Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Surviving the First Week

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
--W.B. Yeats                                

My friend has this quote up on her blog, and I just had to use it because it describes so well what was good about our first week of school (hope you don’t mind, Shonya!) I admit, I was not looking forward to starting this school year. I put off planning all summer, dreading the thought of schedules, personality conflicts, and curriculum choices. On top of that, I decided it would be “good” to add a few more violin students to my tiny studio, and even though my number of contact hours is small, the increased load seemed to require more energy than I believed I had.

So I set a start date for August 31st, started planning, and tried not to let the fear, dread, and loathing swallow me up. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Are you wondering if maybe I’m not cut out to be a teacher? I guess only time will tell for sure. But what I do know, (even if I have to remind myself constantly in the face of fear and self-doubt,) is that practically every day that I teach, I dread it going in, and am in love with it coming out.

I don’t relish the schedule-making or organizing I have to do. And there’s a part of me that would rather not deal with people at all. But there’s something magical about helping somebody learn—seeing that spark catch in their eye, watching the flames start licking up, and adding fuel to the fire. Discovering and understanding and making connections—I love doing it myself, I love sharing it, and I love seeing that passion start to warm other peoples’ blood.

This week was such an encouragement to me. Sometimes I need reminding, but I truly love being with my children. And I love meeting new people and sharing music with children and their parents. Those things alone are beautiful, but on top of that, I got to be witness to countless little miracles: the light in children’s faces when they heard “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on a violin, right in front of them for maybe the first time, the almost-imperceptible jolt of understanding in a four year-old’s body that comes when you discover that if you make the sound for “u” and the sound for “p” and put them together closely enough you get “up” and that’s what reading is, the delight a third-grader can take in filling a page with carefully worked-out math problems, the brand-new thirst for discovery that has a fifth grader excited about history. I’m positive there are huge challenges ahead. But I’m so thankful that for all my foot-dragging, I get to be doing what I’m doing.


  1. I just survived my first week of teaching this year...barely. The scheduling is always the roughest thing for me. But you're right....once you're in the room with the kids, its all ok

  2. Glad you made it through! And good to hear from you, Duane. (I loved your website, by the way--looks like you're never bored! :) I especially liked your "mission"--more power to you as you enrich the world with beautiful things today!)

  3. chuckle, of course I don't mind! I just love that quote--and I enjoyed 'Ignite the Fire' by Terri Camp, which is where I first encountered the quote.

    I'm so glad you're off to a good start. I haven't succeeded in lighting the fire this year. . .gonna try again this week!

  4. Thanks Shonya! Hope it goes well--I'm in awe of all the organizing you've been doing!

  5. Amen! We've started and it's going well, though I still get a little uncertain at the beginning of each day. I wouldn't trade it for anything though.

  6. jerry was reading daniel coyle's book "the talent code" and showed me the same yeats quote as i was reading it aloud to him from your blog. he says you may also be interested in "the element" by ken robinson.


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