EXAMINATION OF THE NEEDS OF FIRST-YEAR MUSIC TEACHERS

 

Dr. Tina M. Vartanian

University of Southern California, Hacienda La Puente Unified School District

tmvartan@usc.edu

 

            There is an obvious need to retain good music teachers in our public schools, and the development and implementation of effective mentoring programs may aid in the retention of new teachers. Studies indicate that 15 percent of beginning teachers leave the profession after one year. The educational field is continuously losing potential long term quality educators due to inadequate training, lack of experience, and fear or frustration. These first-year teachers may have continued the pursuit of their goals and dreams of becoming music educators if they had the opportunity to teach alongside a mentor teacher for guidance and counseling throughout their first year in the classroom setting. Substantive research based on best practices in preparing music educators is not only needed, but required to meet todayŐs challenges in the public schools.

            First-year music teachers represent a portion of that 15 percent group of educators that leave the teaching profession. The first year of a music teacherŐs tenure is the most critical. Various studies and articles have offered suggestions and many have answered the most common and recurring questions of the first-year music teachers. The studies reveal that on rare occasions, music teachers are completely prepared for their first job. Matters such as fund raising, working with feeder schools, ensemble management, safety precautions, community relations, and concert attire are some of the concerns and skills rarely addressed and executed before entering oneŐs own music classroom. While the student teaching experience gives the novice teacher some involvement and practice in these situations, it may not adequately prepare the candidate for their first professional assignment.

            This study examines the problems and concerns of new music teachers through a survey of first-year instrumental music teachers of the Los Angeles and Orange County, California school districts during the 1999 - 2000 school year. The survey results were used to develop a model Mentor Program designed to assist first-year instrumental music teachers. This model was designed and implemented in a Southern California school district as a complement to the BTSA (Beginning Teachers Support and Assessment Program) Induction Program.

            Although it is a successful program, and the new teachers have remained in their schools for over two years, it must be brought out that the mentoring process should begin before the teacher in training enters the field of education. Our universities and school districts must assist future music educators by recognizing and addressing the needs of the first-year teacher, and by preparing them for the realities of public education, and making music an integral part of the childŐs education. Beginning teachers who are well prepared and well versed in the stateŐs requirements for public education will have more access to the development of a music program in the public school.

            This presentation will outline and review several strategies to assist future educators in facing their first-year concerns before entering the classroom. College educators who are well aware of the potential problems can assist first-year music teachers in being successful in a more meaningful and effective manner.