2018-2019. What a year! What a crazyass year of personal highs and lows, professional highs and frustrations, and just an overall blur. Allow me to re-cap.
The fall started out with me preparing to defend my doctoral dissertation. I have to apologize to all of my first semester students because I definitely was not as present as I should have been for them. There. I put it out there. My mind was definitely centered around finishing school. I flew down to Arizona in October and successfully defending my dissertation: "Do I Really Want to Do This Now?" Negotiations of Sexual Identity and Professional Identity: An Intergenerational Collaboration with Six Gay and Lesbian K-12 Music Educators. My committee, Drs. Marg Schmidt, Jill Sullivan, Sandy Stauffer, and Stephen Paparo were amazing. I could not have asked for a more supportive committee.
I’m really proud of this work, despite the fact that every time I take a glance at the document I find a mistake. Every. Single. Time. That aside, I have this thing that I wrote, that I labored over, and finished. It took about everything out of me, but I came out the other side a bit smarter, a bit wiser, and with a fucking Ph.D. To that I celebrated. I flew back to Arizona in December to walk at graduation and celebrate with family and some of my closest humans.
That felt great and I was proud of myself. I also recongize that this is something to be proud of, because it is a lot of damn work. Nobody can prepare you for what doctoral work does to your brain. It mentally screws with you in ways that makes you wonder what the hell you have been doing and what you are doing to deserve this kind of cognitive punishment. (I’m really selling this well, aren’t I?) Perhaps that’s why such a small percentage of the population obtains such a degree (and a smaller percentage of women).
I often pump up the work of my students, because they kick ass. They do amazing things, but I have been working on feeding myself some self-love as well, and there was a period where I was thinking to myself “I don’t deserve this.” What the actual F?? As in, I don’t deserve this degree. Good grief, right? Well, I put in the time, and a helluva lot of work, and I am a changed person (for the better) because of it, so I am patting myself on the back.
Enough about me and my degree (only so much self-congratulations can happen, right?). In November I found out I was awarded a grant from the Give a Note Foundation, which was super amazing. $4,000 to spend in the classroom. I am starting a new class this upcoming year, Sound Production, and used the money to buy some fun new toys for that class. I am SUPER pumped for that class and there is a huge interest from the students (which is why the class was conceived in the first place). However, possibly even cooler than that, was a connection I made via Give a Note to Orangewood Guitars. They saw some social media tag about the work I do and reached out to see if I use ukuleles. At the time I didn’t, but OF COURSE I am interested in bringing as much music making experiences in the school, so they sent me a classroom set of Ukuleles. WHAT? And no strings attached (pun not intended) The kids absolutely LOVED these fun instruments, and I am now completely re-thinking the curriculum for next year, because #evolve.
This spring was a riot. Jazz 2 (previous posts that I haven’t finished writing about) created their entire spring concert on their own. They wrote/arranged/taught their tunes and we played a whole concert of their music. I say “wrote” very loosely because “notation” was per the person. Everything was done by ear. It was the riskiest damn thing I have ever done as an educator, but it was probably one of the most rewarding because they did all the work, and they were more invested in this concert than any other show we had done. Not to mention, let’s talk about community. Their willingness to discuss, offer advice, and be SUPER vulnerable just made this the tightest-knit band I have ever worked with. They are awesome, and I am so going to miss working with them.
To the last point and something that has become a trend in my professional life. I am moving down a different path. I am going to be a full-time secondary general music teacher next year-no performing groups. Meaning no jazz band. This was actually an easier decision than you might think because my passion as evolved to creating as many musical experiences for students as possible, and for that to occur, something has to give. By adding Sound Production, I needed to let a class go, and our admin added .2 to our orchestra teacher’s FTE, so that worked out perfectly. I spent 15 years teaching jazz and while it is one of my foundational passions, I need to let room in for something else. And, I am still involved with jazz education through our state level groups and adjudicating.
I will spend another post talking about this summer, and some exciting things happening, but I wanted to close with my main goal for this summer. Taking care of me and getting mentally healthy again. Teachers are natural givers, and we hear this all the time, but in order for us to give we must allow for some self-love. Therapy is excellent for this and there is absolulely no shame in talking with someone who will listen without judgement, and offer a different perspective. Therapists are great because they don’t know you, so you have to invite them in, and that is where the work starts. My therapist is great and we are working on all sorts of things, but the main thing is loving myself and how to put up boundaries. By boundaries, I mean, allowing myself to say “no” because the activity won’t necessarily improve my well-being at this point. So, this summer, I have a very free and open schedule, which is pretty amazing and causes a bit of anxiety at times, but then I think about how much I get to do with that time, versus having to do in that time. Wow...that is so liberating.
Hopefully I won’t wait another 6 months to write a post! In the meantime, take a walk, dip your toes in a lake, river, or ocean, smile a lot, and tell yourself that you are a badass.
I'm settling into summer break quite nicely. After three summers of intense doctoral work and comps, I am enjoying a bit more 'down' time. That's not to say I am not keeping myself occupied, but I am really trying hard to enjoy being in the present, relax, and feel ok about relaxing. That is not in my nature. So, I am writing this from my backyard-enjoying the smells of freshly cut grass, the birds, and an iced-coffee. But of course, there is a list of things in the back of my mind that need to get done, but I am trying not to think about them too much (ie, clean out the breezeway-do we really need a speaker that doesn't work?!)
