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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Feeling Overwhelmed...

I haven't blogged in awhile, and to be honest, that's because this week was tough for me. 

So far, I am enjoying Dubai, although I feel like I haven't had a chance to experience authentic Dubai yet. I have done a few of the touristy things, such as seeing the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, and visiting several malls. Yesterday was actually the first day that I did not visit a mall since being here. That means I went to a mall every single day for 11 days - yikes!!! I was shopping for home furnishings or groceries for most of the mall visits.

Last week's orientation went really well, and I was really excited about this school and this job, and to be honest, thinking a lot about the future (ex. buying a car, where I want to live a few years down the road, etc). It's hard not to think about the future when you are constantly meeting people who have stayed here for years and have no intention of leaving anytime soon. Everything about the school seemed great - software, PD, administration, the support staff, the other new teachers, etc. 

Fast forward to this week... I was very excited to meet my curriculum leader (she is in charge of the arts department). I really like her, but I ended up more confused by the end of day one. She is very honest about the school and its strengths and weaknesses, and happened to shatter several of the seemingly perfect illusions I had of the school the previous week. I was also incredibly confused about what I would be teaching, as it would be up to my co-teacher and myself to decide how we were going to shape the music program. 

I met my co-teacher two days ago, and he has given me lots to think about and lots of resources. However, I am struggling with figuring out what on earth I am going to teach. Other departments have it easy - especially math, English, and social studies. The curriculum, lesson plans, resources, etc. are already prepared for them and they can use them as a guideline as needed. I feel as though I have a bunch of stuff, but no way to organize them. The curriculum I was finally given is good, but it reads as more of a course outline to me - aka, how this course has been taught in general detail. I will be teaching 5 courses this year - grade 7 and 8 "extra" music, grade 9 music, grade 10 music, and grade 11 IB music. 

I have complete control over my grade 7 and 8 classes - they are an additional music class to the mandatory general music. I am running the grade 7 class as a band class, and the grade 8 class as a general music class. I have experience with beginning band, so I'm not too worried about the grade 7s, even though I know it will be a lot of work and logistics to figure out since they haven't had a band class in a few years. I'm also really excited about the grade 8 general music class. I have lots of ideas of fun musical activities. For example, I'm brainstorming a big rhythm unit that will encompass activities such as the cup song, a Stomp portion, body percussion, vocal percussion, etc. I think that I will be able to create meaningful music activities that will let the kids have fun while learning important musical skills. I'm really looking forward to these two classes.

As for grade 11 IB music, I'm nervous, but that's to be expected. I attended an IB music teacher training workshop in June, and all of the teachers there were nervous about teaching the IB course. It's a LOT of material to go through, and the students have to do a ton of work. However, I have lots of resources from the conference and am still in communication with some of the teachers from training, so I think I will be okay as long as I plan ahead. 

Then comes grade 9 and 10 music... my co-teacher and I have decided we are going to co-teach the classes - aka teach the same thing to different students in different classes at the same time. This is what I'm nervous about. He has taught the grade 9 class several times, but hasn't taught the grade 10 class in a few years. Apparently the grade 9 class is easy to teach, as it's more about small-group and  independent work (ex. rock bands). I'm just nervous and worried because I don't know how or what to plan when we are co-teaching. I would almost rather do my own thing completely, but the kids are expecting this type of rock band course. I really don't want to make my life any more difficult by completely changing the course and having the students be upset with me from day one. However, I'm not familiar with how to work with rock bands (even though yes, "music is music"). I'm not familiar with guitars, amps, cords, etc. and I feel like I'm being a huge burden on my co-teacher because I won't know the content we are trying to teach the students. 

To add to everything previously listed, our department is currently in the process of moving into a brand-new building with a big theatre and classrooms. Everyone is stressed out and frustrated, even the teachers who have been here for 4-7 years. I keep having to make decisions about my classroom for the entire year: do I want chairs? Desks? Pieces of staging? Tables? Which chairs? Cabinets? Cupboards? Big music staff whiteboard? etc. There is still so much to do in this building before the beginning of school. All the staff are joking that it is a "growing year". We don't really have an office yet - we have one big table in our room and that's it. No computers, no desks, etc. There's not even toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms!! One perk: the wifi just started working this afternoon :) At this point, I just wish I could have come to this school next year, or at a point where I didn't have to deal with the new building, as it is just constantly adding to my stress. 

As a brand-new teacher, I am seriously struggling right now. If I were back in Manitoba, I think I would be acing this planning and preparatory portion. I would probably be teaching band or choir. I know the curriculum backward and forward, and would have the liberty of using my professional judgement to decide how and what I want to teach. But here, I am not in a music position for which I have been "trained" (I hate using the word trained, but it gets my point across). Even now, I am currently blogging instead of organizing and planning. I just don't know how to even begin classes next Monday, and I'm stressing myself out. I know I can be a good teacher, and I'm one of the most organized people I know... but I'm still frustrated and really worried about the school year to come. I'm sure everything will work out and be okay, but I was really hoping to have a great year and avoid most of the first year teaching horror stories. Oh well. 

Wish me luck...

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