Monday, January 2, 2012

Is It Summer Yet?

Safe behind the tomato-proof glass of the computer screen, I dare to complain a little bit— tomorrow I have to go back to work. After six months off. (Put those tomatoes down— you can’t reach me!).

Some twelve years ago, I initiated a job share at my school with my two colleagues. Two jobs, three people, each of us gets one trimester off to write books, to play music, to travel and teach (see this Blog’s title). Counting summer vacation, that’s six months working at school and six months free— not a bad deal and one that’s allowed me to keep on at school for 37 years without feeling burnt out.

But now I have to go back to work for six months straight. Not that I haven’t been working. For most of the Fall, I was strapped to my chair for four or five hours every morning writing my next book on jazz blues. That was hard work and the hardest part is the feeling like you could always be doing more. But the difference between that and teaching at school is that I got to set my own schedule. As I mentioned a few postings back in Skateboard U., autonomy rocks! I got to march to my own drummer and find the beat that fits. I can be a harsh and demanding boss to myself, but mostly, my boss and worker selves got along well and knew how to talk to each other. When the need of the moment was to play the piano or get out on my bike or lunch with a friend, negotiations were simple and I didn’t have to check with anyone else.

When I wasn’t working on my book, I was off teaching workshops or rehearsing with the volunteer group of kids from school performing at the World Music and Body Music Festival. Those were scheduled activities, but had a different tone working with people who chose to come and thus, were motivated, eager, and appreciative. Sheer pleasure!

And as any Blog follower might remember, I did work for two weeks at school in October and then another week at a school in London. That was back to a rigorous schedule of 6 or 7 classes daily, but with a big difference. I was in the Lone Ranger mode— a short term ride in on my horse and speed away again with a Hi Ho Silver! No time for tangled relationships with students or teachers, no accountability beyond the class, no report cards, no staff meetings, no politics. Heaven!

But it’s all over now. Tomorrow I’m back to the relentless beat of someone else’s drum, kids in my class because they have to be there, report cards down the line, re-arranging the schedule with five different teachers when there’s a field trip, endless e-mails about who has seen the lost bass bar mallet or who moved the cheese and all the twists and turns and tangles of politics and relationships as a few hundred people daily negotiate their separate agendas to reach some form of workable community. Now it’s pleasure and pain, heaven and hell. In short, the “real world.”

Goethe said “Talent develops in solitude and quiet places, character in the stormy billows and full current of human life.” It has been a blessed six months floating on the tranquil lake of my own private paradise and now it’s time to re-enter the stormy seas of shared community. Time to give my character its Crossfit work-out. I’m sure it will be a pleasure teaching the kids again, enjoying my colleagues, finding the rhythm of the new beat with each day a different movement in the Suite of the week’s schedule, appreciating the contrast between Thursday and Saturday and working for the next inch of progress in my development as a music teacher. But still, part of me will be wondering:

How long until summer vacation? 

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