New teacher feeling overwhelmed
Joy O., Alabama
I feel like I’m trying to climb Mt Everest with just a daypack. So much left to learn! I’ve got all the Foundation 1 songs, basic versions, and most of Foundation 2. I’m barely ahead of some of my students. Also trying to do the trainings for Comp & Improv, Arrangements, Accompaniment, and review Teaching Groups. Whew! On the one hand I’m very encouraged with new students starting and the energy and excitement they bring. On the other hand, how do I keep up with the different streams and stay ahead of my F2 students? I also home school two daughters and help the other with her homework.
Anne S., Nebraska
It’s exciting and overwhelming at first! We’ve all been there on the steep learning curve, staying just ahead of our students. You’re doing fine–you don’t have to learn everything all at once. It can be hard to balance it all when there’s SO MUCH material. Just do the best you can and it will be fine. Your students will still be getting a better experience than with any other method.
Megan F., Nebraska
One thing that encourages me is that it is getting easier every time I start a new group and teach the materials that I’ve already taught. I still have to review it to make sure I’m not forgetting anything, but I can see progress in my ease of teaching it. I find myself about a day ahead of my most advanced group, if that makes you feel any better. I learn what I’m teaching them right before I teach it. So far that’s worked okay for me. As the music gets more difficult, that could change.
Susan M., Canada
I’m soon approaching my second anniversary for teaching SM. It is a very steep learning curve and I’m not sure how my experience compares with others…but I still feel it! I am always trying to be ahead of my students. It doesn’t help that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and need to feel very prepared when students arrive.
Many times I just trust the method and remember to love what i”m doing regardless of how prepared I feel, and I think that has kept students going. I have filled in gaps with recording students, reviewing relationship conversations, and allowing students time to share and discover music they like along the way.
Cheri S., Utah
It is overwhelming at first! I’ve been at it 5 years and I’m still learning, and still keeping that “just ahead of my most advanced students” pace, but it’s not overwhelming any more. I feel like I know what I’m doing, and even the new songs come much more easily now. And every time I start a new groups I get to teach materials I’ve taught before–and do an even better job!
The first year was the very steepest. I still felt it for about 2 years. That’s when it started noticeably tapering off for me. Even through learning the Reading Rhythm and Reading Notes programs, and teaching those to my first batch of students, I often still felt like a novice. Now, beginning Level 7 and having brought many groups through RR & RN, I feel like I’m getting the full picture for Simply Music. Everything makes sense and I see where it’s all headed, and how all the streams work together. And that, combined with lots of practice teaching the first 4 levels, gives me confidence in myself.
So just keep climbing! The challenges of this program–its enormity and complexity–are also its strengths: the constant learning is exciting and worthwhile, and Simply Music offers a truly comprehensive music education for us and our students.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
Thank you for your honesty – so helpful for many other teachers who feel the same. I hope you are taking comfort knowing that it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed the first few years. You are definitely NOT alone; in fact, it’s almost universal. You’ve already gotten some wonderful feedback here, but I’ll add to it.
My best advice is to not rush things with your most advanced groups. Take your time teaching the material. Learn only what you plan to teach that week, or slightly ahead. It is wise to schedule time every single week for your own training so you don’t feel rushed to cram it in before the lesson.
Here are a few things you can use if you feel you aren’t prepared with enough material for a lesson:
1- Assign (or play around with in class) a composition project. Look up ‘comp & improv ideas’ in Simpedia for lots of great ideas and just keep a list handy of the ones you are comfortable using with no further training.
2- It’s okay to do a ‘Repertoire Review’ class every 6 – 8 (or whatever) weeks. Just to polish up songs and identify holes in the playlist.
3- Variations in Levels 1 and 2 don’t take much training on your part but give students something new to do, and helps them delve more deeply into the curriculum.
4- Do something fun with existing playlist songs – e.g.
* Honey Dreams duet: lower is Honey Dew BH, upper is Dreams RH.
* Cross-Arm Chester: cross so RH plays in LH position and vice versa.
* Jazzy Jackson Blues: All RH chords start on the minor chord, and finger 3 slides off to land on the major chord (like a grace note). Don’t talk about the minor chord unless they’ve already learned it in Accompaniment. Easy to teach but often a little challenging at first for the student – so a good project you can add.
* Assign students to comp up with a different rhythm for Honey Dew (or any song), or a silly way to play a song on the playlist.
* For classes in the Accompaniment program, teach them to add an introduction – usually the last four measures or four chords works well. Practice in class with everyone singing along after the intro.
Final thought: know that it WILL get easier! And in the meantime, you get to learn a ton of wonderful stuff. Take heart and keep going!
Joy O., Alabama
Laurie, please give more info on “Repertoire Review”. How does it work? Do you ask all the students to play all of their pieces? I tried to do a “show-off” class and ended up with each student just playing what she wanted to play and knew was polished.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I’ve done it a few different ways:
1- Students spin the wheel in the Decide Now app for random selections (taking turns several times),
2- take turns choosing a song (I choose, they choose, I choose, etc.), have classmates choose for each other.
3- Let coaches choose some in conjunction with 1 or 2.
4- You just choose each piece you want to hear.
Sometimes I also ask a student to start at a specified place in the song other than the beginning. That is usually challenging but really tests their understanding.
Repertoire review classes are also a good opportunity to introduce some variations – to give a new project that isn’t very time-consuming. I spend a few minutes at the beginning of most classes on repertoire review, but in the instance we are talking about taking a whole class time for a more in-depth review to get a good sense of how strong the playlists are.
Joanne D., Australia
For repertoire review, I have plastic Ziploc bags (one for each foundation level) and inside I have popsicle sticks each with the song name written on it from that level. If the student is in Level 2, I usually get them to pick a random stick from Level 1 bag first and after review and perhaps doing a variation on the song, if appropriate, then we start the latest song they’re working on.