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I’m Not Just Here to Cover Your Planning Period, I’m a MUSIC TEACHER

Music teachers…how many of you have been called the planning teacher or the specials class?  I taught at a pretty great school where I felt like my job was valued and what I did mattered.  But, I was still called a specials teacher and was lumped into this category with the librarian, PE teacher, and gifted and talented teachers.  (We didn’t have art at my school and this is a whole other can of worms that irritated me and I will write about in another blog post.)  Here are the reasons the title of “specials teacher” or feeling like I was just there to cover planning period for the “real teachers” bothered me so much…


Yes I have a real college degree 

Oh…my…gosh…  You would not believe the number of times that a parent or even a teacher (yes this happened twice) were in shock when I explained that you had to have a degree in Music Education to teach music.  I heard questions like “Oh that’s a thing?” or “Can’t anyone do this job?” or even the statement “But it’s just a music class.”  Wow…just wow. Here is a quick synopsis of how much work goes into getting a music education degree.

  • Usually years of music lessons in voice or an instrument before even entering college
  • In college, along with the normal course load (which is a ton of work), music majors spend countless hours in the practice rooms preparing for jury, recitals, ensembles they are in, or just practicing to improve
  • We take a lot of the same education classes that someone with a degree in elementary education takes
  • We sit in public school classrooms doing several hours of practicums and then student teach in an elementary classroom AND a secondary classroom
  • A lot of times our degrees aren’t finished in exactly 4 years because we want to take one extra course, one extra ensemble, or already took so many hours each semester we just couldn’t fit one more hour in to graduate on time
  • We probably have one hour a day of “free time” and a lot of times that hour is still spent either in the practice rooms or studying


online music lessons kids


Being called a specials teacher

Listen…I understand that all art, music, computer, library, and even counselors are labeled specialists.  I get it.  Just like the kinder, first, and second grade teachers are called lower grades and the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers are called upper grades, our group of teachers need to be called something.  So, here’s how I look at it.  When I would get called a specials teacher instead of the music teacher, I would just smile instead of getting defensive.  You want to know why?  We are pretty special.  Music teachers can reach kids like no other teacher can.  I love how when a student feels unsuccessful in reading or math, they can come to music class and feel like they accomplished something huge.  It is also pretty special that since an elementary music teacher has every child in their school, a lot of times they get to see them grow up right before their eyes.  It is really special how I could get a kindergartner who knew nothing about music and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and by the 5th grade, they ended up being one of my top singers and even made the honor choir.

If you want a fun t-shirt to wear to show the world that you are a music teacher, this one is my favorite.  Click the shirt to pick your size and to order it. 


I miss my planning period too

The thing about planning period, is it is state mandated for EVERY teacher.  The amount of times my planning period was cut into because of an assembly I had to help with, a dress rehearsal for one of my programs, a field trip I took my honor’s choir on, or because I had student’s in my room during my plan time to give them extra help, happened a lot.  I think planning time is so important and there are several teachers who are flexible if their planning time got cut into that day and there were teachers who wouldn’t let me hear the end of it (when most of the time it wasn’t my fault.)

A lot goes into being a music teacher and into planning our days, and this planner is so organized and helps keep my day on track.

A lot happens in those 40 minutes of music class

From the second the children walk in the door until the second they leave, we are doing non stop learning.  I had parents, paraprofessionals, my principal, and other teachers sit in on me teaching a lesson and at the end of class say “wow I had no idea the kids learned so much in here.”  That’s what bothers me.  They don’t know.  There is TONS of cross curricular learning happening in a music class, but the most awesome thing they are learning is…wait for it…MUSIC.  We are constantly feeling like we need to justify why we teach music.  I actually wrote a blog post about why music education is important.  We feel like we need to explain how we are reaching all of the subjects, how music helps the brain and how it improves test scores, but can’t we simply just say we teach music because kids need to learn music?  It is important all on it’s own and doesn’t need to be justified.  Music teachers, you know what you do and how important it is, and you’re doing a great job at reaching these kids who need music in their little lives.



