The first one I participated in was at my school in Kuwait. I was a newbie choir teacher- I had been teaching for almost three years but this was my first time teaching choir. The five conductors who came from Jordan, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar were all older, more experienced, and a lot more knowledgeable than me. I had the fresh-faced, straight-out-of-college (ish) knowledge- all the latest research, all the greatest warm-ups, all the best teaching practices- they had the real-world know-how.
I was in awe. I sat and took notes on everything they said and did. Each of us was responsible for conducting one of the songs that the choir was to perform- I was more nervous to do this than almost anything I’ve ever done before or since! Was I prepared enough (no), would I make a fool of myself (no), would I know how to correct problems (yes)?
One of the directors in particular, we’ll call her L, was such a positive force of nature. She was Australian and had been teaching choir for about ten years. She made the kids laugh with self-deprecating jokes and funny anecdotes about music and singing. She led them through fun but important warm-ups and exercises. They hung on her every word.
So did I.
She became my immediate friend. We saw each other again a few months later at the middle school festival. It was held at her school, which was amazing. The facilities and her resources were enviable. She had practice rooms and a music technology room and her very own accompanist!! This, more than anything, filled me with envy. I am not, nor will I ever be, an accomplished pianist. It is one of my greatest downfalls as a music teacher. But, as I’ve mentioned previously, I am a brilliant conductor. I was so jealous that L could just conduct; she never had to worry about playing the piano. Sigh. I wanted her job.
Then she told me that she was thinking of retiring. WHA?!?! Why oh why would she retire, I
demanded, sadness welling in my chest at the thought of not working with this amazing woman who I barely knew.
She said it had been ten years. She was kind of tired of it. It wasn’t always fun. There was a lot of red tape. And dealing with the parents, even in an established choral program, was never fun.
One day, she said, you’ll understand.
And I do now. I have been beaten down over the last few months. I have never had the kinds of issues with students and parents that I’ve had at this school. I feel defeated. I feel deflated.
I feel like I want to quit teaching.
L and I lost touch before the super-connection that is Facebook started. I’m going to go look her up right now. Hopefully, she’s hating retirement and wants to get back into the choral scene.
Somehow, I doubt it.