I am struggling with a lot of emotions as I’m in my last days of Summer vacation. It has been a fantastic summer. I have been at home with my two little boys and while there have been some challenging days, I have loved it. My oldest has so much to say and his imagination has kept us plenty busy as we run from dinosaurs and fight off pirates. My youngest started walking at the end of May and that alone made the summer even more adventurous. I enjoyed improvement projects around the house, read some good books, and was thrilled to finally start this blog, something I had wanted to do for years. As I think about how much I am enjoying my outings with the boys and our relaxed routine around the house, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the motivation for a new school year. I don’t know that I am ready! On the other hand, I find myself getting excited as I start to think of all that the new year holds for me. As the time gets closer to go back, I do find myself looking forward to the fall, and the reasons each year seem to be the same:
- A clean slate. I love having the opportunity to start fresh in my classroom each year. I can implement new procedures, new routines, and a new classroom setup. Last spring, I started to write down everything that was not going smoothly in my classroom, and I have spent a lot of time over the summer researching and brainstorming ways to fix those problems. I am so thankful for the opportunity to make changes each year to create a better classroom environment for myself and my students. I am glad that I can have the chance to improve from year to year. I have the chance to eliminate last year’s problem areas before the kids even arrive to my classroom. And I can start the year with everything beautifully organized! My grade book will be so neat and tidy, every piece of paper will have its place, and my office will be spotless. While I know these things are temporary, it’s a nice feeling while it lasts.
- New students. I always look forward to meeting the new students who choose to join Chorus. Hopefully, each of these students joined Chorus because they wanted to, and I want to make it the best experience possible for them. I was really reminded last year how much I as their teacher determine their love for the class. While I don’t like to think of myself as the center of the classroom, I’m afraid I am. I have met too many students (and adults!) who told me how they quit their music lessons or ensemble involvement because they didn’t like their teacher. That is a lot of pressure! It doesn’t matter how great the music I pick is or how many friends they have in the class. If they don’t have a good relationship with me, they will not stick around. How do I make our relationship a positive one? Show them I care. Get to know each student. Greet them at the door by name, talk to them about their other classes, and work with them individually. Then, the next crucial step in keeping those students involved is…
- Being the Entertainment. I teach on block scheduling. My students’ attention spans are about 25 minutes long, which means not only do I have to show them I care about them to keep them engaged, but I have to be a bit of an entertainer on the podium. I have to make sure the kids are having fun and I have to let them see me having fun. My colleagues and I have talked about this often, describing how sometimes our silly behavior in front of the class is so out of character for us. But if it keeps the students focused, we will do it. No matter how ridiculous we look. But if I’m honest with myself, I have a lot of fun being their entertainment. I like cracking nerdy jokes just to see the students roll their eyes at me. I like to run from the soprano section down to the alto section shouting for more emotion in the music as they rehearse their concert music for the eight thousandth time. I suppose it’s the performer in me. And when I look back at my high school choral experience, I remember how much fun my director made it. He was witty and downright silly sometimes, but we ate it up. He was one of the greatest influences in my choice to become a high school choral director.
- Making music every day. My boys love music. It makes my heart so happy to see them playing with their toy instruments and singing their favorite Disney tunes. Every week this summer, the boys and I have had “band practice.” We alternate between drums, guitars, and a microphone, and I know you’re all anxiously awaiting our debut album. However, anytime we add a piano to the mix–my own instrument–things go south. Whenever I try to sit at the piano, my two year old promptly jumps on the bench next to me and begins banging away. I have not found a way around this, either. If I am near the piano, he has to be a part of the performance. It is rather endearing, but at some point I need the chance to work on some real music. I’m looking forward to being back in my classroom with my baby grand piano and having a group of singers ready to tackle new challenges. I still marvel at the notion that my job is to make music with young people on a daily basis and I take a paycheck home for it. God is good! Which leads me to my final reason…
- The feeling of gratitude. I am sure that I am quick to share my frustrations and disappointments to those around me when things are not going smoothly at work, but through it all I am truly grateful for my job. I love the feeling of pride I have when I walk the halls of my school, knowing that I am a part of a fantastic community of teachers and students. I really do love where God has placed me. I am thankful to be in a school system that recognizes the importance of music. I believe that the arts are essential in every child’s education, at every age. My class is not an extracurricular club or a “filler” class. I have a tremendous responsibility! I am teaching my students music history and theory. I am teaching listening skills. I am teaching them how to use their voices correctly in singing and in speaking, something they will use for the rest of their lives. I am teaching them how to be a performer as well as good audience members, and how to work with well with others. I am teaching them about other cultures through world music, and I am relating our music to every other subject area of their school day. I am grateful for the opportunity to reach students through music, and always will be.
I am praying now for my students and for my colleagues as we prepare for a new school year. I am also praying that God comforts my heart as it aches to be with my sweet little boys all the time. I know I am incredibly blessed to have the time off to regroup and be with family, but it’s still hard to spend so much time away from them throughout the year. They are pretty special. I hope one day they will have music teachers that are passionate and dedicated. Hopefully one day they will sit in my classroom, and together we will have an incredible school year.
Friends, I hope this school year is your best yet!