Teaching Older Musicians: Classroom Management

Ways to get respect and properly manage a class of high school musicians.

Teaching older musicians can be a challenge, especially if you're fresh out of college. You're only 3 or 4 years older than the oldest of them, and that can create some definite discipline problems. However, there is no reason this should ever occur, if you remember a few simple things.

First, you have a lot of education and experience that these kids don't. Whatever they know about music, or however grown up they think they are, you're far beyond them. Keep this in mind when you go into your classroom, and display this attitude to your students. If you go into the classroom nervous, uncertain, and apologetic, your students won't respect you at all. They may treat you like a buddy, they may simply ignore you. Either way, the outcome isn't good.

If you enter your classroom with confidence and a clear idea of your own skills and knowledge, your students will notice this and will respect you. If you command (not DEMAND) respect, they will give it to you. Act like you have a complete handle on what you're doing, even if you're not completely confident. However, don't go overboard. If you make a mistake, don't be so desperate to appear perfectly in control that you don't correct yourself. Many young teachers make the mistake of either being too easy or too hard, both because they're insecure. Be confident, be human, be respectable, and you'll do fine.

Keep in mind that your students are not adults, even if they may sometimes appear to be. Treat them like high schoolers, not people who are on your level. Get to know them, but maintain a professional distance. You can't teach your friends.

If you encounter a noisy classroom, don't despair. Clap your hands, step on podium, and say, "It's time to begin class." Then, simply, wait. The students should quiet down. If a few don't, don't hesitate to single them out. Move their seats if they won't stop talking to their friend. Ask them to leave the room if they're being disrespectful.

Know your discipline policies before you ever set foot inside the classroom, and be absolutely sure that your rules (which should be mainly based on respect) will be upheld. If they're not, the consequences will be enforced. If you don't enforce the consequences all the time, or you change your policies frequently, your students won't take you seriously. They also may complain about the few times you do enforce consequences (by saying you're "unfair").

Smile in your classroom. Act happy to be there. Act excited about your job. Your students will pick up your attitude and react to it. They will become a reflection of you. If you are nervous, displeased, and lazy, that's how your students will be. If you're focused, confident, and excited, then that's how your students will be.

Classroom management is not difficult. Basically, just remember what gives the authority to be a teacher: your superior knowledge and maturity. Use those things, and don't be afraid to let students see that's what you're doing. Have fun, and be confident.

© High Speed Ventures 2011