11 years ago this January I was a freshly minted college graduate with my fancy pants degree in Vocal Music Education from the awesome and amazing Northwest Missouri State University. I was ready to take the music education world by storm. I had two suits for concerts and a ink barely dry contract to teach K-12 choral/general music at a small school in southwest Iowa. I was pumped. I was full of assumptions about the kids I was going to teach (church-going, whole milk-drinking farm kids right?) and how I was going to inspire them and we were going to sing amazing music. My assumptions were soon squashed and I grew quickly on my feet. I formed my earliest beliefs about working with ALL children from where they start, not where some curriculum guide tells me they should be. I made shakers out of plastic Easter eggs and wrote my own musical revue. These children taught me so much about life in rural America and the challenges. Our time together was short, but it gave me more lessons than I was ever taught in school.
(First concert as a f/t teacher, spring 2001)
Fast forward 11 years. The years in between took me across the country and back teaching kids and adults about music, opera, and teaching in 5 schools, 3 public and 2 independent. I headed back to school while teaching full-time and earned my M.Ed with aspirations of principalship. I kept teaching and learning, constantly. I joined the blogosphere and the twitterverse and grew a magical PLN. At the end of the day, my assumptions kept getting squashed (you’d think I’d learn by now) and my love for working with children grew more and more. Between year 1 and now I have loosened my need to control a classroom and lessened my need to be the sage. I consider myself “learner-in-chief” in my classroom; a facilitator, not a dictator. Children must be challenged and must be allowed to fail as part of their learning. School is not just about math and reading and science and art, it is about helping shape these precious little humans to take control and responsibility for their own lives. To build safe places to land when they crash and to encourage them to take another swing.
What I know for sure after 11 years is that this is a passion, a calling, not a profession. I know for sure that I must model life-long learning and never be satisfied with the status quo. I know for sure that if I don’t keep asking why and how that my children won’t either. I know for sure that being with these young people is the greatest gift. I know for sure that I must be part of a mission and wrap everything I do around that mission. I know for sure that teaching and learning for this generation cannot be the same as it was for mine or the one before that. I know that change is constant and the more we push against it, the more it hurts our kids. I know for sure that I am a teacher. And just after child of God, it is my favorite title.