Creative,  Reflection

End of Year Reflections 2022-2023

Welcome to Norton High School (NHS)! A small town about an hour from Boston, MA, but only about 15 minutes away from the Xfinity Center. For those who don’t know me, I have taught music for four years. Before I taught high school, I taught elementary K-5 for two years. I am a choral director, drama coach, guitar instructor, and piano teacher. I love everything about what I do, but there are some moments where I question my life choices. There have been a lot of high points and low points for me this year. Overall, this was a productive year and I am looking forward to entering my third year at Norton with more experience and a better plan. I want to share with you the lessons I learned this year and how I hope to change so I can come back stronger.

Obstacle #1: Small School and Small Programs

I walked into my first rehearsal at NHS, I had eight students in my choir. This dropped to seven students after one student transferred to another class. The student felt like a music class wouldn’t push them toward their goals. Even with this setback, I had two strong 12th grade singers who had been in chorus for three years. The rest of the students were 9th graders, who had not had chorus for two years because of COVID-19 restrictions. In brief, the first year was actually a blast and my choir gained 4 students in the second semester.

I say all of this because I started at nine students this year. And the band program that has started at 12 students my first year, dropped to 5 students. These small numbers result from a few school culture aspects that make it challenging to grow a music program. One, the schedule is the worst. We are always fighting for enrollment because there is always an AP class or other required class during the band or chorus. Two, music classes are not a graduation requirement. Three, students don’t value music because they don’t think it is pushing them toward their goals of college. My fight to gain students was challenging and I am working on ways for the music programs to gain more visibility.

Obstacle #2: Being Alone

When I started at Norton there were two music teachers, one for chorus and one for band. I entered as the choral side. That years I was finishing up my graduate education online at Boston University and I was also trying to get the hand of teaching high school after coming from elementary. Although there were many aspects of my first year that were challenging, I had my co-teacher to guide me and show me the ropes. He had been there for three years and had established some traditions and expectations for students that I easily adopted.

However, this year then left after one year together because he got an offer for a better position in another school district. I was distraught after I heard that he would be leaving and I was kicking myself for not writing down literally everything we did together over the year. I did a pretty good job, but now I had to do it all while trying to bring a new teacher on board. Once we hired a new teacher, I quickly realized how much this previous teacher did without my knowledge. There was so much he did behind the scenes that now fell on me. The new teacher we hired couldn’t do everything with me that I wanted to do and that I was incredibly frustrating. I felt alone. I felt like I was building a music program by myself and that absolutely terrified me.

Obstacle #3: Teacher Burnout

You know how on social media, there are posts about teacher burnout? Have you also noticed that every professional development for teachers now offers some sort of stress management course? I always did, but I never took the course because I felt like I had plenty of ways to relieve my stress. I WAS WRONG.

This year was the first year that I wanted to give up. I was putting so much mental pressure on myself to achieve and gain visibility for the music program that I stopped being able to show up as my best self. I no longer had the energy to think of amazing lesson plans. This was the culmination of working with someone new, fighting for my program, and balancing the schedule of a music teacher.

Takeaways

Here are my thoughts on ways to move forward for next year to show up stronger.

  • Trust the process

My program is not going to grow overnight and I can make small steps to put myself out there

  • Stop the Guilt

I do not have to be everything for everyone. I can stop feeling guilty about not saying yes to everything. There is no reason that I have to attend an event about Science just to get a different audience.

  • Balance my Time

Although I do have plenty of hobbies that keep me happy, I don’t always prioritize them.

I hope that these reflections were helpful for you! Thanks for reading!

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