It is very difficult to be a successful music educator if you subconsciously attempt to live up to the reputation of the experienced and respected director that you replaced. How do you avoid being beaten down and disheartened by the shadow of the old director?
This article is intended for all teachers entering a new job placement regardless of their prior teaching experience.
A First Year Reality Check
A new band director who takes a position vacated by a long term experienced teacher often finds himself at a great disadvantage. The first year as a new teacher is often the most difficult, uncertain, and introspective time of their career, and the new teacher's inexperience coupled with the aura that the old band director leaves behind creates the potential for a very bad first year of teaching at any school. All teachers regardless of age have an intrinsic need to be accepted, to be seen as being a good teacher, and to be liked by others (including their students). It is only natural that any new teacher would subconsciously desire to live up to their predecessor's reputation. Failing to live up to this legendary status may guide the teacher into sliding down a path that it may ultimately drive them out of the profession.
Respect comes through time, experience, and making hard decisions
For a new music teacher to survive in the lingering shadow of a legend the new teacher must recognize that there is no way to fill the former teacher's shoes. Once a teacher accepts this fact they can begin to control their subconcious desire for student approval. While we all want to be accepted, good common sense tells us that a teacher must keep a strong professional distance from his or her students. The subconscious desire for student acceptance can make a new teacher second guess decisions, back down from enforcing rules, or do other things that are not educationally sound. Doing these things ultimately result in discipline problems, angry students, and job dissatisfaction.
A new teacher that yearns for the same level of respect that the former teacher held will occasionally lower their classroom expectations, grading systems, and become "chummy," with the students. This in turn leads to results that are opposite of what the teacher was seeking. Instead of being respected and revered by the student body, he or she winds up being known as a soft teacher or as an easy "A."
The Long Road To Teaching Satisfaction
Being a new teacher is incredibly difficult and emotionally taxing on a person. If you or someone you know find themselves in the position of taking a job vacated by a legendary teacher, remember these simple bits of advice:
- Never compare yourself to the former teacher. Keep telling yourself that your ideas and methods are just as good as the old teacher's were and that if you stick to them your group will be successful.
- Never allow yourself to comprimise in order to gain favor with a student or a group of students. Children and coworkers have more respect for a teacher that follows through with decisions. Do your best to make sure the choices are valid and rooted in good educational practices then refuse to back down from them.
- Remember that within two, three, or four years (depending on the program) the group will be entirely yours. All of the old students will have moved on, and the group you have left will continue with the traditions and methods that you have set forth. Work toward this point in time with the idea that the hard knocks you take now will pay off with great dividends later.