When I moved back to my home state of South Carolina after four years of undergrad, I started my first (and so far only!) teaching job. If you had asked me as a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, or even Senior if I wanted to teach middle school chorus, I would have said “ummm, no.” I gave this exact answer to my advising professor when she sat down to meet with my about where I would intern the spring of my senior year.
When Dr. Bowers asked me about my aversion to middle school, I’m pretty sure I responded with something like, “ I just don’t feel like you can do very much with middle school.” She deftly responded with,”Anyone can go in and do a decent job with a high school program, but it takes someone who can really teach to be successful in middle school.” While I wasn’t entirely convinced at that point, I agreed to be placed with a middle school program for my internship with the option to work with the high school program half of the time if I liked.
My first day sealed the deal for me. I didn’t need to split my internship with the high school program, because what I was experiencing was magical.
That first day in the first class during my internship changed 90 % of my perceptions about middle school chorus. (Cue Hallelujah Chorus, angels singing, and the heavens opening wide.) Middle schools students CAN read music, they CAN think independently and abstractly, they CAN perform at high levels, and so much more. We just need to provide that opportunity for them to blossom. I’m still young in my career, and to quote Freddie Mercury, “and bad mistakes, I’ve made a few.” But, I’ve also accomplished some pretty neat things. I’ve found the challenge of engaging middle school students, and encouraging them to perform at high levels is extremely satisfying and rewarding. Sure, I’m not over here doing SSSSSAAAAATTTBBBB music, but one of my favorite comments to hear is: “Wow, those kids are in middle school?”
The Struggle. It's Real.
Like I said, I moved back to my home state of South Carolina immediately after graduating, got married, and landed myself a job teaching a program of 200+ students. While I LOVED my undergrad experience, one of the downsides of immediately moving to a different state is that you have zero connections in the area you actually live and work in. I’ll admit, that was a real struggle for me at first. They tell you in your education classes about the isolation music teachers feel when they are out in the field, but going from being surrounded by like-minded choral directors to being the only person in the building...it’s a little depressing at first.
I’ve since built relationships with colleagues in my state, but initially it was really hard. Putting yourself out there into these pre-established social circles and hierarchies as the outsider is daunting. You simultaneously want to prove yourself and your worth as a professional in the field...while also really just needing someone to be your friend.
Home Blogging to Music Education Blogging
My not-so-secret hobby is home design and renovation. After years of mindlessly watching HGTV, and pinning hundreds of drool- worthy pictures, my husband and I bought our first house. The day after our closing, the first thing I did was knock a hole in our kitchen ceiling, and proceed to rip the entire thing out.
It was summer break...I had loads of time!
For those of you not into the home reno scene, the big thing for DIYers is blogging about their experience with their own homes. It’s the new HGTV. Really. Want to rip out your kitchen ceiling because it drops down an extra foot lower than it needs to? Search your favorite blog, because they’ve probably already attempted drywall and can tell you how to do it. Boom. Here’s the tutorial, right at your fingertips. Want to tile your own kitchen backsplash? There’s definitely a YouTube video for that (more like, days and days of them.)
Back splash tiling in action.
I’ve been thinking for a while now about how great it is that these home bloggers provide all of this information and make it so easily accessible. Not only that, but it sort of feels like your asking a friend for ideas as opposed to consulting a stuffy professional that you might be intimidated to talk to. Very non-threatening. Also, makes you feel like you can do it, too!
Why don't we have outlets like this for music education?
I kept asking myself this question. Pinterest provides some sources, but most searches provide elementary related results. Great for the elementary teachers, but not so much for us Secondary level people. ACDA and Choral Journal has decent resources, but I want to hear from people actually in the trenches day in and day out doing the same job I’m doing. YouTube is a great source for videos of performing choirs….but you just don’t get the process side of things. Like, that choir sounds awesome, but how did they get like that? What does that teacher do to get their students to achieve this level of success? If you have any great resources you check out online, I would love to hear about them!
My goal with this blog is to create and provide this outlet for myself and other music educators. By providing you a little window into my world, I’m hoping to put ideas out there, gain ideas and feedback from you as readers, and to hopefully all grow together as musicians and teachers.
(Cue holding hands and singing Kumbaya. But only if we are gonna do it with the correct technique, because that’s sort of my job.)