Every year, during the last week of January, a special thing occurs. All around the state, hundreds of music teachers take a day or two off of work and meet up in Peoria, IL for a special event...
This year marks my fourth consecutive year attending the conference. It's always a fun time, because you're in a building full of people who UNDERSTAND YOU. They understand your passion for solfege and the excitement that comes when your 4th grade clarinet player finally crosses the break...and they know what that means. They understand the struggles you face of scheduling and trying to cram way too many lessons in the day because you want to see all of your students. They get it...because they live it. Now, don't get me wrong...I'm in an amazing district where music is greatly valued and appreciated...but it's still nice to be able to speak the language of music with others without having someone looking at you like you're from another planet.
It's also nice being able to reconnect with friends that you don't get to see face-to-face very often. We spend so much time texting, emailing, reading each other's blogs, writing on each other's facebook walls, responding to plurks or tweets that we almost feel like we know each other...but it's wonderful to actually TALK to the person across from the table and see what they actually look like in 3-D. Each year, I'm amazed at how many more people I have to "find" that I've reconnected with somehow/somewhere.
And then, of course, there are the sessons and the exhibit halls. Sessions talking about integration, teaching across the curriculum, sight-singing, inclusion for special needs children, using technology in the classroom, helping the middle school boy through the changing voice (a JOYOUS time for all middle school choir directors!), and everything else under the sun. The exhibits are full of shiny new instruments, music waiting to be played or sung, new books to help remind us of what we intrinsically know as educators and some things we have never thought of.
And every year I come home exhausted, yet excited and full of new ideas that I can hardly wait to show my kids. I come home with more catalogs than I know what to do with. And of course I come home with bags of "gourmet lollipops" for my kids to try to earn as a special reward. This year, I also came home with one of these: http://www.wengercorp.com/Teach/footNOTES.html. It's a rug...a very large rug. And I won it in a drawing that the Wenger peeps hold every year. My friend Steve almost always wins a stand...but I came home with a rug that I have to somehow get into my car so I can take it to school tomorrow morning and show my kids.
So tomorrow I return to life and school, hopefully with some new tips and tricks up my sleeve and a new energy and focus for the remainder of the school year. I'm also more energized to get back to work blogging and putting myself out there to connect with other music educators, as well as getting to work to build my website that I've been dreaming about and planning for who-knows-how-long. I want to do my part to contribute to my profession...there are some pretty big shoes out there to fill.
Life is good.