I would love to hear your comments about this topic.  Are there any other titles that you have been called?  Have you felt like you have to justify yourself to your coworkers and parents?


If you are a parent, student, or teacher who wants to learn more about music, connect with other musicians, or wants to post their latest videos of what they’ve been working on, I would love for you to join my Facebook group Music Education Connection. Collaborate, learn from each other, and grow new friendships. This is a place to receive encouragement, positive feedback, and to ask questions.

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Jessica Peresta

Music teacher and music education blogger who helps parents and teachers by providing online music education lessons for kids.

49 thoughts to “I’m Not Just Here to Cover Your Planning Period, I’m a MUSIC TEACHER”

  1. I agree music teachers are special. Our music teacher inspires me all the time. She helps me to be a better 2nd grade teacher. She works hard and gives just as much and more than myself and other teachers. She deserves the title of Louisiana Teacher of the Year as well as all the other warlords and accolades she has received. My students love her as their music teacher and they strive to make her proud of their efforts. Music, art, PE, Libriroams all work hard to be effective teachers in engaging classrooms helping to mold the whole child. There are many kids that would not be successful but for the impact of these teachers. Yes music, art, PE and Libearians are special teachers and we greatly appreciate ours. I strive to be the effective teachers they are and to know my craft as well as they do. Thanks to “special” teachers everywhere!

  2. In my school, art, music, gym, and library are grouped together and are called “related arts” teachers. I don’t know why they feel that this is an appropriate name for us. I take offense at it but to no avail. I’d rather be called special teachers than related arts teachers.

  3. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! At my school, the ‘specials’ classes are called MAPELL (Music, Art, PE, world Language, Library). I am grateful to be in a school and in a district where music is a core subject. I teach a comprehensive curriculum that covers Orff Schulwerk(look up AOSA), World Music Drumming, solfege, rhythm syllables, mallet instruments, small percussion, recorders, ukulele, improv, composition, and so much more. I am grateful to have access to Quaver, TheSingingClassroom, and so much more. My teaching load is huge, though, at the K-5 level. This is my 27th year as a musician and music educator, and I’ve taught in MS, HS, college and elem, as well as my private studio. I’ve performed with symphonies and opera companies, but teaching K-5 is – BY FAR – the most challenging job I’ve ever had, especially since the schedule is so grueling and we work with such a large number of children on a daily basis. “Prepping” for 18 sections of core music plus one big choir takes way longer than the planning period I get. No one takes into account the time spent acquiring instruments, repairing instruments, cleaning instruments, etc. That is rarely accounted for in music teacher planning time. (Most elem. music teachers see 400-1000 students a WEEK! Did you know that? Is it odd that I feel grateful that my ‘load’ is *only* 400?)

  4. I once had a parent wonder why her child got such a poor grade in music when he “loves to sing”. I had to explain how her child rarely participated, and that music class was more than just singing. This was a 6th grade class and we were learning some theory as well so I had written assignments which he never handed in. He also spent the entire class talking to his friends and being disrespectful instead of participating. Obviously a lack of understanding and respect from both parent and child

  5. Huh.
    My music teacher would just get stoned before class and put on a Madonna cd. We’d not actually do anything.

    You mean there’s music teachers actually teach music?

  6. I’ve taught music in only one school, but had 4 principals in those 14 years. Two great, one terrible, one neither here nor there. We’re a fine arts magnet school, so that’s obviously why the kids are there and that gets us more respect, but I really have fabulous colleagues. They help with crowd control at rehearsals and concerts and may not understand what we’re doing but they’re very respectful of it. One of our 5th-grade teachers was not a fan of fine arts classes and said upon her arrival that at previous schools, she kept students back for extra tutoring. She was told politely that that didn’t happen at our school, and she said to me a couple of years later that she would never do that now because she sees how much more well-rounded our students are, and that the kids who have their musical gifts nurtured transfer that confidence to their academic learning. Yes!!

