Open Letter to Burnt-Out Music Educators

Don't smile until Christmas.

Those who can't "do" teach. 

It doesn't matter what you do. 

The world is going downhill anyway.

Kids just don't care.

 

This is what they tell you while the ink on your certification is still 

glistening with the promises they make until the real world comes knocking. 

This is what they scribble all over the keys of your piano

long before you walk into the classroom for the first time.

This is what they punch into the labels on your classroom instruments - instruments

that will be placed into little hands the day after Labor Day. 

This is what they write on your diploma in ink that only shows when you hold

your grand achievement up to the light.

 

And then the hopelessness sets in. 

 

You try to resist and you put on a brave face and you smile. But soon that proves 

too hard to maintain and the smile wilts and fades. 

And soon even Mozart sounds tinny and out-of-tune and you wonder what you're doing wrong.

And no matter what you do

they never show up on time, they never have pencils, they never pay attention, they never put their phones away and they only speak to you to complain.

 

Five years in the teacher you thought you'd be has died a cruel and starved death.

By fifteen years in, you're a shell.

By thirty - you're barely a ghost.

 

I see all of this. 

In those eyes that shine sickly lights above your forced, first-day smile. 

 

I don't want to learn from anyone who let the world bring them down that way. 

I don't want to learn from someone who allows their own suffering self-pity become the first priority.

I don't want to learn from a robot who only sees two-dimensionally and to whom the horizon is just a straight line.

 

Which is why I refuse to be like you.

My certification will be made of diamond and steel. 

And my piano keys will be clean and my classroom instruments unlabeled and my smile

platinum plated and genuine. 

 

And when my students don't seem to care

I'll know it's something I'm doing wrong and that I need to change something

to get them to sit up, pay attention and sing. 

 

I will be more than you ever turned out to be because I'm stronger than the shallow husk you've become.

 

Put the music, the students first. 

Your self-indulgent boo-hooing comes later. Or not at all.

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