The first time I got called to substitute teach music, I was at the AMS/SEM/SMT conference in New Orleans. Talk about ironic. I was bummed.
The second time I got called to sub for music was yesterday. I had stayed up the previous night to watch the Oscars in full, and I had choked on my gratuitously-doused-with-breadcrumbs zucchini fries. So I was exhausted and my throat was scratched and painful. But when I got that call, I was thrilled. Not only was the middle school music teacher out, but one from the high school was too. Which one did I want?
Middle school, I replied. I start student teaching middle school in two weeks, and this would be a good learning experience. (It’s crazy how much you can learn just by spending one day in charge of a classroom.)
Yesterday ended up being the best day of my substitute teacher position so far. I didn’t do anything extraordinary. But I felt purposeful, valued, and confident. It’s times like that when I know I am definitely in the right field.
I got to the school and happily found out I’d be teaching flute and clarinet lessons all day. Very lucky, since this teacher also does trombone and saxophone, which I don’t play. The secretary even let me dash home to retrieve my instruments. Also lucky, since I live very close!
My lessons with 5th, 7th, and 8th grade wind students were so much fun. I’d done mock lessons before in my teacher cert program, so I used that experience as a departure point. I checked that the instruments were put together correctly and that the students’ posture was correct. I incorporated National Standard 7, evaluating music and music performances, which I think is far too often forgotten in a rehearsal setting. I taught the concepts of intonation and tuning. We even used my tuner app, Tunable, to check our concert Bbs. When the pitch is in tune, a green bar expands at the middle of the screen. When you’re flat or sharp, the bar turns red and moves left or right.
I’m not sure if it was my experience as a long term music sub, or that I am taking education classes… whatever the reason, I felt totally comfortable in front of the students. I felt in charge, knowledgable, and helpful. And I felt particularly valued knowing that the school district thought highly enough of music to call someone to come in and give lessons when many other schools would have just cancelled them to avoid bringing in a substitute.
My one general music class met in the computer lab to work on projects. I don’t like patrolling students as a sub, but this time I was not afraid to give students clear directions and instructions, like asking them to check their binder again for a rubric, to show me the progress they had made, or to quit playing games when there was other work to do. Of course, students won’t always acknowledge your efforts. I made extra copies of the project rubric for a few students who had lost theirs. They didn’t thank me, but the point was that I noticed they were missing and made a point to fix the situation. No more underestimating this sub!
As I wrote in my journal that night, I felt like I was at my regular job that day. Which makes me all the more excited to start student teaching chorus and general music in a few weeks. Hard work, but rewarding. Fun, but a learning experience.
What can I say? When you know you’re meant to do something, it’s the best feeling in the world.