As teachers we listen to our kids. We know when they have had a bad day and need extra attention or praise. We know when they have a supportive home and when they need that support from us. We use data to monitor and inform our classroom instruction. We know what our students need to be successful.

As instructional coaches and administrators we listen to our classroom teachers. We provide curriculum that supports our state standards. We present resources and strategies to support and enhance instruction. We impart knowledge and professional development to help teachers grow and become better. But what support do we offer our special area teachers? I know as an instructional coach I do not have a physical education, art or music background. I can observe classroom instruction and provide feedback, however I do not know the curriculum. So are we really listening to the needs of our special area teachers?

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with an old friend, a music teacher with years of experience and content knowledge. Knowing that I could not support our beginning music teachers with what they really needed, I set up a classroom visit. We were fortunate to spend most of the day observing a veteran music teacher in action. We observed all grade levels, kindergarten through fifth grade. The beginning music teachers witnessed first hand how an experienced teacher welcomes and greets each class. How she interacts with fourth graders and quickly switches to first grade. We observed how to incorporate music and movement into fun engaging lessons for all ages. We saw how she moved almost magically from activity to activity. How she implemented a classroom management program, giving student points and teacher points. It was visual, simple and extremely effective.

The beginning teachers learned more in just a few hours by observing an experienced, caring, passionate teacher. They now have a resource, a friend who is an email or phone call away, another music teacher who shares their passion and knows the struggles and challenges of being a special area teacher. As an instructional coach, I commend special area teachers, who face very different challenges than classroom teachers. Thanks for sharing your passion and expertise with our kids everyday.

Teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators as you walk into your school or classroom remember to stop and listen. What do your kids need? What do your teachers need? If you don’t have the expertise and knowledge to support them, where will you turn? Maybe it is a friend who you worked with years ago or maybe it is the teacher across the hall. What do you have to share with other teachers? What do you have to share with your students?



Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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