several music camps in the summer.  While I did not know it then, I often took Dalcroze Eurhythmics classes through these camps.  Those classes with their expressive movement and rhythmic exercises were always my favorite!  When I was considering pursuing higher education, I actually seriously considered becoming certified in the Dalcroze philosophy and have since attended a few workshops, but nothing beyond that.  I have also attended some great workshops on how the Kodály and Orff methodologies can work together, but I feel like I need to know more about how Orff works before I could successfully do this myself.  I really hope to push myself outside the “box” this year and bring my curriculum to the next level.

My first official day back to work is tomorrow and I am so excited to get started!  I can’t wait to get to meet the rest of my colleagues (I did have orientation at my new school last Friday so I met the other new teachers and saw my room) and learn more about the culture of my new school.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for a long time and I really hope that it can be a place to share teaching and learning experiences with other teachers and open up dialogue on various topics.  I can’t wait to hear about others’ starts to the new school year and the various plans other people have for themselves and their students!

So, do you have professional goals you’ve made for yourself for this school year?  What are they?  Leave me a comment, I can’t wait to hear all about them!

Musically Yours,

P.S. I started a Teachers Pay Teachers store!  Check it out and follow me if you like it:


  1. Great job! Im excited to see how your year unfolds.

    -Latoya Lewis

    1. Thanks, one day down! And thanks for reading :-)

  2. I hope you had a great first day, Ashley! Although not as dramatic as yours, this year is also a new beginning of sorts for me, as it is my first time being full-time in one school. Like you, I have taken advantage of that opportunity and set some goals for myself:

    1. Become a larger part of the school climate. This was hard when I was at the school only 2 days a week. Now that I have more time and opportunity to get involved, I'm looking forward to having more of an impact.

    2. Build up the music program. My predecessor was wonderful, but I'd like to bring new energy and ideas to the program and get the school community excited about it again.

    3. Do more to engage my students with special needs. I was originally inspired by Alice, but I realized how important this would be when I found out that I am teaching 11 inclusion classes this year. I'm working through Alice's book now...

    4. Include better transitions in my lesson planning. I've read and heard enough at this point to know what meaningful, effective transitions are, and I want to make sure I'm doing a lot more of that this year!

    I'd be interested to see where others are planning to focus this year, and I'm looking forward to reading more from you, Ashley! Happy writing!

    1. Those sound great! I also just found out that I will be teaching two inclusion/adapted classes this year which will be new for me as well. I had been thinking about getting Alice's book, but now that I know my schedule I rush ordered it so I'll have time to read through most of it before school starts next week. I'm excited to hear what kinds of things you decide to do! Thanks for reading and writing back!