Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Want to be a GIANT

Spring 2016
Year 11... Houston, TX 

Disclaimer: I realize that no one may care or be even remotely interested in this topic but this post is more for me. There are days where I feel like I have no one to talk to or vent to and this is just a little of my frustrations that I am going through right now. Almost like a "Dear Diary" page. In 11 years of teaching I have not felt this depressed throughout the whole year and felt as if this is not really where I am supposed to be. This is unusual to me because I have known I wanted to be in the education field since I was 16, literally ½ my life. Yet at this point I feel like I could be anywhere but here.

A little about my personality
All my life I have been somewhat of an outcast and never REALLY fit in with the popular, strong or successful groups or at least not the groups I “wanted” to fit in with. In high school I was a cheerleader, volleyball player, basketball player and golf player but I was just average at all of those and I wanted to be the best. I decided in 10th grade I would go down the music/ band road and I pretty much did that alone. I was the sole BAND NERD at my school. I “made my bed, now I have to sleep in it” at that point but I had no idea this road would be so political and so lonely at times.

By nature my personality wants to be recognized for a job well done, it’s just who I am. I have tried and am still trying to not be this way but I thrive on someone telling me “Good job” and “Way to go”. In addition, I have always had a mentality of “keeping up with the Jones’” and want to be a part of the successful group and I have let my successes (and failures) define me over the years. 

A little about my career
I have taught music for 11 years, 6 of which were band, and the past 5 years have been in Texas. I have always dreamed of being a band director and growing a successful band and music program. When I was in college as a music education major there were 2 distinct groups within that major; 1) those seeking band/ choir director positions and 2) those choosing to teach general or elementary music. There were several more directors than there was elementary music and I noticed real quickly the attitude that went with the general (classroom) music teachers. “Oh, you want to teach elementary music? That is great. That is where the heart of the music field is but we (the directors) will build up the programs and make them look successful. Good for you though.” This literally was the mentality and attitude, from the upperclassmen all the way up to the professors.

My freshman year of college I did not make the Pride of Oklahoma marching band, which was a MAJOR reason why I chose to go to OU. This was a huge set-back for me but I pressed on and stayed at OU instead of going home like a puppy with my tail between my legs and go to Tyler Junior College like 90% other graduates of my high school. From that point on I followed the same path as my high school days and never really fit in with the music ed/ band director crowd because they all had the bond that developed by being in the Pride. That whole freshman year was really hard on me and wondered why I was there and why I was trying to be something that I may not be... but yet I still knew that I wanted in my heart to be a band director and I was determined that I would overcome these issues. 

My sophomore and junior years I did in fact get into the Pride of Oklahoma and have made friendships with fellow players and I am grateful for that experience and those friendships. However, I turned that 136 hour/ 5 year degree into 4 years by pressing hard and taking incredibly heavy course loads because all I wanted to do was get out into the field and teach band.

I did my student teaching with arguably one of the absolute best band directors in the state of Oklahoma, and easily the best female director within the OKC metro. I had a passion for teaching band and both my mentor teachers could see that. They helped me blossom into a very good middle school band director and led me on a path towards band success.

In late spring 2005 I had an interview at Bristow, OK to be an assistant band director alongside an incredible educator and well known band director in Oklahoma. He offered me the position but I was seriously dating Chris at the time and knew a long-distance relationship would not work. Instead I was later offered a “one-man K-12” band director job at Bowlegs, OK. There I would serve as the K-12 general music AND band director. I got married during that year and I was only there for 1 year and then left to teach band at Grove School in Shawnee, OK to be closer to my now husband, Chris Davis.

I spent 5 years teaching band and general music at Grove and enjoyed it 85-90% of the time. There is always times were a bad situation or turn of events can bring you down but I LOVED teaching band and the actual JOB they hired me to do! During those 5 years I built the band program from 52 kids (5-8th grade) to over 100. We received the first ever superior rating in the school’s history and I was elected “Teacher of the Year” for my campus and even my county. My administration liked me and I was “golden” but I was still an outcast amoungst my colleagues.

