As a kid, that meant schedules, timetables, and school supplies. As a young adult, that meant paying tuition and buying textbooks. As a grown-up (whatever that even means), that meant prepping the classroom and getting ready to head back to work.
But not this year.
My school division has been gracious enough to grant me a one-semester sabbatical to compose full-time and so I won’t be back in the classroom until February. This is the first time I won’t have a “first day of school” since 1989.
Since I was five.
That’s hard for me to wrap my head around and it’s hard to let go, but that’s what new things feel like. Change is hard, man, but that’s life. The only constant in life is change – the only thing that stays the same is the idea that nothing ever stays the same.
And that’s okay. Firstly, because I’m coming back; secondly, it’s helped me appreciate these past years of teaching; thirdly, this distance will most likely refuel my tank and make me a better teacher; and finally, some time away will give me some perspective into what I want to do academically with my students.
I’m coming back, so it’s all good. I’m clearly not saying goodbye forever – I am not in the universe of ready for that. It’s easy to go away if you know you’ll come back, like leaving home for summer camp. At this point in my life, teaching is still way too much fun and super important in my sense of self and my ability to make a difference in my community. I think about the world around me from a perspective of being an educator and I carry myself like a teacher.
And knowing that I’m not coming back until February has really made me look at the last few years in a different way. I’ve met a lot of awesome human beings and I look forward to meeting more. I’m in a position where I get share to discovery with people who are in the process of unravelling some of the things that changed my own life. I really miss that about being a teenager: the sheer volume of Eureka! and Aha! moments that happen in such a short period of time. How can I make those as interesting and exhilarating as they were (and still are) for me?
When you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to look at it objectively because you’re in entrenched inside it. How many times in my life have I forgotten to bring materials, or messed up the order of introducing ideas, or had boring classes? The machine is so complicated and running so fast that it’s hard to keep everything as inspiring and interesting as you want… until you step away from it. My wheels are already turning and I predict that second semester will be my best yet, which concurrently means that it should (hopefully) by my students’ best yet too.
It’s hard to gain perspective when you’re right inside it and I’ve got some great ideas for second semester. Music History is going to be the best yet. So will Jr. Symphonic. So will Big Band.
I’m also really interested in the sensation of being inside composing for five months and I will be because there’s so much to do. Here is the sabbatical to-do list:
– one lyrical band commission
– one exciting band commission
– one four-movement suite of Nordic folk songs
– one orchestra premiere
– one residency (hopefully, I’m still getting evaluated)
– one video game to score
There are other irons in the fire, but we’ll see how these shake down. I’m optimistic that it’s going to be great and I hope that everyone’s school year begins with that establishment. Set yourself up for success, think positively, do your best.
Let’s have a great year,