Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Teacher--Part 2

Let's continue this thread--what do teachers do and follow a high school or secondary school teacher.  In this case, let's follow a high school music teacher, although it could be an English teacher, a civics teacher, perhaps a science teacher--but today it will be music.  My undergraduate degree was in music education and my goal at that time was to become the best high school music teacher that ever was......  Started out as an elementary music teacher and during that first year, the high school music teacher became quite ill and they moved me up to the high school.  Bill Morse (no real names in any of my blogs except in rare occasions) was probably one of the finest high school music teacher in a smallish high school.   He didn't have kids make music--he taught them music.  He was good and so when he took seriously ill, I held down the fort so to speak.  I was in over my head.

High schools start earlier than grade schools.  I had to be at work by seven thirty although classes started at eight o'clock.  I'd leave my house at about seven fifteen still getting dressed.  I'm not a morning person.  We had to wear dress shirts, ties, slacks and jackets.  I would be buttoning my white shirt with one hand and driving with the other.  Then a clip on bow tie.  You'll hear more about this later on in this blog.

Before class I'd go to the office to get my mail and announcements.  There were always announcements.  Some schools today have someone read the announcements over a speaker system to the rooms but back in my day, I had to read it to the first period students.  First period was "home period" where you got kids from all over the school--each teacher had a group of kids and I'm not sure how they were divided up.  I'd read the announcements, answer questions if I could, take roll, fill out the form and then post the form outside the door of my classroom.  At least for me, it was mostly small talk among the students and me since it was not a true class. A few kids would ask for a hall pass to go to the office for some reason and I'd scribble something on a form and off they would go.

At eight twenty, kids would depart for their first period.  Mine first class was "B" band, all the kids that hadn't made the big band.  Mostly freshman and some transfers who wanted to learn a musical instrument.  It would take them a few minutes to settle down, get their music out and be ready for me.  We'd do scales to warm up, then some simple songs with me trying to get them to listen to each other.  Music teachers will smile at this:  "everyone playing but one band sound!"  B band never made one band sound which is why they were in that band.  But I felt good working with them--not far ahead of my elementary bands.

Next period started at nine twenty and it was the Stage Band.  Some schools call it the Jazz or Swing band and I know one school that calls it the Broadway band.  These are pretty good musicians already, have control of their instruments, like music and probably could have practice without me.  It was a fun period and I enjoyed it.

Now before I go to third period I need to tell you a little about me at that time.  This was my first year of teaching having just graduated the year before from college.  I was single although I had a steady girl friend who was still at college.  I'm a white male reasonably good looking and dressed.  I'm twenty-three years old.  I wanted to do well at my job.  I tell you all this because third period was for me the period from hell.  Pure hell.

It was Girls Glee Club.  About twenty girls who all were very excellent singers.  Many of them seniors were taking the class for fun.  And they had fun.  They picked on me, oh my on my how they enjoyed that.  "Do you have a girl friend, Mr. Blackwell?"  "Do you like girls?"  I'd respond, "Okay, let's settle down.  First song--here's the upbeat"  And I start them singing.  That was my only defense.  Those girls sang more for me then they ever did for Bill.  They petrified me.  Some were only five years younger than me but at least ten years older in the ability to tease a man.  Oh, dear!   They took great delight in harassing me and if you walked into the room at any time they would have looked like angles.  I was not me.

The last day that I was to substitute for Bill, a Friday if I remember, these girls, not an angle among them, came to class all wearing blue skirts, white blouses and big, BIG colorful bow ties.  They had a ball with me.

Next came lunch for me--I ate in the music room office.  It was too far to the teacher's room and I really didn't know many of the other teachers.  

After lunch it was the fourth and fifth periods.  That would be first the choir and then the big band.  Afternoons for me were pure delight.  The choir could really sing and so it was more of teaching them how to interpret the music or making sure they hit the right notes for the harmony.  We'd practice but it was enjoyable for me.  Pure fun and they paid me to do this.

Last period was band.  Most of the kids had been in music for several years including elementary band and junior high band so it was not much basic teaching for me.  Band teachers really don't have discipline problems.  The kids enjoy what they are doing and so we did it for an hour or so.   It think it was an eighty minute period.   Those were good times.

First buses came around two thirty.  Do you know why high schools start so early in the morning?  So that the athletic teams can practice in the afternoon.  Very important to a community are the athletic teams.  Get a winning football team and you can almost always pass a school bond.  Have a losing team and the bond issue is a maybe.  

For the music teacher some of that afternoon time was working with different music groups that came in to practice.  A saxophone quartette, maybe the trumpet section wants to improve a section of a piece.   Even if we started earlier in the day at the high school it would be easily four thirty by the time I headed home.  But one of the perks of my job as music teacher is that I didn't have that many papers to correct.  I have always felt sorry for my English teacher colleagues.

On the other hand, I was lucky.  The kids and I got to work on music for the spring performances.  Had it been early fall, the band would have been out in the field practicing marching formations until the five thirty buses.  Hey, it is a skill they have to learn--how to play and march at the same time.  But I was spared that teaching assignment.

I only taught in the high school for a couple of months.  But I have been in many high schools and those teachers are amazing.  These students are young adults and they want to flex their wings.....and they all think they are smart--many are.  I had several student teachers in a high school setting.  I was always impressed.

I've generalized a bit here but I suspect many high school teachers will recognize their day. A few have longer periods and a few high schools have different periods on different days to give some classes like science time to complete experiments.  But the main clog in the wheels are the teachers.  They are good.

If you still play a musical instrument or like to sing, go thank a music teacher.

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