Every year since I started teaching I have purchased a yearbook and had kids sign it – mostly children of the graduating class, which for me as a middle school teacher means 8th graders.
My job, if you didn’t know, specifically entails teaching two full-sized chorus classes (6th grade and 8th grade), and small sectional lessons in which the children are pulled out of another class during the day for more focused, individualized attention. It is in these sectionals where a lot of the learning of individual voice parts takes place; 10 sopranos can really focus on their pitches and rhythms without being distracted by the differing voices of the baritones and altos, for example. It is known amongst my students (and colleagues) that I am very into astronomy and the sciences in general. My students are also well aware that there will undoubtedly be times during these lessons where I will go off on an astronomical tangent. Perhaps I will mention which planets are visible on that night, I’ll describe to them the distance to the Sun in terms of how long its light takes to reach us – something children often take for granted believing that whatever they see is occurring at that moment, or I will show recent photos I have taken through my telescope of the Moon or visible planets.
Which brings us back to my yearbook. There are plenty of comments that are, for lack of a better word, typical for my book. I get a lot of “Your the best teacher eva!” (spelling accurately depicted), “I had so much fun this year,” “I’m going to miss you,” “Please come work at the high school,” “You were my favorite teacher,” etc. I don’t say these things to sound boastful; I put a lot of thought and energy into being relatable, fun, keeping the class lively, positive, and interesting. When I read a history of the Scottish folk song we were learning to sing at the time, Skye Boat Song, I read the entire piece in a Scottish accent. I play current songs on the piano. I want my kids to enjoy singing, to want to sing. My room is a Safe Space where kids can come if they’re sad, scared, angry, etc. Anyway, the point is that the comments are typically positive expressions about the music, the class, and/or me.
So as I was reading through some of my students’ entries, I was deeply touched and moved when I got to a particular excerpt, which I photographed and pasted below:
Students, as well as parents, have told me of the impact I have had on their appreciation of music, of how they were planning on quitting music but then had me as a teacher, on how I was positive male role model, etc. But this was the first time that I ever was told specifically that I changed a child’s perception of the universe in which they live, that I opened their eyes to the wonders of the night sky.
I certainly hope it is not the last.