Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Teacher Advice Part 2

Last year I wrote a post with some tips for teachers who were just starting out.  I'm by no means an expert, I'm always learning from my mistakes but these are some of the things I've learned along the way.

I'm very lucky, I found my long lost sister in the art teacher at my school.  At any moment I can drop by her room and she is a shoulder to lean on.  We are creative monsters together constantly bouncing ideas off of one another.  It's been such a fantastic way to work.

Not everyone I work with is like this and I have had to learn to work with different personalities.  Our staff is great; they are truly dedicated, wonderful, caring people.  Although they are wonderful, that doesn't mean that we always see eye to eye or that there are never any clashes.  It's a work place, it happens!

Some of the ways I try to keep these relationships positive are:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
I probably drive my classroom teachers nuts with the number of emails I write but I want to make sure everyone knows what is going on and when big events are coming up.  Nothing is more frustrating to a type A personality like me than "I didn't know and I scheduled a test for the same time as your fantastic music event."

Classroom teachers have aLOT going on and I want to make sure that any event I schedule is known and not in conflict with anything major that they have going on.  I can ensure that by communicating frequently and in different forms.  Don't just email!  Talk to the team leader of a grade level involved in a music event.  They will appreciate this open communication.

2.  It's okay to say no!
Classroom teachers will have a number of requests throughout the year and not all of them are appropriate.  Some of the questions I've heard over the years are:

-Can I pull so and so for testing?
-Can I talk to you about _______ right now? (as their kids are entering your room for class)
-Can I borrow ____ right now? (in reference to materials, instruments, sound equipment)

None of these questions are awful or meant to be disrespectful.  Classroom teachers are just trying to squeeze every minute out of the day just like you.  My answer to these questions has become No but....

For example I might answer the second question like this....
Not right now but when you pick up your class, I have a 5 minute break.  Or, Not right now but why don't we meet right after school.  Either of these are good responses because it sends home the message that your class time is valuable but that you do see the importance of whatever they need to discuss with you.

3. Advocate
Some classroom teachers truly don't understand what goes into your program.  And this isn't a knock at them.  We all have so much to think about that it's sometimes hard to stop and put yourself in someone else's shoes.  Educate them.  One of the ways I do that is through my monthly Spotlight Performer videos.  I always make sure to include what skills students needed to understand in order to perform the piece.

At staff meetings I will provide a music perspective on something we are discussing.  I could implement Thinking Maps in this way and it will help students to understand this skill.  It's a small thing to do but it helps teachers to see what music is all about.

How do you try and foster positive relationships with your staff?

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