The Three Passions of Teaching

Around November at a staff meeting our principal assigned teachers to work in groups to read Teach Like a Pirate and present their readings at future staff meetings. My immediate thought was: don’t we have enough work to do already? My next thought was: how long can I avoid this before I am forced to do it? Then my thoughts at the next staff meeting (where an overly enthusiastic team of teachers presented their chapter): How in the world do they still have this much energy after teaching all day? Yes, I can be a pessimist. However, after hearing one of the teams present their section yesterday I am absolutely compelled to read this book.

Their chapter was all about the three passions of teaching. One or more of these three passions, according to the author, are the reason you chose your profession and they are: Content, Professional and Personal. This team of teachers described which passion they aligned with. The seventh grade Language Arts/Social Studies teacher chose Content, because she said she loves working on novels with the students. The teacher who works with our struggling learners said he teachers for Personal passion, because he loves relating to students on a personal level and developing them as hopefully good members of society. The other teacher who works with our struggling learners chose Professional, because he believes he is good at what he does and can prepare students academically as well as personally. Listening to these teachers got me to thinking, what are my passions?

After some thought, I decided that I think all three apply to me.

Content: I love music. I love teaching music. I especially love fun music (pop, show tunes, etc) which is good because that is what my students relate to the most. I can see the value in traditional choir standards and I love explaining to my students why learning the “hard” and “boring” music is important. I have always been good at music and spend about 75% of my day either listening to or performing music. When I visited my boyfriend’s family, his Dad’s girlfriend asked me if I’m always “humming like that.” I told her I didn’t even realize I had been humming anything and she said “Wow, so it’s like music is just always a part of you no matter what.” Sure. I hadn’t thought about it like that and hearing it as a positive attribute made me feel pretty cool. Content is an easy connection for me.

Professional: I absolutely love my profession. If I wasn’t teaching music, then my other career options probably would’ve been Early Childhood Education or pursuing a Masters in Counseling. If I quit working (when my boyfriend becomes a lawyer and makes quadruple my salary) I will have to keep working with kids in some capacity or I will feel unfulfilled. Since my Freshman year of college I have always attended the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference. It is the best part of my school year and I get so much out of the dozens of sessions and performances I attend there. I look forward to staff meetings, even though they can be boring and usually the information ends up having nothing to do with elective teachers. I really enjoy being in a room with all of the other teachers and hearing about their opinions/successes/struggles. I am also really good at what I do. That might sound like bragging, but I think bragging is okay if you have something to back it up with. This year I was greeted by 140 students who didn’t even know that reading music was a skill. They had always performed pop songs at concerts and just memorized the lyrics and melodies. Now I have 140 students who can sightread in major and minor keys using both steps and skips. If you are not a musician, then that probably means nothing to you, but if you are a musician then hopefully you can understand how amazing that growth is. I have a lot of Professional passion.

Personal: Now this is where I really get into it. I am absolutely one hundred percent in this career for the Personal passion. I entered college wanting to teach music to the brightest and best young musicians in Ohio and then I spent my summer working at a YMCA Summer Camp with students that came from low socioeconomic (SES, for short) backgrounds. This experience changed my life. I immediately found my Personal passion for working with urban youth and I followed that passion all through college. It was hard to get pre-service teaching experience in urban areas, because my college is in a rural area of Ohio, but when it came time for Student Teaching I chose to commute 45 minutes to teach in an extremely urban area. Best. Decision. Ever.

Fast forward to now. Here are the statistics of where I am teaching: “The total enrollment at Name Redacted Middle School is approximately 800 students with nearly 60% qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Approximately 49% of the students identify themselves as caucasian compared to an Ohio middle school average of 73%.” Now here is a breakdown of one of my random classes: “The sixth grade choir of fifty-one students is composed of twelve males and thirty-seven females. The ethnic composition mirrors the school population with twenty caucasian students. Ten students have an IEP, three students has a 504 plan and two students are English Language Learners.” My school is not “supposed” to be an urban environment, but it just so happens that our part of the district receives similar students as the urban counterparts in Cincinnati do. I am not giving you those statistics as a “woe is me,” because I love this environment. I just think it is necessary to understand in order for me to express my opinions.

I have been teaching for 26 weeks. Within those weeks over 50 of my students have been suspended (mostly for physical fighting); a handful of my students have been arrested or spent time in jail (mostly for physical fighting, theft and resisting arrest); students have told me about their tragic home lives; students have cried about not being able to understand their academic subjects and receiving no help at home; students have walked two hours to school by themselves just to perform in my concert where no one came to watch them; a dozen of my students have moved during a random part of the school year because their parents lost their housing; and a handful of my students will be repeating their current grade level. Now, these are not the brightest and best young musicians in Ohio, but these are absolutely the students I was meant to teach. I cannot justify that my music curriculum is more important than their academic classes, but I can justify that my classroom is an environment in which they can forget about all of these terrible things that happen outside of my choir and that is my Personal passion.

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