In January, 2017 (the year of release) I started a new adventure as a Substitute Teacher in my local school district. I decided that a Kindergarten class would a great place to start.
Sometimes I wonder how smart I really am.
I made it through the day, but knew Kindergarten teacher was not my forte'! Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade, shoot, even Fifth Grade were more up my alley. I also discovered I liked subbing in Middle School English, Reading, Leadership....and Choir. My favorite job so far, however, was High School Choir. It's my wheelhouse. It's where I come alive and know I'm able to do exactly what needs to be done to help them stay the course and even improve a little bit.
The closest second was Middle School Leadership. I have become a student of leaders over the years, and being able to share with, inspire and invest in leaders of the future was a blessing I thoroughly enjoyed.
The job that has changed my life, though, is the long-term job I held this past Spring of 2018. I was asked to finish the year in an unfilled Music position at a local Elementary school teaching all Kinder classes, Two 2nd grade classes, One 3rd grade class, and a Primary SLC class. I did not expect the crazy lovable students in those classes to crawl in and fill my heart with a desire to go back into the classroom. They did, however, do just that.
These are students who attend a school where transition and trauma are words we use often. These are students whose families experience life very differently than many of you reading this blog. These are students who love life, love to laugh, love to sing/dance/play, but may not always know how to behave "correctly" or how to communicate in such a way that would keep them from getting in trouble. These are students who have no fewer possibilities in front of them than anyone else in this country.....but don't see that in their day-to-day. I started this job on February 20th. With each passing day it became my heart's desire to help them see the possibilities and to encourage their own belief in their ability to make their dreams come true.
So, without a current teaching certificate (I have a lifetime Sub Certificate); having not been a classroom music teacher in 22 years, and having no time spent in Elementary music (except for my Student Teaching time), I decided to apply for the open position that I was currently filling as a Sub.
Sometimes I wonder how smart I really am.
In this case, after an interview that did NOTHING to show my capabilities as an actual teacher (and a sight-singing event of which I am THOROUGHLY embarrassed!), I also wonder how smart the District Admin was. He did, however, have the word of the music teachers I had subbed for in the district that I was honestly capable, and maybe a slight desire to just get the position filled before he handed the reigns of the position over to his replacement upon his retirement in a month's time. I'd like to thank the music teachers in our district who trusted me with their classes and spoke highly of me....because I still think I snuck in by the blinding of truth by angels above!
And now I wonder what on earth I was thinking!
As the new school year looms I find myself sitting in meetings and trainings with people who understand music on a theoretical level that has always been an anomaly to me. I sit with people who thoroughly enjoy the analysis of a composition - that I simply want to perform and bring to its emotional life. I sit with people who have made a life's joy of peeling off the layers of musical composition and teaching students how to do the same. I am intimidated, awkward, and truly in awe of their abilities and understanding.
Also very jealous.
Jealous of their lives that never required them to shut the door on their life's passion. Jealous of their brains that never had a theory professor look at them and wonder how they could possibly think they'd make it as a musician without understanding the underpinnings of a Bartok composition or the disgust of parallel motion. Jealous of their knowledge of all things music and pedagogy and methodology.
So very jealous.
And fearful of whether I really should have been allowed to sneak in under the radar.
Here I sit. Nine days before school is supposed to start (our teacher union and district are in negotiation...it is unclear as to whether we will start on the actual date of August 28th), and my self-doubt is crippling while my personal knowledge of what I have accomplished in a life no one here knows anything about pushes to the forefront and says in true Dowager Countess fashion, "Oh, DO SHUT UP!"
I know I have musical knowledge in line with what I need to have as a classroom music teacher.
I know I have the ability to work with children and help them discover they can be successful in ways they never thought.
I know I am working at a school where I have comrades in arms who are an inspiration to push on regardless of the hard parts.
I know I surprised myself as I went through two weeks of training in the Orff Methods Level 1 with people who are truly accomplished musicians. I kept up for the most part....and I am able to play recorder a lot better than I originally thought I could!
I also know I am in a district with some of the most amazing music teachers who are willing to share their knowledge in the areas I am not familiar with (as in, recorders!).
I have to make that list, as silly as it seems, because, well, let's be honest.....TWENTY TWO YEARS IS A FREAKING LONG TIME!!!!!
So I have decided three things in the midst of this transition:
1) I cannot do anything I am created to do without daily renewal from my Creator, and I have a plan for what the next 4 months at least will look like in keeping my daily quiet time in the forefront. I also have friends who will keep me accountable in what I will do. Brother Lawrence, in his book, "The Practice of the Presence of Christ" has convicted me of the need to remember I am to do all things for the glory of God and God alone. If I receive applause or praise, it is because He has given me the ability to do what I do.
2) I must be kind to myself and be willing to admit what I do not know while being confident in what I do know. The only way I will be successful is to be prepared each week. Therefore, lesson plans will be planned well in advance so as to keep me on track. After seeing "Won't You Be My Neighbor" I want to teach with the motto, "there are many slow moments, but no wasted moments." Reminding myself that silence is truly golden - precious in both renewing of spirit as well as in processing of learning. My students deserve to have a class where they are a priority in the preparation.
3) I MUST take time to enjoy life in real life as well as taking time to see the opportunities for LAUGHTER in the classroom. I am a creative person at heart, and need to make sure I spend time being creative in NON-musical ways as well as in musical. In order to keep my perspective, I have to remember that music is not the end-all-be-all of my life. It is, instead, a GIFT from The End-All-Be-All of my life, and keeping a running list of things I'm grateful for will help that.
And that's that! By next Tuesday I'll have a room put together to welcome the students back; a lesson plan scope and sequence for the entire year; full knowledge of everything I will ever need to know....and.....my students will play this by month's end!
Uuuummmmm.....yeah. No. By next Tuesday I'll be prepared to welcome my students back with a room decorated with them in mind, lessons designed to help them ENJOY the discovery of musicianship, and a grateful heart that I snuck in with no viable reason other than my love of learning, life and music.
I have no doubt I am where I need to be at this moment and am determined to make the best of every moment. I go forth whispering...
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.