Trim the fat

Hello, everyone! This is my first teaching blog post.


I know there are a million teacher blogs out there that can show you a million ways to teach "Hot Cross Buns" on recorder. This is not that blog. I am a real person who has real struggles, but also one who also happens to have real success in the classroom. I am cut from a different cloth, and I hope this blog can follow suit. Thank you for your attention and your open mind as we start this journey together. Without further ado...


30 days ago, my fiancee and I decided to cut alcohol out of our life. I could point to a million different reasons why, but it mostly came down to me being able to exercise control over something that seemed to have control over me sometimes. My fiancee had her own reasons, but she doesn't have a blog. I do.

So last night, after 34 or so days without alcohol in our systems, we went to dinner at a realy nice restaraunt. I had a glass of red wine, maybe 1 1/2 depending on how you pour. Immediately, my stomach was not happy. I was uncomfortable. The previously positive vibe in the room turned sour for me and I instantly regretted my decision.



I woke up in the middle of the night with a pounding headache and a caked, dry mouth. It was awful.

As I laid there thinking about the decisions that had brought me to this point in bed, I started thinking about my job. Teaching. Teaching music. Teaching music to kids. I thought about the little decisions I make on a daily basis that affect my students, their success, and their potential. I also thought about the decisions I make that affect MY success and MY level of personal satisfaction.

The symptoms I was feeling in bed - dry mouth, headache, regret - these all felt like the symptoms of ineffective teaching. Sure, I'm not dehydrated and hungover after a lesson goes south, but if I'm honest with myself - I can look back on my performance and see the exact decisions that led everything to go awry - exactly like I could with the wine at dinner last night.

I had a student teacher assigned to me this semester. She did wonderfully and is going to be a very successful teacher when she has her own class. As most young teachers do, she had a few habits we constantly focused on cutting out of her teaching. One of those habits was saying, "I'll wait..." when the class became too talkative. We talked at length about function and intent, and how this was an ineffective behavior management strategy, and about countless other ways she could alter the course of her lessons WITHOUT using this particular technique. Problem is... she continued to use it. Again, and again, and again. Even though it was clearly not helping her teaching, and may have even been hampering it, she still fell back on that phrase... "I'll wait."

Waiting never works. Not in life... not in the classroom... not ever. We are given quick fixes to our hangovers like water and Advil, but all we are doing is just waiting for the symptoms to subside so we can get back to doing what feels comfortable to us.

We teach the same way. Rather than waiting for change to happen, why can't we actively pursue a different path? It was hard work to cut alcohol out of my life. It will be even harder work to make that decision stick. It will be hard work to look at our teaching and see what habits we have developed... to take an honest look at them and decide if they are in the best interests of our students, as well as if they are in the best interests of ourselves!

I used to wake up with a dry mouth and headache all the time. It was just how it was. It's only when we distance ourselves from something that we realize what a detriment it had been all along. Don't let years pass by falling into the same routine in your classroom.

Don't wait.


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