I read a heartbreaking post the other day about a new Primary Music Leader who kept getting reactions from teachers in the Primary who kept correcting her. They sometimes tried to help her get back on track with her conducting patterns, or they came up afterwards with a whole bunch of criticisms and suggestions.
It sounds like this poor novice leader could have benefitted by some inservice training --- something that is rarely offered any more.
To that "newbie" --- DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE "BACK SEAT DRIVERS!"
If you already like to SING, start there. FORGET ABOUT BEAT PATTERNS. Instead, focus on MEMORIZING THE SONGS BEFORE YOU TRY TO LEAD THEM. All you really need to do is TAKE A BREATH in rhythm before you start singing. The BREATH is the CUE.
Work with the PIANIST, especially if she or he is competent. Let him or her set the TEMPO and help you work out the CUES.
Practice feeling the RHYTHM and tapping the BEATS. Have the Pianist help you learn to move your hand up and down in PREPARATION CUES going UP and strong BEATS going DOWN. Don't worry about memorizing Beat Patterns yet. You can do very well just directing the words by stressing important syllables with DOWNBEATS. You want to concentrate on "pulling FOCUS" toward your face so the children can read your lips and imitate your facial expressions and follow how you MODEL the singing.
The important thing is to maintain EYE CONTACT with the children, rely on your memorization, and sing out. They will follow you if you draw them in. You need to ACT as if what you are doing is the absolute right thing in the moment (no matter what anyone else thinks).
Although you probably won't be whistling, this is great advice:
Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect,
And whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I'm afraid.
While shivering in my shoes I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune and no one ever knows I'm afraid.
The result of this deception is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.
I whistle a happy tune and ev'ry single time
The happiness in the tune convinces me that I'm not afraid.
Make believe you're brave and the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave as you make believe you are. (whistle)
You may be as brave as you make believe you are
("Whistle a Happy Tune" from "The King and I" by Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Many times I have had to ACT braver than I really was. That's when you have to TRUST in what you've practiced.
You could also skip the whole "conducting" bit if you hold VISUAL AIDS and are busy pointing out pictures, or words, or doing MOVEMENTS like using scarves or shakers. Once again, it's taking the BREATH combined with NODDING your HEAD that is the CUE.
So don't let those "back seat drivers" rattle you!