Every time I go out to observe one of our music student teachers, I come away thinking three things…
1. These new music teachers are really, really good. Much better than I was just coming out of school. More musically versatile, more aware of the profession, so passionate about teaching kids about music. In spite of the doom & gloom we hear about education these days, if all the politicians, and ed policy experts, and investment bankers/hedge fund managers/thinky-tank thinkers/charter school CEOs would just get out of their way and let these teachers teach, public education will be just fine, thanks.
2. Our cooperating teachers are great. Generous, kind, open, and willing to share their classrooms with a novice during a time when their own evaluations are more high-stakes than ever before. We are so fortunate to have them as colleagues, and for our students to learn from them. There is no greater gift a master music teacher can give than sharing their expertise, and wisdom, and podium with an eager young teacher who will benefit from all of that knowledge–and then share everything they’ve learned from that master teacher with another generation of students. Thank you, coops.
3. I can’t believe I did that—teaching music in schools—for ten years. It’s sooooooo hard.
Whatever it is that you do for a job, imagine trying to do it in a room full of 60 middle school kids, all of whom need a tissue, to use the bathroom, have a broken instrument, or don’t have a reed, or need a hall pass, or are arriving late, or need to leave early–all at the SAME TIME!–and MUST talk about all of these things with the kids next to them while you’re trying to do your job. And that many of those kids will question every decision you make, often in a less than kind manner—because they’re in middle school—even though they have never done what you’re doing…and so will their parents, and other teachers, and your administrators, even though most of those people never taught music, either.
Then imagine that your friends and family think you’re nuts to go back for a grad degree even though the state doesn’t require it, and won’t pay you any more for having that degree, and you pay your own way to attend professional development conferences, and buy books about teaching, or music, out of your pocket, and bring in supplies to your classroom from home because your budget was gone in October…all because you want your students to have what they need to learn, and you want to be the best teacher you can be. And some days, you feel like you’re the only one that cares about any of this. And then you get up the next day, in the dark, and wear two different colored socks to school, and do it all again. Because you do care.
So if you see a music teacher today, maybe buy them a cup of coffee, or tea, or perhaps something stronger, and give them a hug, and tell them how much you appreciate everything they do for other people’s kids every day. And that you care…about them.