Same Scholar, Different Tribe, Part 2

Why anyone would put a cat in a bag is beyond me. I’ve made not-so-subtle references to my new job but here it is (the releasing of the cat) in direct form.

The text for this post is extracted from an assignment in a class I am taking at Santa Fe  Community College’s Teacher Academy as part of the Alternative Educator Effectiveness Pathway Program for the State of New Mexico. It was a good way to tell the story of my change in teaching careers and joining a new tribe of educators.

Professor: “Tell me a bit about why you want to teach.”

KP: “For me, teaching is synonymous with helping. Helping people helps me in more ways than I can think of right now. At the base level it helps my emotional well-being and self-esteem. On a wide-reaching scale there is satisfaction that everyone I teach learns something positive from me and will transfer that to their own environment. I never felt it was a calling, or sense of duty, or that I would selflessly devote myself to the profession. I enjoy the interaction with other people, be they young students in my high school classes, my co-workers, my boss, or my private flute students. These relationships all have an exchange of information. It is not a one-way street. I had the same feelings while teaching college. The relationships were different because of the age of the students, but the same type of communication occurred; an exchange of information. They learned from me, I learned from them, I learned from preparing to teach them. Each day I wake up I think: “Let’s go!” I never say to myself, “I have to go to work.” Why do I want to teach? As I write this it seems selfish. To do something I enjoy and get paid for it. Who doesn’t want to do that?

“I want to be the kind of teacher who inspires students to learn, regardless of their learning style, reluctance, or recalcitrance in the classroom. I want the students to feel comfortable around me, to ask me questions in class, privately before or after class, and let them know that I respect them as people, that I will give them the opportunity to be heard. I also want to be the kind of teacher who does not tolerate whining or inappropriate behavior.”

In January 2020 I accepted a job teaching high school social studies (World History and US History) at Española Valley High School in Española, New Mexico. This is a big change from teaching musicology and music history at the college level, but when I thought about it, World History and US History are essentially courses in music history without the music (if you are doing your due diligence on the background of specific musics). This change in teaching is known as a career pivot; it is a path that I wish I had come to sooner. Teaching college was a rewarding experience, to be sure, but the hours are longer, the pay is less (especially when you break it down to the number of hours worked in a day or week), and the administration, in my experience, seems both Kafkaesque and Draconian. My limited experience with public school administration is that it is more open to public scrutiny than a university’s and, thus, more accountable. So far, the pay is better (having a PhD helps), the people are nicer, and it was not difficult to develop a relationship with the District Superintendent.

I’ve been given the go ahead by my Principal to start a culinary skills club next fall (for which I will be given an additional stipend until it becomes part of the curriculum, then it will be an elective class), as well the OK to start planning for a student-run community garden. The goal of the culinary skills club is to teach young people the necessary skills to get a job as a sous-chef, or at least the confidence to try to audition or apply for a job like that. I wanted to give them another path to explore. Plus, I like playing with knives and fire (in the kitchen). Click here for a glimpse at the backstory for why I want to have a culinary skills club.

I am not retiring from or forsaking musicology, and you’ll still see me on the concert stage as often as I can manage. I’m under contract for one book right now and as soon as the final revisions are off my desk I’ll be researching my second book. Funding for conferences will still be available to me but the conferences need to be relevant to what I teach. That means interdisciplinary conferences such as ASECS and WSECS and not the AMSor SAM (although if I get to teach an elective class on the history of rock and roll, jazz, blues, or hip-hop then I could justify one or both of these). Perhaps I will see you then and there.


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