There are two distinct sides to this whole story of my becoming a music teacher and of fulfilling my life’s first purpose (described in the Introduction). One side is the vision of my music supervisor and the other is my readiness and cooperation. The one is nothing less than magnanimous and the other is nothing more than ignominious.
I attended a four year state teacher’s university and graduated with a B.S. in K-12 Music Education. That means I graduated certified to teach anything in K-12 music education, including instrumental band lessons, marching band, jazz band, wind ensemble, string lessons, orchestra, vocal lessons, choirs, and general music classes. HA! HA! HA! YEAH—RIGHT! These disciplines inside the realm of music are as uniquely different from each other as night is from day. I had an affinity only to vocal lessons, choirs, and general music classes.
But how prepared was I even for vocal / choral and general music? How much did I really understand? Not much! During my undergraduate method’s classes, the method’s professor and music education supervisor took me into their office and strongly recommended that I seek another profession because I was not “getting it” at all, and that I would never be a teacher. It was true, I was not getting it. There was some large disconnect in either how I was failing to perceive or how it was not being effectively communicated, or both. Consequently, I did not succeed in student teaching and received a C grade, which at that time was a polite way of saying to the education world that I had failed.
After graduation, I went through numerous interviews. Many were conducted by principals and head teachers asking many administrative questions. None of them offered me a job. Then in the middle of August, with the beginning of school just two weeks away, one interview stood out above all the rest. A music supervisor and his head music teachers interviewed me. It was a genuine music interview and, being a piano major, I was asked to perform on the piano to exhibit my musicianship skills. When the supervisor offered me the position of teaching grades 7-8-9 in an inner-city junior high, I hesitated to accept. I instead asked if he had received my grade transcripts. He said, “No, not yet,” and asked what was on them that he should know about. I stated my student teaching grade was a C. He asked why, and I tried to explain the disconnect. Looking me straight in the eyes, he said, “I’m still offering you the position. Do you accept?” I was so stunned, I asked if I could have two days to think it over.
Why did I not immediately accept? Three reasons. Because my student teaching experience with those grades was a recent huge failure. Because I vowed I would never teach junior high, especially in inner city. And because I was also being offered the position of becoming the head master of the Christian school my church was then forming. Within those two days, the Lord said very clearly in my thoughts, “I want you to go where it is the darkest so your light will shine the brightest!” So I called and accepted the inner city junior high position.
MY INNER CITY POSITION.
In the first few weeks of teaching, I quickly became informed about the darkness. Street gangs ran the hallways, the former principal had committed suicide about a year and a half before with this school being the “last straw that broke the camel’s back,” and the present principal was ineffective with building discipline and hid mostly in his office. A ninth grade girl put her arm around me one day and exclaimed, “I make more money than you do!” Yes, that was true, as her father was arrested two weeks later for being her pimp. One particular class with many problem students in it looked at me one day and defiantly challenged, “Just try to make me do it, whitey!” Mix these and many other incidences with my recent failures, and a recipe for disaster was broiling.
MY MUSIC SUPERVISOR.
My music supervisor performed my teacher observations and wrote truth on them. The truth about all my teaching inadequacies, failures to relate to the students, and growing defiance inside me to cooperate, learn, and change. But being a visionary subject supervisor, he was relentless. He “held my feet to the fire” and demanded professionalism, accountability, responsibility, and ongoing improvement. He performed observations with a video camera and recorded a whole day of teaching, twice a year. That was painful. And even more painful, together in his office we watched the entire day, painstakingly critiquing every class, every activity, every instruction, and every teacher / student interaction. (When he looked down to write and was not operating the camera, I would walk out of its view to escape being seen.) He faithfully promised he would do this for my first five teaching years, and then maybe consider relaxing the routine. Oh, boy!
After becoming great friends with and having great respect for my sensei mentor, and after I received my first award for being an outstanding teacher, I bravely asked him one day the question that had plagued me for a couple years. “Why did you ever hire me?” His answer I will NEVER forget! It reaches so deep into my heart that I cannot even type it without involuntary tears. “I saw inside you five years into the future. I saw in your soul an extremely artistic and musical person. With that as your base, I knew I could make up for any deficiencies you had regarding teaching.” In my third decade of teaching, I received from the National Executive Board of the premier music education organization of the United States, the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), the official recognition of “Nationally Registered and Certified Master Music Educator.”
From that point on, my supervisor’s ongoing answer has guaranteed the success of every public school student, music student teacher, and college methods student I have taught. I find each one’s true inner musician and/or teacher-self and see five years down the road with it.
Pastor, ALL that you have read in these sections, the understandings I have been given, the successes I have been granted, the lasting relationships I have made with my students, and the hope that was given me while at the bottom of failure—I owe more than can ever be repaid to my supervisor who saw beyond what I saw, and who demanded my best. At the end of each year, his question was, “Looking over your wonderful successes for your students this past year, so that you don’t fall into complacency, what will you do next year to surpass this year?” He taught us that a certain degree of discontent should always be present to catalyze ongoing innovation.
Pastor, what kind of a “supervisor” are you over your church? “Where there is no vision, the people perish:” (Proverbs 29:18). What do you see five years down the road in each of your members? How are you helping each one individually to get there?
Your Belief System and Your Church: (1) Introduction
Your Belief System and Your Church: (2) Your Paradigms
Your Belief System and Your Church: (3) Bondage or Freedom
Your Belief System and Your Church: (4) Gateway Skills
Your Belief System and Your Church: (5) Teacher Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (6) Talking About vs. Doing
Your Belief System and Your Church: (7) Student Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (8) Assessment
Your Belief System and Your Church: (9) Bury Dead Tradition
Your Belief System and Your Church: (10) Teaching vs. Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (11) Teachers' Three Phases
Your Belief System and Your Church: (12) Excellence is NOT a Goal
Your Belief System and Your Church: (13) My Teaching Limits Were Their Learning Limits
Your Belief System and Your Church: (14) Unlearning Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (15) Pioneers vs. Settlers
Your Belief System and Your Church: (16) Real and Lasting Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (17) Problems With Memory
Your Belief System and Your Church: (18) Ownership Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (19) Not Perfect, But Honest
Your Belief System and Your Church: (20) Take Risks and Give Away Control
Your Belief System and Your Church: (21) Out of a Job
Your Belief System and Your Church: (22) KCAASE and Proverbs 24
Your Belief System and Your Church: (23) Responding vs. Reacting
Your Belief System and Your Church: (24) Only When Performed
Your Belief System and Your Church: (25) A Supervisor's Vision
Your Belief System and Your Church: (26) Glimpses Into the Spiritual
Your Belief System and Your Church: (27) One Reason Alone