When I began my career as a music education student at Rowan University, I immediately became involved in our chapter of NAfME (MENC at the time) Collegiate. One of the biggest contributions that our chapter makes to the local music education community is our involvement in local all-state and region honor band auditions. At one of these auditions, I was put in charge of the student registration table along with a veteran music teacher. We began talking, and I asked him, “So, how do you like teaching in your district?”
“1,093 days until I can retire, but who’s counting?”
My shock and horror must have shown on my face, because the “teacher” assured me that he was like me, once. Young, full of hope and passion towards music and music education, ready to change the world. So what changed? When did this former educator (and I say “former” because he cannot possibly be considered a true educator) lose his passion, his joy, his hope for his students? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want that to ever happen to me.
So how do we avoid it? How do we maintain what amounts almost to an obsessive interest in our students and their musical well-being? I know sometimes it’s tough for me to even muster up enough energy to go to class. I can definitely understand how teaching wears at a person, little by little, over the course of 30 or 40 years. I think to avoid ending up like the person mentioned above, there’s a few proactive steps we as pre-service educators can take.
1) Take Steps to Remember Why You Love Music – As an instrumentalist, I never really was really involved in choir. I joined the men’s chorus at Rowan last semester, and I don’t know when I’ve ever had more fun! It’s a way to make music with absolutely no pressure. It’s not a job, it’s not something you take a jury on. I think everyone needs the opportunity to make music in a fun, low-pressure environment. I have friends in rock bands, friends who do musical theater. One of my friends is even in a handbell choir! The point is, most of us got into this field because we love making music. We need to maintain that passion.
2) Have a Life Outside of the Classroom – When I leave the music building at Rowan, I leave pretty much everything about my ‘music’ life there, as well. I’ll go home, make dinner, watch a movie, read a book. I try my best to NOT take schoolwork home with me. I love what I do, but I don’t want it to creep into every aspect of my life. I’ll just resent it being there, after a while.
3) Change Up Your Routine – Try something new. Learn about an aspect of music or teaching you didn’t know about before, come up with a new way to teach a lesson. From a non-teaching standpoint, read a new book. Go hang-gliding. Keep the excitement in your life alive. This excitement will carry over into life at school!
The scary thing is, you usually don’t know when you’re becoming one of “those teachers” until it’s too late. I hope it never happens to me (or any of you!). Here’s hoping that seeing my students each morning is always the best part of my day.
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