Piper Gary, Music Teacher, Woodbrook Elementary School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
There are two, really. One is simply the amount of energy it takes to teach young children. As a music teacher, I feel as if I’m performing all day, every day. I need to create a positive classroom climate, deliver engaging material, and reinforce/remind/redirect students when necessary, all within 30 minutes per class period. I also need to be ready for a different grade level to walk in the door immediately afterward, and do it all over again.
The second challenge is time management. There is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done, so I’ve learned to prioritize. This is especially challenging as a part-time teacher. Even though I have fewer classes than a full-time teacher, I still plan for the same number of grade levels and have the same number of music performances. Having said that, however, I absolutely love my job. There is never a dull moment!
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
The most common misconception is that music class is all about just having fun. Yes, that’s part of it; however, I also have a curriculum to teach. There are reasons why I choose certain songs, dances, or instrumental parts for children. They are learning important musical concepts and are building their skills in a developmentally appropriate way. They are also learning how to work together as an ensemble in order to create something beautiful, which is an important life skill.
Where do you see the teaching field in 5 years?
In general, I see schools integrating technology into classrooms even more than they are now. I think this is both good and bad. It’s good because it will help break down socio-economic and geographic barriers. It will enable kids to pursue their personal interests and passions even more. It will help teachers collaborate and allow for more cross-curricular learning to take place. I worry, however, that we will start using technology for technology’s sake. I think it’s a wonderful thing if it is used in an authentic way, as long as it enhances our instruction and doesn’t replace our instruction.
What outside experience prepared you best to become a teacher?
This is hard to answer. So many experiences have helped me develop as a teacher. Partly, it was having several amazing teachers growing up who challenged, encouraged, and inspired me. Part of it was also pursuing my interests in the arts and learning about the commitment and courage it took to become a performing artist, both on stage and off. Lastly, it was being inspired by my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years. I loved helping her in the classroom and watching the creativity and enthusiasm that she had for teaching.