Are You Ready?
So here you are a first-year teacher. You have completed your formal education and are about to be thrust into the real world. Just to make sure you are ready, I have prepared a final exam.
1. School begins. When is the first time you should smile?
- Your third year of teaching
- The first time you hear the band play
- The first time you meet a student
Answer: D should work just fine.
2. A student repeatedly commits small (but nagging) annoyances that disrupt the class. What action should you take?
- If he’s a drummer, there’s nothing you can do. Learn to accept it.
- Assume he has some medical condition that prevents him from behaving. Your continued suffering will make you feel more a part of the teaching community.
- Set clear, firm, reasonable limits for the student. Meet with parents if necessary.
Answer: C – It is important that you have a definite discipline plan that is approved and supported by your administration. Meeting with parents can often work wonders. I could kick myself for the times I put it off too long.
3. You realize two weeks before concert contest that the music you have chosen is too difficult for your band. What do you do?
- Schedule four-hour rehearsals every day after school until the contest.
- Immediately change to easier music.
- Take your chances and then blame the kids for not practicing enough and the judges for not giving you credit for playing tough music.
- Don’t attend the contest.
Answer: There is no easy answer to this one. Preparation is the key to avoiding this situation altogether, but if you had to choose one, the best answer may be a combination of A and B. Admit your mistake to the kids, give out easier music, and practice a reasonable amount after school.
4. Which of the following is the most important to have a good relationship with?
- Lunch ladies
- Band parents
Answer: I guess the answer to this one depends on your priorities. A if you want a clean room and first dibs on school gossip, B if you like a little extra dessert on your plate, C if you want anything, D if you don’t want to run the concession stand by yourself, or E if you want to keep your job. To be safe, you’d better get along with all of them.
5. Irrational parents go ballistic and insult your whole family tree because their kid did not get first chair. What should you do?
- Tell them to put their kid in another school if they’re not happy.
- Tell them their kid has about as much talent as a piece of salami, and it would be better if the kid switched to an underwater basket-weaving class.
- Ask them to step outside for a little mano a mano “discussion.”
- The more upset they get, the more calm you should get. Explain your position. If things get too confrontational, stop the discussion and reschedule the meeting for a time when the principal can be present.
Answer: D is best. It may be helpful to admit that chair placement is subjective to a degree and that part of your job is to make the tough decisions. Try to maintain an encouraging tone and state your commitment to helping the student become the best player he or she can be, regardless of chair. Stress the concept of teamwork and the importance of all players.
6. A student asks, “How old are you?” How do you respond?
- “None of your business.”
- “Sixty-five. I had a hard time with third grade.”
- With the truth.
Answer: It doesn’t really matter because most kids will think you are too old while their parents think you are too young. D is a good answer because you will probably use it from 40 years on anyway.
7. It’s time for your first fundraising venture. What do you sell?
- The first thing a fundraising salesman brings to your office.
- Whatever the band has sold the last 20 years before your arrival.
- It doesn’t matter as long as there are good prizes.
- Whatever the band boosters want.
Answer: A is a little hasty, meet with the inevitable 20 or more who visit you your first year. (Pick one who supports bands by purchasing booth space at conventions.) B may be smart if the stuff sells. C is often true, but you can do better. D can be great. If they will do the work, let them have it and you teach.
8. You want to do something, but you are afraid the principal will say no. What is your course of action?
- Do what you want and ask for forgiveness later.
- Ask him anyway.
- Ask the assistant principal and hope he says it is okay. If he says no, then go to the principal.
- Don’t take any initiative your first year; it’s bound to fail.
Answer: This is a tough one. Your first year it is better to try B (maybe you’ll luck out and he will be reasonable). If this fails the first time or two, you may try A, though C is safer.
9. A second-year trumpet player fingers B-flat with the second valve for the hundredth time in a week. What would be your wisest move?
- Send him to the football coach with a high recommendation.
- Make sure the student is actually reading music (not just associating fingerings with the place of a note on the staff). Review note names and meaning of key signatures.
- Have him write “B-flat is first valve” one hundred times on the blackboard or a sheet of paper.
Answer: A is mean, but smart aleck questions bring a unique sense of relief. B is a kinder and gentler response. If this doesn’t work, try C; pure rote might be your only answer.
10. It is your first teachers’ meeting. What do you do?
- Sit in the dark, remote recesses of the room with the coaches and read the sports section when they are finished.
- Skip it for a band rehearsal.
- Sit on the front row and take notes, asking pertinent questions as sincerely as possible.
Answer: Save A for closer to your retirement years; you will have heard it all by then. B might work once. C might be good if your principal can’t recognize an act when he sees one.
11. Your first chair trumpet player wants to quit band at the end of the year. What do you do?
- Fall to the ground with hands clasped and beg him to reconsider.
- Tell him he can’t quit; he’s fired.
- Have a conference with the student and/or parents.
- Wish him luck and encourage him to rejoin in the future.
Answer: Avoid answer B. It’s very easy to be defensive in such situations and write a kid off very quickly, but if the student has not been a troublemaker and has made positive contributions to the band, it may be worth the effort to keep him in. It’s important not to burn bridges in these situations. The student may come to his senses later (he is just a kid after all) or he may have a younger brother or sister you want in your band in the future. The best answer is probably some combination of C and D.
Hopefully this quiz will help you anticipate some future situations that you may find yourself in. Stay tuned for First-Year Teacher Quiz: Part 2.
Best of luck as your real test begins.
Trey Reely is the band director at Paragould High School in Arkansas. His books, Move Over Mr. Holland and Mr. Holland Strikes Back, can be purchased at www.sculptnet.com/reely.