nothing to learn from beginning teachers

R – Okay, I’ll let you in on a pet peeve of mine. Ready? When you say “first or second year teacher”, many people automatically speak in their “oh, isn’t that cute” voice.  As they begin to have a conversation with one, they are thinking in their mind “I remember when I was a first year.” And then… they stop taking that new teacher seriously.

Since when did experience become the prerequisite ingredient to being a good teacher? I guess I missed that recipe somewhere. I’ll let you in on a secret: there are teachers that think and question analytically about what they do every single day by nature because they are GREAT educators, and then there are those that don’t. And experience has nothing to do with it.

There’s an article that was forwarded to me this week (I’ve linked it below). In it, there are some great points about characteristics of a teacher leader. Here they are:

Teacher leaders are researchers… Teacher leaders have an insatiable appetite for the next possible means to reach every child… Teacher leaders have technology skills to create the path through thousands of apps into handheld technologies for every child so learning can truly be individualized… Teacher leaders know how to create safe environments and have the capacity of heart to listen to all voices, even silent ones, and respond with open hands of support and minds of knowledge and ingenuity…. Teacher leaders have the capacity to view things from different perspectives and are not weighed down with the old way of doing things. 

Which of these qualities have anything to do with “years taught”?

When I began my career, and all through my 20’s and 30’s, I felt very strong convictions about many things around education and the role of music education specifically. Some of these were considered radical and, well, idealistic. For over 15 years, I had to cope with widespread perceptions that I hadn’t put in enough years of teaching to know what I was talking about yet. And believe me, I felt it. Would you believe that one of the greatest days of my life was when I turned 40 because I knew I’d never again have to deal with that perception? Since then these same ideas have been listened to and embraced because NOW I apparently – allegedly – know what I’m talking about… NOW I’m speaking from experience(?)…


I’ll tell you what’s going on: Jarika, and Ashley Smith and Drew Albert and Jennifer Etter and Jeremy Milton and Jen Nash and Alyssa Anderson and Jake Sturtevant are music teachers still in the early stages of their careers. And I could write a series of blogs on EACH of these teachers, how they have inspired me, how they have CHANGED how I teach, how I view music education and how much I need to get out of my own way and just try new approaches that are outside of my comfort zone. EACH of these teachers have also had to confront the perception that they are too new and idealistic to actually know what they are talking about in any practical way. I’ve seen it first hand, and it is so wrong on so many levels.

What is wrong with us in music education that we think the youngest teachers can’t be our greatest role models? Yes, I understand, by way of “experience”, those of us who have been in the trenches longer have dealt with many things that a newer teacher may not have yet. SO? Maybe that is WHY we should be giving them more attention than those who have been teaching longer! Maybe their knowledge – because they are already great teachers – transcends anything that someone else’s “experience” can teach us! Maybe they are approaching music education from an angle that appears idealistic to the rest of us because OUR way of doing things is the problem and NOT their ideas?!!!

Do I have a chip on my shoulder from the way I felt I was perceived earlier in my career? Yes. Sue me for it. Will I ever be a hypocrite enough to be guilty of the same with regard to beginning teachers as I approach them throuout my career? I hope not. I really wish someone would pass a law that says no one over the age of 30 is allowed to hold any leadership position, guest conduct or be hired as a clinician. I have a VERY strong conviction that amazing, cool things would result. Are there veteran educators who are still exceptional at what they do, who we should still be engaged with and utilize as our ongoing mentors to an even greater degree every single year they teach? Of course there are. That’s also not my point. I just wish more educators would embrace the educational mantra of “unlearning the irrelevant” with regard to their approach to beginning teachers. Can you identify a newer teacher in your region who you haven’t reached out to yet? I’m not talking about introducing yourself or saying “hi” to at District Festivals, I’m talking about reaching out to them and making the time to engage them in meaningful dialogue around our wonderful profession. Can you? Do so. You won’t regret it.

Teachers As Leaders


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4 Responses to nothing to learn from beginning teachers

  1. Pingback: nothing to learn from beginning teachers | Goober Music Teachers | Studio News

  2. Jay D. Nelson says:

    I guess I was either dumb or naïve or just didn’t care because I never remember feeling as though I didn’t have anything to offer when I was a “younger” teacher. That said, I also knew that I did not know it all and tried to glean from anyone & everyone around me. My advise to all young music teachers is to get involved – volunteer to manage a district choir, get active in your MMEA District Board, present a session at All-State on something that works well for you and/or a special skill that you have that we “old dogs” struggle with (did someone say technology?). Also, never stop learning – although I suspect I don’t have to really say that since as educators we are all invested (or so I hope) in life-long learning. There are certain things that only experience can teach you but all in all I agree with you Rob, good teachers are good teachers – regardless of age or experience!

  3. Drew Albert says:

    I must of missed this post the first time around! Thanks for it!

  4. Pingback: george seurat and choral performance | Goober Music Teachers

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