When I first started teaching, I came back to speak at a mini-conference for college students -- one that I had facilitated many times when I was a college student -- and my old advisor saw me and asked me how teaching was going now that I'd grown up, shoved off, and begun my career.
I told him that it was going great! Today! And that if he asked me on another day, I might have a very different answer!
This rings exactly as true nine years later as it did then. Exactly.
Over the last few weeks, I've been batting around some things in my head, things to write regarding being honest about our struggles in this field. I do think it's important to write about your struggles, but it's also very important to remember what keeps you going.
For me, often, it is the smallest things. Single days, single performances -- heck, single sentences -- can keep you moving for longer than you realize.
At the time of this writing, I had a day bookended by positivity. In the morning, my teaching day began with Skyping in with the composer of a piece we were performing. He was an old college friend of mine, and not only was it great to have the kids see him face to face, but it was nice to see him myself, as I don't think I had in six or seven years. Plus there's that whole, "Hey, look, I knew this person was brilliant 12 years ago and LOOK NOW! Other people know that he's brilliant, too, and I knew him when we all hung around the Rehearsal Hall between classes and discussed the difference between cornflower blue and periwinkle sweaters after composition seminar!!" It's a very grown up and validating thing to feel (and 65% of the reason we all love FMEA so darned much).
Then another teacher, who is a legend in her own right (and used to have my exact job for nearly 20 years), sought me out after a community band rehearsal to wish me good luck with an upcoming performance. Not only that, but she told me that my way of approaching a certain issue was exactly the right one, and that often "You're going to crash into a wall." And that was okay. I needed to hear that at the moment, and hearing it from her was a big bonus.
Those are two things that really sustain me: seeing old friends & classmates succeed, especially when you get to participate in their success, and oddly enough, hearing positive things from your predecessors. In both of the jobs I've had, I was preceded by some big wigs. It's always been nice to have their support.
The biggest thing that comes to mind, however, is seeing your students succeed. I never tire of that. Ever.
I had a brief period where I developed a plan to leave teaching. That school year wasn't even going that badly. (It might have possibly been my best year of teaching thus far.) But I had gotten it in my head that I wanted to study music law, get a JD and work as an entertainment/music lawyer. You know, do cool stuff, make lots of money, be really influential. I was really thinking about it.
Until I went to see a former student of mine play in the local world-beater award-winning high school jazz band he'd become a part of. And I heard them play, on a Monday or Tuesday night or something, and I thought, "Oh crap."
It meant too much to me to have been even a small part of that. It was too important. I unbookmarked the music law program page and never looked back. (A year later I started my MME, and haven't really looked back even more so.)
What are the things that keep you going when times get tough, or when your mind wanders?