One of the most foolish decisions I have ever made was when I agreed to accept a job teaching at a private nonsectarian school. I was interested in earning some extra money, and the newly appointed headmaster at the school made a convincing case to me that I’d be a perfect fit for the part-time job they had to offer in music. I accepted the job, and before long was busy teaching high school music history and music theory, and conducting the 5th grade chorus, 6th grade chorus, junior high and high school choirs.

The part-time job meant that I was at school each day from 8:00am to 2:30pm. I was assuming my days would be much shorter – it seemed like full time work. By the second day of the school year, I realized I had made a huge mistake – I was not prepared for the job of a teacher!

After working with kids until 2:30, I then went off to my church job and would have MORE rehearsals with kids. It was an exhausting schedule, and the extra income didn’t seem to really make that much of a difference to my finances.

So, I quickly started thinking of how I could make this job easier for me, and I came to the realization that these kids would start watching movies – lots and lots of movies. We watched films about Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and just about anything else I could find, all the way up to, and including, West Side Story.

Yes, we’d sing frequently, but I had these kids so interested in the movies, that they would give their utmost attention and work hard in learning their music in the first 10-15 minutes of class so that we could quickly get back to the movie.

Then, I realized another gem for avoiding having to actually teach – field trips! I think we performed in just about every nursing home, hospital, retirement village, and shopping mall within a 25 mile radius. When I had the brilliant idea to take the high school choir to spend the day (and sing very briefly) at Six Flags, the entire soccer team suddenly decided to sign up for choir. There is no stress like being responsible for 50 teenagers at a public amusement park.

But, the truth was that I was a terrible teacher. Even with my lazy approach, it involved so much energy. There were days when I probably hated being at school more than any of the students did. I would give them papers to write and assignments to complete, which meant that I had hard evidence to support me in the grades that I would give to each student. I’m so thankful for this, as I was soon forced to deal with what must certainly be the worst part of a teacher’s job – the unhappy parent. I only had two or three that were really a problem, but my goodness did they ever try to convince me to raise their child’s grade! For the one kid who was in danger of failing, I told him to do a class presentation on Herbert Howells (my favorite composer). I don’t know where this young man might be now, but it makes me smile to think that perhaps he at least knows something about a composer he otherwise would never have encountered.

When the end of the year was approaching, the headmaster approached me to express concern that I had not signed a statement indicating that I was planning to return the following year. I told him that I just wasn’t cut out for being a teacher. He expressed surprise – “You had the highest evaluation ratings from the students of any teacher in the entire school!” I wanted to say, “Well, yes, I should have, I just took these kids on trips and showed them movies all year long.” But, I knew I wasn’t a good teacher. And the parents of these children were paying LOTS of money for them to get a great education; they deserved better.

At some point that year, I wrote one of my favorite high school teachers and told her what amazing respect I had developed for teachers after my experience. She responded by saying everyone should have the experience of teaching so that we can all have a true appreciation for what we demand of teachers.

So, to all of you teachers out there – I promise I’m not writing this to suck up to you – but I truly, and heartily appreciate what you do. I don’t have experience in too many professions, but I know without a doubt that of the ones I’ve done before, your job is the hardest! It is a definite calling, and I give God great thanks for all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had, and for all of those who labor in the vineyard of education.

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (BCP, pg. 261)