Friday, April 4, 2008

I can almost here Tevye sing it now.
As a first year teacher I realize that I have much to learn and one of the things I have learned right away is that people like tradition.
I am coming into a school where I teach all music from 4th grade up. Band, Choir, General music you name it. Needles to say this requires a lot of time and effort. On the auditorium wall where everyone coming into the community (its a small town) can see are the Words, "A Tradition of Excellence" and they mean it. I love this about the school the kids are really great.
The problem is people define excellence differently, depending on their perspective. Every year for the last 10 years or so the High School where I am for part of the day has put on a Musical. Largely at the expense of nearly everything else in the program. I talked to the previous teacher who told me the musical takes priority over everything else. The problem with this, at least in my opinion, is that seems very unfair for those not in the musical.
So I chose to not do a full blown musical but a musical review. It would not take as much time, more people could be the stars and I wouldn't loose my mind in my first year teaching. Sounds like a good plan. Well as I am sure any music teacher with at least one year of teaching experience could have told me, this did not go over well with parents. To be fair I shouldn't group all the parents together most were very supportive but a few very vocal parents were very upset to say the least.
I had one parent tell me that if I did not do a musical the town would revolt and all the kids would drop music all together and basically I wouldn't last the year. Well needless to say I am still here and as we are registering for next year, my numbers are up.
One concerned parent told me that some of the parents were in talks with the previous music teacher about having her come back and do a community musical during the evenings. Luckily that never panned out.
I will refrain from telling all the stories I am sure you get the idea. Well the Musical Review has come and gone now and I have heard nearly all good things.
Administration is a happy because I didn't keep kids out till 10 and 11PM every night for the month before the performance like was done in the past. It was a big problem I was told in my interview because kids were falling asleep in class. We had 3 full dress rehearsals and they were all done by 9PM.
Students were happy because more than 3-4 people got to be leads. Some are already telling me what they want to do for next years Musical Review. I'm not ready to start that tradition either.
Parents, for the most part, were happy because their kid got to be the star for at least one song. Many people came to me after and said "I had no idea we had so much talent here".
The Band was happy because we also did a Movie Review for them. Generally they don't have anything because the Musical takes priority.
All in all I thought it was a great success and I would do it again.
The kicker for me though was when one of the parents that was helping me out a lot, sent a letter to my principal trying to "help me out" with out me wanting her to or even talking to me about it. She wrote a p.s. comment at the end that I don't think she knew I would ever see. Luckily I have a great principal who supports me and keeps me in the loop with what is going on.
She said, "Even though not doing a "musical" this year saved me personally a lot of time and effort, I believe it is a sad thing for not only the students but also the community. I hope you will rethink this in the future. "Traditions of Excellence" will never be achieved by mediocrity."
I was enraged after reading that, luckily I didn't say anything to anyone and kept my cool and let it blow over. Since the show I have heard many parents say it was the best they have seen in a long time and band parents thank me for not forgetting the rest of the program and many great compliments along these lines.
For some reason tradition can become so important to some of us that we fail to see the big picture. Hopefully I can truly strive for excellence in all that I do and not let parents ruin my love of music and sharing that with the next generation.

Tevye: Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything... How to sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, "How did this tradition get started?" I'll tell you!
Tevye: I don't know. But it's a tradition...


Steven & Meghan said...

Thanks Kyle, now I have that song stuck in my head! Keep up the good work! Maybe you can pass everything on to me when I'm a teacher...if I ever get there.

Carbonneau said...

Way to go Kyle! I have lived in a small town and I know what tradition means to a small town. EVERYTHING. I am so happy that you went with your idea and that it also turned out so well! It sounds like you have brought a lot to the schools you teach at! GREAT JOB! can't wait to see you and Alli next Fri!! -kt