You’ve just been told to teach guitar and you quickly google, How many strings on a guitar?!! Sound like you? Whether you’re a newbie getting thrown into the pool sink-or-swim style or a classroom veteran check out these do’s and don’ts for new music teachers.
1. Do: Find your Yoda
Every new teacher could use some tips from someone who’s seen and heard it all. Not only might a seasoned teacher have advice on how to manage your classroom, they might have some slam dunk lesson plans for you as well. If you don’t find a match at your school, find a virtual Yoda. Start participating and asking questions on sites like MusicTeachersHelper, NAfME’s Forums, or on the GuitarEduNet forum (right here). If the question is guitar specific, reach out to Glen McCarthy – one of our trusted TGW Clinicians. Glen can’t help himself when it comes to talking about classroom guitar.
2. Don’t: Try to be buddies with your students
It’s true: Music teachers tend to be a pretty cool bunch. Often you’ll have the pleasure of teaching students who actually want to be in your class (a big deal, pre-college). The bottom line is, as a new teacher, you want to be liked. But don’t exert energy and class time trying to win your students over. Be who you are – funny, attentive, patient, innovative, etc. – and let the likes happen organically. It may take patience, but time is on your side.
3. Do: Tell students how your class will be different (and the same)
Something about having a new leader can trigger reticence in students. Get ahead of that by explaining, point by point, how your class will be different (and the same) as their previous classes. This way your students will know exactly what to expect.
4. Do: Optimize your teaching space
Just because you find your classroom arranged a certain way, doesn’t mean you’re (necessarily) stuck with it. Consider the number of students you’ll have, what instruments and equipment you’ll need, and the best way for you to lead and interact with your class. Next find out how much leeway you have in terms of rearranging, and plan a block of time to get it done. Even if you share the space, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done before each class. Think of it as a rehearsal.
5. Don’t: Expect things to go perfectly
Because they won’t. No matter how much preparation you do, and no matter how much energy and off-the-charts enthusiasm you bring, things will happen. Frustration will sideline some students. Students will come into class with personal issues. The countdown to Spring Break will happen. Big tests will loom. Ask what you can do, and when you’ve done it, give yourself a break.
6. Do: Get media-ready
Part of keeping your students’ attention for a full class will be making things dynamic. Whether you want students to take a listen to a song or chord progression, plug in, watch a film clip or record themselves playing, you’ll need to set yourself up with the right tech. Beg, borrow, and only when necessary, buy the media equipment you’ll need. When you have all that you’ll need in your space, your class can run without any interruptions.
Got advice or a story to tell, go to the comments down there.