Monday, March 27, 2006

Big Decisions

I have till Friday to make a huuuge decision, and I'm stumped.

'Tis the season for the teachers at my school to let the principal know if they are thinking about a change for next year - transfers, increases in time, reductions in time, change of grade levels, etc.

At the end of last year, I was so exhausted and was not feeling like I was doing a good job teaching music, and I swore high and low that this year would be my last. Even going back to school this past fall, I was feeling flat out of inspiration. Next year, I told myself, I will try to get into teh classroom. The only condition was that I didn't want to leave my school. I love love love it and all the people there.

As this school year has progressed, it's become public knowledge that there will be three openings in the English intermediate area for next year, which is almost unheard of at my school (everyone else loves it too, and once there, nobody ever wants to leave!). So the possibility of me moving to the classroom is a good one.

I just don't know if I want to.

This is my third year of teaching music. I started out not knowing anything (I majored in French!) and have gone to workshop after workshop, looked at book after book and learned via trial and lots of error. I'm nowhere near the kind of teacher I want to be, but every year gets easier and easier. I'm developing the program such that it's beginning to be consistent (each year, the grade 4's do this, the grade 5's do that ,etc). It's nice, because I go into each progressive year knowing more and more of the background of what the kids have learned the year before, and we can build on that. It's kind of fun, too, knowing every kid in the school. I feel like they're all "my kids." All 680 of them. Yipe. I don't usually have to deal with parents, and my report cards, while there are a lot of them, don't usually take me that long because they're nowhere near as involved. Another BIG plus is that I have less prep and marking than I would working full time as a classroom teacher. This has allowed me to actually have a life, something I'm enjoying very much.

But there are downsides, too. My voice suffers - I'm constantly losing it. It's exhausting, because it's such a "get up and move around" kind of class. I often say I feel like a performing monkey sometimes - I'm either leading singing, or teaching a dance, or trying to keep three groups of kids with instruments in time: "Ok, this group, you follow the rythm I'm doing with my feet. You - follow the rhythm I'm dong with my hands. And you guys, you follow what I'm doing with my mouth." I kid you not. I put on a pretty good show, I have to say! Classroom management is hard, too. The kids see it as a fun time where their regular teacher is not there, and so many tend to act up more than they would normally. It's really hard to follow through with discipline because I only see them once a week for 40 minutes. It's hard to say to an eight year old at 9:30 in the morning, "OK, Johnny, that's it, you've got a detention. Come see me at 3." Yeah right. And day to day consequences can't happen, because by the time I see them again a week later, it's no longer effective. I think the biggest downside is that I feel like because of my lack of formal training as a music teacher, I feel that as much as I want to, I can't give them the musical education they deserve. I go to all these workshops and see these amazing ideas, and I can impliment some of them, but I just don't have the skills to put it all together, and it's discouraging sometimes. It's like not being able to meet your own (probably too high) expectations.

Heading to the classroom would be great in a lot of ways. I'd be able to have my own group of kids, and get to know them on a much bette level than I do now. Right now kids are basically in three categories for me : kids who kick up a fuss in music, kids who are kinda quitet and just play along, and kids who are really talented or especially cute or like me particualry. That sounds terrible now that I write it out like that. I just don't get to know many of them on a level deep enough to see their individual strengths and personality. Being in a classroom would allow me to do that. I think my schedule would be a lot calmer, becuase there would actually be downtimes where the kids are working or whatever, and I wouldn't have to be "on" all day. I would be in control of my own schedule a lot more, instead of having other classes' field trips/projects/whatever interupting my program or switching up my schedule (which happens, it's no big deal, it's just that my schedule would be more my own). I would also get to teach things like art and science and French... all things I miss teaching now. I think overall, this is the better choice for me, except for one thing...

Heading to the classroom would be like starting from the beginning again. The first year of teaching is always tons of work. There's lots of prep, lots of marking, and while it gets easier the more years you do it, teaching is a job that can very easily take over a person's life. I enjoy having time to be involved at my church, or to take a class, or to hang out with friends and family. I've been really fortunate these last three years to be able to do that, and I'm not sure I'm ready to give that up. It might seem paradoxical, but I'm also worried that I'm lazy. I don't know if I would actaully DO the work involved to do a good job. The last thing I want to be is a crappy teacher who just does the bare minimum, takes forever to get kid's work marked and handed back, etc. When thinking about setting up a timetable or a schedule for my class, I feel so overwhelmed. What do I do? Were do I start?

I think when it comes right down to it, the biggest thing I'm worried about is the change: giving up my music program and starting over in something else. I'm also afraid of not knowing how to set boundaries so that I can have the balance between being well prepared and doing all the work required, but not letting it take over my life.

I'm honestly at such a loss. I wonder if the events of the last few weeks are telling me that it's time for a change, but then I was looking around my classroom this morning thinking about packing it up and moving on, and I just had no idea what to do. I eventually want to be in the classroom, and the opportunty is there for next year, but I don't know if I'm ready. I have till Friday to decide.

Anyone want to try to read into my (rather lenghty) ramblings and give me some insight? Cause I just don't know, and it's making me crazy.


heather said...

Thanks for your honesty. You're in a tricky position because you've already been a first year teacher and so you know what it's's hard to go back to that (I'm having the same thoughts right now - I've been out of teaching for a year and not sure I want to start over again). BUT, the plus is that in fact you already HAVE BEEN (past tense) a first year teacher before. I think you'd be suprised all that you know about the profession in general and you wouldn't be starting from scratch. But then I see your point about building your own music curriculum and not wanting to give that up... So I have no answers for you. How about some prayer?! :)

SlushTurtle said...

I think you shouldn't let your fears stop you. If you don't want to because it is too much work, fine. Just don't let being afraid make your life choices for you. I am sure that if you could become a music teacher with no background in it, you would be a kickin' classroom teacher!

Jean said...

That is a sticky situation. Could you talk to the current English teachers and see what it is they do? Ask lots of questions before deciding? As Heather said, you may be surprised that it may not be as hard/time consuming as you're thinking b/c you've been there for three years and have the overall "teaching" under your belt...just thoughts.
And will be praying for you :)

H0kie Erin said...

I would apply/try and switch. Worst case scenario, you don't get to transfer (because a bunch of people are trying to) and best case scenario you do get to switch. (Or reverse that if that is how you're feeling today)

Chances are the former teacher will leave materials in her room (my mother-in-law and I spent a week cleaning her "new" classroom...the former teacher left everything). I also assume you have other English teachers that would show you the curriculum ropes. Then you pick one aspect of teaching that you want to really develop (like literature or grammar or something) and you do all your in depth planning for it and use the teacher's guide for the rest until you have it just how you want it.

You can do anything you set your mind to, Hillary. I'll be eager to know what you decide.

anne said...

Sounds like very tough decisions which can feel horribly overwhelming but exciting at the same time.

There is also the fact that no matter what, as long as you are doing your best you are in God's will. As long as your heart is in serving Him, He will open the doors and you will be in the right place.

Don't let yourself be overwhelmed. Think and pray it over. Talk to lots of people and get lots of advice, but above all, trust yourself to make the right decision. You know deep down which choice you want to make. When you make it, stick to it! :) Easier said than done, but you can do it!

Carrie said...

I think it's a tough call. As a regular classroom teacher, I've got to say that I always felt like I was "on" even though I wasn't singing and dancing. Even during down times there is always something to do. But it would be a new challenge and if you aren't trained to teach music maybe you would feel more successful? There are certainly challenges with both options.