Melissa Stouffer here from Mrs. Stouffer’s Music Room. Teaching can be hard enough, but when you are in your first classroom, some of those things can be overwhelming. If I could go back and tell brand new me seven things, these are what I’d tell myself.

  1. Take a levels course – Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze, First Steps, MLT – find one that speaks to you and get some training. You feel more confident . You get a network. It helps you feel more confident in creating a curriculum.

  2. Read a book about classroom management. It’s one of the hardest thing as a specials teacher. Your kids feel the break from normal classroom routine. They relax a little. If you don’t control the crazy, it WILL get out of hand. This is a really popular book for Music Teachers to read. This book is one of the most popular!

  3. Fail. If you didn’t, you aren’t normal. If it’s big (lose a job/don’t get the job) to small (forgot to email that info out and all the parents freaked/get chewed out about musical casting/numbers go down), failure is one of the most important parts of success. Everyone fails in some way. We aren’t perfect and as music as we think we have it all together, every veteran teachers sometimes drop one of the 30 balls we’re juggling.
  4. Find a network. Have a mentor. Go to your state conference and talk to other teachers. Join a FB group with teachers who are newer. Find a ‘mastermind’ of 3-5 teachers in the same area of life and meet weekly online or just drop a messages in a chat and talk about your job. Don’t do it alone! There are some great FB groups that are full of experienced teachers who are willing to lend a hand. Check out The Music Crew’s group here. (Answer the questions to get admitted faster!)

  5. Watch your mental health. If I remembered where I heard it, I’d tell you, but I remember someone else telling me that tired, dark eye circles and fewest hours of sleep are not a badge of honor. Plan a real vacation, take a weekend in the middle of the year, or just don’t bring home the pile. #guilty #someonestopme You will be better having had the night off. Ask for Help. If you are struggling, if you feel like you are alone in your building, if you feel ok, but just want to have someone to show solidarity, ask. If you need admin help, don’t be afraid to look weak. Your admin will probably respect you more for having acknowledge that you don’t know everything fresh out of college and will give you the support you need. If you don’t know how to handle a student, ask their teacher, reach out to parents. Don’t cast blame, but look for ways to work together.

  6. Make music for the sake of making music. Join a community group, your church group, a bunch of friends, or pull out your favorites and just make music. It’s easy to get caught up in the business of perfection. How else did you make it through music school? But if you spend all the time on perfect, you can miss the joy music making brought you. Find a place where you can still learn and benefit from the joy.

  7. Celebrate Small Wins. Being a teacher is hard work. Celebrate your firsts, celebrate the new, the student successes, the thing you worked for that you weren’t sure was going to work out. Don’t let the long term goals detract from the short term!Go be awesome!!


Melissa with Mrs. Stouffer's Music Room

Melissa Stouffer earned a bachelor of science in psychology and a bachelor of music education from Central Michigan University. I teach preschool-8th grade general music, choir and band. Mrs. Stouffer is Kodály Level Two certified and serves as the president of the Michigan Kodály Educators (MIKE). She is also the MMC Planning Committee representative for MMEA. In 2009 married my college sweetheart, Sam, whom I met in band at CMU. We live in Metro Detroit with our dog, Cindy Lou Who.