  7. After teaching music for almost 20 years I could tell countless stories of teachers and principals who were appreciative and understanding and unfortunately just as many that had no clue what goes on in my classroom. But my favorite story is one of a former principal who addressed her back to school letter “Dear Teachers and Specialists,”….😬

  8. This was a great article. I’ve had teachers refer to my class as a “break” for kids from learning, “just” a music class, or “only” music. I’ve had administration who have said the reason why the schedule a grade level for a certain time is because students are “done learning” by X time in their regular class so they might as well schedule the specials block for that time, as if our learning a new language in a 50 minute, once a week (as long as it’s not Mon/Fri section) class wasn’t a large task in itself. Some days are harder than others and I often tell myself to keep on swimming and provide my best for every student. Music is important.

  9. I have been met with that same mentality as well. Especially when you are a k-12 music teacher. Things come up where you have to cancel. At least I am nice enough to reschedule, during MY plan time, to ensure you still get yours. Or how about when kids say they don’t learn anything in music class? It seems that way because music is fun and kinesthetic. Or how about when parents schedule appointments during specials classes because they aren’t as important as core classes? Then when their child is getting a poor grade, they wonder “how that is even possible in music?” It is very frustrating to say the least but you kind of expect it from parents who have absolutely no idea about the education music teachers go through to actually teach music, but that kind of ignorance coming from a colleague? Down right infuriating. Sorry for the rant, but I have had this frustration laying on my shoulders for 9 years now. I feel better! Lol

  10. Very well said! In many instances hard working music teachers find that the schools they work so hard to make better… just hire a mediocre replacement when they retire/quit. Most administrations just do not care about the arts… as they themselves were probably not lucky enough to have had a good music teacher. Most of the public school and private school systems are ALWAYS in financial distress. Music is one of the first things to be cut. Hope you find a school that loves what you do!

    1. Good comments! When I got hired the principal at the time said (after barely having an interview) “well do you want the job? You’re just as good as the next one.” What the what? I know not all schools are like that and am no longer there. Teaching music is still my passion and I’m so glad!

  11. Oh my goodness! I love this post! I am not a music teacher but instead a Family Consumer Science teacher. This explains exactly what we as Family Consumer Science teachers go thru too. Thank you for putting it into words for all us “specials” teachers.

  12. I read a similar blog post recently that was titled something like “10 Things I Wish Classroom Teachers Knew”. You are exactly right. We are all special. Just because we don’t understand someone else’s job in a school doesn’t mean that their job is less important. Music teachers, and all specialists, teach something “special” that a general ed. teacher can’t. We reach something that they can’t. And they reach something we can’t. We all have our place, and it is all crucial to a child’s education. Why can’t everyone just acknowledge the whole child needs to be taught and be grateful for one another! We all have a CRITICAL job in a child’s life! P.S. Music teachers pass levies for our school districts and get more parents into the schools for evening events than any other events I have seen…not many general ed. teachers can say that…just sayin’.

  13. Some children who don’t connect with the every day lessons like math, english, history, etc. bloom in music classes. They are able to articulate what they are feeling inside, and use their voices, or instruments to do so.
    A music teacher devotes just as much time(if not more), to prepare for the weeks lessons, and to help children to create with their own God given talents. They learn counting, rhythm, beats, and learn how to associate with their peers in choir and band. Music teachers ARE SPECIAL teachers. They can bring the personality out in children, and make them feel like they are worthy. These children could have low grades in other studies, and could flourish in the music they make.
    I’m not a music teacher. I’m a partent. I’ve seen what music can do for children. We need more of them.

  14. Your words are precisely how SO many music and other “special ” teachers feel. And I will add, that I often feel like we’re the alternative to P.E. When the kids don’t have gym they “have to” go to music.
    Your article is worded so perfectly. I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m posting this on Facebook and Pinterest ASAP!

