I’ve been teaching for 16 years I still have THOSE days. Yesterday was one of THOSE days.
Teaching sometimes feels like the duck swimming in water. What we usually present outward to the world is the calm and serene duck effortlessly floating above the water. What we usually feel like is the part below the water…
The two wind ensembles have a festival coming up on Friday. For those of you that are repertoire nerds like me, we are playing:
Wind Ensemble I
- The Gumsucker’s March, Percy Grainger/Mark Rogers ed.
- Aurora Awakes, John Mackey
- Wedding Dance, Jacques Press/Frederick Fennell ed.
Wind Ensemble II
- Italian in Algiers Overture, Rossini/Lucien Cailliet ed.
- All The Pretty Little Horses, Andrew Boysen Jr.
- Korean Folksongs from Jeju Island, Frank Ticheli
And as will sometimes happen 48 hours before a performance (!) our rehearsals yesterday were terrible. I mean the kids were quiet and well behaved but new mistakes occurred, things we’d fixed weeks before suddenly showed up, concentration and energy were low and I was feeling despondent. Frustrated.
And for better or worse, the first place I go is not to blame the students. I blame myself.
“What could I have done to better prepare myself for rehearsals?”
“How did I not hear that tuning issue before right now?”
“We haven’t even discussed the text of this folk music…I’m sure the judge will ask about that.”
“Why have I waited this long to get to this level of detail?”
And so on and so forth the mental gymnastics continue. It’s like a ride I can’t quite get off of.
And then my 2nd period class came in. This is my non-auditioned band of juniors and seniors. I realized as they were entering that they did not deserve to interact with this cranky, uncentered energy I was bringing to the start of their rehearsal. So I made a choice.
As they sat down I was honest with them. I told them I’d had a bad morning which had nothing to do with them and that I would do my best to be present for them from where they were at, not where I was at.
I was touched by the sincere support I felt from the kids through that rehearsal. We started working on Earth Song by Frank Ticheli and I talked to them about the origins of the piece as a germ from his longer and more difficult work Sanctuary.
We had a thoughtful discussion about what a sanctuary represented. Several mentioned the band room as a place where they could be themselves without fear of judgement. I shared some imagery I was having related to the piece and made myself vulnerable to them in my sharing. It’s the magic you wish for but can rarely plan for on the podium.
By choosing a different path with that group of students my teaching and the music became cathartic. I was reset. I was renewed. And my awesome kids were central to that happening.
So those days happen. Still. And it’s ok. I’ve learned how to weather them differently as a veteran teacher.
Also I’m happy to report that the wind ensembles played the snot out of their run-throughs today.
I feel more like the duck above water this afternoon.