Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Worlds Colliding

While I started school this past June (12 credits in 6 weeks-I would NOT recommend that to anyone), tomorrow marks the real beginning, in my mind, of my doctoral work. I'm going through a bit of an identity crisis!  For 11 years I identified myself as a middle school band teacher.  I still consider myself a middle school band teacher, but tomorrow I will add graduate student, teaching assistant and university supervisor into the mix.  Can you see where I'm conflicted?

For 11 years I anticipated the beginning of the new year, usually beginning about two weeks after school got out in June.  I would eagerly spend hours going through new music, looking at the upcoming instrumentation, pouring over websites for new lesson plan ideas, making sure everything was just right.  I got excited about meeting new students and seeing old familiar faces.  Those 8th graders, who I met as 6th graders were several inches taller and that much closer to being young men and women.  The excitement of the first bell and helping kids find their classes, the excitement and hugs from kids on the first day...the excitement of LEARNING.  I'm starting to get a bit teary eyed just thinking about it!  I'm going to miss that...a lot. I'm going to miss learning alongside my students and watching those light bulbs go off-the "a-ha" moments.  I'm going to miss those moments of playing through a piece for the first time, crashing and bombing all over the place, but watching the kids really dig in and being excited to work hard for that piece. I'm going to miss the lessons, where I really get to know my students...where it was really more about the relationship building than the music making.  I'm going to miss the long hours (to a degree) in preparation for our Fine Arts Night and our jazz festivals and solo and ensemble and audition preparations.....I'm going to miss everything that involves the kids.

But now, tomorrow I get to share my excitement with undergraduates who are hoping to become teachers.  This is exciting.  I hope they can see what a wonderful thing it is to be a teacher.  That it isn't just about the music.  That it is about the kids and that from the relationships with our students we can make beautiful music.  I hope to share with my undergrads that it is ok to have high expectations of middle school kiddos, that they ARE capable, we just need to ask....not tell.  I hope to share this with my teacher candidates (student teachers) as I go out and observe them in the classroom.  It is my hope that these young teachers will be able to have the same experiences as I have had in the classroom.  Have these same experiences and know that it does take some time.  That the first year of teaching might be miserable.  That there will be times in your career that you wonder if you what you are doing is the right job, or should you just move on because you just can't seem to do anything right.  That you will have those students....those students that for whatever reason drive you crazy and get under your skin.  But then you make a connection with them and something changes.  That for every harsh email that you receive there are 20 or 30 parents out there singing your praises.  That you do have to develop a thick skin because these kids may not be coming from such a warm household.  That you might be the only smile they receive during the day.  That it IS OK to give a kiddo a hug (around the shoulders and to the side, not full on) because they might need that from you.  That it is ok to be human and share your emotions with your students....the list can go on and on.

My job as a student will be to make myself better.  All of this is to make myself better.  I feel selfish for leaving my life behind and focusing on myself.  I have been told that this is ok.  In the long run, it will be ok, because then I will be making my students better.  And that is really what all of this is about.  Making a better teacher for my ultimately, it really isn't that selfish, because ultimately I am doing this for all of my students.

So, to all of my fellow public school educators who are either in the classroom or preparing their classrooms, have a great year.  Good luck and don't be afraid to try something new.  It it flops, that's ok!  Ask questions, dig deeper.  For my fellow students, ask questions and dig deeper.  It is the only way that we can learn something.  Try new things and don't be afraid of the unknown. It is usually pretty exciting.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shifting Gears

So one of my new adventures is that I will be supervising student teachers, or "teacher candidates" as they are called here at ASU.  This is actually really new to me because I never had the opportunity to work with student teachers in my classroom.  I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I have not ever been a cooperating teacher.  At any rate, I am really looking forward to watching these young people grow into full fledged music educators.  Which leads me to.....

"Watching these young people grow...."  I have really struggled the past two weeks knowing that I won't be walking through my school's front doors and feeling the excitement of the first day of school.  Seeing students that I have known and made some real connections with.  Making music with my students-boy, that is going to be a tough one this year.  However, I am still going to be teaching, but in a different capacity.  Part of me is scared because I have only ever really taught middle school.  I am sure much of what I use in the middle school classroom can be used with undergraduates.  Let's be honest, there isn't that big of a difference between an 8th grade boy and a 19 year old boy :)  BUT, I think what I am going to miss most is making musical connections with my kids.....watching them grow.

Another duty that I have at my time at ASU will be teacher assisting a class.  As of right now, I *think* it is a practicum sort of class, where students start to bring together everything that they have learned in undergrad and apply it to their teaching.  From my understanding it is their last set of practicum classes before student teaching, so they are playing secondary instruments, working on conducting, working on lesson plans, reading scores, rehearsal techniques, etc.  I am very excited about this class as I think I can offer up some real experience on these topics.  It will be fun to watch these students grow and mature into pre-service teachers.

"Watching these young people grow..." and dream.  Dream big.  We all need big dreams and I am living one right now.  I hope that I can share my passion with these young people and inspire them to dream big.

I am still going through the same thoughts that I would at the beginning of the school year: what does my office need, what is my schedule, how many students will I have, when is lunch (so important!), does my office have a coffee maker (more important than lunch), where are my students from, will they like me, what can I do to build relationships from the beginning....etc.  The only thing missing is "what music are we playing"....which I am bumming about.

I sent my first email to my teacher candidates and told them what a great profession they are entering.  It's hard-physically and emotionally.  I told them to make sure they get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and take some "me" time-all things that I need to remind myself to do on a constant basis.  I AM excited for these young adults and I am very excited to watch them grow.  As educators that is one of the biggest thrills, watching them grow and then watching them take the reigns and we get to let go.