"20/20 vision in 2020" has become the hackneyed proverb of the year – in fact, it's even the theme for the 2020 OAKE National Conference: Focus. And while clear vision and focus are absolutely necessary for completing your goals and making meaningful change, for me, this year is about one thing: perseverance.
This summer will be my fourth and final year of my Kodály certification (many programs are three years, but Portland State University offers a fourth year). In order for me to complete my training (Jedi reference intended), I must submit a research project, as well as videotaped lessons and reflections; 200 mastercopies, analyzed and indexed; other smaller assignments; and demonstrate a lesson live during my 2-week course. It's a lot of work, and it's something that I committed to completing in four years. With the finish-line in sight, this will be one of my most meaningful accomplishments as a new-ish teacher.
This is only my third year teaching (feels like my aging years are twice as fast as my school years) and also my final probationary year at my school. I have no worries or concerns, as I'm committed to providing the best music education I can to my students and I can say for certain that my students are truly learning to be literate musicians and are enjoying the process – something that has been amazing to watch and I'm still surprised I've been able to accomplish. My commitment to meaningful music education won't change after this year, but the completion of this year will be another, albeit rather small, milestone in my career.
Directing my children's choir is one of the most fulfilling things about my job. Yes, I love watching my students progress year after year and grow as musicians, but this year my choir is finally taking shape and is becoming the pinnacle of musical achievement in my school that I set out to create. In the first 3 months this year, my choir students, nearly all of whom are 4th graders who have never sang in a choir, were able to sing beautifully in two part harmony. I don't point this out to pat myself on the back, it's been an enormous amount of work for everybody and it requires kids who truly want to make beautiful music and are willing to do what it takes. In addition to being hard workers, my choir is also full of big personalities with lively senses of humor, which makes directing both fun and incredibly challenging.
Whether your school year started strong or maybe a little rocky, take that 20/20 focus everyone is talking about and commit to finishing the year stronger than you started. If you need to back up a little, back up a little – do what you need to do. Don't force a result; take a look at what you're working with, adjust your goals accordingly, and then push yourself, persevere, to the finish line. You may not end where you thought you would, but you can still finish stronger than you started.
Is your word for 2020 different than mine? Tell me about it in the comments below!
My name is Nick Dolan, and I'm an elementary music teacher and choir director. I'm here to talk about teaching music!