I'm really proud of my DH today, but worried also. He's applying for a new job, which I really hope he gets, because I think it would be good for him as well as the family. How so?
Well, he's finishing up his 14th year of teaching. Of the 14, I'd say that 10 or so have been in very "rough" schools.......low socio-economic level, practically no parent support, can't even call home to tell a parent about behavior problems because the phone's been disconnected. He hasn't necessarily sought out these kinds of schools, they've just found him for various reasons over the years.
And he's been proud of the fact that he's been able to do something for some kids that no one cares much about.....allow them to have some musical experiences, go places and do things that they otherwise wouldn't have. One year, he took an overnight trip to Upstate SC, and from there they did a couple of hours excursion to the mountains right across into NC.....because some of these high-school kids had never left the Lowcountry before and never seen mountains!
But there are big struggles and frustrations in schools like these too. It's hard to explain, but there is just not a "culture of success" in these schools. They're labeled as "failing schools" according to NCLB (don't get me started!!!!!), and the atmosphere reflects that........just doing the minimum is ok, let's just get by with very little effort, and to be successful with Band that little effort won't cut it. Parents are not seen and not heard in these schools....until you try to hold their child accountable for their actions or dare to expect them to meet some standard of behavior or performance, then you hear from them in a way that you'd rather not!
So, where does that leave DH? Well, he works very hard to try and make something resembling a "real Band" out of what he's got at this school. They try to participate in state festivals and contests, and have had some small successes, but had to scratch and claw to get them. For many of these kids, there is no such thing as true committment to anything, so forget the idea of the kids actually coming to practices and learning their music.....ain't gonna happen for lots of them. But at the contest, it's "DHs little Band of mostly poor kids who aren't really trying" vs. "someone else's big Band of rich kids who all take private music lessons"...and you can imagine the outcome.
Their biggest contest of the year was yesterday. He knew going into it that they'd struggle, and was just hoping for a respectable outcome with little or no drama attached. It's so hard to separate yourself, as a professional musician, from the high expectations that you know should be in place.....but in a situation like his, you're thankful if everyone actually shows up, and if they're wearing something resembling what you told them to, and have an instrument and maybe some sheet music. If that happens for all the kids, you're doing great. But often it doesn't.
So, yesterday morning, he shows me something that he's written on the palm of his hand: The names of our two boys. He said "I wrote A and E on here so that I'll see it and remember today, that even when I get angry and frustrated with the Band kids, I want to try and treat them the way I'd expect our boys to be treated by a teacher." :) I was so proud, and not sure I could do the same in his shoes, so that made me even more impressed.
Bottom line, though, this thankless job is wearing on him, I can see it. He's exhausted all the time, but just keeps on plugging away without a lot of tangible reward. I think it's getting harder and harder for him to do that.
The new job? Applications close on Tuesday, and then I really don't know how fast it'll move after that. He's not the only one applying, but we don't know how many others or how stiff the competition will be. It's an administrative/district level job, in Music, and I think he'd be awesome for it. I really do believe he's at risk of burning out as a music educator, and I don't want to see that happen. That's why I truly hope that he gets this job and can direct his energies and enthusiasm into something that he can feel like he really makes a difference and has some recognition for the work he does. Right now, he's not getting much of that. Not many Band directors would do the job he currently does......don't think I would either. If you pray, can you send up a few for DH? This new job is something he really needs, IMHO. We all need it, truth be told. Thanks.