Dear Kids: A Letter of Revelation and Reluctance

eyeapplesgrainy.jpg Dear Kids,

I haven’t been blogging lately and there’s a reason for that.  I’m ashamed to admit it, because I’m in my 30’s and I’m a teacher, but right now I hate my life.  It consists of 3 components, my life:

  • Teaching  twice a week in a private High School for girls.  I am the only music teacher in HS and I handle 11 classes.
  • Teaching at a performance arts school where I give lessons in voice and piano. 
  • Finishing my degree in my university so I can get my teaching license exams.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said it and left you with the comforting idea that teachers are steady creatures.  Isn’t one supposed to be less confused about life the older one gets?  That’s what I thought, too, when I was younger.  And for a teacher to feel blah-ish about her life, what a disgrace! — right?

When I’m in the classroom, I feel fine.  The same goes for when I’m giving my voice and piano students their lessons.  I’ve always loved being in school and I don’t mind that I’m almost always the oldest student in my classes now.  When I’m in the moment of living my life, I am happy — happy to be where I am.

It’s afterwards that I get this sense of nothingness.  Once I sit myself on my sofa and rest my feet from hitting the campus concrete, I resent the thought of having to wake up early the next day to go through the whole routine again.  I grit my teeth at all the paperwork I need to submit both as a teacher and as a student.  I wish I could just stay where I was and never leave my room.  Truth be told, I just want to sit at home with my laptop at the ready and write until my eyelids get heavy.  I rediscovered my passion for writing a couple of years ago and, apart from an unhappy period languishing from writer’s block, haven’t stopped writing since. 

Confused, are you?  So am I.  Sometimes I wonder why I received the gift of music.  I never asked for it and just noticed how many musical things came easy to me.  My gift impressed quite a few teachers.  I won a couple of awards and brought home trophies from a few competitions.  I got high marks in my music subjects even without trying.  Do I love music?  I’m not really sure, but I’ll tell you one thing: I rarely listen to it.  I used to but have stopped.  I only do so when I have to.  I don’t know why.   I still would have spurts of inspiration and spend quality time with my keyboard from time to time, but given the choice between music and writing, I would choose the latter. 

I had a talk with myself some time ago and told myself that there’s no reason for me to feel confused, that I could keep my current life and add writing as one of my many hobbies.  that seemed a good enough compromise to smooth my crumpled spirit.  The only snag to my proposed paradigm shift is this: writing is my passion, therefore it can’t be a hobby.  A hobby is something you like doing and you can give it space and go back to it when you have time.  I love writing and resent not having enough time for it.   At the same time, I love teaching music but wish for the tedious bits about it to go away so I can have more time to write.

In light of this admission, I have decided to change my weblog title and call it like it is.  I am “The Music Teacher” but sometimes, I wish I weren’t.  Therefore, from now on I shall be known as “The (Sometimes Reluctant) Music Teacher“.  Not very hip or snazzy title but at least it rings true. 

What can I say, kids?  Despite her age and job title, your teacher is very much human, and is as confused about her life as the rest of the human race.

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6 thoughts on “Dear Kids: A Letter of Revelation and Reluctance

  1. elementaryteacher says:

    Dear Lizzy,

    Sorry to see you going through this distress. Sometimes change comes slowly, but now you might be open to new opportunities. I write two blogs (one a serious one on education, and the other a whimsical blog on metaphysics–an outside interest of mine, that I want to learn more about). One reason I started blogging is I never have time to write either (and I hope to write some books as well as magazine articles). I just started an English-language writers’ group in my city, which meets roughly once a month. By blogging, and the need to post (at least once a week during school, and hopefully more) I’m hoping THAT will force me to figure out how to fit REGULAR writing into my schedule. Maybe the blog can help you do that, too?

    Best regards,
    Eileen

    Thank you so much, Eileen. I wrote about my confusion because I wanted to let out some of the pressure I’ve been feeling. I do hope this blog will help me write regularly. I appreciate your words of encouragement. Thanks for sharing, too, Eileen. 🙂

  2. repairman says:

    Malaise and mild depression hits all of us at various points. Being male, I’m not sure if my experience is relevant, but a supportive network of friends — even one good one — will often get us over the period of distress. And nothing helps like a loving “significant other.”

    Have you defined (to yourself, at least) what you want to do, where you see yourself in five, ten years? Are you happy? Set some big goals. People founder without big goals.

    Also, ambivalence, having contradictory feelings about the same thing, isn’t exactly uncommon. Bear with it!

    Hoping the sun shines for you!

    Thank you for your reassuring words. Being reminded that this is normal helps. I’m bearing it. I just want to be honest about it. Thanks again. I appreciate the support. 🙂

    PS and thank you for forwarding my Tay Zonday post to Jose. 🙂

  3. Jose says:

    First off, let me say that I decided not to read the comments to this post. After all, it’s only now that NYC teachers like myself are getting back into the hang of things with teaching. However, after reading this post, I had a couple of thoughts:

    1) Being yourself is such a weird concept. On the one end, it’s what helps you get through the struggles and complexities of being in the classroom. However it also makes us feel disingenuous about the role we play in front of the kids. That’s why much of what we do is acting. Even when we have rough patches, we’re supposed to act apart from ourselves in a sense.

    2) Teaching would be great if it wasn’t for all the administrative stuff. I hate having to do all that paperwork, and excuse my Latin, but that shit sucks. I would rather just teach the kids stuff and go back and forth until they learned it. Unfortunately, a lot of it comes with the job. Maybe a part of the fact that we don’t want to see more paperwork is because when we signed on to be teachers, it was to run from the traditional jobs in the office. Paper, however, comes with almost everything out there.

