Saturday, October 13, 2012

What is your school like?

Part of why I started this blog was to network and learn more about other music teachers.  Over my 5 years, I have noticed that there are big differences from school to school in my own county.  So, I'm wondering what your school is like.  What is your enrollment?  How many music teachers are there at your school?  How often do you see your kids?  What are your responsibilities outside of your instructional time?  Do you have after school performing ensembles?  Do you do grade level performances?  What makes your program special?  (Of course the answer to that one is you!  But what are some of the special things YOU do with your kids?)

Here are my school facts:
  • Enrollment: 830 (I think that is the most recent total!) We don't ever seem to stop growing and they are actually building more housing that is supposed to be completed in December!
  • Music Teachers: Me and our strings teacher. She is at our school in the AM two days a week to work with our 4th and 5th strings students.
  • Schedule: I see my kids once every 7 days for 45 minutes at a time, 35 minutes if it is a Wednesday. Some grade levels have more than 7 classes which means the 8th class has to split. I would say I typically have 18-20 little ones and with the older kids 20-24. Some of my classes end up a bit larger with the ESE students that are pushed in for specials.
  • Duty: I am responsible for monitoring students during arrival and dismissal.
  • Performing Ensembles: I have two groups, chorus and orff. They meet once a week each for an hour.
  • Grade Level Performances:  I don't do grade level performances.  When our school opened we were part of an Arts Integration grant, so classroom teachers took on the responsibility of grade level performances that incorporated what they were learning.  Since then, this tradition has continued and I only assist with these events.
  • Special Things: I am all about celebrating success from the very small, to the very large. We celebrate funny reactions, birthdays, finding our singing voices, and many more special occasions. Music should be enjoyable! I find celebrating these small moments helps my students feel more comfortable which means I get more out of them.


  1. I have a special position that I created teaching at two different schools in two different districts. It is great and challenging at the same time, you'll understand when you see my answers:

    * Enrollment: Fairview - approx. 140; Bonduel - approx. 300

    * Music Teachers: Fairview - JUST ME! They get more music teachers when they move on to middle school. Before middle school students in Pulaski do not get band or orchestra; Bonduel - I teach all the general music classes and then the band director from the middle and high school teaches lessons at the elementary school once a week. (He only get about 1 hr and 30 minutes to teach lessons to about 30 students!)

    * Schedule: Fairview - I'm lucky enough to see my students twice a week for 30 minutes. That means I get to see all my students an hour a week. Fairview also has a day system that makes it so I see my students even if there are days off. Whenever there is a day off our day schedule rotates and that is helpful as a specialist. Since this is a one class per grade level school my class sizes vary a lot. I have had everything from 14 students to 26 students; Bonduel - I see my students once a week for 45 minutes (however, most weeks I miss at LEAST one class due to all school walks, assemblies, fitness fridays, field trips, or random events they throw in). My class sizes at Bonduel are also rather flexible. This year my smallest class is 18 students and my largest class is 26 students.

    * Duty: Fairview - Bus Duty two days a week. This means I pretty much just greet the students as they come in to school; Bonduel - Two lunch recess duties. I watch the kids on the playground, make sure they don't get hurt and they are following the rules. Though most of the time this is my time to chat with my students, since I don't normally have time to listen to all their stories during class time.

    * Performing Ensembles: Fairview: I created a 3-5 Chorus last year and have continued that this year. They meet before school one day a week and normally perform at least twice during the school year; Bonduel: This year I started a 4-5 Chorus which meets during one afternoon recess. They are going to perform at the Winter Concert and may eventually perform with the Middle and High School Choirs at their Spring Concert.

    * Grade Level Performances: I honestly wish I didn't have to sometimes. I have so much I want to teach my students, but it takes a lot of instructional time to get them prepared for a performance. Plus, most of the parents in my district judge my entire program on these performances, which is rather unfair. Fairview - I split up my performances K-2 and 3-5. One section does a Winter Concert and the other does a Spring Concert; Bonduel - K-2 and 3-5 perform in a Winter Concert. One section in the morning and one in the afternoon.

