Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Being A Music Teacher Has Taught Me

I have never felt such mixed emotions as I do today. Today was my last day as a high school music teacher. Today ends a wonderful chapter in my life, and also begins a brand new one. Today, I begin my life as a stay at home mom.

When Trent and I found out about our pregnancy with this current baby, we had to make the very difficult decision of whether or not I would return to work. After a spending a lot of time in prayer, discussion, weighing pros and cons, and a significant amount of tears on my end, we decided it would be the best decision for our family if I became a stay at home mom.

Today I'd like to reflect on the lessons I have learned being a music teacher. As with any career, there have been highs and lows, good times and bad times. There have been times when I came home thinking I was the worst teacher who ever lived, and other times when I have felt that I truly made a positive difference in someone's life. I have shed tears of sorrow, anger, joy, and wonder. Through my job as a music teacher, I have felt God's presence in a way that I never knew possible. I have lost friends through sickness and death, but gained wonderful new friends as well. It has been a crazy ride, and looking back, I am thankful for every moment.

 Lesson 1: You won't please everyone, but you WILL make a difference in someone's life.
My students are like my children. I am with them almost every day, and as a music teacher, I have the same students year after year. I see them when they enter as freshman, and watch them grow through their senior year. I get to know their personalities in a way that many other teachers do not. I have always felt gratitude for this part of my job. As with any job, though, I quickly learned that I could not focus on the negatives. It was very hard for me to realize that not everyone will like me or enjoy being in my class. But that's okay. As many times as I felt frustrated when I could not reach a particular student, there were more times when I had a positive influence on another student's life. And that, my friends, is the best feeling in the world.

Lesson 2: You will learn more than you will teach.
I am a teacher, which means that I am a student. I teach my students how to be musicians, but more often than that, they teach me how to live life. I went through some of my most difficult times of my personal life while teaching, and I tried to be strong through those times. Often, though, I could not stay strong. I realized that my students can support and help me. They really do care, and they want to help. They have humbled me, and through them, I have learned that it's okay to let my guard down sometimes. They have taught me to find wonder in the small things. To get excited about every day. That it's possible to find joy in even the most menial tasks.

Trent helping me set up my
classroom the summer before
I started my job
Lesson 3: Music can be a release for even the most academically challenged student
I loved teaching music because I got to see students thrive who might have been severely struggling in all their other classes. Most of my students were in my classes because they wanted to be there. It was something different from the rest of their day because they were able to express themselves in a way that didn't only involve words or writing. They were pushed to take risks, because it can be intimidating and even terrifying to open yourself up in this way in front of your peers. Music creates a bond like no other, and we were a family. Most of them felt at home in the music room, which was the same way I felt when I took music classes in school.

Lesson 4: Actions speak louder than words
Being a teacher has made me more aware of how I act in front of my students and in my life outside school. If I am constantly focusing on negatives, either about the music or life in general, they will follow suit. Even more so, I can talk the talk all I want, but it's not going to impress anyone. What I needed to do was walk the walk. When I live my life according to what I tell them they should do, they listen. When I don't, they notice, and it affects their outlook in my class and in their lives. This applies to all areas of our lives, and is really difficult to do. But it does make all the difference.

My favorite classroom poster EVER.
I hung it up during my first year but sadly it got lost somewhere in my second year.

Lesson 5: Growin' up is hard to do
It's very easy for me to get irritated or annoyed with a student (or anyone, really) who doesn't cooperate. But sometimes, I was so focused on what I needed to get done that day that I forgot my students have lives outside of my classroom. And some of them are going through very difficult times. We must realize this, not just in the classroom, but everywhere. We encounter people who may not treat us nicely, but we should remember that we don't know everything about their lives and perhaps they are going through a really difficult time. Not that this an excuse to treat people badly, but it still is something we should consider when dealing with others.

Elizabeth loved going to my concerts.
You can see here she is too busy haming
it up to pay attention to the music.
I am so sad to be leaving this wonderful school and my amazing students. I will never forget my time there, what I have learned, and all the friendships I have made. Today, I start a new part of my life. I will still be a full time teacher, but now, my children are my students. My house will be my classroom. My kitchen will be my cafeteria. My yard will be my playground. And I know that, just like when I taught high school, I will learn from my children just as much as they will learn from me. I will have days when I feel like I am the worst parent in the world, and I will have days when I am on top of the world. Sometimes my children will think I am the meanest person ever, and sometimes they will think I am the greatest. I will need to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. I will make new friendships, and cherish old ones.

Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this new phase of my life! And, as always, words of advice and/or encouragement are always appreciated :-)

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