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I am easy going. Except when I’m not. I don’t relish confrontation (unless I’m at a restaurant and the service or food is below par). I am very happy to mind my own business unless anyone tries to interfere with my convictions. One of the things I have always been rather earnestly evangelical about is staying at home with my children.
Hubby and I had five child-free years of marriage before our first baby landed. Those years may have been child-free but they weren’t care-free. I went through some traumatic family issues, moved to be with Hubby, got married, acquired a good job…and then pretty much deconstructed to the point where my depression was quite crippling.
Depression is like chicken pox. Although you might recover eventually, with the care and support of others, it does leave scars. It also resides forever in your blood stream, occasionally threatening to break out, like the unwelcome onset of shingles. (And I had chicken pox TWICE, so I’m truly wary.)
Sometimes, when things were tough, I’d look down and see that the ground I walked on was thin. There was a chasm, unseen during good times, but present nevertheless. When I sensed it, I just kept on walking. No point in standing and waiting for the chasm to catch up to me.
However, having a child changed everything for me. Suddenly there was a much higher purpose. Everything I had found difficult or painful or sad was negligible in comparison to the huge sense of responsibility I felt when I held my baby’s precious little form. Being able to focus on my son, instead of stewing fruitlessly inside my own inadequacies, allowed me to become strong again.
Knowing that I was going to be utterly consumed by the process of feeding, clothing, educating, amusing and comforting this little child, there was absolutely no question of going back to work.
Thankfully, Hubby saw eye to eye with me on this one. I was only part time anyway, and would barely have earned enough to pay someone else to look after my baby. There was no sense in working.
Another relevant point was the type of job I had. I was a teacher. I taught children every day. Suddenly I didn’t think I’d be capable of nurturing other people’s children every day AS WELL AS my own. Kudos to the millions of mothers and fathers who do manage to do both jobs satisfactorily, but I know my limits! So this is in no way a dig at people who DON’T/CAN’T stay at home with their children – every single family has their own way of dealing with life, and the circumstances unique to them. And God knows there were times when I felt utterly crushed by the loneliness, the intensity of 24 hour child care, and wished for the camaraderie of the staff room, and keenly felt the need to be seen as a professional person – not this primitive, fleece-wearing milk machine that I’d become!
What with the arrival of baby number 2 when my son was two and a half, all in all, it was nearly 8 years before I could consider getting a job. Both children were happy at primary school and our finances would certainly appreciate a boost to cover the karate, ballet, and music lessons.
When I received a phone call practically handing me a job on a plate, I took it as a message from the Universe that I should go back to teaching. I had been considering all sorts of other jobs but this was teaching ONLY music – part time! Perfect.
I suffered a huge wave of culture shock in the early days back at school. When I left teaching, I still had a blackboard! Now, there were electronic whiteboards, hooked up to laptops, and I had absolutely no idea how to use them in the delivery of a music lesson. I felt like a time traveller! Thankfully, instruments were still just instruments, so I got by, but I won’t deny that it was difficult initially. I tried to take up where I left off – doing the same old lessons, delivered in the same old way…but it didn’t work for me anymore.
I’d neglected to account for the fact that I had changed over the eight years I’d been away. Now I wanted the children to be more engaged, for lessons to be hands on and not just theoretical. I realised the importance of skills-based teaching, and I discovered a wonderful world of resources on the internet. I realised I could use Spotify, YouTube, Sing Up, BBC educational resources and that they would actually enhance my lessons. I didn’t have to describe what gamelan was – I could show the children authentic gamelan being played by actual Indonesian musicians in Indonesia! Magic. I had almost every song/piece ever recorded at my fingertips (and yes, I do look at my ridiculously huge CD collection now with a cold eye, and wonder if they have become obsolete).
I even took it upon myself to teach my rusty brain how to use a basic Digital Audio Workstation so that I could effectively teach units on electronic music (and even though it’s only Day 5, I’m sure you appreciate what an effort that was for me…)
So I have become evangelical about something else now. Music education.
EVERYONE should learn music. Music makes you smarter. Music makes connections in the brain that other subjects never even reach. There is hard scientific evidence to show that children who participate in regular musical and creative activity not only have better mental health, levels of happiness, and sense of community; but they also achieve more in other academic areas of the curriculum.
My job brings me a lot of joy. I love seeing children enjoying the process of music making – of singing, composing, acting, playing instruments and co-operating. It saddens me that we have a government who cannot see the value of this subject, and are constantly cutting the budgets and time allocations of the creative arts. However, as I have no control over this particular aspect of my job, I will just continue to make sure that every minute counts. Every second.
OK. I’ll get off my soap box now and just treasure the daily achievements of my classes, enjoy the music they produce with such gusto… and gloat over the memory of the little girl who mentioned that she LOVES Music because her teacher looks like Pocahontas. :-)