Friday, December 18, 2015

Year 6: Week 16 – The Hardest Day Of The Year

One of my fellow music teachers asked me if yesterday was stressful. In the morning, we had our JK-5 Holiday assembly and in the evening we had our middle school and high school winter concert. I teach 3rd and 5th grade general music and 6th and 8th grade band, so I was involved in both concerts. In addition as one of the department chairs, I had responsibilities to organize and run these concerts.

I wasn’t completely truthful when I told this teacher what I’ve been telling other faculty and administrators all week, “it’s not so bad, it’s just another day.”

Philosophically, I strongly believe that yesterday wasn’t any more important that any other day that I teach. The meaning of music education, the true learning happens every day in the classroom. Performances are opportunities for students to share what they learn and get validation from people in the community. While these experiences can be meaningful and memorable, adding important layers of motivation for some students, they are not an end point but only one part in the process of learning.

If you deemphasize the importance of a performance than your stress level should go down. It does help. Having conducted groups in schools that put a lot of stress on the performances and results from competitions, there is less stress in my current school’s philosophy of music education. However that doesn’t mean that all of the stress goes away.

The performance of the students represents their developmental level and their learning. If a kindergarten student forgets lyrics on stage or a middle school band student plays a couple notes out of tune, it’s not a big deal. It’s what we expect to happen. However the organization, structure and overall experience of these performances are a reflection of our level of professionalism as teachers.

This means that we have clear directions for kids that other teachers can help support and well planned transitions. It’s about having enough programs copied for parents and making sure that we enable our students value the audiences’ time and attention.

In many ways, this is the piece of the puzzle that caused me the most stress. I don’t see stress as a bad thing as long as it helps me focus on tasks. Even with this attitude and my philosophical perspective, truthfully yesterday is one of the hardest days in the year for me.

In the midst of everything going on yesterday, I had the though flash in my head, “would I rather not deal with this day of craziness every year?” And I quickly moved that thought to the side and dived back into what needed to be done.

Hard isn’t bad and neither is stress. Because the kind of challenges I dealt with yesterday, I didn’t deal with alone. I had my department who had my back and the administration and other faculty were constantly asking me what they could to help. These were difficult but manageable. But what makes me embrace yesterday more than anything else is knowing that all of challenges of that day come from a desire to innovate, and create something special for our community. It’s the same motivation we have every day, it’s just cranked up a couple notches because there are more moving pieces.

Yesterday went really well.  A lot of things went really well and one of the best signs of success was how all of us as music teachers were inspired by the work we did yesterday for our work in the future.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes, it is a stressful day, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

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