Meet Music Teacher Kelsi Doolittle
Q: Tell us why you decided to join the Education Through Music-LA team.
A: I decided to join ETM-LA because I wanted a job that would give me the flexibility to pursue my performing career while making a difference in the lives of others. I love that ETM-LA focuses on inner city schools and provides instruction that furthers the development of confidence, character and patience as well as musical skill.
Q: How would you describe the culture of ETM-LA?
A: The culture of ETM-LA is special because it centers around growth. Every aspect of our job has a purpose in line with development as a person, using music as a tool. This helps us as educators to better understand the learning process, which enables us to be more compassionate and then helps our students become better citizens. We don’t have the same restrictions that their classroom teachers face on a daily basis, so we can focus on the character building parts of their education that may be pushed aside.
Q: How is being a 2nd year teacher this year different than being a 1st year teacher?
A: Being a 2nd year teacher is incredibly different. During my first year I felt that it was challenging to navigate school administrative issues. Looking back, I realized that my planning and efforts did not go unnoticed. Teachers and staff took notice of my work ethic and because of that, my relationships with them grew very positively. This year, teachers do not hesitate to bring their classes down for music, and teachers take part in class to help their students participate. I feel like I am a part of the Norwood community and I feel that teachers better understand the importance of music education. In addition to the logistical aspect of the job, I have also grown as a teacher with better classroom management skills and better lesson plans. These together make my days run much smoother and feel more productive.
Q: Are there noticeable changes you see in your students and your school?
A: I do notice a difference with my students. The entire school feels like a different environment and this trickles down into the students’ behavior. In my class, the students know how I teach and how greatly I enforce respect and kindness towards one another. They also know that I work hard to give them all the best education possible while being there to support them through a positive learning environment. Students are excited to come to music class – and in addition to their weekly classes – approximately 95% of all 5th graders have signed up and joined the band and orchestra program!
Q: What has been your greatest challenge as a music teacher?
A: My greatest challenge as a music teacher is letting go of perfectionism. I tend to think in great depth while creating my lesson plans and try to execute them in the most efficient way possible. When things don’t go as I planned I tend to lose my lighthearted approach, which is important when teaching young students. It’s okay to laugh when things don’t go well and keep it fun instead of being too serious.
Q: How has teaching impacted you?
A: Teaching has always been a part of who I am and it has helped shape the parts of myself that I cherish the most. I think through caring about the well being of others, I have learned how to be more understanding and compassionate. I’ve also learned how to put myself in someone else’s place and try to see things through their eyes. Teaching is special because it’s one of the few professions that challenges you to do this on a daily basis. I feel through this I am able to alter the course of a student’s day and hopefully provide meaning and purpose in their lives.
Q: Was there a specific moment when you realized you loved teaching?
A: I think I realized I truly loved teaching when I began teaching private lessons with students who were brand new. I watched their development week by week completely based on the instruction I was giving them. When I saw how they were progressing and how exciting it was for both of us I knew I was making a difference in their life. Playing clarinet growing up was always something I enjoyed and looked forward too. I hope to pass this on to others who can create meaning in their life through music.
Q: What are some words of wisdom you would give to an aspiring/beginning music teacher/educator?
A: The best piece of advice I could give to a first year teacher is be gracious to yourself and patient with others. It’s important to accept that your first year will have very challenging moments. How you deal with these challenging moments reflects on your character. Having patience and being flexible with others when things are out of your control and being gracious with yourself when mistakes are made will positively affect the development of your program and will help you overcome these challenges much easier.