This year is special for me. Usually I write a letter to myself and leave it in my desk at school. Instead, this year my letter to the future was packed in a cardboard box along with all my puppets, books, instruments, lesson plans, and other teacher things. This summer I’ll be making a big change as I leave the school I’ve been at for the last four years, Frances Willard Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas, and make the long trip to Lansing, Michigan where I’ll be taking on a new challenge as the music teacher at the Lansing Charter Academy. I’m excited for the move and for all the challenges ahead. The new school has a strings and guitar program (that I get to oversee), a middle school component (which I’ve never tackled before), and new schedules and faces and weather and opportunities. I’m so excited about what lies ahead and I’m also sad to leave the kids and staff that I’ve lived with day-in and day-out for the last four years.
Treat People Royally
When I teach this rule at the beginning of every year I talk to the kids about how they need to do MORE than just the golden rule. Treating someone royally is about more than treating them how YOU want to be treated. It means treating others in the best way that you possibly can. And I always make a point to say to my students, “You know, in my eyes, each one of you really is as important as a king or a queen. You mean that much to me. I want to treat each one of you as if you are one of the most important people in the whole land. I’m going to treat you like royalty! If you treat one another as nicely as you would treat royalty, think of all the amazing fun that we would have. “
Keep Moving Forward
The next year I was working through the logistics of a recorder unit and was having major troubles. For example: What do you do with the rest of the class when some kids are testing? Does the rest of the class work “independently” while you listen to 3 or 4 testing at your desk? ...because guess what, that didn’t work for my third graders. They needed a task. They needed to be engaged somehow and have something to do. You can’t just say, “practice quietly” and let them go.
Nobody is perfect. Nobody has it all together. It’s okay to be “in progress.” Moving forward is a good thing, but it can also be hard. It’s not easy to try new things or to do things in a different way. Just set goals, stay true to what you know, and keep moving forward.
Make Moments Matter
I thought about this a lot these last few weeks. I am proud of all the good work that I’ve done at Frances Willard and all the great accomplishments that my students and I have shared. I really hope that I have made each moment matter with my students. I hope that they know their stuff for the next teacher and that they truly are proficient in music making.
I hope they remember me as the person who always waved goodbye to the busses as they rumbled away from school, the teacher who smiled and said hello in the hallway, and the teacher who pushed them to achieve and cheered them on through the process. I hope they remember me fondly and I hope that my love for them shines through. Most of all, I hope that they love music. I hope that something, anything I’ve done has helped foster their love for music.
I hope that I have made every moment matter at Frances Willard, I've certainly tried. I hope that those moments make a difference in the lives of my beautiful students and I hope that each musical moment stands out in their memory as a time that they felt safe, and felt like part of the community, and felt loved.
So, my letter to myself is packed away in a box in my basement until late July when it will find itself in a U-Haul truck and on it’s way to the middle of Michigan. I’m moving forward. I’m so excited for the opportunities and unknowns in Lansing and all the new students that I will get to love and learn with. I'm also excited about the new friends and colleagues that I will make, I've already found some truly great people (Hey there Mid-Michigan Orff Association! See you in the fall!) I can’t wait to have 700 more little faces to treat royally. I’m excited about all the laughs, missteps, successes, and learning that’s ahead. And in all those new things, I can’t wait to make each and every moment matter.