    * Special Things: This year in Bonduel I allow students the opportunity to come in during their late afternoon recesses to work more on music. This could mean practicing choir or band music, working on music concepts we talked about in class, playing music games on the smartboard, practicing rhythms, anything to get them excited about music.

    1. Wow! I dream of being able to see my kids twice a week. When I was interning, the PTO paid for a second music teacher so that the kids got to go to music twice a week. Its neat that you have some extra afternoon time for the kids to come to the music room. We teach right up to the bell, so any extra stuff is after school. In our county Wednesdays are early day. This means school gets out an hour earlier and teachers can participate in professional development opportunities. Sometimes there isn't anything scheduled, so I can use this time to rehearse with small groups.

  2. Hi Emily! I teach in two K-2 schools in one school district and each school has a population of 250+/-. I am the only music teacher at these two schools. I am at one school 2-1/2 days and then switch on Wednesday. I see all students once a week for 45 minutes. I have one outside recess duty at one school and one "office" duty (answer phones in front office while secretary goes to lunch) at the other. No complaints about either of those duties! I do not have any after school performing ensembles, but I have often thought of offering an Orff ensemble group through the Parks & Rec program. Many times, though, I have meetings after school and I also make time for myself to exercise... I do not do grade level performances. Instead, I have whole school performances by splitting the school in half and performing two nights. I make sure there is a balance of K-2 at both performances. I have tried many types of performances: "stand and deliver", grade level, "informances", and mini musicals. I find that the mini musicals are the ones that get the best bang for the buck. John Jacobson/John Higgins have age appropriate material that my students buy into and parents LOVE. Without a doubt, the one thing that makes music class special is when students play instruments. They LOVE playing instruments! Many games I have done for years (like play parties and any of the Amidon folk dances) are now done in classrooms via Responsive Classroom, including Morning Meeting greetings and songs. So I have had to step it up and zoom into ways of developing the students as the music makers.

    1. You're right, there are so many great musicals out there and honestly they do seem to get the most response from the parents. What's cuter than a kid dressed up singing onstage? :)

      I think it's interesting that your classroom teachers are responsible for incorporating folk dances in the classroom. I have never seen that done but how great is it that the arts are being incorporated into the regular classroom setting. :)

  3. Hello! I'm a first-year teacher, and I'm loving this post. Great idea!
    Enrollment: 400. Independent school, age 2-8th grade
    Music Teachers: Me (I teach K-4) and another, who teaches preschool and 5-8.
    Schedule: 6-day rotating schedule; I see each class twice in the 6 days. Kindergarten classes are 25 or 30 minutes, 1st is 30 minutes, 2nd is 42 minutes, 3rd is 40 minutes, and 4th is 42 minutes. It's so confusing! Elementary choir meets during lunch and recess on one of the 6 days, and the middle school choir meets before school on Thursdays.
    Duty: Arrival duty once a week, and lunch or recess duty 5 of the 6 days. I also play piano for both elementary and middle school chapel, which happen once a week (this is an Episcopal school). I'm also in charge of leading songs and setting up the sound system at the biweekly assemblies.
    Performing Ensembles: Elementary choir (2nd-4th) and Middle School Choir (5th-8th). Both are very new and very small, and the quality of singing is mediocre to poor. Very frustrating for a vocal performance major!
    Grade Level Performances: I'm doing a 3rd/4th grade concert, a 1st/2nd concert, and a kindergarten concert, all spread out over the spring. We also do an early childhood Christmas concert that the kindergarteners will perform in, and a Lessons and Carols event where each grade level 1st-4th will sing a song, in addition to the choirs.
    Special Things: As a reward system, I keep track of points for each class. The most they can get is 5. Once they've reached 50 points, I do a special music class. Then I start over, and they have to earn 50 more points. Usually, I do a Free Choice Day - individual kids get a turn to choose an acitivity that we've done in music class. I've only done it with a couple of classes, but so far, they love it! Later in the year, I'll do a music sharing day for each class, where kids can bring in CDs to play a favorite song, play an instrument, talk about the music they like, etc. I also have a special birthday song that I sing when a child has a birthday on a music day.

