Best Advice for New Teachers in 5 Words

I have been a first-year teacher THREE times: my first real year of teaching at a middle school, my first year teaching at a high school, and my first year at the high school where I currently teach. The advice I received at a summer choral directors’ workshop after my first year in the classroom transformed my teaching:


During my first week at that wonderful middle school, I remember eagerly telling my new principal that I was SO thankful to finally have the opportunity to fulfill the dreams I’d had since I was 14 years old! As excited as I was, a part of me was disappointed because it wasn’t quite the dream job I had envisioned. Although I poured countless hours and energy into that first year, those 5 words, Bloom where you are planted, convicted me.

I couldn’t look at my job as being merely the steppingstone to something I hoped would look more like my dream job. I needed to embrace where I was, make the most of it, and give myself fully to the experience. Once I did that, I breathed more easily. I enjoyed my students even more and grew to love the middle school quirks and energy, I became less conscious of my predecessor’s shadow, and I infused more of my own personality into my teaching.

One of my former choral teachers said that the musician’s life was always about going from one big thing to the next. Concert to concert. And so forth. I believed her for a time. But really, living and teaching are not about those milestones, the concerts, the tests, etc. Living and teaching are about the moments in between. The moments where you connect with students. The moments where learning happens. The moments where the lightbulbs light up, sparkling with understanding.

I look forward to the upcoming school year and all that is familiar and beloved. Yet there is still newness: new faces, new stories, new music, new experiences, new memories to create, and new seeds- of learning, confidence, technique, skills, understanding- to plant. May those seeds bloom where they are been planted. May we all bloom where we are planted.

What’s the best advice you’ve received? How did you transfer it into your teaching?

My Why

Have you seen the incredible video featuring Michael Jr. on YouTube? In the brief excerpt from a presentation, Michael demonstrates the importance of knowing why you do something by having an audience member sing. The result is incredibly powerful.

"Know your why" YouTube video

I was moved by this video the first time I saw it during a music-specific professional development session. How fitting for a group of music teachers to see this, I thought. I wonder how I might incorporate this into my classroom.

Less than a month later, my principal shared this same video at our leadership team meeting for all of the department chairs. The same effect was felt by my colleagues. Know your why.

Why do I teach, and more specifically, why do I teach students the art of music?

There are myriad reasons but they all distill to this: I love it.

I love sharing in the joy my students feel when we accomplish something that was challenging for us. I love watching their confidence grow as they blossom into leaders in our class. I love hearing the music they create as their voices and skills develop. I love feeling like I am where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to do.

What’s your why?