Burn, Baby Burn!

Isn’t it interesting how you don’t realize how hard you’ve been working until you aren’t working anymore?

I have been working my tail off for a year and a half. And when I say working, I really mean it. I once did the math… in a four-day week, I worked 90 hours. That’s three meals a day at work, never seeing the sun, more than two full-time jobs, run you into the ground type of work.

It has been paying off. The band program is growing in size and in ability. I have great support from my administration and faculty, the students are performing well (our marching band gained straight “Superior” ratings at marching band assessment, and finished 12th in our class in the state), and we are looking forward to the spring season. By almost all accounts, the countless hours of work have been paying off.

Almost all accounts.

I could have written this post in early November. On a weekend where my mom came in to visit, and spent the whole time watching me with my students because we had marching band rehearsal Wednesday and Thursday, a choir concert Friday, TWO marching band competitions in ONE DAY on Saturday (thanks, Sandy…), and a band concert Monday.

I could have written this post in mid-October, when we had marching band three nights per week and booster meetings/fundraising events the other two, followed by our first competition on a Saturday and another fundraiser Sunday.

But I am writing it now. Why? Because I finally can!

I fully recognize that I am choosing to commit this much time to my work. It would be completely reasonable for me to tone it back. Not to the typical 40-hours a week; I never expected to have that type of work schedule. Maybe 70 would be reasonable…

But I love what I do.

Am I burned out? A little bit. It has been a long and trying semester. I’m way behind on grading, I still have a few important things on the to-do list, but I’m giving myself a week to do absolutely nothing. I need it, and my students will be glad I did it when I return to school in a week and a half, revitalized by having some time off just as they are.

I am okay with the hours that I work. I am okay with the stress I put myself under. Because I love what I do.

How do I know that I’m doing what I love? I only now have realized how hard I was working. Now that I have been sitting around for two days, only leaving home to see Les Miserables and buy Chinese Food yesterday (as a part of my Jewish obligation to see movies and eat crappy takeout Chinese on Christmas…). I never had any idea there were so many hours in a day!

Will I tone it back a bit? Probably. I do love my job, but I know if I keep up at this pace, I won’t make it through a whole semester.

I’m going to try to work smarter, not harder. There will always be time to commit, but if I can get everything done while I have to be at school, there won’t be as many late nights or long weekends. Who knows, I might even have enough time to update this website regularly!

Until then, I will douse the flames of my near-burn-out in e-books, college football games, New Year’s celebrations, and sleep, while I look forward to getting to go back to doing what I do best.


On Starting A New Year…

It’s hard to believe how quickly the last year has gone by. Believe it or not, I am set to start my second year teaching (!!) in just a few short days! Don’t worry, Grandma Leila, I’ll make sure to shower early tomorrow night to avoid the night-before-the-first-day-of-school water shortage like you always remind me to do! It has been a whirlwind 8 months since my last post, which has included:

  • A “Superior” rating with my Wind Ensemble at school (the first “Superior” at the school in over 50 years!)
  • The loss of my beloved grandfather, Poppy Arnie, who I have written about here before
  • Watching my first group of seniors graduate
  • A few nostalgic trips home to Northbrook
  • A move into a new apartment
  • Finding out that my department chair, who hired me and has mentored me through the last year, will be leaving for a job in the district office (leaving me the senior-most member of the music faculty!)

So much has changed in the past year, both in my personal life and at work. It’s astounding how quickly you grow up once you’re in the “real world.” It may have only been 14 months since I graduated, but I feel many years older than the young 22 that I was when I graduated. That’s probably the job… After five years of teaching I will be 28 going on 40! Receding hair line and salt-and-pepper hair, here I come!

Truth be told, though, I am very excited for the coming year. My schedule at school is much more manageable (two planning periods, jazz band, wind ensemble, symphonic band, AP Music Theory, Intro to Music Theory, chorus), the “other” aspects of the band program (management, band boosters-which we now have, marching band, etc.) are much more comfortable to me, and I have great support from my administration.

Most importantly, though, I have finally turned the corner with my students as I set out to do at the beginning of 2012. I have established a great relationship with my band kids, and I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful group of students. When Poppy Arnie passed back in April, the outpouring of cards, flowers, texts, tweets, and well-wishes from my students was overwhelming. The love they showed reminded me why I enjoy my job so much. I truly feel like the luckiest band director in the world!

Outside of school I am excited for the year ahead, too. I finally live closer to my Miami friends so I will be able to spend more time with them rather than sitting around at home. Also, I plan to take more trips back to Northbrook this year… Now that I’m out of school, going “Home” doesn’t seem so bad anymore!

Anyway, I’m not sure there’s a “moral” to this post other than how quickly time flies! Hoping to post more frequent updates as the fall progresses, but I know I’ve made that promise before. We’ll see how things play out. Until next time!

2012 Goals

I hate the phrase “new year’s resolution.” It seems silly that we should pick one day per year to “resolve” to do something on the first day of the year, as if to say the first day of January is somehow more special than any other normal day. Think of it… how many “new year’s resolutions” have we all made? Have we followed through on them? Here are some of the resolutions I have not followed through on the past few years:

  • Work out for at least a little bit every day
  • Take more pictures with my digital camera (I touched it for the first time in MONTHS this December)
  • Project 365 (one photo per day, all year turned into one photo per week, turned into no photos after March!)
  • Practice my trumpet more

I don’t know what the difference in my mind between the phrase “new year’s resolution” and “goals” is, but somehow setting goals for the upcoming year seems to make more sense, and since I was inspired by Julie Manfredi‘s post of her own goals for 2012, I figured I would take a crack at writing down my own. Maybe this will help hold me accountable… or maybe not! Anyway, here goes:

  1. Smile more often – 2011 was a great year for me, but the past few months have been deflating as I started a new job as the band director at South Dade Senior High School. I know any band director transition is difficult, and the transition to living on my own with not as many friends around as I’m used to has been trying for me as well. I hope to smile more often this year, both by thinking about things more positively and by creating more positive experiences for myself through improvements at work and at home. Plus, smiles are contagious!
  2. Work out at least 3 times per week – I like to set attainable goals, and I think working out every day wasn’t attainable given my schedule. After all, I’m not going to want to do even a fifteen-minute set with the weights after getting home from 14 hours of band camp! 3 times per week is much more attainable.
  3. Turn the corner at school – The transition to a new director has been a trying one on both me and my students. I hope to turn the corner this spring in terms of my relationship with my students. Now that my feet are more solidly planted on the ground, I think we will be able to work together much more effectively.
  4. Become more active in my PLN – One of the major cutbacks I had to make in my life during the first few months of teaching was the amount of time I spent interacting with my online Professional Learning Network. I basically abandoned the #MusEdChat Twitter chat (HUGE thanks to @jguarr and the gang for keeping it going), and disappeared from the online Music Education world. I hope to jump back in and continue growing as an educator by learning from these wonderful, passionate individuals!
  5. Keep in touch with the people I care about – I have lost touch with a lot of people I care immensely about over the past year. I have never been very good at keeping in touch with my extended family, and now that most of my friends are spread out everywhere from Nashville to California to Kuwait, it has been hard keeping in touch with everyone I care about. I am hoping to change that this year.

There you have it! Plain and simple, and I think they’re all attainable, too! Here’s to a happy, productive, and healthy 2012 for all 🙂