So, for the past couple of months, I’ve had the first real holidays I’ve had in probably five plus years, and then kicked into overdrive to prep for the beginning of the year. Lots to talk about.
The summer was fantastic: I haven’t been to the province of Quebec in years, and I’ve certainly never spent this much time there. Too, the last time I was there, I was still in school, so I wasn’t married and my French was not that good. Spending two weeks speaking French a large part of the time was a heck of an experience, and one that I think more people should go through. Not French, necessarily, but immersing themselves into another language and culture. Absolutely fascinating, and I heartily recommend visiting the area of Quebec near the St. Lawrence. It’s stunningly beautiful.
Okay, so: teaching.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of organizing for my new classroom. I have a stellar band room, with a healthy supply of instruments which are decent in quality. I have excellent bosses and great colleague support, so you would think it would be as low-stress an environment as I could ask for. And in many ways it is. Lots of the unprepared jitters that plague people who don’t know where to go for help aren’t present, but of course there’s always something to worry about.
For me, most of it comes down to a personal sense of perfectionism. A band program is something that relies on a sole directing personality much more than many other areas of education. I am the only teacher that will (hopefully) be responsible for the musical education and development for several years. As such, I have a unique opportunity to mold the program and young musicians. This stresses me out a little: I always have that niggling thought in the back of my mind that says “What if they don’t succeed? Or worse, don’t like the program and abandon it?”
I put a lot into my job, from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint, and so such a question has pretty significant implications for my health and happiness. The phenomenon of first-year teachers suffering disillusionment and depression partway into the year is well-documented, and so I need to always be on top of that. The way I try to do that is remember that I’m not doing this to be a well-known, well-reputed conductor or teacher, which I find is a common trap with certain band teachers. The phrase that identifies that is the frequent assertion about “MY program”.
The reason I do this is for students to discover how much they love music, and give them the tools to develop themselves as musicians, artists, and people. I think as long as I’m keeping that forefront in my thoughts, I should be okay.
Anyways, I have some course outlines to write, lessons to plan, and paperwork to look over so that I can do my job as best I can, so I’ll leave this somewhat open-ended and self-indulgent post as is for now. Expect to hear more about the joys and struggles of being a first-year teacher in a band program. Hopefully much more in the joys than struggles department.
“Music is an art form that happens to transcend language” – Herbie Hancock