Why I became an educator requires a complicated response. First and foremost, as a music educator, I loved the process of creating music and working together as a unit more than the actual playing itself. In other words, I care more about inspiring students to work together and achieve great things than the actual end product.
However, I do think it is even more complicated than this. Social injustice is a huge part of the world today. Although, I don’t think it was quite as blaring as it is now on social media. Growing up going to a city arts school, I saw the divide amongst my school and others. What we got was certainly not given to everyone. Several teachers I had in and out of school were there to inspire us and show patience. They cared about us as people, while others, I learned, were there for other reasons. I think what inspired me to become an educator was inspiring my students the way many of my teachers inspired me. My aspiration to become a teacher was definitely an accumulation of experiences in home, school and extracurricular activities.
Throughout my career, I have served as a general music teacher, band director, chorus director, jazz band director, marching band assistant, a mentor and performer in a non-public school program for jazz and hip hop, private teacher, and regular performer. I also continue to mentor individuals outside the realm of public education.
I have taught grades K-8 during the school day and 9-12 in marching band after the school day. I currently teach 4-5 band but have also taught 6-8 band, 4-8 strings, K-6 general music and 6th grade chorus.
I’m still here because I believe the number one thing we can offer all students is consistency in care, love and motivation. In order to have a long-lasting impact in our profession, I think the students need to trust you are going to be there for them and guide them on this journey through life.
Education rewards longevity with pay because it is set up that way. However, it also rewards longevity with seeing the impact we have made on the lives of others. After teaching ten or more years, I haven’t gotten to see many success stories of students becoming successful young adults. Nevertheless, sometimes the successes are deeply hidden and how we see ourselves and what we are doing is not always seen or felt by our students at the time we are teaching them. We have to continue to remind ourselves of that.
Receiving thank you notes has continued to be a solid reminder of why I still want to educate others. Teachers make a huge impact. Also, as my experience grows, I think the challenges educators face with increasing demands of testing and numbers that don’t show the whole picture can be unsettling. It’s so important to help new teachers and show them why this is a special profession. It can drive you away at times, but it’s important for these students that we continue to show up and help them the best we can.
Younger teachers don’t always get the help and encouragement they need. Being the son of educators and meeting many great people in my life who make a difference, was certainly beneficial for me and something I do not take for granted. I want to be that for aspiring teachers because we need more teachers who are here to impact student lives.
Personally, I hope after 35 years, I can ride off into the sunset to spend time with family but also look back and say I honestly spent those 35 years trying to help students be better people by teaching music. Not every student is going to achieve playing an instrument at the same high level and nor do they need to. However, they can learn so many life lessons from working hard at music and learning how to place the needs of a group over themselves . To me, that is ultimately what making music is all about.
I also hope by the end of my career, education will be less about tests and numbers and more about us giving the students knowledge not only in the areas we teach, but about how to be beautiful and successful people. Success means something different for everyone. Students learn best from us when we are allowed to teach content in our own way, not spew out facts and answers they need to know. I honestly hope we as a country allow teachers to show their individual talents and passion for teaching, not box them into what test scores they produced. When we reach that, the world will be a much better place. Tests will take care of themselves when we allow the teachers to be themselves again.