What do you do when you are a career teacher for 46 years and your administration decides to get rid of you? You go into hiding, suffer depression, have a self-pity party, get angry and finally, recover. The best way to recover? Write a book and so I did. Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! published in 2019 became a best seller and established me as one of the nation’s top advocates for fixing our educational system. UNFORTUNATELY THIS PART IS FICTION! I’ve probably given away more books to struggling teachers than I’ve sold. And that’s OK.
In the spirit if Christmas, here is an excerpt from my book regarding the season of Christmas and music educators. THIS IS FACT:
’Tis the Season: During the holiday season, most music educators experience fear of singing anything with the word “Christmas”. The secular progressives argue no war on Christmas exists. They need to walk in the shoes of music educators. Singing Christmas literature could result in 30 days of angst. The line of parents, wishing to dismiss holiday music, lengthened to include non-Christian religious groups, agnostic, and atheist community members determined to prohibit Christmas music in the public schools. [Waiting for someone to criticize my choice of seasonal music repertoire], I felt Music cringe inside me. My flame flickered and decreased in size. No matter what kind of holiday program I designed, someone would object to the words Christmas, baby Jesus, the wise men or even the term “hallelujah”. One year I decided to approach Christmas through gospel music, widely recognized as being a vital part of our culture. The concert contained a lovely first grade song called “Mary Had a Baby.” My principal ran into my room (administrators seem to do this a lot when they do not want to deal with parents) and said one of our Muslim parents demanded to speak with me on the phone, now. The confrontational phone call reflected the 70’s, before parents could attack a teacher and hit “send” in the 90’s. Speaking calmly with the parent, I told her how frustrated I felt trying to find holiday songs which would not offend anyone. The previous year, the students performed NO Christmas music. Instead they composed music to a popular book, which was a part of the curriculum at the time. This approach garnered fast disapproval from my Christian parents. In December, they expected a Christmas program. I suggested to the Muslim parent she head up a committee of Christian, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists, as a representation of our community. I encouraged her to have those parents design a December program so everyone could feel happy. To my amazement, she seemed pleased about the idea and assured me she would start gathering the committee that day. I never heard from her again. With no committee for guidance, I continued trying to make each year’s program agreeable to all, while wondering who would complain next.
A few years later, while rehearsing my sixth graders for the holiday program, a professionally dressed woman entered my classroom. She nodded and smiled. Then she took a seat in the back of the room, with pencil and tablet ready. She proceeded to write down everything I said! This woman must represent the American Civil Liberty Union, thereby documenting me so I could be fired for teaching Christmas music. When I feel scrutinized, the tendency to preview everything before I speak consumes me. My speech became filled with “uh, well, maybe”. The more I tried to articulate the lesson faster, the swifter the lady wrote. I should have stopped and asked who she was and what purpose she had in visiting my class. But I was in the middle of teaching a lesson to kids with a short span for listening. Stopping to ask the visitor to identify herself never entered my mind until afterwards.
I felt this itching sensation on my arms. I started to perspire. The itching persisted. I desperately tried to get relief but red welts, the size of silver dollars, appeared on both arms. Hives presented as a product of my discomposure. As soon as the class left, with courage, I asked my visitor who she was and her purpose in recording my lesson verbatim. The lovely lady introduced herself as the mother of one of my students. Hired as a new teacher for the next semester, and admiring my teaching skills, she came to observe the methods I used in classroom management. My arms became a testimony that the war on Christmas was real and every music educator lived a life in limbo from November through January.
Teachable Moment: Stop your task at hand and ask any person who comes into your classroom to identify themselves and state the reason for their visit. Make sure your school maintains a strict policy of whom may come into the building and what proper procedure dictates if this person wishes to speak with you. Even with a strong security presence, people (volunteer parents) may show up at any time and possibly generate a confrontation. Find out what recourse you have against these likely encounters. Put a plan in place should the situation arise, and then call security immediately.
The above is an example of my entire book. When sharing any teaching experience, I always followed it with a “teachable moment.” And there were many. My career reflects wisdom gained through trial and error and sometimes pain.
TUNE IN SOON. Here’s a tease: It’s the new year so it’s time for the 4:41 Forgiveness Plan.
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . Read more of my thoughts at: rescuetheteacher.com. If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at email@example.com!