So, this post is a bit about this summer, and what is coming up for me in terms of research and some teaching. Yesterday I began the first round of interviews for my dissertation. I have asked six individuals to join me in a journey that will explore the experiences of gay and lesbian K-12 music educators and how they negotiate the personal identity and sexuality identity. This is an inter-generational (cross-generational??) study that includes a first-year teacher through a retired educator. I am really excited to work with these folks but wary of how my emotions my get involved, considering my involvement with LGBTQ youth. However, I will do my best to put that to the side. I have a nice lengthy researcher's journal that basically goes with me wherever I go. I write down comments I hear, my responses (internal and external), and others' responses. The hope of this study is to better understand the needs of our gay and lesbian colleagues, which will hopefully generate discussion (much needed, I might add) in the profession. We'll see what happens. I am looking forward to this experience!
Next month I will be presenting a paper (the pilot study for my dissertation) at the Feminist Theory and Music 14 conference in San Francisco. This will be the third time that I have presented at this conference-the first being at ASU after I had completed my master's degree. I remember thinking "who the hell would live down here in this heat" (it was September and still rocking 100+ temps). My, how things have changed.
In August I will be a part of a panel at the National Flute Convention . While I don't identify as a flute player, I do teach in a school that has a large amount of diversity. The session description:
Embracing our Races: Connecting with Communities of Color
Presented by the Cultural Outreach Committee, this panel shares the ways they connect with underserved communities. Panelists include Caen Thomason-Redus, Director of Community and Learning at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Teresa Campbell, MacPahil Center for Music, Sarah Minette, faculty at South High School (MN), and Andrea Myers, Director of the Hopewell Music Cooperative (MN). Paula Gudmundson, moderator.
I find the term 'underserved' to be problematic, but I think this will be a great experience!
In September the Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE) is descending down to Minneapolis and I couldn't be more excited! I have three research posters that I will be presenting. The first is based on part of my literature review for my dissertation, entitled: "Communists and Queers": Historical purges of gay and lesbian educators. This is an UGLY history of American Education that started back during the Cold War and heavily encouraged by Senator Joe McCarthy. So, I am looking forward to putting together a poster that will be provocative and at the same time educational.
I am also working on a pretty cool research project with two friends, Dr. Amy Spears and Dr. Danelle Larson, and we will be sharing a poster as well. Our research stems from a night at a piano bar in Chicago a few years back. (Three researchers walk into a bar.....). Our research is looking at how piano bar musicians learn their music and share their music as a case for informal music making and music education. The research has been super fun. Go to a bar, get a drink, listen and watch the musicians and then ask them questions. Best.Ever.
The other SMTE project that I am working on...or will be working is with Dr. Lori Gray and Dr. Kyle Chandler. We considering the implications for changes in music educator curriculum and how that may be reflected in actual teaching practices-with my school as the 'model' school. Super excited to be working on this!
The last project I am working on is with Dr. Shilad Sen of Macalaster College in St. Paul. Shilad is a fantastic musician, but is actually a computer/math/stats/IT sort of guy (totally foreign to me and not something I completely understand). BUT he is totally into gender related issues and asked me to jump on board a study that is examining how women are perceived and critiqued on a Facebook page dedicated to jazz transcriptions. It is FASCINATING and it is fun to work with someone outside the music education community, but also someone who gets the music education community.
So. That's a lot of projects this summer to keep me occupied. As long as the weather stays like it does, I anticipate a lot of time sitting in the backyard with a computer on my lap and some sort of iced-beverage next to me.
After a long hiatus, I am ready to start blogging again about my teaching experiences. For a while, I had a nice blog that documented my experiences teaching middle school music. When I went back to school full time, that went by the wayside, even though I had every intention of documenting my experiences at ASU as well, but that gave way to hours of reading and writing for classes, so writing for fun wasn't really on the top of my list of things to do. Either way, I am back and excited for this new blog and for another year of teaching.
I am so grateful for this upcoming year. I really do love my job at South. It will be my second year here, but I feel like I have been there for ten. Nothing beats an incredibly supportive admin, fantastic colleagues, and the most amazing students. Sure, there are frustrating days-any job can be frustrating, especially when we work with humans. Let's be honest, we are not perfect :) However, I feel like this is my home. I finally feel like I can be who I am as a human. I feel trusted that I am making the right decisions and if I have questions I have countless people I can talk to. It's great!
This blog is going to be a bit of a hybrid in terms of what I talk about. My philosophy on learning and teaching has certainly evolved since I started teaching in 2003, but it has changed immensely since I began my graduate studies at ASU two years ago. Truly, I could not have imagined, even 5 years ago, that I would be at my current job and loving it so much. I have to credit ASU with being so life changing. So, sometimes this blog will delve into that, but today I am writing about organization!!
For years and years, my standard lesson planning tool was a notebook. Each class got a notebook designated for them. Here i would write down my lesson plans (in bulleted form), reminders, to-dos...etc. It worked for me. I also used a calendar for important dates as well. This year, I am attempting to be a bit more tech savvy and will be using Chalk.com, a FREE online planning tool for teachers. One of the reasons that I am trying this out is because I am going to be creating larger project-based units and this will be an easier way for me to embed smaller lessons into the units, and have it all at my fingertips (seriously, what did we do before the cloud?!). Additionally, if I felt it necessary, I can share the lessons with students-which would be incredibly helpful if students are out multiple days. I have been playing around with it and seems pretty user friendly. What planning tools do you use? Please share!
I will do my best to blog once a week. I think that is a good goal for myself. Thanks for stopping by and reading and please feel free to comment below!