I have been asked this question many times over the last couple of weeks, usually followed by a snicker. If you didn’t know, I recently changed jobs. For the last five years I have been an orchestra director, but this year I have made the transition to elementary music.
In all honesty, I would rather be teaching strings, but the new job is much closer to home. I used to spend about 12-15 hours on the road every week, but my new job is less than 15 minutes from my house. I used to have to fill my tank 2-3 times a week, but now I can usually go a couple of weeks on a single tank. Between gas and tolls, I expect to save about $2000 a year (not including wear and tear). That’s a pretty hefty percentage of a teacher’s salary.
On the down side, I don’t really know what I’m doing with some of these kids. 2 weeks in, I have discovered that I am much better at dealing with the little guys (pre-K up to 2nd grade) than I am with the 3rd and 4th graders. The little ones are willing to be silly and move and dance, but the older guys are much too cool for that stuff. I find myself at a loss much of the time. I am much better at teaching an applied skill to middle school kids than I am at teaching general music to 3rd and 4th graders.
One positive is that this job is forcing me to reach outside of what is comfortable. I have to be goofy to connect with the little guys. I have to dance and do action songs, even though I feel completely stupid doing them. I can’t allow myself to be self-conscious while doing this stuff, or the kids will totally pick up on it and disconnect.
I also have to sing on an almost daily basis, which is something that I’m really not comfortable with. I’m getting better about my confidence, but it’s still awkward. I brought a guitar today and did The Star-Spangled Banner with the third graders and they responded pretty well, even though that song has a completely evil range.
Basically, this experience is stretching me. It may be good for me in the long run, but it’s not very comfortable right now. Hopefully, things will settle in sooner than later.