New Beginnings

I wanted to address a change in my life that is rapidly approaching. Beginning next fall, I am stepping away from my role as a high school choir director to take a middle school choir position in our school district.

Our last concert was Thursday night, and it went very well. My top choir still has to sing one song for graduation, all my students need to complete a choral literature and sight reading assessment on SmartMusic, and grades need to be entered–and then I am done (our last day with all students is June 5th, but seniors are done on the 29th and graduate on the 1st).

This is a decision that doesn't make sense to a lot of people. I teach in one of the newest high schools in the state of Minnesota, I chose to move to a new school, and in fact, no one wanted me to move. I started this program from before the school opened in 2009 and was responsible for every item that was purchased for the choir program including risers, chairs, robes, music, and pianos. We started with 32 students and I leave the program on the brink of 160 students (I continue to recruit, even though it will not be my job). I have held very important roles when it comes to technology at the school, which has never quite worked right since the school opened.

Although there are many reasons why I chose to move, there are two that I speak of openly to the public.

The first reason is that high school has extreme time demands on a teacher's life, and this high school–as a new high school–has additional demands on teacher time.

I have two young boys (one just turned 5, and the other is just over 1). This past fall, while we were preparing White Christmas, I went over three months of seeing my boys for a few minutes each morning as I got ready for school, and then not at all until the weekends; once the show was running, I didn't even see them that much. Our rehearsals would end at 6:30, and then I would have to do work to prepare for the next day, and then drive home. By the time I would get home, everyone would be in bed. I did some math the other day, and realized that I have been absent for my five year's old's life for more than a year based upon the impact of the school day (and its existing night commitments) and the fall musical. And yes, this absolutely had an impact on the relationship between my wife and I. Not good, not healthy. The high school music career–particularly in a one-teacher school–is definitely something for single teachers, or teachers whose children are no longer in the house (or teachers whose children attend that high school). Yes, there will be night commitments at the middle school, but it will be nothing like the time required of a high school music teacher.

The second reason is that my new middle school will be moving to 1:1 iPads next year. This wasn't the main reason why I decided to leave, but it was the final reason why I chose to leave. I am absolutely thrilled to bring my personal experience with iPads to this school and these students. I know the school very well, as these students fed into my prior high school position (I've been in the same district since 1997, and even student taught in this district in 1995-1996). I'm excited how the 1:1 environment will impact my teaching, and how I will be able to take the lessons I've learned and bring them to you from the 1:1 aspect. Additionally, as my current high school is the newest building in the district, we are also the last to receive any new initiatives in technology. The school receives reduced capital funds because it is new, and it has no (or very few) compensatory funds based on student demographics. In other words 1:1 iPads at my current high school is something that will not happen in the next five years (or longer) unless there is a referendum for such a project–and it is unclear if the district will pursue such a referendum.

I'm going to miss my students, but they all move on and leave us behind anyway. I love the teaching staff at my high school, but we can stay in touch. I'll miss the facilities at my high school (in fact, I'm moving to one of the oldest buildings in our district), but as I've mentioned, the technology in our new school has been sketchy from the start.

I also believe that my new middle school will support me in my career-related efforts, such as speaking at conferences.

When I grow up, I'd still like to be a college professor, but my focus has changed a bit. I would now prefer to teach pedagogy, technology, and theory, and to direct a secondary (not the primary group on the campus) choir or band.

So, it is an exciting time for me and my family. It has been tremendously heart-warming to hear that I'll be missed from so many students, family, and colleagues. I wish my successor well (a middle school teacher in our district bid up to the position), and I have done everything I can do (and I continue to do so) to keep students in the program and to get even more students into choir.


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