Marathon, not a Sprint…rough with the smooth

I shared a blog post yesterday about my girls choir. It came about mainly because I was excited and wanted to share that with everyone who wanted to read it.

But it has occurred to me that it is only part of the story and there is certainly a need for me to fill in some blanks. I am desperate for my blogs to be supportive, encouraging and dare I say “inspiring” to someone out there, and I hope that they are. But I certainly don’t want anyone to think that it is something that has just happened, and I am more than aware of the differing contexts, situations and struggles that are going on out there.

So let me be real with you.

It has been one heck of a journey to get to where I am now and I am still learning, growing and developing. I don’t even really like that phrase “where I am now” because in many respects I haven’t gone anywhere. I have been working in Windsor for my entire career and that is maybe why things are going well for me, but also maybe there is more out there – who knows!

The thing is, being a music teacher and HOD is really tough. A lot of what I do now in my job has taken years and years to develop and I have had to develop too. It has not been easy and I have had to adapt and learn along the way. In fact let me rephrase that, it has been really hard and I have often doubted my own abilities, and still do frankly.

When I started teaching, music wasn’t a big deal at school. There was a handful of musical lads and not much in way of music going on in school. So I started to look at how I could gather those students that were interested and see what they wanted to do. I didn’t have much experience and I was working in a difficult situation. But I had the support of the head and I also had colleagues around me who wanted to see music grow. I didn’t know where to start and I had to work out so much as I went along.

So I just tried stuff and I was keen to learn. I got groups and choirs going and I tried to get music more established in the school. Years went on and I just had to keep going. I was fortunate enough to have the financial support of the Arts College Status at the time and also the backing of the SLT who could see that music was growing. But did I know what I was doing? Not really. I needed lots of support from friends and colleagues and I needed to learn quickly and innovate as much as I could. I relied on the commitment of students and I relied on my own resilience.

Gosh I remember some awful moments, some terrible lessons and some dreadful ideas.

I guess years past and I had lots of ups and downs, highs and lows. I doubted myself, considered changing jobs and generally felt like I didn’t know what to do next.

Over the last few years I have faced budget cuts, loss of rooms and colleagues. I have faced the national issues that we have all faced – funding changes and of course the EBacc. I have found it at times impossible to know how I am going to keep going and balance my work and my home life – a wife and two kids at home is of course my number one priority.

I have struggled so much with knowing what the right pathway is for my extra curricular work and I have found it hard to keep motivated and keep going. I remember awful summer exam results that have ruined my holiday and I remember facing parents who want answers. It wasn’t easy realising that coursework wasn’t what you thought it was or realising that students weren’t as keen on a new ensemble as you thought. Concert audiences were sometimes small and I didn’t quite know why. I remember spending weeks in the summer thinking about schemes of work and how to improve numbers at GCSE. I remember many a day in July wondering if I could face another year.

And then there are the rehearsals where only 4 or 5 students turn up and I had hoped for 20 or the rehearsals where students seem to leave deflated and uninspired. I remember gigs where repertoire has sounded unrehearsed and I remember rehearsals where I haven’t had the patience to cope with students. There was an awful time when someone observing me asked me if I was feeling okay after a lesson – it was so dreadful I can’t tell you. I tried something new in a week where I had just had enough, and it was awful. I cringe at the thought. Oh and I can remember countless times that I have thought a song was really amazing for choir and it has just been a disaster.

I guess I have been there and done that. I have had to work with changes and face difficulties – and I still do. It has felt at times like the most impossibly over-whelming job and I have wondered if I have got what it takes.

This last summer I had to really pull myself together in order to get ready for another term. I had to get motivated and remember why I do this job.

What had kept me going over the last 13 years is a desire and passion to do my best by the students in front of me. I love my job and I am constantly wanting to learn. I make so many mistakes and I just try and learn from them and keep going. I try new ideas where I can and I am always looking for ways to improve.

Nothing happens over-night, except maybe Amazon Prime deliveries. Anything worth doing is probably not going to be easy.

So my blog about 130 girls at choir. Well that is the product of years of hard work and learning. I share is because I think it is important to know that anything is possible. But it isn’t possible tomorrow and it will take time. Starting small and aiming big is important and I guess that is the message I will leave with you over the weekend. If you think I have all the answers, well I don’t But I have loads of experience – positive & negative – and I will  continue to share them with you. It might be that you want to hear more of the negative and how I overcame this – I will try and share that. But when I share the positive know that it is all a journey and it has taken me a long while to get to where I am now – a marathon for sure, definitely not a sprint.

My dream – to see music education regarded as a core subject in our education system. Until then all we can do is keep trying and support each other along the way. I have no desire to be recognised as someone who has everything sorted because that simply isn’t true.

The picture for this blog is how I feel most days!

Thanks for reading and sharing. I hope that you will find it in yourself to keep going, whatever stage of the journey you are on.

Oh, and watch this video. It sums up how we all feel after a week in this job and hopefully it will make you smile!

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