It’s the last day of my spring semester classes and I could not be more grateful!  This semester has stretched me farther than I thought possible and molded me into a different teacher than I was when I started.  Here’s my semester, at a glance: 45 students 330 PowerPoint Slides 89 pages of notes (single-spaced) 28 lesson plans 15 Quizzes 7 Group Project Assignments 2 Paper Assignments (5-page, 10-page) 4 Playing Quizzes (4 tracks each) 12 Piano Juries

Can you believe it’s been two years since I started as an adjunct?  There have been moments where I felt I was in over my head, teaching classes I didn’t feel qualified to teach, and drawing connections between content I had only learned myself through my lesson planning.  But, I knew the challenges would be worth it.  I knew overcoming those fears was necessary and important to my future success.  I knew I had to say “yes” to these new opportunities even though my head (and all sensibility) said “no.”  I knew I had to leap – and trust that I could build my wings on the way down.

What have I learned through the process?  I’ve learned that some students really love learning and soak up everything you say like a sponge.  I’ve also learned that some students struggle with the demands and responsibilities of college – enough to lie multiple times about a missing assignment.  I’ve learned that some students have never been asked to write a research paper before and don’t know where the line of plagiarism falls.  And I’ve learned that some students care enough about their final papers that they look up the archives of a Russian newspaper to find a review of a musical premiere – even though they don’t read Russian.  I’ve learned that accessible teaching means connecting to things they know – like showing the Family Guy Remix of Steve Reich’s tape phasing experiment, “It’s Gonna Rain.”

What’s holding you back?  Is it fear that keeps you from doing and being your best?  Define it, acknowledge it, and then set it aside.  Who’s stopping you?  Are you stopping yourself?  Is your head telling you you can’t, you’re not good enough, you’ll fail?  Identify whatever it is that disables you and move on.  Take that leap and learn how to fly.

Dream Big

It’s one of those statements that caught me a little off-guard when I first read it: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”  I thought dreams were supposed to be free and simple, floating in a blue sky like white, puffy clouds.  Uninhibited.  Undefined.  The thought of being scared by my dreams surprised me at first.  Who’s scared of a white, puffy cloud? It was cause for thought.  What are my dreams?  How big are they?  How real are they?  Everyone has a “someday” list.  Someday, I’d like to live in a brick townhouse on Park Avenue-esque street.  Will I ever live in a house like this?  Maybe.  Am I actively pursuing it?  No.  As I interrogated myself, I realized this really doesn’t qualify as a dream.  A dream requires goal-setting and small action steps.  White, puffy clouds aside, what are my real dreams and how am I actively pursuing them?

Last year, I dreamt of teaching at the college level.  Fourteen months later, I am in my third semester of adjunct teaching and was recently asked to prepare a new class for the spring.  Exciting, yes.  A great opportunity, yes.  Daunting, yes.  A dream that scares me, yes.  Let’s be honest – I had a mini meltdown just thinking about it this morning.  “When will I have time between now and then to read through three textbooks?  How will I be able to write out all of my lectures, make slides, and come up with assignments on top of my current teaching load?” I lamented.  The answer is simple in hindsight: action steps.

1. Make an outline of the chapters in each textbook. 2. Distribute chapter reading over course of semester (how many chapters on average per week?) 3. Skim each chapter and pull out relevant information. 4. Determine measures for evaluation (quizzes, tests, papers, projects, presentations, etc.) 5. Create measures for evaluation 6. Determine presentation methods (combination of lecture, slides, music listening, student presentations, etc.)

I remember how I felt in the weeks prior to my first day of college teaching (late last summer).  Expecting the unexpected.  Uncertain but confident.

Do your dreams have limits?  Are they bigger than life?  Do they scare you just a little bit?  Dream big – what do we have to lose?