Every year thousands of students graduate college and make the big transition from being a student to becoming a teacher. Even after being in band for a number of years, learning all the educational methods, and completing hundreds of observational hours, young teachers still make mistakes. Many of the errors might happen due to rushing or just not thinking. Here are ten mistakes that every young director should look to avoid to help them have a successful career.
Many young directors make the mistake of programing music they performed during their high school or college years. Remember, just because your high school or college ensemble was able to play specific pieces, it does not mean your current ensemble will be able to do the same. Find music that matches the musicality ability of your ensemble. Another mistake is programing for one performer in your ensemble. If you have an amazing trumpet player, that’s great but remember that even though one player is very advanced, the rest of your ensemble might not be on the same level. Do not let the other members of your ensemble struggle just so that one player can shine.
Lack of Daily Planning
Planning ahead is extremely important. Being organized is just as important. It is always a good idea to have backup plans to ensure that you are prepared. Create a calendar in which you can list all upcoming events. Create alerts to notify you when you have something coming up. On the music side of planning, find time to study your score. Don’t leave the score on the stand and only look at it before class starts. Your students will appreciate the rehearsal more when you are able to engage them instead of having your face buried in the music. Plan how you want your classroom to be structured so that no time is being wasted.
Not Establishing Relationships
Establishing relationships is one thing that every teacher will have to do every day of their career. Having good relationships with your students, their parents, other teachers in your school, custodial staff, and teachers in your district will help make your job a lot easier. Take the time to introduce yourself to others when you can. Establishing relationships is not a process that has to take a long time. Take an extra second when walking down the hall to speak to a colleague, work to learn other teacher’s names during faculty meetings, and seek to make new relationships when you attend conferences. You never know when you will need help, but when you do it makes things easier to know that you have someone that you can call for assistance in any matter.
Rushing the Fundamentals
Learning music can be a frustrating process. Learning music takes time, and with the proper tools, students can figure out how to learn music faster. Understand that the fundamentals should be addressed each day. When you take the time each day to review the music fundamentals, the students are taking another step to becoming great musicians. Fundamentals to address could be fingerings, breathing, reviewing note names or playing scales. Each of these items plays a large role in ensuring the students become better musicians. Take time each day to review the fundamentals and don’t just rush through this process. Not rushing the fundamentals will save you time and reduce your frustrations as your students will be excelling at a faster rate.
Lack of Development of Chamber Music
Chamber music teaches many different skills that students can develop by working with a smaller group that can carry over to your large ensemble. Skills such as collaboration, being a leader, responsibility, understanding intonation and performance skills. When students perform in chamber groups, each student is exposed and each student is responsible for their own musical part. Chamber music is fun as it also allows students to explore music differently.
Not Devoting Enough Time to Rehearsal Away From Class
Preparing for rehearsal is a task that must be completed ahead of the upcoming class meeting. During this time, the director can adequately prepare their score. Prepare by making marks in the score of expected trouble spot, marking dynamic changes, tempo changes, and even areas in which the director might need to rearrange some parts. Also, spending time outside of rehearsal listening to recordings, watching videos of your group and other group’s performances will only give you a better idea of what changes to make with their own ensemble to help move them to a higher level.
Marketing Your Program
Bringing attention to your performance ensemble is an essential task that every director must become a genius at each year. Remember, you are the best advocate for your group. Look for ways for others to see your program perform. Develop flyers for the local community outlining any upcoming performances. Develop emails to send out to local companies in the community and post information around your school for all to see. Another way to market your program is use social media and get your students involved. Your students will help bring attention by reaching out to their family and friends. Marketing is essential so don’t forget about it, have a plan and be prepared to execute. (See another article on this topic here.)
Fix Your Ego
Remember it is about the kids and the program. Be able to put your feelings to the side and make sure that the students are working hard and enjoying the music program. Yes, things will get difficult and you will have to make some tough decision, but remember every decision you make will affect your program. Be willing to step outside the box and think before you act. Don’t let one bad decision based on not taking your time and thinking properly cause issues with your program.
Teaching Bell to Bell
Teaching from the time the bell rings until it rings again is in a way what we as educators are trained to do. There are so many things that must be accomplished each day that there is no time to waste. Taking a little time after the bell first rings to speak to all your students, see how everyone’s day is going, and get an idea of the mood of the ensemble is also a great idea. Many teachers waste a lot of time trying to figure out why they are having such a band rehearsal and they forgot that their students are humans that experience problems and issues each day. Take a little time at the beginning of class to speak to everyone, if you know that your best trumpet player is having a rough day then you can give them some encouragement and help them feel better to have a more favorable rehearsal. Taking a few minutes at the beginning of class could save you a lot of stress and help you have an effective practice each day.
Don’t Make Excuses
Remember things will not always go as planned. When certain things do not seem to work, don’t make excuses. Work to develop a backup plan. Having a backup plan requires you to think outside of the box to find solutions. If you are unable to find a solution, remember, it is okay to ask for help. Ask someone who you consider a mentor, look to your booster club, ask your students, and when all else fails, remember to trust your instincts. Your students will believe you, and you have to trust yourself. Making excuses will only keep you from being successful.
Remember, mistakes will be made, but the best directors learn from their mistakes and figure out how to prevent themselves from making those mistakes again. Also, don’t look at your errors as a failure but instead use it as a teaching moment to help you become not only a better director, but a better person.
Patrick Moore is an active percussion performer, educator, arranger, adjudicator, and clinician. Moore is a versatile percussionist with experience in many areas of percussion. Patrick is an education endorser of Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, and Majestic percussion. Professor Moore is a published author having works published with Alfred Publishing Company and Kendor Music. Moore has presented clinics at numerous music education conferences in the United States as well in Guatemala. Currently, Patrick Moore is the Director of Bands/ Director of Instrumental Studies at Houston Baptist University in Houston Texas. Mr. Moore received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Arkansas, Masters from Texas Tech and is also pursuing his Ed.D from Abilene Christian University
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