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.

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