  15. I am another music teacher who feels the same. I teach middle school choir AND health because the phys. ed. teachers have too many students! The one pet peeve I have is that the teachers tell our students to go to the restroom during their unified arts classes. (‘Unified Arts’ team is p.e., art, computers, band, and choir). Very frustrating that they think our content is less important and that students can miss time during our classes to go to the restroom! ugh!

  16. This is so good! My own mom, who was a principal for years, even told me, “You can’t expect to be treated the same. Specialist doesn’t impact test scores.” Hurt to hear, but I know that’s the attitude. However, the things we teach them DO impact them! We’re igniting things in their brains and inspiring them and making connections. We plan, we research, we assess. I teach both PE and Music, not to mention a variety of electives for middle school. It’s funny how even other teachers think I have it easy. Thank you for this validation 🙂

    1. Ugh…. Your mom probably just was speaking from experience. Yes, the music class doesn’t have state mandated testing, but….the students test scores are drastically improved because of what you do! Oh my goodness! I cannot believe you teach PE and music. That’s a lot! You are doing amazing!

    2. Along that same note, when the students would take their yearly standardized tests here in Colorado, I would have to give up my room for two weeks for individual student test accommodations. I would usually have to double up with the PE teacher for that time but that was still two weeks of lesson plans missed. They didn’t realize that as music teachers we still have standards and goals that need to be achieved throughout the year. Not to mention, the district still expects you to grade 400 students every quarter. Can you imagine if a classroom teacher missed two whole weeks of teaching? But since music is not on the test, it didn’t matter if I had a place to teach my students. I know a lot of music teachers that have to travel or don’t have a permanent room to teach in (I was one of those teachers for a few years) but when you have a classroom and all of your equipment and teaching tools are there and it’s your space that you’ve created to teach students, it’s kind of disheartening when it’s taken away for a few accommodations when you teach every single student in that school. I appreaciate what all teachers, especially music teachers, do for students. I wish more people realized what we do, as well. Unfortunately because of how I was treated I left teaching. This was not the only incident that caused me to leave, but numerous incidents over a period of 4 years. I hope to go back someday in some capacity but, in the mean time, I’m content in teaching my two daughters music because I know how important it is for them.

      1. Yes yes yes!!! I worked at a pretty good school but still got burned out by all of the “extra” things I got asked to do and the many discipline problems. I am enjoying staying home with my boys right now too and using my years of education to teach them music.

  17. This is so wonderfully written. I am a music teacher at a K-8 school in Philadelphia. A lot of the time, I feel that the classroom teachers & administration just feel like we are there to babysit their kids while they take their prep. Um…no, they are learning here, too! I hate it when classes are consistently late because they want to do 1 more math problem. They don’t realize how much being 10 minutes late affects everything.

    Reading this makes me feel less alone. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much! I agree. You need the whole class period to be able to cover the lesson you have planned. It is so hard and definitely something that needs to get better. You are definitely not alone! You are making such an incredible impact for your students!

  18. “You are nothing but a glorified babysitter”. No one actually said that to me, but I sensed it more and more during my career. My last year of teaching we had a horrific principal (I think she was a narcissist) and the teachers took out their frustrations on me – making me double, even triple classes when their planning period was missed. The last straw came when the principal informed me that I would have to squeeze in 30 minutes of teaching social studies during the day – leaving me virtually no time between the classes. Classes would come early and teachers picked up late, and few of them would stay to help with the ensuing problem – they’d just leave the kids. I was yelled at, cried at and reported to the principal. One morning I drove to work crying because of the way they all seemed to not care what I was doing. I had volunteered to help another teacher with the musical portion of the show she wanted to do (she was one of the few who was sweet to me), and although I was sick I went ahead because I had to be there. The principal promised me an aide to cover my classes while I worked in rehearsal, but the aide didn’t show. I went several times and asked and finally got her. I duly rehearsed and was rolling equipment back to my room, when one of the teachers flung a stack of copying masters in my face and said, “You need to duplicate all these for social studies”. Then I returned to my room where I found three groups of kids – on the floor – in seats, sitting on the sink with one aide supposedly singing. Their teachers decided that since they were going to miss planning time due to the performance the next day, they decided to drop all their kids off. The children were actually were singing – the wrong songs. Luckily they were relatively well-behaved and somehow I got through the rest of the class, although I was exhausted. After the dismissal bell, I walked out, ignoring the fact that I was supposed to stay 30 minutes. I went home and asked my husband if we could financially swing early retirement and he said yes. I went to the principal the next day and laid out my concerns and said, “If we can’t solve these problems I will be retiring at the end of next month”. She said, “We’ll miss you.” So the next morning I went and did the paperwork with the central office for retirement, stopped going to faculty meetings, left early every day and walked away in March.