During our region meetings despite proving I was capable of growing a band program and having kids sit in the top bands at All-Region, I was still not selected as a leader or served as a chair or officer. This always bothered me and honestly I let it get to me too much but it is what it is. In fact, there were always certain people who were selected and got the awards and the mention (again, I need that and thrive on that... it's just who I am). Those same people currently have my dream jobs and are doing incredibly well. While I am happy for them, it eats me up inside thinking that could be me or “when will that be me”?

In 2009 Chris was laid off from his job and began the search for a new job and eventually a new career. In 2011 after nearly 18 months of unemployment Chris got a job offer to teach math in Houston, TX. We were ready for the next step and chapter in our lives. Personally I had been highly successful as a band director for 6 years and FINALLY I was going to be able to begin my dream of teaching band in the great state of Texas. I was so excited and had already been working on my resume and my portfolio. During the summer months I had several interviews for band jobs but I was never offered any of them and they were all far from where we would be living in north Houston.

I ended up spending 2 years teaching elementary general music in large north Houston school district that was very urban and not at all like the rich “white” school I came from in Oklahoma. During those 2 years I got pregnant and had our 2nd child, Luke, but was not satisfied with teaching “just elementary music”. There were 1,100+ kids in this school so I had 40+ kids in each class on a daily basis. This was WAY too many kids to have a successful music class but I did try hard and looking back in some areas it was better than my current position as I had the instruments and support I needed as a music teacher. 

Towards the end of my 2nd year there all of the SPECIALS teachers had to begin teaching core subjects during their class periods to help with decreasing test scores. I knew this was not for me as I am NOT a math teacher so I took that as a cue to look for a new job and I did.

So no it is summer 2013 and I am now diligently seeking a band job. I have been out of the field for 2 years and within 1 interview I could tell this would be a lot harder than I thought. I had taught band for 6 years, have a Master’s degree and have proven I can build and grow a SUCCESSFUL program but I still was not offered a band position. In fact, I had an interview in a small rural district in far north Houston that was well known for having a good band program. The interview went well and the administration loved me and practically offered me the job saying “We enjoyed talking to you today and think you fit in well at XXXX, now we are just waiting on Mr. _____ (the HS band director) to choose”. Well what do you know, I was passed by again. I took this particular rejection very hard as I knew people within this very small district and realized it was all about "who you know" and I just knew this is where my dream would begin. Yet again, God had other plans.

Later that summer I was offered an elementary music position across the street from the middle school where I was rejected (my current position). I was hesitant to accept another elementary position but honestly, I did not have any other offers at this point and I thought “Well, at least I will have my foot in the door when there is another opening”. Little did I know there would be 2 openings within the district the following summer. Did I get either of those jobs? Oh no, they hired someone younger, straight out of college, with “fresh” ideas and more importantly, someone who they knew

I spent the next 2 years watching from the outside just itching to get in there and teach band and be a part of a successful band program. I’ve offered my time and services for private lessons and helped with recruiting and really tried to put my name out there but there isn’t even vertical alignment in this district so the band directors barely even know my name let alone my abilities and capabilities.

The past 3 years I have spent at my current school have not been ALL bad. I have been able to take Natalie with school to me the past 2 years and while this is not the environment I would like or would have ever dreamed her being in (remember, I like to be in with the “good” groups) she is thriving and doing very well. In addition, I have become really close to all of my administrators and become more of a team player than I ever have in my life. Not to mention that teaching elementary music is much less demanding on my personal time than band would be. I have been able to spend a lot more time with my family and take extravagant trips that I may or may not be able to take if I was teaching band. But still my heart is just not in it… or better yet, my heart still wants more. My heart wants to teach band. I still have the OU mentality of “Oh good for you teaching elementary music”. I feel like if I retire as an elementary music teacher what impact have I made on the world, really? I feel like I would have settled and that bothers me! 

