Thank You for the Music

I’ve been absent from blogging lately, and from my #oklaed community. A combination of things in work and life in general have demanded most of my time and energy. Still, I have always found it difficult to back away from a challenge. So, on this Thanksgiving Eve, I find myself pausing from the typical preparations to reflect on the many ways in which I am blessed, some of which are the result of my calling in education.

 

As a teacher, I am thankful for many things today. I’m thankful I go to a job I love every day. I’m thankful for the students I find there, willing and eager to learn. I’m thankful for supportive administrators. One took time from her busy schedule to sell hat passes yesterday to help the music department raise funds for all-state. One listened to me vent for an hour in her office last week. I’m thankful for the parents who support our program in a variety of ways—like driving to Okarche on Monday morning to pick up 280 dozen cinnamon rolls for delivery.

 

Are you seeing a theme here? What I’m thankful for most in education are the people.

 

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times why I chose to go into the teaching field in music instead of performance. For me, it was never a choice. I like music. I’m good at it. I enjoyed more than my fair share of accolades in that arena.

 

I like music. But I love people.

 

Those two things are at the heart of my calling to teaching. The desire to pursue a performance career was never as strong as the desire to know and help people. And I am thankful for the many people I’ve come to know and love through my teaching.

 

I began my teaching career over ten years ago at Choctaw High School. I’m still in touch with several of my students from my three years there. Two of them are married to each other, and operate a very successful photography business now. I called on them a few years ago to take pictures of my choirs for the yearbook. One of my Choctaw kids File Nov 25, 2 31 23 PMchoreographs my show choirs and musicals. She just got engaged, and my husband will officiate the service for her wedding next year. At some point, she ceased being “my student” and began being my “colleague”, and more importantly, my friend. While at Choctaw, one of my most important professional relationships emerged. File Nov 25, 2 32 49 PMThe theater teacher there is still a close friend, and one with whom I correspond frequently on school and personal matters.

 

 

 

I began the vocal music program at a new school in my home district of Moore. The group you see pictured here is a special group of kids for me. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to teach and mentor most of these young people for three or four years. File Nov 24, 6 10 49 PMOne young lady sent me a “save-the-date” for her wedding next year. File Nov 25, 2 46 36 PMSome are already married, and a few are new parents.   One is in his second year of missionary work. One is studying vocal performance at one of the most competitive fine arts programs in the state and gave her junior recital last week.   One posts videos of her band on occasion. She’s a part of the ACM at UCO—one of at least two of my former students currently in that program. I bumped into another student last week at church—she’s singing in the choir there.

Some of them are graduating from college this year. I know one will be a nurse. One is completing a degree in music therapy and hopes to fulfill her dream of working with special needs children.

Two are student teaching next semester, and will graduate with degrees in music education. I don’t know if they will stay in Oklahoma to start their teaching careers, but isn’t it pretty to think so?

 

I spent only one year in Tecumseh, but I keep up with several of those kids and a few of their parents on facebook. I was also fortunate to work for a gifted administrator there, and I learned a lot about leadership from him. Even just one year in this world is enough time to forge relationships that stay with us forever. And as I look to the future in my new home at Carl Albert High School, I see those connections already forming.

 

I could go on and on and on about the kids I’ve taught. About how they’re “my” kids, then, now, and forever. I am grateful they give me the opportunity to live out my calling through them. I am flattered when they look to me as a mentor. I’m blown away when they choose to follow me into this crazy, rollercoaster world of education.

 

I’m grateful for the music. Make no mistake. But most of all, I’m thankful for the people who give the music to me.

 

 

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Nothing [New] to See Here…

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately. A combination of being busy at home, busier at work, while nursing chronic bronchitis has left me with little energy for reading the blogs I normally follow, let along contributing to my own.

But something that landed in my twitter feed tonight, (thanks @meganloyd) has prompted me to dust off the keyboard.

For months, teachers, administrators, and education advocates have been lamenting the shortage of teachers in our state. Even with a record number of emergency certifications, we began the school year with more than a thousand classrooms teacher-less. Considering the fact that class size mandates have been suspended, the shortage is probably more severe than we think. A colleague of mine began the year with 35 kindergarteners in her classroom.   35!!! I’d say we’re short a teacher there for sure, wouldn’t you?

How do we attract more teachers to Oklahoma, and keep the ones we have? Apparently, the solution has been right in front of our noses all along:

Pay them more.

Last week, I worked 12-16 hour days 4 out of 5 days in a row. So perhaps it’s my own exhaustion to blame for my reaction to this news:

Well…duh.  

Are there really people who don’t know this? Is there anybody out there who, upon finding out that Texas pays starting teachers nearly 20K more than Oklahoma, is surprised to hear our education graduates are crossing the border? Are we really surprised we can’t find anybody who wants to pay tens of thousands for a college degree and then enter a profession where they qualify for WIC, Soonercare, and childcare subsidies (and sometimes depend upon them to make ends meet)? We’ve been somewhere at or near the bottom in teacher pay for some time. Apparently, we’ve been paying our teachers at about 80% the going rate for decades. Are we seriously going to throw our hands up in the air and say we didn’t see this coming?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, here are some other known facts you might be surprised to learn:

  1. Smoking causes cancer. Inhaling a chemical fire and vomiting ash is apparently bad for you. I know. Who knew, right? Hopefully anybody who has ever read the surgeon general’s warning on a pack of cigarettes. And everybody else on the planet.
  2. Wearing your seatbelt increases your chances of surviving an automobile accident. An object (your body) in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force (a restraining device…like a seatbelt). Actually, some kids might not know this since we can’t find any physics teachers!
  3. A healthy diet and exercise is good for your body. Sorry to squash any dreams of living on funyuns and mountain dew while binge-watching countless television shows on streaming apps.

Are we really going to continue to justify not paying teachers a living wage by saying they’re “in it for the outcome, not the income”? Are there really individuals who believe this isn’t about the bottom line? Sure…it’s also about respect. Start with a healthy raise, and let’s see how many teachers are willing to stick around a while longer to fight high stakes testing, inequitable evaluations, and the voucher wolves. Have we really become a society willing to pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but want the bargain basement deal when it comes to securing the individuals who will spend more than a thousand hours with our children every year?

Here’s a fourth to add to the list above:

You get what you pay for.