Why people teach is an interesting question. But even more fascinating is why people end up teaching music when it can be (at times) such an undervalued, underestimated and overlooked subject?
Music teachers are a unique breed, I’ve discovered. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all kinds of incredible stories of how they arrived in their role as teacher. For the record, I’m speaking here about the music teachers who really love what they do and who have chosen music teaching willingly.
Some knew from a young age that they had a passion for music and perhaps later discovered the joy of sharing it with people. They could be the music geeks (I use that term lovingly) from highschool who treasured music classes each week and made that connection in those years. They may have had aspirations for other things and found their way into music teaching inadvertently. In any case, they have likely had years of music lessons, training, examinations, performances, and potentially thousands of hours of practice to become reasonably proficient on an instrument and gain a substantial knowledge of music literacy.
But teaching music isn’t usually just a job. Most people I know who have chosen to teach music do so because they feel passionately about music and its possibilities. I am so impressed by some of the teachers I’ve met who have spent, in some cases, years running through mud to find a way to inject more music programming into their schools or get instruments into the hands of kids. These are people who know firsthand the countless benefits of a music education in a young person’s life.
In addition to lesson planning and actual teaching time, they put in the extra hours to coach kids, find money to buy instruments and resources, jump through hoop after hoop making the case to administration for more than just a short lunch break to provide instruction. I know a teacher who was relegated to teaching her music class in the stairwell of the school! I don’t know many math or science teachers who have to repeatedly convince administration of the importance of what they’re teaching or who have to take their classes into the hallways to make them happen.
So why do they bother? There are the obvious reasons but the things that can bring home the “why do I teach” for these folks are not only the big performances or the successful examinations but those smaller moments: A thank you from a former student, an “I finally got that really difficult passage!” revelation in a lesson, a comment from a parent about their child connecting with a grandparent through music, a proud smile in a lesson when they realize they are really making music on their own. Although teaching music can be challenging, it can also be a tremendously rewarding profession, in my humble opinion.
I will leave you with a short, inspirational 8-minute TEDTalk by the lovely Rita Pierson, who speaks to the importance of relationships and connection in teaching. I also leave all of you teachers (of any subject) with a high five for pursuing such a challenging and incredibly important career.