The following was first published in the September 1999 issue of Fanfare Magazine. Fanfare is published by Marching Show Concerts, 829 Lawrence Drive, Ft. Wayne, IN 46804. 1-800-356-4381. This article was reprinted with permission.
Randy Navarre, DMA
The key to success for the itinerant teacher
When faced with teaching instrumental music programs in several different schools, the new teacher must be organized and have a plan. This article can get you started.
Many music majors dream of their first job in a fantastic program, with great administrative support, adequate budget, and motivated students. They graduate, apply for multiple openings, and, after interviews and several rejections, are offered a position, often in less then their "dream" position. Sometimes, the position requires the teacher to coordinate programs in multiple schools, especially in middle school, private, and parochial school situations. Thus is born the itinerant teacher. This article will help the itinerant teacher develop an organized plan before meeting the students.
make a folder (or spiral notebook with sleeves); include blank sheets for notes
put principal's name and each school's phone number in the folder
obtain a school calendar
write in the school's closing number (the number used for unexpected closings, i.e. inclement weather)
if schools notify teachers of closings through phone chains, get on the list!
write the teaching day/time on the folder (if you know)
Visit The Schools
meet the principals and ask/discuss:
how many students were in last year's bank?
what is the school's total student population?
decide on a teaching day and time (subject to coordination w/other schools); don't rely on the principal to decide; they will often give the best times for them, not you, causing difficulties with other schools
gernerally, plan a whole day of teaching in one school if its band exceeds 35
if 20 or less, schedule an afternoon
20-30, a morning schedule
if all schools' bands exceed 35 students, schedule schools with the most beginners for morning half days
assure principals of your cooperation; make them your biggest supporters; assure them that you will take care of scheduling, recruiting, assemblies, organizing the program, etc.
offer to open assemblies and other school functions when the band is ready
know the best route from one school to another; let the principal help
after contacting all principals, make/distribute tentative schedules
meet and become friends with secretaries and maintenance staff of each school; they can be invaluable allies
visit the classrooms
lesson locations may be different from band rehearsal locations, especially in small, private, or parochial schools; don't be surprised by cramped, unventilated poorly lighted locations
make sure enough chairs and music stands are in each location
Enlist the help of maintenance allies; be as patient and accommodating as possible
know fingerings, slide positions, and proper hand and stick positions for each instrument
practice the instruments; be able to play/demonstrate; this builds confidence in your abilities and helps you understand beginners' difficulties
choose a method book
is easy for students to follow
few activities that take away from playing the instrument
if the book comes with a CD or tape, get it
have reeds, oil, extra sticks, pads, repair kits (at least a small screwdriver) handy at all times
set band demonstration (during the school day) as soon as possible after school starts
the longer you wait the less students will join the band
if band recruitment was in the Spring, re-recruit
if possible, do demonstrations one class/grade at a time, allowing students more personal contact with the instruments
if you must have assemblies, split into 2-3 shows
schedule within 1-2 days after band demonstration
students and parents will start to lost interest after 3 days Instrumentalist, June 1995 for more in-depth recruiting details
set up 1st day's lesson schedule, i.e. 9 a.m. all interested in playing flute, 9:30 a.m. clarinet, 10 a.m. saxophone, etc. until all instruments are covered
make sure the principal knows this is for 1st lesson only
supply principals with schedules (with names) for subsequent lessons, update periodically
2nd lesson: (this will work only if you took names of everyone interested during the first lesson)
group in like instruments
list names with each group
put names on chairs (makes a big difference)
5. Advanced Band Scheduling/Rehearsal
set advanced band rehearsal as soon as possible, even if the first rehearsal is a different day then the regularly scheduled lesson and rehearsal day(s)
decide when to have rehearsals/lessons but insist on lessons during the school day; rehearsals can be before school, after school, during lunch, recess, etc.
have music ready
if abilities are unknown, include variety of levels
never include music that is too hard on the first day; students need to fell good about their sound and showing you how they play
The itinerant teacher must be prepared and organized before the students enter the room. Although the teacher may not know the quality or quantity of students, a plan can be quickly adjusted to fit the situation. Without a plan, panic can ensue, the students will know it, and the teacher will have an unsuccessful first day on the job.
Obviously, the teacher should love what he/she is doing. Students should feel as if the teacher is sharing something that is the greatest fun in their lives. Enthusiasm is contagious and will carry the students through the tough times ahead. Do not be embarrassed or hesitant to allow your students to see it. It will make a world of fun for all.
RANDY NAVARRE, DMA, has been active in music education for over 28 years, having started this teaching career in the Philadelphia Public Schools in 1973. He is the founder and director of Northeastern Music Programs, Inc., providing general and instrumental music educators to schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Dr. Navarre is also the founder and director of Northeaster Music Publications, Inc. specializing in school band and orchestra publications.
A frequent clinician, Dr. Navarre is also a classical saxophonist, having appeared in numerous concerts and festivals in the United States and Canada. As an author, previous articles have appeared in The Saxophone Journal, The Instrumentalist, and BandWorld. He is currently completing a comprehensive textbook, The Instrumental Music Teacher's Survival Kit, slated for release in the fall of 2000.