    1. Good for you! That is a TERRIBLE situation you were in. My goodness! I am so sorry you went through that. Kudos to you for all the hard work you put in and for going above and beyond what your job title entailed. I know you impacted so many lives and those kids remember what a great teacher and how hard of a worker you were.

    2. I am so sorry for the situation you were placed in! I recently heard a music teacher say that she LOVES being an elementary school music teacher. I used to feel that way, too, until all the duty coverages, classroom coverages, lack of having a dress rehearsal before my concert, and being pulled in all directions to do everything BUT my job as a music teacher. I hope that your are earnestly enjoying your retirement!!

    3. Bless your heart! I feel your pain, can’t believe you had to work with such nasty teachers and administrators. I am a retired art teacher and can relate to your feelings. My schools were not that bad, but there were always teachers who were “clock watchers” and resented missing their specials times, regardless of the reason (and would also pick up their classes late as if my time wasn’t nearly as important as theirs). Then there were the teachers who wanted to keep kids out of art class so they could finish their spelling or math. I used to ask them when the student could come to art and finish their art project if they had to miss art class—that usually stopped that issue!

      After I retired I worked 5 hours a week for a grant funded program with better pay, 4 times the budget for a fraction of the students, tiny class sizes, and was highly regarded. A nice change!!

    4. I’m so sorry! It’s hard being a teacher in a content that’s not fully understood. I just resigned from teaching art in the fall. It completely broke my heart considering I had taught for only 4 years and expected a lifetime of growth and impact. I knew not all students would love art but I never realized I would be alone to defend the ones who did. I had an amazing and supportive principal for two years. She saw me as a teacher first. My content just happened to be art. She gave every full time licensed teacher the same opportunity… meaning equal resource and hours to work, plan, and train. An equal opportunity is all I needed to work hard to create an experience for students to grow. Because of this I was able to have strong relationships with all teacher around school and we could easily and positively work together for better results. I was also more willing to offer extra support because it was my choice and my decision to help. I grew drastically those years with teaching and felt proud. I was hungry to learn more in order to positively influence our students. She used teachers strengths and brought our community together. Then she retired and we got a new principal. The new principal isolated teachers and didn’t target strengths. She generalized duties which caused chaos and took away equal opportunity by allotting only certain grades and contents with opportunity. Although she had great intentions to target school needs she limited her resources for impact by decreasing teacher influence on students. She had one target goal and forgot about the overall picture. Collaboration and impact decreased and teachers are now fleeing the school. Let’s face it, teachers don’t make a lot of money and are there for the kids. If they can’t help students grow and create positive change, why teach?! “Special” classes can be powerful support when used properly within a community, but on the contrary they can be demised if not supported. It’s a sad day when any community stops recognizing people’s strengths.

  19. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been a bruised peach lately regarding how students are feeling about music class. Had an outburst from a kid the other day (while being observed unannounced!!!) yell out “Why do you guys care [about winning the review game] so much? It’s just music class!” Uuuuuugh. I needed this read! Thanks!

    1. You are so welcome! It is so hard being a music teacher and although we go into with a passion for what we do and are wanting to make a difference, there are so many hindrances to letting us teach. You keep on keeping on and even if you just reach one student, you are doing a great job.

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