Old attitudes toward teaching-Self Reflection

I am participating in Aileen Miracle's "Throwback Thursday" linky party.  This is a blog post from last fall.

Have a great weekend!

A few days ago on my blog, I shared a letter I'd written on a Choral Music teacher's forum to a struggling, beginning teacher.

Here is the link to the post:

My note to the frustrated, young choral music teacher 

If you haven't read it, you may want to do so before reading below.

The same day I wrote the post, she responded to me personally via email and thanked me for taking the time to write the message on the forum. She said she was in tears as she watched some of the YouTube videos and read some of the blog posts.  She said that it gave her hope that she could make it to the other side.

That is exactly why I am blogging.

We have got to do better in supporting new teachers. As it is, we give lip service only. Our school and government leaders decide that we should set up mentoring situations between teachers.  They make big pronouncements about new initiatives for mentoring and yet there is no time built in or money spent for the mentors to actually do the mentoring.  So, alas, the beginning teachers are thrown in "sink or swim".

It's shameful that here in Georgia, teachers are currently making less money than in 2008. But...I digress...That is another blog post! :)

The desperation and loneliness that I felt in the early years of teaching were overwhelming...the feeling of failure. It was awful.

Now, I have a program of over 300 children who volunteer to be in the class. I have wonderful administrative support, and I have amazing parental support. It would be easy to look into what I have now and believe that it was always this way.

It wasn't...and I've worked and continue to work very hard to cultivate it on a daily basis. It takes hard work, vision, patience and lots of self-reflection. There is no short cut.

The forum onto which I placed my note to the frustrated, young teacher is open. Responses were given by my peers.  I have included one of the responses below.  I found this one particularly interesting, revealing, and well....for lack of a better expression..."old school".

I'm puzzled by the disrespect, noncooperation and poor attitudes. Won't even sit where they are asked to? These are Christian values? Have you spoken to your school director, administration and/or board? In any type of school there comes a point when unnacceptable behavior ceases to be the teacher's responsibility and should become the administration's. We don't like to admit our difficulties and appear less capable to our employers, and some administrators shirk their responsibilities by throwing it all back on us---are you in this bind? A competent head of school would put a stop to this at once. You should be helped to develop and apply a management plan with consequences for the students from you and from above; and your competence should be judged by your accomplishments with students who behave in class with basic manners. I think it's called "The Golden Rule". Participation should be a basic expectation and requirement, and if they are making no effort they should be dropped. If your class is a school requirement, then--oh well--they suffer the logical and obvious consequence of not graduating. Are the parents enabling this behavior? Do they get to call the shots and undermine the school culture because they're paying the bills? I must respectfully disagree in part with Dale's otherwise excellent advice at "d": "no excuses (counselors/administrators/parents)...find what works in THAT building with THOSE students." In my opinion there is a limit to the thoughtfulness and perserverance advocated here. Some students, some parents, some administrators, some schools are terrible at what they do and not functional. I would compare your experiences with other music teachers and give serious consideration not only to what you can do, but to whether you can do it at your present school. 

..and respectfully, of course, but to me, this sounds like a response we would get from a teacher who taught during the 1950's. 

During my 22 years of teaching in three states in four different schools and countless administrative leadership changes, I have heard so many teachers say things like this. 

So, I'll share some thoughts...

The Golden Rule.......
I have always taught in public schools.  Most of them have been urban.  I have encountered all sorts of kids....rich, poor, all races, religious and non-religious...who don't have a CLUE about the Golden Rule.  If we base our teaching on hoping we will have children who understand the Golden Rule, we will all fail.   It's no different than choir teachers whose success or failure at teaching sight singing depends on whether or not they have a little "Mozart" in their class that year.  I've taught for a long time, and I am still waiting for that little Mozart to show up! 

We have to find solutions to our own shortcomings and inadequacies as teachers, and the young teacher who created the initial posting is clearly working toward finding hers by reaching out to her peers.  The simple action of reaching out is her way of trying to make it another day.  She wants to survive and thrive as a teacher.

Should we have more support (mentoring and coaching)?  Of course we should.

But, there is very little.

So, we have to do our best to figure it out whatever our circumstances are.  If we aren't willing to do that, then we should quit teaching and get a job in the corporate world because the children who sit in front of us each day don't know about all of this other stuff, and they need us.

My peer disagrees with my "no excuses" point.
 ...and therein lies what I believe is the major issue with people (teachers and non-teachers alike) who don't take the time to do self-reflection.  When the problem is our administrators/counselors/terrible students/missing parents, we never have to find a way to reach the children who are sitting in the classroom...because it isn't our fault.

...But it is.  ...It has to be.  ...Because when it is our fault, we are powerFUL, not powerLESS.

It is our job to persevere.  It is our job to be thoughtful.  It is our job to do everything in our power NOT to give up on the students.

Will we always be successful?  No.

Can we be successful most of the time?  Absolutely.

We must find solutions.

Teachers work so hard.  We sacrifice so much.  No one who isn't a teacher has a clue how hard our jobs are.  I've often heard things like this from my personal friends who work in the business world:  "Well...so...you have 3 months off this summer....you get off at 2...get two weeks at Christmas...teachers have it made."

I always reply:  "We need good teachers!  You can have that life too!  You should become a teacher!  We have lots of transition programs for people who want to make the switch from business to teaching!"

It's funny.   ....Not a single one of them has taken me up on that!

Teachers...Let's help our young peers...let's not teach them to blame their situation, their school, their district, their administrators, their children...Let's guide them one step at a time so they can successful classroom management techniques. 

....and let's look inside ourselves and do the work we need to do to make our classroom a place to which our students look forward to coming.  It makes our jobs easier in the long run, and the best part is that the children benefit.

Sight Singing Update...
January is the perfect time to get started with S-Cubed!  Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students!  Try lesson 1 today:
Link to Lesson 1 of S-Cubed! Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students!
Also...remember the upcoming free NAFME webinar I'm offering on January 23rd.  Here is the link:
Free NAFME webinar on Sight Singing! Here is the link! Register today!

I found this funny little image that seemed to sort of sum up self-reflection in a silly way!!  Have a great week!
Check out my blog!


  1. I agree with you, Dale...let's help each other out instead of pointing at whoever we think is to blame! Also good point about the "Golden Rule." Thanks for joining my party! :)