Why I Decided To Teach
I have reasons for teaching that are both passionate and practical. My love of music is no secret, and I have my mother to thank, for being my first teacher. Before I was born, she sold her twelve-string guitar and bought a Baldwin upright piano. Every day, we would sit and play Spinning Song together. I took piano lessons for a year, in first grade, but I quit as the school year ended. I was not a fan of my private teacher. She was old, her house smelled funny, and she constantly yelled at me for failing to "keep my pinky down" during practice. (I still joke that I only went to recitals to read the Shel Silverstein books on her coffee table, and for the free food.) I loved my elementary school music teachers, though. I started playing piano again in middle school, teaching myself using all of the sheet music I could find in our house. Later, after an injury, I learned that I was born without certain tendons in my hands, which explained my early difficulties with the piano. I continued to sing and play saxophone through my college years, and each teacher I had encouraged me to take on greater challenges. Music became a love, a discipline, a passion. I have been very fortunate, considering what music has given to me. That passion had to start somewhere, and I wanted to share it with others. Practically speaking, teaching music also provides a stable salary and benefits to support what I love to do.
My past experiences have greatly influenced my teaching philosophy. I believe very strongly in honesty, patience, and acceptance. Being a musician is about learning how to take failure and success together, and care for both of them like a child. Skill development is only a part of the process, albeit an extremely important one. I am an avid (rabid?) proponent of sequential pedagogy and Brain-Targeted Teaching. Music and teaching must also be meaningful, for both my students and myself. Dialogue is important. I am frequently irreverent and silly, but I can also be quite strict. My standard motto is "I will do anything if it gets you to learn," and I share this with students on their first day in my class. I like to meet students where they are, and then challenge them to learn/do/listen to MORE. Diversified instruction, multi-cultural education, and exposure to all kinds of music are part and parcel of my class. Technology is also extremely important to me, and I try to incorporate it into my class when I am able to do so, and when it suits the material.
After I graduated from college, I originally intended to teach in the Pittsburgh area or attend graduate school. Due to an unexpected financial loss and a lack of open positions in the area, I started looking elsewhere for teaching positions. I approached my former advisor, who suggested that I contact Baltimore City's Director of Fine Arts. I forwarded my résumé to her, and received a phone call two days later. Four days later, I had been hired by my current school. In just under two weeks, I had quit my restaurant job in Pittsburgh, moved to Baltimore, and started training. Originally, I only intended to remain in Baltimore for a year or two, but here I am, half-way through year five!
My Current Situation
Teaching in Baltimore has been eye-opening, in many ways. I didn't think that I would enjoy teaching middle school students, because I found greater enjoyment teaching other grade levels during my practicum. I feel as if I have really grown into my position. I have fun everyday. I laugh, sing, dance, and get paid to do those things. There is a mutual respect and admiration that exists in my classroom, and it is easy to go to work each day, knowing that I will never be bored with what I do. I have been able to see my students grow as people and as musicians...more and more each year. I have also realized that, despite all of the above, this is not the ideal situation, for me. My boyfriend of nine years still lives in Pittsburgh, and we have now spent over half of our relationship in different states. We frequently discuss our future together, but it will be a tricky path to follow. I have wanted to attend graduate school to study musicology for years; I have been interested in pursuing my Ph.D since high school. There are some considerable risks involved: I will initially take a huge pay cut, it is more difficult than ever to find and secure tenable positions in the humanities, and it could require drastic re-location. That said, every time I attend a conference or dip into some personal research, it confirms my desire for this challenge. Case in point: this past November, I attended the American Musicology Society's annual conference in Philadelphia. While there, I met the husband of a musicologist, who asked me if it was my first AMS conference. When I told him that it was my third in five years, he replied with, "What, and you're not a musicologist yet?" No, I'm not a musicologist...yet.