To this day I have kids from Grove tell me on social media how much I impacted their lives. I see old students of mine be HIGHLY successful themselves in music in higher education and I know that I had a part in that. But the past 5 years… how many kids have told me I have made a difference in their lives? ZERO! These kids do not like music and do not want to be in music. They want to be in PE. In elementary they do not get a choice so far too often I get classrooms full of negative attitudes and a lack of desire to be successful at music. Sure there are some that enjoy it and I relish in teaching those few but the majority of these kids could care less. Not to mention my passion and joy is gone as I am teaching music and art and wearing multiple other hats around the campus and it is just draining.

Fast- Forward to March 2016 and oddly enough there is another band job opening at the middle school across the street in my district. The same job that has been posted for now 3 years (hello turnover). My principal, of whom I am close with and respect, put in a good word for me to her husband, the principal at the middle school, but their family is moving so I am on my own again. I applied for that job but the current MS head director (who took the job originally in 2013) told me “we are already looking at other high qualified candidates but feel free to apply.” He also told me that he would like to “meet with me” and discuss the position but never got back to me. Why even bother? 

That position was closed in April but I found out that the HS Assistant job would be posted soon. The MS head director is going to slide into that position because EVERYBODY just LOVES him. So that leaves the MS wide open. This is my chance… Or so I thought. Oddly enough the wife of the MS director is also a band director and she will take the head MS job and then the assistant position will be filled by someone else they all know. Why am I even here? What is my purpose in the district? What difference am I making?

That was supposed to be me… I was supposed to get the job in 2013, and then become the head director in 2014 and now moving up to high school in 2016. That is the dream I have had for the past 10 years, literally!  And here I still sit… working to pay the bills as my passion has been sucked out. I have friends/ family who have struggled with this type of situation for years and they are some of the strongest people I know and I have high respect for them... I just need to be like them and not let these things get to me! 

It’s hard to watch… Now I know most of you are thinking “Get over it. Life SUCKS! Put on your BIG GIRL panties and deal with it” or "Get over yourself" and others are thinking "at least you have a job" and you would all be right! I know my husband is thinking this and probably my parents (who raised me better than that) too but I just feel defeated and crushed. I feel like I should be allowed even a small amount of time to be upset about this! 

I have had similar feelings in the past 5 years but this is stronger than previous years and times. I look at friends be successful at “stay at home” jobs or multi-level marketing and see close friends and even family completely change jobs and careers and are doing better than ever. Maybe that needs to be me… maybe this is the road I wanted and not the road HE wanted. I have become literally depressed about it and just feel lost. I have a great marriage and great family... so I guess "2 out of 3 ain't bad"! 

So... I want to be a GIANT
I read an article posted by a college friend and colleague about standing on the shoulders of giants. The article mentioned as a band director you stand on the shoulders of giants and then others stand on your shoulders to become successful.

Because now you’re the Giant. If you’re a band director – you’re the Giant. You may be the deciding factor of whether a child learns to play an instrument, feels included in a great organization, wants to come to school and believes he can face a challenge and reach a goal.

It’s a big job.
It’s a huge responsibility.
It’s scary.
It may be more than you signed up for.
But remember, someone did it for you.
Someone lifted you up and put you on their shoulders and let you see the world of music. The family of band. The satisfaction of reaching goals. The reward of dedication.

All I want to be is a Giant… I just want to be the shoulders for someone else.  At one point I was dreaming of being a MAJOR successful band director and even directing at the collegiate level (who was I kidding) and now I just want to be a director at all. I guess I will just have to keep dreaming.

My heart wants what it wants! I can't help that... Now to get over this pathetic pity party and press on. On to what? I have no idea but I cannot continue to let this crushed dream ruin my days! As I practiced my saxophone for many hours growing up I used to play "God is in Control". I need that song today... I know He is in control but it does not make this long journey any easier. I just have to remember that NO MATTER WHAT 

God is good... ALL the time!