Music As a Full-Time Job


Claire Jennings, Contributing Writer

Kara Grafton, a 21 year old senior at McKendree University, has reached the busiest point of her college career. As a major in Music Education, her final semester at McKendree is spent student-teaching, which includes planning lessons, self-reflections, and execution of lessons that then undergo evaluation. In addition to student-teaching, Kara must work on her application to become a teacher–McKendree can only provide students with the necessary education, but it is up to the state to decide whether she is able to join the workforce.

She reflects, “There is so much that is happening this semester that I wasn’t expecting. I have to student-teach, apply for jobs, and complete my edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment) for the state of Illinois to complete my teaching license.”

As a Music Education major, Kara will be certified to teach music to all grade levels. Because of the large contrast between age groups, she has two placements: one in elementary school, and one in high school. Every morning at 6:30, Kara wakes up and begins her day before driving to the high school to spend the first half of the school day. Following a morning of instructing higher-skilled students and reviewing performance pieces, she drives to the elementary school for hands-on learning with rowdy children. Because she has so little free time during her days, Kara makes the most of every spare minute.

“Having the drive between my two student teaching placements is nice because I have time to reflect on my teaching both in the morning and the afternoon rather than all day at once,” she says.

Although students flee the building the minute the bell rings to end the day, Kara sticks around for teacher meetings and doesn’t make it home until nearly 5:00. Her arrival at home is typically followed by hours of lesson-planning rather than relaxation other students might enjoy after a long day without a break. When asked how she stays invested in teaching with such a demanding workload, Kara said, “Seeing the joy on my students’ faces in their music classes every day is what inspires me to keep going. When I am having a rough day, I know that my students are relying on me to provide their music education for the day and that I have to give my all so they can give their all.” Even more astonishing, she can’t let on to her students if she’s exhausted or would rather be at home. Kara cheerfully explained, “I have to give 120% in hopes that they give me 80-90% in energy.”

Despite the long hours and hard work, Kara always returns home excited for another day teaching and insists she wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. She enjoys connecting with students and always has stories to share of exciting break-throughs she’s made in forming a bond.