How does it happen? First you blink and the day starts with your eyes wide open. The clock starts running and when you turn around, it’s 1:20 pm, and you are still slurping on your cold coffee, wondering where the time has gone to? What are my students doing?
That’s how my days are going, these past few weeks. I have started on a new journey, having left teaching, not because of my students or my fellow teachers. The straw that broke the camels’ back for me was the reduction of my hours and health benefits after my husbands’ passing.
I came back to work, after the typical summer off for teachers that was anything but typical. Most people would not have stayed at the party as long as I did, but honestly, there are only so many changes a human being and her children can take in a six month period. I have been reluctant to write about the series of unfortunate events, mostly because it was so unfathomable to me that I was not wanted or needed by a school that clearly needed what I had to offer.
Originally, I had prayed and put out into the universe that I desired to take my teaching expertise in Performing Arts and Montessori Education to either the urban poor or children with special needs. Surely, there must be a place where I could give the very best of who I am as an artist and a human being and help enlighten and educate children who may very well not have the golden opportunity to be exposed to these wonderful areas of music appreciation/styles and peace education.
Well, I put it out there, and got it back, ten fold. I ended up teaching in an inner city school for disabled and urban poor children. They say God only gives you what you can handle. God had much more faith in me than I did. It turned out to be the most rewarding experience of my career. I even used to joke that I would probably do it for free, I loved teaching my students so much!
In return, I received understanding and acceptance, grace and laughter, love and life lessons. My students taught me about adversity and forgiveness, community and shared experiences, but most importantly, unconditional love.
Unfortunately, I had to leave all of that behind. The decision came to me when I realized no matter how much my students and fellow educators loved the musical styles of The Beatles and Verdi, Taylor Swift and Simon and Garfunkel, Miles Davis and The Clash… it was not enough. It became about pieces of paper, reciprocity and credentials. Being an educator for over fifteen years and an artist for over thirty became irrelevant. The request was made to return to Graduate School, once again, repeating the same classes taken in another state, five years previously. My 3.97 GPA was not relevant. Neither were my dollars spent. I was finished with the politics and the paperwork. Mostly, I was sad for my students. I don’t like to believe I let them down. I could not make a living being an educator for fifteen hours a week, with no health insurance and no sick days or vacation. Prior to a change in management, I had received very high marks in all of my reviews and critiques as an educator. Clearly, this was not going to have the ending I wanted or needed. Sad story. True story. This school was gearing itself from Private to Charter status, the culture of the school was changing and I was not going to be transitioning along with them. Sometimes, things don’t work out. They just don’t.
As of this date, the school has yet to hire another music artist-in-residence/educator, Rhode Island certified or otherwise. As for my students, not a day goes by when I don’t think of them. Not a single day.