Friday, February 15, 2013

Year 3: Week 21 – Starting All Over Again

My high school orchestra teacher told me that her favorite film about teaching was Music Of The Heart. It wasn’t because of the climax of the film when she gets her students to perform on the stage of Carnegie Hall. It was the ending. After the concert, all of the applause and fanfare, the violin teacher played by Meryl Streep is working with a beginning student teaching them the basics of how to hold a violin.

Yesterday my 6th grade band did an awesome presentation. They played really well and spoke well as they shared their experiences in band this year with the audience.  There was a great feeling of pride and accomplishment within the band.

As soon as we were done cleaning up, I rushed to a 3rd grade class and proceeded to teach them their first song on the recorder, “Hot Cross Buns.” I almost felt like I had an out of body experience as I was teaching. Many of these 3rd graders in a couple years were going to be doing that 6th grade band presentation and here I was starting them out with their first song.

I tell people that even if you teach the same song every day, the different groups of students make the teaching process unique and interesting. While that’s mostly true, as the cycle of the year goes on, you don’t make “progress,” in the traditional sense.

When you teach 5th graders at the beginning of the year and watch them grow and when they leave you, they are very different students.  But then the next fall, when you walk into your 5th grade class, with a whole new batch, you start all over.

Sometimes this is really exciting to get to revisit lessons and try new things. At the same time, teaching has the potential to become stale and feel like drudgery. When we can’t find excitement in starting all over again, that’s when teachers start to slip.

One of the ways that we can stay fresh and motivated is by changing up our curriculum. Unfortunately many teachers do not have this freedom so all you can do when you are asked to teach curriculum that is not engaging to you are the students year after year, is to get excited about getting to know the students.

If the idea of teaching the same book, or the same song for twenty years sounds horrible, don’t be a teacher, because for many teachers, that’s the gig. But if that doesn’t seem so bad, as long as you get the chance to get to know and work with a new class every year, than you might make it as a teacher.

At first I felt a little ridiculous teaching "Hot Cross Buns," but as I saw how interested my 3rd graders were about the song wanting to practice it and find out what hot cross buns actually were, I got excited.  Then I got to work, smiling as I moved around the room helping students amidst the cacophony.  

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