As a young budding musician in high school, I am now slightly ashamed to admit that music was the most important thing to me. The shame lies not in my immature idealism, but in the fact that I would use it as an excuse to get a pass out of senior pre-calculus. Entering college as a music major, I found that my ideals (still immature) were catered to through a rigorous schedule of content specific classes. After college, I could enter the world of music education with an arsenal of research and experience that backed my ideals. Now I was a mature idealist… until I realized that the world is far from ideal.
As a young music educator, I was exposed to and involved in initiatives supporting reading, math, science, social studies and the other arts. Each of these content areas brought their own ideals and struggles to the table that I began to understand and identify with. I also began to see how they each played a part in forming a bigger picture. That is when I realized that, while I believe I was a good music educator, I could never be great… because I was not an idealist.
Thankfully, my realization that I was a “big picture” kind of guy led me to the principalship. I maintain the belief, however, that the world needs idealists. These are the people with the passion to fight battle after battle with their eye on the prize… sometimes having to settle for honorable mention.
Unfortunately, I am the guy that idealists love to hate. There is always that “big picture” person that says things like, “I know you need more time in the schedule for chorus, but I need that time for math intervention blocks.” Or, “I know you need clay to carry out your sculpture unit, but the budget has been slashed and everyone has to tighten the belt a little.” Or, “I know I said that theater can really help kids with reading, but we’ve already laid off 5 teachers… we will not be hiring a theater teacher in the foreseeable future.”
The really great teachers will challenge any one of these statements for the sake of art. Sometimes, the challenge becomes a brainstorming session that results in a win-win. Remember, the “big picture” person doesn’t always have all the pieces until you provide them. Other times, it may seem that your challenge falls on deaf ears. The great teachers, in this case, will play a louder horn, erect a larger stage or paint with brighter colors to let their voice be heard. Admittedly, this can become a huge headache for the “big picture” me, but rest assured that I expect nothing less of great artists and educators. They are the ones that know in their heart that the world will never be ideal, but will keep trying to make it that way anyway.
Keith Remillard, 35,
is a principal/educator
living in East Greenwich, RI.