Saturday, February 26, 2011

Readying My First Classrooms!

So I believe I left off talking about my new job, yes?

Well after a long time searching, applying, and interviewing, I was finally offered my first teaching job. The school is great, and relatively new. The facilities that I get to work in are very nice. The band room is huge, and the choir room has a baby grand piano. Most of my equipment is in good condition, I have an office for each of my classrooms, a good band library, and a decent choir library (though I was very disappointed by the ratio of pop/show music to music of educational value. I was able to make enough good repertoire choices for the year with what I have, but it's going to be harder next year unless I buy a few new pieces). My administrators are very supportive, which is a lot more than many of my friends in the arts can say, and being willing to teach both band and choir has made it so that I don't have to travel between schools to work full-time.

I spent a couple full weeks during the summer coming in to get both of my classrooms ready for the new year. Apparently my predecessor didn't know she was going to be leaving until after school got out in May, so everything was kind of left as it was. Both offices were a mess, as it seems that the only time that was taken to clean them was to remove all of her personal belongings on her way out. Both offices had the furniture just completely backwards to how they should have been - in both, the desk was on the opposite wall of the phone outlet, and in the band office, the phone was sitting on the back of the couch... Really??? I can see why she would have the desk on the opposite wall - so that her back wouldn't be facing the classroom, but honestly, how often would you be sitting at your desk in the office when there are kids in the room? The inside of the desk in the band office was just a huge cluttered mess. You wouldn't believe how many drum keys I found in there. I spent a few days alone just organizing all of the file cabinets.

Then the choir room... Well, it was made pretty obvious which class she preferred, seeing the differences between the rooms. I already knew that she was primarily a band person. The choir room had horribly cheesy borders around every door frame, and no two doors had the same border, so it was just gross. Right by the door into the classroom there were four empty filing cabinets, a large shelf unit, and a music folder cubby system all crunched into a corner... Oh yeah, and the whole room smelled like urine. The shelf had cobwebs on it, had the dirty side exposed to the room, and had trash on and around it. The choir office had a broken light, had a desk and three filing cabinets lining one wall, and a long table, filthy couch, and another filing cabinet lining the opposite wall. The table, filing cabinets, and desk were all topped with clutter, mostly accompaniment track CDs (gross), and sheet music that was never put away. The entire effect gave off the feel of a depressing cave. But don't take my word for it... I have pictures on my Facebook. I had the light fixed, took the table out, reversed the desk and the couch (because of the phone outlet) and put all of the filing cabinets on the side wall (even moved in two of the four that were out in the room to fill up the wall), brought in one of two unused keyboards I found in the band storage hall (for potential use as a practice room), cleaned what I could of the couch cushions and bought a few cute throw pillows from Goodwill, and now the office looks bright and open. I took down all of the horrid borders in the room, and rearranged the cluttered storage furniture from that corner so that it didn't make me feel so claustrophobic. I also created my own colorful solfege chart, and painted a large music logo with the school mascot to go on the very blank far wall to add some personality. Now the room looks like somebody actually cares about it! The band room didn't really need a whole lot of love except for giving all of the lockers number cards and just setting it up again after the carpets were cleaned.

Probably what took the longest was organizing the music libraries. I spent a few days on each of them, and my mom even came in to help, because she really wanted to be able to help, and that was one of the few things that didn't require my personal opinion on everything. The music was all generally in alphabetical order, like all of the A's were in the same drawer, but beyond that, it was pretty bad. There would frequently be pieces that were not even under the right letter, and the labels on the drawers weren't precise. We made sure to touch every single piece, make sure it was in perfect alphabetical order, and discarded as many photocopies as we found. Seriously, there was a stack at least two feet tall of photocopied music that I got out of those drawers. That's just ridiculous, when you need all of the space you can get... In the choir room I especially wanted to get the music separated into different voicings, not just all bunched together alphabetically. After sorting out those beasts, I then went through every drawer and entered every piece into a spreadsheet with the title, composer/arranger, genre, voicing (for choir), date last performed, and any personal comments I could think of to describe the sound or feel of the piece, to make music selection quicker in the future. The time put into that was definitely worth it, and I may not know right now how long I'll be staying at the school (but probably at least another year or two), but I hope that whomever takes the position next will appreciate the attention to detail.

Alrighty, it's about lunch time on Saturday, I haven't done anything but chew gum all morning, and I'm hungry. I think I'll leave the recounting here for now, and leave the thrilling tale of my first year of teaching for a later date. At least now I'm only... six months behind, instead of a full year. :) This is seeming much less daunting than when I started out earlier this week. Next time!

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