Posted by: emilyrfarrell | September 2, 2012

Management Potential

Hello! So its Labor Day Weekend and I’m in the midst of my first three day weekend as a teacher and I’m loving it. I’ve completed two full weeks as an elementary music teacher and so far I have loved everything about it. My kids are wonderful and I’ve found that I really have a passion for teaching these students who come from lower income families. My goal as their teacher is to create an environment that causes students to look at music as a privilege as opposed to something they have to endure twice a week. And so far its been going pretty well. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my students and the other teaching in the school. The most interesting thing that happened to me in the past two weeks was not an interaction with a student, but rather, with one of the teachers. I was teaching one of my third  grade classes, which has been my favorite grade so far, when another third grade teacher came in and asked to observe my lesson because she liked my classroom management skills. First reaction to this was absolute shock. I have literally only been teaching for two weeks and this said teacher had been there for quite a few years. So yeah, I was flattered. And yes, I’m bragging a little bit. But that’s ok. The second reaction I had was panic, because I had to make sure I had the best classroom management I’ve ever had. Which didn’t happen, but it was still a good class. So, since I seem to be moderately successful at it, I thought I’d share my management style and methods, which are largely composed of things I’ve observed other teachers doing or tidbits from the internet or books that I’ve particularly enjoyed. So here it goes.

The Bipolar Problem

My “management style” is very laid back. As I said before, my goal is to make music feel like a privilege, so that students will find the passion for music which I strive to demonstrate through my actions. So far, it works for me. It also helps that I have no problem making a fool out of myself. I keep things fun, interesting, and musical. At least that’s the goal. In short, I get my students to like me and they want to keep me happy. Yes, I realize this is not foolproof, nor is it revolutionary. But as a music teacher, I think it is 100% possible. Everyone likes music, you just have to prove it to some people. The Bipolar Problem, as mentioned in the title of this segment, coms into play when I am teaching in classrooms where the teacher doesn’t share my happy-go-lucky methods. There are a number of teachers in my school who have a very stern and strict classroom management style that involves quite a bit of yelling. And I am talking about elementary teachers, even kindergarten teachers. While maybe that works for them, there is no way it will ever work for me. I don’t yell. I raise my voice, I talk with a stern voice, but I do not yell. I do not think it works. But as a cart teacher where I go into other peoples classrooms it is incredibly difficult to bring in my management style into a room where a different one has already been established. Especially in younger grades. This is something I will work on, any suggestions would be helpful. My methods so far have been to  keep things moving, having as little down time as possible. Students are less likely to freak out if you don’t give them the time to. I keep things upbeat and avoid raising my voice. Not that it hasn’t happened, but I am trying.

The Go Method

This has been my life saver when it comes to getting stuff done in my classroom. Once again, not at all revolutionary but it works so I thought I’d give my two cents. Because I go into other classrooms desks are often an issue. I don’t like doing a lot of worksheets or written work and I do like to utilize as much movement as I can while still having an educational lesson so desks often get in the way. What I have been doing is keeping them at their desks, just standing behind them. To get them to quietly stand up I pull the old, “When I Say Go, I want you to . . .” The only problem I’ve have with this is that students translate that into, “Oh golly, a race!” Which can be easily be countered by telling them to move in a certain way, like slow motion, or like a monkey. So they get to play a game, and you get to move on with your lesson.

And Now It’s Time For . . .

A totally awesome transition. Or at least I like to think so. On the first day with each of my classes I explained that one of my favorite parts of music class is that we got to do it together. Music is a group activity and I treat it as such. But, instructional time is necessary. So I made it a game. After we finish our vocal warm-ups, which I start every lesson with, I say, “And now its time for . . .” and my students finish with, “A moment with Miss Farrell.” That way they know it is time to listen and I get to feel like a gameshow host. Which feels pretty awesome. Even though they’ve figured out that this time is basically lecture time, I make it as interesting as I can, move around as much as possible, and call on them to answer questions whenever the opportunity arrives. 

Toot Your Own Horn

This sounds horrible. I am aware. But don’t be afraid of it. As a music teacher, you probably can play an instrument pretty well. Or sing pretty well. Or at least do something musical somewhat adequately. So show your students. If you teach choir or band, many of your students are looking forward to doing exactly what you did in college and becoming successful on an instrument like you. If you teach elementary school, they just enjoy being impressed. You have a gift, and you can use that as a management skill. I enjoy singing, and have sung my fair share of pop tunes while driving and listening to the radio. So when given the opportunity, I’ll sing for my classroom if we finish the lesson a couple minutes early. Now, I don’t suggest just randomly bringing it up. Your students will ask you. And when they do, imply that you will in the future. That will get them interested enough to ask you all the time. Once they really think you can do something they will be incredibly motivated to get you to show off, and that can translate into their behavior. 

So that’s it for today. I hope I helped a little maybe, and feel free to comment with questions or suggestions, I’d love either. Have a great Labor Day!

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