She's taught for 55 Years! Advice for Music Teachers

Advice for Teachers by a Veteran Teacher


I met Joanne Collins when she came to the Artie and Denise Chicago workshop in July. She sat near the front and was an enthusiastic participant in all the workshop activities. I don't remember how it came up in conversation but she mentioned that she was going into her 55th year of teaching. I was doing the calculations in my head to try to figure out how old she was - but she didn't look or act anywhere near the number that I came up with. Joanne began teaching in 1961 at St. Francis de Sales School in Manistique, Michigan. She has always taught in Catholic schools, and except for 3 subbing episodes has always taught music. She's taught K-3 through Grade 12, and says that each level has it's own special challenges and rewards. I emailed Joanne this fall to ask her if she'd consider writing down some thoughts - some advice that she'd give to music teachers, and she has so kindly done this for us.

  1. Always be sure the children know that you CARE. I try to know things about each one beginning with the child’s name. This is of the utmost importance. We play games that test me; when I know who they are they are very pleased. Knowing other things about them, such as vacations, pets, etc. are also important. This is never to be considered time wasted and serves to give adults a chance to LISTEN to the children. Hugs, high-fives etc. are great too. (Of course district regulations need to be followed.)
  2. Staying current with new programs, technology, methods, etc. is invaluable. I take classes, attend workshops, do professional reading and so forth that keep my methods fresh for me as well as the children. Don’t be afraid to try something new. I try to always keep things fresh, even when classes may be with me for years (Kindergarten through Grade 8).
  3. Not one of my favorite things to do is the weekly lesson plans. I know some folks who keep their plans from year to year; I believe by doing this both the students and the teacher are being short-changed. The discipline of writing weekly plans is important to me. I do wish principals would comment on them – I’ve had only one who gave feedback.
  4. As we have all the pupils in a school, it is important to maintain a good working relationship with all the teachers. They are our best allies in knowing their classes and sharing ideas, etc. as to working with the class. Often being the only Music teacher in a school can be very isolating if your fellow teachers exclude you; make the extra effort to know them professionally and personally. You will be the benefactor.
  5. Early in my teaching we were told/advised not to smile until Christmas. What a waste of time. Let them see you smile, joke, whatever you are comfortable doing. It always thrills me when I see children happy and hear them say that something we just did was FUN!
  6. . Treasure the little things. For example: the three year old, who told me “You are the best teacher in the world.” Or the four year old who knows me by the name he gave me, “Miss Music Girl”. These will keep me going for the next 55 years!

Joanne closed her email with -

Keep a song in your heart until next we meet.


Thank you Joanne for sharing this with us. It's Canadian Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, and I'm thankful for teachers like you, who after 54 years of teaching are still coming to two day workshops to get new ideas. Your students must feel the same way. Wow! You are an inspiration to us all!

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