Teaching… sigh… what will it be like to teach in 2021?
In just two short weeks, I will start my 21st year as a music educator. As a fresh-faced, college graduate, this point in my career seemed to be light years away… but here we are. I’m now one of the “old people” in the building. In fact, many of my colleagues weren’t even in elementary school when I started out. How did that happen?
I never really thought I would be one of “those” people that would talk about “back in the day when I started teaching” and about how “things are not the way they used to be.” Honestly though, it’s TRUE! Things have become a lot more difficult over time. It’s hard to verbalize the reasons without sounding… I don’t know… whiny?
Teachers are not seen as valuable or essential anymore… music educators even less so. (Choir is absolutely uncool!) The constant use of technology has made students more jaded, less personable, and shortened their attention spans. The expectations placed upon teachers have grown a lot and the lines between work and personal life have been mostly erased. And let’s just say… the bureaucracy of everything makes the job nearly impossible. Add the disaster that has been the last two school years, and well… the job is just breaking my heart.
I can tell you this… teachers are crying in their car at the end of the day. Teachers are seeing therapists and taking medication to get by. Teachers spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling trying to will themselves out of bed. In the past few years, many, many of us have considered whether we should just hang it up and walk away… even those who have spent their life in the classroom. It. Is. Just. Hard.
With all that said… I still feel compelled to go back. I still feel called to be in my classroom. I still feel drawn to give my heart, and everything I’ve got, inside my room every day this year. WHY?!?!?!?!?
For me, teaching has never been about the music. It’s not about winning competitions, earning perfect scores at contest, or receiving accolades from all over the state. It’s not about creating musicians that write the next famous song or who sing in some important group. It’s not about making myself look important.
Music is the vehicle through which I desire to help young people find themselves. I want them to find a passion for music as a way to express their complicated emotions. I want them to sing in a way that frees their soul. I want them to find joy and wonder in song. I want them to gain a spark of confidence from being on stage.
I want my students to see my classroom as a soft place to land. I yearn to help them find a spot where they can just “be.” I guide them to create a family of fellow students that are encouraging and uplifting. I want them to experience things that build treasured memories that will last a lifetime.
Each year, I have two great hopes for my students. First, I hope that they have one moment of beauty that takes their breath away… some sort of musical experience that makes their hair stand on end. The second is that they leave my room feeling seen, heard, and loved beyond measure. That’s a lot to ask, but I try with my whole heart to make that a reality.
THAT is why I am a teacher.