The Feels Are Alive, with the sound of “New School Year” ← 10 things I’ll remind myself about teaching music this new school year.

Tomorrow I begin year 13 of teaching music in public schools in New York City. Here are 10 things I will remind myself, so when the going gets tough, I know I have solid anchoring and a sense of purpose.

  1. I love making music. I love teaching youth. I love teaching music to youth. This is the main reason I am a music teacher, and as hard as they try (and they will!) nobody- NOBODY, can take that away from me. If they try, I will not let them. That belongs to me, just as much as the air I breathe.
  2. I have done the work of identifying 10 things I am passionate about teaching music. I have built a program and designed educational experiences based on those. That will make life more fun for myself, and thus, for my students.
  3. Within the first week or two of school, I will find 10 things that my students would be passionate about learning. I will center those, in my program and will design educational experiences based on them. That will make life more fun for students, and thus, for myself.
  4. “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.” — bell hooks. Teaching is Love. Love Takes Trust. Trust Takes Time. I must remember that love takes all the things bell hooks speaks of, and be patient; with ourselves and with our students.
  5. To Discipline Means To Teach. Yes, really. A few years ago, I heard this and didn’t believe it. I even googled the definition of “Discipline.” Hint: *it comes from the word “disciple.” I will remember that I cannot teach a student who is not there (because I expelled/kicked out/suspended them)
  6. I will focus on teaching fair and clear norms and expectations, and will invite students to design how thy will embody the procedures. When I taught elementary school, I successfully and positively transformed classroom management by teaching my students the following three norms/expectations: 1) In the Music Room We Keep Our Hearts Safe. 2) In the Music Room We Keep Our Bodies Safe. 3) In the Music Room We Keep Our Things Safe. Now that I teach high school, and that my school does have amazing school-wide norms, I will teach it to them. 1) “We Are Committed To Peace. 2) “We Are Committed To Diversity. 3) “We Are Committed To Growth.
  7. The Year of The P’s. (from Mitch Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten Book) Projects, Passion, Peers & Play. Also, this will be the year where I focus more on building transformative relationships with students, rather than transactional relationships.
  8. Music and Music education don’t happen inside a vacuum. To make music is to be human. Here are the essential questions that will anchor my practice: How do musicians become the “voice” of the people?
  • What is the role of the arts in society?
  • How does rhythm affect us emotionally, physically, and mentally?
  • How does music help us to understand and communicate better with others?
  • Why do we play music?
  • What is a life worth living?
  • How do music tell stories? Whose stories do we tell? Whose stories do we silence?

9. Teaching is by default political. There is no such thing as an apolitical teacher. Education is not written into the constitution of the United States of America, therefore anything we do, is resistance. This is a great honor and a great responsibility. We must always strive to be honest, thorough and fair, The search for collective liberation cannot end when the schoolbell rings.

10. I LOVE LOVE LOVE teaching music to youth. It is my life’s work. It is my life’s mission. It is my life’s purpose. There will be days where this will be ver alive and there will be days where I can’t see how this could be possible. For that reason, I write and share it in the internets, where it will live forever as it keeps me honest and grounded.

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