When I retired last year, I believed that I experienced a lot of lasts. My last concert on May 17, 2017. My last class on June 9, 2017. My last opportunity to impact students in a public school…ever. I knew that I would be a substitute teacher and from time to time I may feel that I have made an impact on a student or two. I certainly didn’t envision this.
A very unfortunate circumstance developed and a school that had a well respected and effective teacher found themselves without one. While the circumstances were and still are devastating to the community, it did create an opportunity for a new experience for me. Students who were hurt and yet still in the process of their music performances were left with questioned loyalties. Their teacher, whom they loved and supported was now being publicly vilified. Their school administration seemed to be less than supportive of their devotion to him. Their school year, as they knew it, was over. They had just come off of some great “once in a lifetime” experiences and now had to continue through the end of the year concerts. Then there was me.
The principal said that there was a very difficult situation. They really needed someone to come in and get them through the end of the year, but, it will be very difficult. I had seen situations like this before. I knew that no matter how dedicated I was, I was still going to be seen as “the outsider”. They were going to rebel. They were going to vent their anger. They were going to be middle school students reacting to an adult situation with very little emotional resources. I was preparing myself for a difficult if not impossible road to affect their lives in a positive way. What really happened…I never saw it coming.
Since retiring, I have been trying to enjoy my freedom. Freedom from having to get up every morning. Freedom from planning for the next day. Freedom from all of the things that I perceived as annoying. It just isn’t that easy. What it means to be a teacher is to unlock another person’s limiting belief in themselves and the world that they live in. That has been my goal over the past several years as I neared retirement. It’s hard to quantify, but you know it when you see it.
This group of students, through their shared struggle have helped me see my value…again. They have come together to support one and other in a way that belies their age. I couldn’t be prouder of any group of people that I have ever known. They are a credit to their parents, teachers and yes, their own friends. They have truly done far more for me than I have for them.
Thank you DRA advanced choir. You made this old guy feel young…all over again.