Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Invisible Teacher

Or: Seriously, Am I Even Here?

I teach elementary school music. I have students from first grade (age 6-7) up to 5th grade (age 10-17, depending). Until Princess was born, I taught secondary level choir (grades 6-12), where I enjoyed a level of respect worthy of my expertise and general greatness:

Or, perhaps:

Well, perhaps not. But, my top choir was a really sharp group of kids who adored me and threw me surprise parties. I loved my job.

Elementary is a different story...

The Following takes place between 10:55 and 11:35 a.m.  This is not a typical day; this is a day in which Deb's allergies have attacked her vocal cords, making them painful and useless.


Deb: Okay, guys, please listen.


Deb: Sit down, please.  Get your hands out of that.  Wipe that off.  No, on the paper towel.  All right, is everyone okay?  All right, now, please listen. Here's what we're doing today. Everyone needs to get a book off the shelf. Then, get your music puzzle packet and a pencil. We're going to be listening to a lot of different kinds of music while you work, the titles are all on the board. See? The pencil sharpener is at the back of the room, just use it if you need to. There it is. You may work with a partner, but keep your voices low. Are there any questions?

Johnny NoHear: Miss? Can we work together?

Thomas Ne'erAttention: Can I get a book so I have something to write on?

LaDawn McTalksalot: Can we work together?

{This continues until each child has asked at least two questions.  Deb patiently answers them until they begin repeating questions they themselves have asked.}


Deb: All right, if there are no more questions, let's get started.


Isaac Goaway: Miss? Can I sharpen my pencil?


Tootie YourKiddingMe: Miss? What is this song called?  It's tight.


Deb: Students, the packet is due at the end of the period.  Please focus on your work.

General Uproar: You didn't say this was for a grade!  (Please note: this is said in tones one might imagine being appropriate for "You didn't tell us this building was radioactive.")


Deb: No more discussion!  Please finish your work as best you can.

{At this point, the idea that work is being done for a grade, though it was a topic of hot debate thirty seconds before, has exited the mind of every student present, and they resume their discussions of who is "going with" whom, who is about to fight whom, and who has the best four-wheeler.  Deb contemplates a career in marketing.}


Deb: All right, please make sure your names are on the packets.  Bring the packets to me, return your pencils to the jar, the books to the shelves, and line up.

Class: Silence.  No one moves at all.

Deb: Really, please start picking up.

Tootie: (tentatively): Is it time to go?

Deb: Yes!  I mean, yes, please begin clearing up.

Isaac: Can we keep the pencils?

Thomas: Do you want us to put away the books?

Johnny: Where do we put the packets?

LaDawn: This isn't for a grade, right?


{All of the students are in line.  Deb is fantasizing about the miniature bag of peanut M&M's in her desk.}

Thomas: Miss, was that for a grade?


{Deb, weeping silently, consumes the miniature bag of M&M's.  These are tomorrow's leaders, she tells herself.  These are the ones who will be taking care of you in old age.  One of these children could be the President of the United States one day.

One mini bag won't be enough.}



Barbaloot said...

If I were you I'd have gone for the jumbo bag of peanut-BUTTER m&ms.

Sneaky Momma said...

Thanks for reminding me why it's perfectly okay that I am in NO hurry to return back to my first grade classroom. :)

Kristina P. said...

I don't know how you do it!

I originally started my major in elementary education, but due to a crappy college counselor, didn't do all the pre-req's to get in. Which was a HUGE blessing, as thinking about working as an elementary school teacher makes me want to kill myself.

Bring on the high schoolers!

Kristina P. said...

What is going on with the comment moderation? Boooo.

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

When I drive I feel like I am invisible. I drive a 1999 Kia Sephia. 'Nuff said.

I heard a report on NPR that I can't find but I was going to reference (because it makes me sound smarter if I can actually cite the source) about a music teacher in a big city back east. He tried to introduce the students to different kinds of music - Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Herbie Hancock - you know, the classics. The quote was - I felt like I was throwing gold coins onto the ground and all the kids had to do was pick them up and their lives would be so much richer... But they didn't. In his case, they actually broke his record player and smashed the records.

My sister is a music teacher also. She teaches HS band in AZ. High school is obviously a little different (but only a little) and she has a different experience (by the time kids are in HS they probably WANT to be in band)... But she recently wrote a blog ( about making the difference to and for the "one"... I think we've all had that moment of being the "one" who's life was changed - a complimentary word, a warm glance of aprobation, well-deserved praise for a job well done... The excitement of striving for something and achieving it, coupled with the the thrill of public performance and the respect of your peers and mentors - what could possibly be better?

You are making that difference. In a world where there is an increasing emphasis on the mundane, you are teaching a love that transcends these things. They may not remember what you said, but they'll always remember how you made them feel.

Deb said...

Sorry, I fixed the comment moderation.


Joanna said...

As if the duck suit wasn't enough! Seriously, I am so proud.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

This post confirms what I have long suspected. You are a saint, distinguished as an elementary school teacher. We should definitely add a picture of Mother Theresa to this post.

Oh, and the description of the song being "tight" made me laugh out loud!