    1. Wow! Your school sounds busy. I can imagine the kids love all of the different performance opportunities you have.

      Don't you love how the music teacher always gets stuck with the sound system? My first year teaching I had this responsibility and I was terrified. I had never run a sound system and the one we had was so old and had to be rigged in order play properly.

      I love the idea of having a birthday song. I have always wanted to do this but its still on my list of things to add. Maybe next year will be the year to add one.

  4. Enrollment: app. 500 (3 classes in each grade)

    Schedule: I see each of my classes once a week for a 50 minute music class. Mondays are weird rotations and I see each class an extra time once every 3 weeks for 50 minutes. For several years, I taught dance on Mondays, but this is the second year that I have been teaching art on Mondays (we do not have a visual arts special area teacher).

    Duty: I do not have morning duty because that is when I rehearse with my ensembles. But, I have afternoon car duty 4 days of the week. The 5th day of the week I am the academic team coach and that is our practice day. During some extra plannings I am responsible for giving RTI probes in math and reading.

    Performing Ensembles: I have a choir and Orff Ensemble. Choir is open to grades 3-5. Orff is open to grades 4-5. We meet before school when the doors open at 8:40 until 9:05 when the 5 minute warning bell rings saying you better get to class. Choir meets twice a week and Orff meets twice a week.

    Grade Level Performances: I have never had any grade level night performances, although I have assisted a few grades in putting together a little performance for a monthly school assembly we call Viking Voyages. Each grade is assigned a month to be responsible for the entertainment to keep the kids from getting bored during long presentations of certificates and such.

    1. It's sad to hear that you don't have a visual arts teacher but at least you are able to fill in and give the kids some of these experiences!

      Your classes are only 5 minutes longer than mine but I don't know if I could do Kindergarten for 50 minutes. I love them for 45 minutes at a time and on Wednesdays I really love them for 35 minutes! :)

      It's interesting to see how you are helping with academics as. Last year was the first time I have had to work with intervention groups and to be honest it was a bit overwhelming. I had 4 little boys from 3rd grade that needed extra time with reading comprehension and I was given the resources to use with them. Even though I was given everything I was so worried about undoing what their teachers had taught them or using the right approaches. Does your admin provide training or guidance before having you assist with these groups?

  5. Hi, My name is Cara. My situation is a little different since I'm on a military base.

    Enrollment: 800(ish). It fluctuates. We service students from PreK-3 to 6th grade at the elementary campus.

    Music Teachers: Just me and I service all 800 of those students.

    Schedule: I see my students twice a week for 30-35 minutes with the exception of PreK-3 and PreK-4 who only come once a week. To accommodate the numbers and twice a week schedule, I see between 35-40 students at time. Some would shy away from that but its the price I pay to see them twice a week.

    Duty: Thankfully, no teachers at my school have duty. The paraprofessionals handle all duties.

    Performing Ensembles: I have one group but it had to split in half because my room wouldn't accommodate the 90 kids that signed up. Their performance is in December.

    Grade Level Performances: I do a grade level performance with every grade (pre-k 3-6th Grade) It makes for a busy year. Right now, I have 3-6th all working towards a performance coming up in the next couple months. The closest one is 4th grade in November (before Thanksgiving).

    Special Things: We have an annual Cowboy Breakfast that I'm asked to have students participate in. For more info about my classroom, feel free to visit my blog at

    Thanks for starting this thread. I, too, like to collaborate with other music teachers.


  6. Hey Cara,

    Wow! 35-40 kids is a lot to see at one time but I can imagine the benefits of seeing them twice a week out weighs the number. It's nice that teachers don't have duty at your school, I imagine that extra time in your room is really appreciated. I will definitely read up on your Cowboy breakfast. :)


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