    3) I’m almost in the same boat as you. Writing is my passion as well, but in this capitalist society, writers don’t get paid, and those that do are very few and far between. The reason I even have my job is because it’s the only job I knew I could do. If I had a choice, I’d wake up, eat Lucky Charms, and sit on my ass writing and watching NY Yankee games. Yet, most writers that dedicate themselves solely to writing are poor for real, and often depend on the kindness and generosity of others.

    4) Corollary: Spaces like these are important. Not only can you jot down some notes that you wanted to write on, you can continue practicing and getting feedback. Some writers I knew will write about a page for their entire “Book Writing” day. Sometimes, being busy the way we are makes us have to be efficient and focused on the task when we get the chance to write. Be grateful for every opportunity you get.

    5) To be honest, as a suggestion, I think I love “The Music Teacher” because of its simplicity. If you think back to the great films and pieces I’ve ever read, the greatest books had titles that were really simple, because it stood in stark contrast to the complex themes of the book.

    6) To paraphrase the Lion King, courage doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. Take heart in what you do. Be strong.

    Peace …

    Jose, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings and share your thoughts.
    1. I think of teaching as a performance art as well and I understand what you mean about being ourselves yet not being ourselves when we are in the classroom. I think one of the reasons I’m finding this challenging now is that I’m in a new school and I have to create this new teacher character (for want of a better word) that would complement my students who I’m only beginning to get to know.

    2. I like paperwork when the people I submit them to values them and not just collects them so they can have a neat file of lesson plans to show the higher-ups. But you’re right, it’s part of the job.

    3. & 4. I have done some thinking and I have to say I can’t really separate music with writing. I’m a better musician because of the stories in my head. By the same token, my affinity for music is reflected in the way I write.

    5. Thank you for your suggestion. Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been somewhat unsatisfied with its title. It seems so generic and I thought this feeling of ambivalence would be the perfect opportunity to change it. I agree about titles and I truly appreciate what you said about mine.

    6. I feel better after having heard from you, repairman and Eileen. I can be such a perfectionist and would often get disappointed in myself when I get these thoughts. It’s like I failed somehow. So I’m grateful to be reminded that everyone goes through the same thing.

    Thank you so much, Jose. 🙂 Peace…

  4. elementaryteacher says:

    Lizzie,

    If you can’t separate music and writing, I think you should consider becoming a songwriter? Why don’t you try for something?

    Best regards,
    Eileen

    Eileen, I am a songwriter. I’ve been writing songs since high school and have written songs for a few events and people. When I realized that I can’t separate music and writing, I was thinking in terms of the process, not the product. Thank you for your suggestion and your concern. I really appreciate it.

  5. Chris says:

    Could it be that times have changed perhaps?

    I have been away from home for almost 21 years now (this year, I am 44 :(, btw). I know for a fact that I have had very good experiences with all of my music classes back in my school days. And my music teachers have all been fine individuals, from what I can remember. Very personable, I think.

    But…

    But I know, for a fact, that none of them displayed the kind of vulnerability that you are able to here. That’s rare in my book. 🙂

    Though, I really hope you’re better today. 🙂

    Why the sad face after “44”? 😀

    There’s been, in my opinion, some ridiculous changes in the curriculum handed out by our department of education. For instance, music is taught only from grade 4 onwards. Silly, because it’s a fact that the best years in building the foundation of knowledge in a child’s mind is from infancy to nine years of age. By then, because of this new curriculum, it would be quite difficult to cultivate understanding of musical concepts. Even if this were not the case, music is now supposed to be integrated. I say, “supposed to be” because not all teachers are capable or trained to integrate music with history, Filipino, and other disciplines. Many of these teachers (and their administrators) don’t see the value of music as a tool for developing creativity as well as abstract reasoning. They abuse the subject by making their classes compose jingles or sing songs with the slightest connection to their lessons without really digging deeply. It’s sad and I plan to do something about it.

  6. Chris says:

    The sad face? Oh, I almost didn’t see it. It didn’t convert into an emoticon, that’s why. I think it’s because I believe that I could’ve accomplished more than I actually did all these years. But I didn’t. In my personal life, my career, relationship and family. In fact, it doesn’t help to know that I selfishly left home to pursue a dream that didn’t go as far as I wanted it to either.

    Anyhow, that’s a pretty sad state to let music go by the wayside. Haven’t they heard of Leonardo DiCaprio? No I mean, uhm, the other Italian dude. You know. 🙂

    Seriously though, my hunch is that it’s a cultural issue. As far as I know, Filipinos aren’t much for art in regards to being a bona fide profession or something that can have significant weight in “acceptable” society. It’s a hobby, for entertainment purposes. Sure, it’s nice but it doesn’t pay the bills. Because if you want to succeed, the scalpel better be your instrument of choice! Or in my case, the T-square! 🙂

    Do you think that if DOE is going to write a policy regarding music and its place in school that it would only make sense to, at least, involve a music teacher in drafting it? Instead of mere career politicians?

    The sad thing, I think, is that it doesn’t matter where you are, if you ever decide to fight for a cause, politics will always fight back no matter what. It’s an unfortunate reality.

    But on a positive note… I will be rooting for you. 🙂

    We do what we can while we’re alive. You’re not that old — you still have your whole life ahead of you! 😀

    Ah, politics. It tires me to even think about it. 😦

    Thanks for the words of encouragement! 😀

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