Friday, October 23, 2015

Year 6: Week 8 - Ghosts Of Kids Who Quit

I see them in the hallways. They say “hello” to me in the lunchroom. Like a ghost whose spirit is not at rest, when I least expect it, I’m reminded that while I’m through with them as their teacher, the memory of how I taught them is not through with me.

These are the students who put their hope in me, embraced the experience of learning an instrument and then later said no. These are my band students who quit.

Like other teachers, music teachers put their heart and soul into what they do. It is such a difficult thing to teach students how to play instruments. We see so much growth, so quickly. We teach for the present but we also try to prepare students for a future in music. So when they quit, it can be hard not to take it personally.

I still remember how horrible I felt when my first two students quit on me. It was during the first month of teaching high school band. This school was enormous and I was given the two lower 10-12 grade bands (there were a total of five 10-12 grade bands). Two seniors approached my department chair with a class drop slip and after they cleared it with him, I was informed that these two kids were quitting band.

I was completely caught off guard and I know that I was doing the best I could with a difficult job but I really wish that I could have done better for these two guys. Maybe it didn’t have as much to do with me as I thought at the time, but I’ll never really know and that’s what is so difficult about kids quitting.

Sometimes you know the reasons and sometimes you don’t. Even when you think you know, it doesn’t stop your brain from thinking about what you could have done better. Over time, you learn to let these thoughts go. The longer I teach the more easily I get over it but there’s a sting, a feeling of failure that lessens in intensity but never leave you when you see that kid in the hallway or think about them.

The amazing thing is that all of the band students who quit are really warm and nice to me after they leave. The ones who aren’t and give me a little attitude are clearly looking for me to affirm that I still value them, which I do. These students compliment their ex-band mates after performance, they share with me good memories they remember from band and sometimes they even tell me how they regret quitting and much they miss band.

Not all ghost are bad, and sometimes in life all you need to do to find the positive is to look outside of yourself. Yes, they quit band, but that one fact only defines your memory of that student and how you feel about them as much as you allow it too.

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