At this time last year, instead of attending the Kansas Music Educators Conference (KMEA), I was at home recovering from my first chemotherapy infusion. Very surreal to think about! I’m so thankful to be participating in normal life again, and with an improved outlook on life.
However, I think that outlook may be responsible for my increasingly obvious inner chatter and conflict. If you’ve read my last few posts, you know I’m going through an existential crisis right now regarding my career. And I have SUPER HIGH EXPECTATIONS for this weekend, hoping that it will provide some clarity for my next steps. I was halfway through the convention weekend, and I didn’t have any answers, just more questions. That was a rough afternoon, hoping no one would ask me “So how is school going?” for fear of bursting into tears. I’m an expert introvert however. I have strategies for avoiding people when I shouldn’t be interacting…haha.
The rest of the time, it was nice to talk through my issues with a few people. It seems every time I make any big decisions in my life, I’ve always talked with several people and received counsel on how to proceed. And then it all works out. The waters are incredibly murky right now, and I just have to trust that it will clear up. It’s also been helpful to know that others are experiencing a lot of my same struggles.
I have found that one of my primary issues right now is losing my self-confidence as a music teacher. I experience daily negative feedback from my students….complaining, arguing, apathetic attitudes. Being surrounded by great music educators this weekend has reminded me that three of the most important qualities of an effective teacher is:
Being Comfortable in front of your group
I know I have these qualities, but I’ve lost my way. I’m pouring from an empty cup, and struggling to refill it.
As someone’s advice said in the past few weeks, I should explore ways to reinvent myself as a teacher somehow.
Do I try a different type of position?
Do I move to another school? Another school district?
Do I go back to school myself and further my credentials?
Do I choose a path that is less about teaching children and more about supporting teachers?
Do I alter my career path and go out of education altogether?
Or do I do nothing?
This is my 4th year in my current job. Can I see myself staying another 4 years? At one point, I was completely happy and that answer was YES. I saw no limits. I could stay for a long time and be fulfilled and challenged and confident. I think a change of scenery might definitely be in order....maybe.
I watch other teachers and it all seems to come so natural to them. They have addictive personalities that young people are naturally drawn to. They are skilled at making those around them feel at ease and entertained. I went to one session particularly about teaching middle school students, and although very good, her information made me depressed and even more insecure with my teaching. Her topmost pieces of advice were about connecting with your students, creating relationships, etc. Those topics destroy me every time, because I’m terrible at that. And I also argue that it isn’t the topmost important quality of a teacher. It implies that its all about the adult and not about the subject or about the environment you've created. The teacher has to be likable? Do children gravitate towards them? Are they entertaining? Though HELPFUL, I disagree that this is THE THING that creates successful teachers. I've learned valuable lessons, anecdotal or otherwise connected to a grade, from teachers that I did not have a personal connection with. I would argue that it’s actually Happy Teachers that are a more accurate predictor of success. Happy Teachers, valued teachers, are unlocking their potential in themselves and in their students.
And I wonder if I need to steer myself away from the classroom altogether, because I don’t have THE THING. The gravity. I wonder if my strengths could be used in other ways. (See questions above about reinventing myself). I’m not experiencing evidence of my value.
I did finally reach a sigh of relief during the VERY LAST SESSION of the weekend. Turns out that the author of a blog I’ve read before and loved was the clinician in this session. If I had known beforehand, instead of it being a happy accident, I would’ve:
1. Told everyone I know how excited I was for the session.
2. Not have been considering skipping the session and heading home for the weekend an hour early.
3. Not have rushed in 3 minutes late, because I was buying a new music note lanyard.
4. Chosen to sit in the front rows.
5. Had a charged ipad that didn’t quit halfway through the session.
It was REALLY. GOOD. Anthony Mazzocchi: Why Students Quit Their Instrument (and How Parents Can Help), which was actually a session regarding motivation and rigor than anything else! It provided me with more renewal, more ideas, and more relevant information than the whole rest of the convention combined. And never once did it mention connecting with your students and creating relationships. And I left the room feeling better about my teaching than when I entered it, for once.
It lit a fire under Superman, as well. (Who kicked TOTAL BUTT at his session on Protecting Hearing Loss for Teachers and Students. It really was amazing. His collaborators were well organized, engaging, funny – cracking jokes left and right, and informative. He’s a natural. He has THE THING.) We started brainstorming ideas to co-author a book. And I think its perfect. With our individual strengths and experiences throughout the years, we could create something really awesome, and on a topic so incredibly relevant to teachers. #health #happiness #classroomenvironment
So, back to work on Monday, and I will be celebrating the LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY. I consider this the closing days of winter. Although presenting its obvious challenges to me, I am expressing intense gratitude for this year's winter. It has been a time of INTENSE reflection, self-awareness, conservation, and hibernation (although inflaming my existential career crisis). I know I will come through this spring a better, happier, more fulfilled person, with purpose and drive for better things (when I figure out what those things are).