- September 10, 2018 at 12:20 pm #577920
I just began my fourth year of teaching, and I’m already fighting a sinking feeling of apathy. I teach in a low-income high school, and I have a myriad of courses. I love Music Theory and my Chamber Singers, but I am consistently discouraged by the Mixed Chorus class. It is often treated as a dumping group by the guidance department, and whenever I inform guidance that students who choose not to sing will fail, they shrug their shoulders and look away. They don’t seem to understand that a student not participating doesn’t only affect that student, but rather the ensemble as a whole. I don’t know how to get myself up for the class if administration seems to not care whether or not the class succeeds. Furthermore, my school operates on a 4×4 block schedule, so my ensembles usually have a 60-70% turnover halfway through the school year. I just constantly feel unsettled in my current role, and it has caused me to consider careers outside of education. I love my students, and there are days where I wouldn’t trade this job for the world. However, I feel that those days are recently few and far between. Any advice or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.September 11, 2018 at 5:30 am #578052
Michael A. GrayParticipant
I don’t think anyone can blame you if you decide to look for another position with proper support. Changing opinions of closed-minded people is beyond the powers of many a choirmaster and there is no shame in pulling up stakes and looking elsewhere. Doing otherwise may be very painful and draining.
That said, if you decide to stay remember that your kids (each and every one) really do need you and what you can offer through music is unlike any experience they will ever have. You are a professional and you know exactly what you can do to get it across to them. Maybe read Martin Seligman’s “Learned Optimism.” Maybe play Beethoven every morning on the way to school. Maybe take a minute right after roll to gaze around at your individuals and remember that they are not just “they.” Maybe look for music that is fun, exciting, and unique (as opposed to what you get off of the radio). Maybe you’ll look for great teachers on your campus and spend time with them during lunch. Maybe you’ll combine your “good” group with your “sub-optimal” group. Maybe you’ll get parents involved.
Maybe you’ll get real lucky on your worst days and receive a gift from one of your students that is nothing more than a beautiful little mirror with the inscription “This is what we see when we see you.” After all these decades, I still have it and look at it every morning. Maybe today, we’ll learn the melody from the “Ode to Joy.”
Hope that helps!
Michael A. Gray
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