Seeking to kill some time on Sunday when I simply didn’t feel like doing anything, I picked up my latest issue of Country Weekly and decided to read through it. There was an article about Ashley Monroe and her new album. She is a neo-traditionalist country singer/songwriter who gets a lot of critical acclaim, but not a lot of radio play. She is part of the Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angeleena Presley, and one mighty song writer and performer in her own right. I recently downloaded her new album The Blade, and it stands with the best music being produced these days.
What struck me in the article were these quotes from her:
It’s hard for me to listen to country radio. It almost hurts my feelings. I personally don’t understand it. Some of it I do like. But for the most part, I don’t understand it. But at the same time, it’s not going to stop me. I’m going to keep on. I’ll figure out how to get hurt and keep making music.
I had immediate recognition. Yes, Ashley and me have something very much in common.
I don’t understand our education system. Sometimes it does hurt me — because I see it hurting my students. Or the times I feel I am selling out on my own values. There are moments when what is happening is good, but for the most part the larger picture sucks. Just like radio is being run by those who only care about the bottom line, not great music, education is begin run by hedge managers and billionaires who only see the gravy train. Who gets hurt in the process, whose dreams are crushed, what children are forever harmed does not matter to those who would prefer to buy a yacht and send their kids to private schools.
But, like Ashley, I am going to keep on. Do I want to quit at times? Yes, I do. I don’t blame any teacher who walks away saying ”enough.” I’ve been close myself. Yet I find myself hanging in, as I have dreams to fulfill.
A little further down in the paragraph, Ashley says,
I am happy with my career. I sit here in my house and think about all the things I wanted to when I moved here, and I’m doing it. I have to remind myself that so many of my dreams have come true. I’m on the path I’m supposed to be on.
Like Ashley, I look back and think about all the things I hoped to accomplish as a teacher, and how fast they happened. I wanted to be involved with National Writing Project (NWP), and for ten years I have been involved, even meeting a couple of very good friends because of it. I wanted recognition, and that came in a variety of ways, not the least two Golden Apple finalist perches. I don’t hold that kind of reward in the same regard I once did, but it was a goal at one time. I wanted to teach a lot of different things, and Lord knows, that certainly came true! In 11 years, I have taught fourteen different courses over six grade levels. I wanted to lead, and found myself Department Chair for many years, on several school leadership committees, and a year as the Lead Teacher for our district.
I’ve been busy.
Of course, one of the things I longed for as I was preparing to be a teacher was making teacher friends — all those people who know exactly what it is like to be in our shoes. I would love to list all the great friends I’ve made because of teaching, but I am afraid I would leave someone out. Just know that if you are a teacher and my friend, I highly treasure you! I wanted to be inspired and inspire others, and those of you who have taught with me or worked with me in NWP or Teacher Immersion Program or anything else teaching related, know that we naturally inspire each other to get better at our practice. I thank you for all you’ve given me.
Like Ashley, I am on the right path. I’ve been surprised where the path has now led, and I am working hard on helping it be the way I become the teacher I most want to be. It is an ongoing journey, and still somehow worth it. To paraphrase Ashley’s title song “The Blade” — I am going to hold education by the handle, and not by the blade.