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A Day in the Life of an Arts Teacher

Sep 27, 2017, 10:52 AM

It is important to thank those who are able to bring the arts to our students’ lives. One of the best things about being an arts teacher is to see my students succeed. I chose to become a music teacher at the young age of eight years old. I was inspired by the great movie: Mr. Holland’s Opus. Here’s a brief description (and spoiler) of the movie for those who haven’t seen it. In the 1960s, Mr. Holland, played by Richard Dreyfuss, was a composer and professional musician.

He wanted to settle down from his crazy performance schedule to spend more time with his wife. In order to do so, he became a music teacher in the local high school. Although he dreaded being a teacher because he loved to perform so much, he grew to love his students as if they were his own children. Mr. Holland taught for over 30 years and changed hundreds of his students’ lives through music both inside and outside of the classroom.

At the end of the movie, Mr. Holland was forced to retire because of funding and lack of administrative support, however, the majority of the students who he taught came back and planned a huge concert for him where they performed a piece that he spent decades composing. I want to be just like Mr. Holland. I want to be able to break through the barriers of my students’ lives to let them know that they can use music (or other arts) to express themselves.

Currently, I teach elementary instrumental and general/vocal music in Baltimore County, MD. I usually teach about 5-6 classes a day, depending on the day, with 1 planning period. Each of these classes (and the planning period) are 50 minutes long. During these 50 minutes, a lot of activities and topics are reviewed, learned and evaluated. I also make sure that what they are learning coincides with things they may be currently learning in their other classes as well as incorporate familial aspects from my students’ lives to help them better understand concepts.

5:00 a.m. – Wake up, shower, eat, and get dressed.

6:30 a.m. – Out the door, on the road from Washington, DC to my school in MD, which is about 50 miles away.

7:45 a.m. – Arrive at school, begin putting up objectives, clean instruments, rearrange classrooms, compile old papers, and sharpen pencils.

9:15 a.m. – 4th Grade. This class is composed of about 22 students who are extremely excited about music. We warm up with vocal exercises and techniques and review old topics. We then focus on the topic of the day and work in groups to explore the topic. Students usually perform at the end of each class period so that I can evaluate their understanding of the new topic.

10:05 a.m. – 5th Grade Electives, World Drumming. This class is an elective class in which students choose to participate in their favorite activity. This class consists of about 15 5th grade students who mostly compose their own songs using Orff instruments, drums and other world instruments like the claves.

10:55 a.m. – 3rd Grade. The third grade curriculum is currently a mix between Kodaly techniques and Recorder. Students essentially love music at this age because they become more responsible with purchasing their own instruments (the recorders). Depending on the day, students are both learning music theory and a new recorder piece or they are testing to receive their next belt in recorder karate.

11: 45 a.m. – Lunch

12:15 p.m. – 2nd Grade. This class loves to play with different instruments so we continue to sing, use Kodaly methods and learn about new instruments during the class.

1:00 p.m. – 10 minute break to re-adjust my classroom.

1:10 p.m. –1st Grade. This class loves to sing, dance and perform! We continue to work on our 1st grade play for our parents, which we will perform at the end of the year. We also talk about different topics in music class and how they apply to the songs that we are learning to perform.

2:00 p.m. – Kindergarten. A very playful class that loves to perform, sing and dance. They are learning the fundamentals of music such as loud vs soft (piano/forte), locomotive sounds, ostinatos, rounds, etc.

2:50 p.m. – Planning Time. Finish lesson planning for the next day, clean up room, make copies, etc.

3:30 p.m. – Afternoon Duty. Making sure students go straight to the bus and saying our goodbyes for the day.

4:00 p.m. – After-school step practice with students (or talent show practice depending on the day).

6:00 p.m. – Last student leaves for the day, and so do I!

7:30 p.m. – Finally get home. Continue to plan lessons/units for the upcoming weeks.

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.” – Kurt Vonnegut


Quanice Floyd is the Arts Education Graduate Fellow at National PTA. She is currently working on her Masters in Arts Management at American University while teaching in Baltimore County Public Schools. She received her Bachelors of Music Education at Howard University and Masters of Music Education at Kent State University. She is passionate about arts education and one day hopes to one day open her own performing arts school for urban youth.