Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Too Cool

You know what's cool? To be THAT teacher. You know the one. It's the teacher that helped you figure out your "thing", or encouraged you in a special way. I'll never forget Mrs. Hale in 5th grade, who cared about me and showed love to me even though I was the poorest nerdiest most awkward kid in the class. And I'll never forget Mr. Scott (middle school band) who opened my world up and let me dream of becoming a music teacher.

I taught elementary music in the public schools for two years. It was a really neat two years, when I look back on it now. At the time it wasn't all roses because I was young and inexperienced, and going through the joys and disappointments of two international adoptions in two years!

That youngness also had it's advantages though. I walked into a classroom that was stuck in the 80's when music teachers sat behind a piano and you sang songs out of a book for the entire class. That wasn't who I was as a teacher. I was an Orff and Kodaly trained teacher, so sitting in chairs and singing with books in our hands wasn't going to do! My "newness" as a teacher hadn't worn off yet so I was up for the challenge! I had a mission to turn that classroom into a modern classroom!

I also started at the same time that state testing for the arts began. The year before I started teaching the 5th grade students had an 11% pass rate on the exam. Yikes! Thankfully at the end of my two years the scores were up to 77% passing.

The students and I worked together and we made progress. We did fundraisers (selling recorders and such) to get money to buy Orff instruments. I wrote and received grants that helped us get MORE orff instruments. It wasn't long before we had a classroom we could be proud of, and lots of neat instruments to learn with.

By the end of my second year teaching I knew my "season" there had ended. I had two babies at home and I ached to be with them full time. I was tired of battling red tape and old attitudes by the school's administration. So I resigned.

The other day my kids and I were at Target when a young employee came up and said, "Mrs. G.?" (Gillispie was TOO hard for elementary schoolers!) ONLY my kids from those two years of my life would call me Mrs. G.! "It's Keven W---. I had you in 4th and 5th grade music."

I'm telling you, it is totally surreal to see previous students all grown up. For one thing, I feel way TOO YOUNG for that to happen! LOL! How can that be that one of my students--a senior in high school?!

Kevin was very sweet and told me that music is his "thing" and that he had good memories of the hands on experience he had in my music class. I gave him my email address so that he could send me links to his music. He wrote me the next day and part of his message said...

"I really can't stress enough what a positive influence you had on me. I always had an interest in music, but you were the first teacher to let me experiment with instruments that I would not have had access to otherwise. Thank you so very much for all of this, you really are an extraordinary teacher and person."

I can't tell you how awesome it is to know that there is just one kid out there that thinks of me as one of the teachers in his life that made a difference. I never thought I could be one of THOSE teachers. Even if no other child I taught in those two years remembers Mrs. G....Kevin did. And that makes it ALL worth it!

If you want to hear some of his GREAT music you can go here. He did ALL of the instruments!



Amy 10:19 PM  

What a wonderful feeling- I am so happy for you to have that recognition from a student! I'll bet you were amazing! :)


P.S. LOVE the afghan, by the way!

Momto13 9:56 AM  

That is so cool! I love the music too- he is really talented!

Heather A. 5:05 PM  

That is so cool Anita! It's so neat to be remembered that way. You made a difference in that young man's life, in how he turned out. That's about as rewarding as it comes!

Love the afgan that you did in fall colors. Those are all my favorite decorating colors too, and it just looks so warm and inviting.