When things get tough, it's easy to start wondering why we work so hard to (seemingly) accomplish so little. Colleagues and administrators question the importance of music as a subject or doubt your validity as a "real" teacher, students blow off your class or treat you with disrespect, or you find out that you're supposed to have your kindergarteners ready to perform a concert in two weeks, but they'll be taking a standardized test during the next two music classes (by the way, you're in charge of proctoring the exam so the homeroom teachers can have their planning time)... So let's stop for a minute a breath- let me tell you how I got started as a music teacher.
I've said a few times on this blog that I am a teacher first and musician second, and that's true. When I was in high school, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn't settle on music until my senior year. That doesn't mean I didn't always know I would keep music in my life. I moved around a lot as a child. When I was in 3rd grade, my family moved (back) to Japan and threw me into the local public school. All I knew how to say was my name and birth date. Long story short, music quickly became my favorite class in those first few months while I struggled to (re-)learn the language. I could communicate, I could participate- I felt I was a member of that classroom community when we made music together. I've never been much of a performer- I cried after pretty much every recital, even in college- but I knew teaching music was my passion when I had my first experience teaching a group of kindergarteners as part of my practicum hours. Seeing their faces as they sang, listened to music, and danced, even those students who didn't speak much English or were timid when I walked in, I was hooked.
Remembering the difference my class can make in kids' lives is what keeps me going. I believe strongly in the power of music class to bring all students together into community with each other. I've seen it happen over and over again: students who feel like they're different or weird, who don't speak English, who are too shy to talk at school, who struggle in every other subject area, come into music class and find their place. Do my students always behave like little angels and leave my class smiling every time? Absolutely not. But just when I start thinking I must be the worst teacher in the world, nobody appreciates the work I do, and my students have all decided they hate music, something happens to remind me that what I do is life-changing for so many students.
A few practical things that keep me going too: getting enough sleep, creating a long-range plan ahead of time to make lesson planning easier, staying hydrated, enjoying music outside of school (listening to the radio in the car, playing at my church etc), and sitting down to eat lunch and talk with colleagues. I don't think I fully appreciated the importance of sleep and hydration until I had newborn twins and found out what it's like when you are severely lacking in both. I used to eat lunch in my classroom most of the time while I rushed around checking emails and setting up for my next class, but I've found that taking a few minutes to have an adult conversation and actually eat my food makes a huge difference in my stamina! You can read more about how I do my long-range planning in this blog post (I believe so strongly in the benefits of doing this!), and I think enjoying music outside of school helps me remember the joy of music, and what I hope my students will learn from me!
Music class made a huge difference in my life. It has the power to make students of all walks of life feel safe and included, and gives students with no other voice a chance to express themselves. I'm teaming up with some other music education bloggers to spread the love this week, and I'd love for you to join in! I know many of you are stressed right now for a lot of reasons, so we want to encourage music teachers to remember why we do what we do. To sweeten the pot, we're hosting a giveaway too, full of goodies that will make your life easier or bring a smile to your face.
You can enter the giveaway (and help spread the love) two ways: commenting on our blog posts (links in the giveaway below) all week- there will be one or two of us posting each day- and sharing your own inspiration on social media with the hashtag #whyiteachmusic. Don't forget to include a link to this blog post so others can enter the giveaway too! You can share every day until Monday 11/21 and earn more entries (and spread more positivity)!
Each of us is giving away something different, so there will be plenty of winners! My prize is a copy of my concert and performance planner (if you win and you already own it, you can choose something else of similar value from my store). Having these organizers has made concert season so much less stressful for me, and I hope it makes these next few months a little bit easier for you as well! Click on the picture below if you want to see what it is.
Good luck! I can't wait to read your own stories of why YOU teach music- thanks for helping us encourage each other as music teachers this week! Find links to the other blogs sharing their #whyiteachmusic below as they are published (you'll also find links listed in the giveaway entries):
a Rafflecopter giveaway
O for Tuna Orff
Music with Mrs. Tanenblatt
Floating Down the River
Sing to Kids
Sing Play Creatively
Music Teaching and Parenting
Sally's Sea of Songs