I have been excited about this year for a while now for a number of reasons. First of all, this is the first time in my entire teaching career that I will be at a school for four years. In the past, we have had to move within the first three years. The second reason is that all of the students at my school have been with me since their freshman year. This makes a HUGE difference and I am loving the culture and attitudes of this program. Finally, this may be my last year of public school teaching before I move into higher education. I need this year to be the best ever so that I will look back fondly on my last year of public school teaching. So, I have done everything I can to ensure that this fourth year at Annandale High School will become my BEST YEAR EVER!!!
One of the best things about FINALLY getting to the fourth year of teaching in ONE school with ONE community and ONE team is that you really get to know how things work, who to run to for answers, and how to get what you want and need.
The performing arts team at my school is incredible this year and I think a large part of that is that three of us have been able to work together for the past four years. We know each other so much better and have gotten much closer through the years. I have never had this experience and I am really enjoying it! I also have gained so much credibility within the Annandale community with both the teachers at my school, and at my feeder schools. I am at the point with my future students (at the feeder schools) where they pretty much all know me and recognize me. One of my favorite things in the world is when I see a kid out and about and they freak out. “You’re that teacher from Annandale, right???” and then they proceed to sing songs that we played for them. It is one of the coolest things in the world! This brings me to my next point… I have seen a massive change in the culture of the Annandale Orchestra Pyramid over the past four years. A change for the better and one that I am incredibly proud to have been part of.
One of the best things that has happened this year happened after school at a sight reading session. I had a massive stack of sheet music from ASTA that I needed to review. I decided that it would be best if we could sight-read this music together so that I could get feedback from my students on what they liked and what they didn’t. This session included students from two of my orchestras: my “top” group and the group just a bit younger than them. What was so amazing about this was that there was no ego at all from the “top” group. You would have thought that these students had played together for years and years! There was no arguing about seating, or violin 1 or violin 2, everyone was just happy to be making music. That in and of itself was incredible for me. I have always despised the attitude that often accompanies the “top” group and have made it my mission to have a passionate, humble, and inviting “top” group. I think I am now seeing this!
The music was easier than the music my students normally play, so they were considering younger groups (both at AHS and at our feeder schools). I was amazed at their ability to consider other ensembles for this music. They were so well aware of the abilities and preferences of the groups. One of the pieces was really repetitive and was at the level of one of our high school groups, but my students pointed out that the style would have fit the middle schools much better than my high school students. They were aware that even though the level might have been appropriate for high school students, it did not match their style and preferences. I was also impressed with their ability to point out moments that might trick up younger groups, even though they weren’t tricky for them! I have worked to set up tutoring at the feeder schools and my students interact with the feeder schools on a regular basis. In this reading session, I was seeing how much my students have improved with their teaching and understanding of how the younger groups might work!
Additionally, my students were playing everything expressively without me even asking. They were playing exactly the way I have been teaching them to play: vibrato before they enter a piano passage, slight crescendos on long notes to keep them moving, increased speed on vibrato for long notes on crescendos, and the most beautiful phrasing, WHILE SIGHT-READING! I teared up hearing how seriously they were taking the sight-reading and could not believe how much they have grown. They listened to me! All of these years, they have been listening and are communicating a story without my help. It was perhaps the most beautiful thing I have experienced as an educator. It is so important that I remember these experiences. I cannot wait to share these kinds of experiences with my own Music Ed Majors sometime soon!
I am so happy that this year has brought so much joy to me! I feel like so many college professors have entered into higher ed simply to get out of the classroom.
What a shame this is! This means that we often hear about all of the negative aspects of teaching public schools and there is often an unrealistic view of teaching that may deter future music teachers from staying in our field. I am so happy that I will have a wealth of phenomenal experiences so that I can genuinely encourage students to pursue music education as a future. I can be so much more genuine and honest about the joys of teaching music and can guide future music teachers to follow a similar path so that they can have similar experiences. My future is so bright and I am so pleased with my time in the classroom. I know that I am going to miss this so much, so I am determined to continue working with students for my entire career as a professor.
When I move into higher ed, I will spend each summer working with students from public schools. I will start a summer camp that is insanely cheap so that any student, ANY STUDENT, can join my camp. I will do everything I can to ensure that my summer camp students have access to a decent instrument. Perhaps I will even be able to get an instrument for each of these students to keep. Perhaps once they complete my camp, they will be “gifted” that instrument so that they can make music forever more! I will use this camp to stay relevant and maintain an understanding of students and to give my own music ed students experiences. I will treat this in a similar way that I have treated my Future Music Educators Camp. I will scaffold their experiences with students so that they are given the best chance at success!
So, to finally close out this insanely long blog post… I am so grateful to have had these experiences. I am now ready to move to the next phase of my career. I cannot imagine a better way to transition into my future!