I cannot reiterate enough the value of professional development and reconnecting with colleagues. Of course, this year was a little exceptional in the latter category due to the OKTOY recognition (My face was on the cover of the conference magazine. That took a little getting used to!). As I met with each new and old friend, we excitedly talked about the incredible good that we, music teachers, are able to accomplish.
I kept returning to this thought in conversation: “Lead your life as if you want to become the Teacher of the Year. If it happens, that is truly wonderful. If it doesn’t happen, that is also an incredible career and life!”
The truth is we don’t always receive the recognition we deserve, whether that concerns pay, respect of our profession or simply feeling appreciated. However, my best music teacher friends continue to lead careers of earnest work, knowing the value of a music education can transcend more life circumstances than any other discipline.
Marcia Neel, a nationally renowned music educator from the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nev., presented some data published just last week in a study of the Nashville Metro Public Schools. In one figure from her report, Neel compared the graduation rates of students who had zero years, one year or more than one year of involvement in a music program. The numbers were staggering, enough to shock a room full of music educators, showing a leap from a 60 to 91 percent graduation rate as students spent more time in a music program.
If students are not in the classroom, we cannot teach them. If our leadership is hopeful to raise school achievement, then consider giving students one more reason to be there—school band, orchestra, choir, mariachi, ukulele, show choir, guitar, color guard, drum line, jazz band or the myriad other performing arts opportunities that engage a child through movement and expression.
The preliminary report of the study can be found at musicmakesus.org/resources/research.
Oklahoma Teacher of the Year 2014