What do you do for a living?
I teach strings – violin, viola, cello bass and orchestra to approximately 200 elementary aged students each week.
How would you describe what you do?
Ours is an orchestra program too. I teach all the skills needed to perform in an orchestra. These include playing the instrument, reading music, following a conductor, shaping the music and ensemble skills.
What does your work entail?
Lots of planning! I like to think of my classes as the performance and all the planning as the rehearsals. I also have had extensive training as a string player (violin) as a strong knowledge base to work with. In addition to classes, there’s lots of emailing to be in touch with classroom teachers and parents. I’d say a bit less paperwork than an elementary classroom teacher, but still some.
What’s a typical work week like?
Monday-Friday are classes from 7:30 – 3:10. These classes are almost non-stop throughout the day (often including my lunch hour) so planning takes place on my own time. There are some evening and professional duties as well.
How did you get started?
I started out as a professional violinist and found that I enjoyed the structure of the school day. This worked especially well for me after I had children. I had a bachelor’s and master’s degree in performance and received a doctorate and licensing later on little by little.
What do you like about what you do?
It’s all about the children! They are deliciously fun and silly at this age so there’s always something fun going on. I love that I get to establish them as players and get them excited about starting this life long pleasure. Then there are always those moments when you get to change their lives by positively addressing some issue. Heaven!
What do you dislike?
The paperwork – so much of what goes on now is just creating paper trails and this robs you of time better spent planning or teaching. If you have an administrator that is difficult, or for that matter a custodian who is difficult, your job becomes much harder.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I get a salary from my employer and I teach lessons after school and work with a summer chamber music group.
How much money do you make?
I work in Westchester county in NY state which has a high standard of living so salaries are commensurate with this reality. I earn around $118,00.
How much money do you make starting out?
I think starting salaries are around $80,000 in my district.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
Your own training as an instrumentalist is crucial for success and then you need at least a master’s in education to be hired. I also continue to take lessons since I think it’s important as a teacher to always be in the position of a student as well.
What is most challenging about what you do?
How to do the most with the least amount of time.
What is most rewarding?
Making a difference in the lives of my students and sometimes their entire families.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
If you loved school and learning you will love this job. If you didn’t, it might not be for you. If you have difficulties interacting with people or dealing with emotional issues, you will also find this a difficult job. It is harder than it first appears.
How much time off do you get/take?
I am very fortunate to have sick days and I do take them when I need to. I also get a lovely summer break although like most teachers, I spend a large portion of it planning and revitalizing my skills.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Teaching is a profession more than a job. It is not something you leave at the end of the day. It is a lifelong passion.
It is not an easy job and demanding only short hours. Neither is true. Planning, emailing, and keeping up your skills takes lots of time in addition to your classes and you really can’t do the job well without this extra work. This work is expected.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I would like to share the skills I have developed with younger teachers.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
Go for it!