Performance is a big part of what we do as teachers. Yes, this is a large piece of our music curriculum, but in reality we perform every single day. In fact, whatever discipline you teach you need to be an incredible performer. We need to stand in front of our classroom everyday and put on a show. I am not talking about entertaining the kids. I’m talking about the type of performance that is required from us so they can pay attention and stay engaged for forty minutes. It is about putting the needs of the kids before our own. Sometimes that means putting our own feelings and needs aside so we can focus our attention on our students.
This weekend was busy for me. After a full week at work with concert season on the horizon, I judged a NYSSMA solo festival. I love doing these festivals. I really enjoy hearing the students come in showing off all of the work they have done. I know that as an adjudicator I have the responsibility to provide a positive experience so students want to keep performing and seek out feedback to continue to grow. I take this job very seriously because it can really have an impact on a student’s self-perception of their singing voice. I make a point to smile and be as warm and cheerful as possible. These kids are often nervous and I want to alleviate any unnecessary negative emotions associated with performing.
Then on Saturday, my dog died. The morning of the festival I said goodbye to her, and then I had to leave. I was sad. Sammy was a part of our family since she was a pup. When I got to the school, I sat in the parking lot for a minute. I took a few breaths, cried a few tears and headed into the school. I had a job to do and I could not through the festival feeling sad, allowing it to affect my responsibilities. All day I focused my attention on the students and felt fortunate for the distraction and of course, the music. I had a role to play. My performance was to be an NYSSMA adjudicator and I had to do it well. So, I played the part.
Maybe that’s what makes music teachers different in these situations. We are actually trained in this. We are trained as performers, and often we need to think of our roles as teachers as just that: parts to play. Sometimes we are tired, or mad, frustrated or sad. But everyday we must be the teacher the students need us to be. That is sometimes the most difficult part of what we do.