What a strange December I just journeyed through! Normally I would have experienced that month in the throes of having students present many school Christmas programs and concerts.
In December 2012, during my concluding year of teaching prior to retirement, I directed six school programs from November 30 to Christmas break and took my junior high choir to Oddfellows to bring Christmas music to the residents. These events were in addition to the Christmas music done by the handbell ensemble and two church choirs I direct, and the Walla Walla Choral Society, in which I sing. One can imagine that by the time Christmas Day came, it was a most welcome respite from the frenetic musical activities of the preceding weeks.
And speaking of Christmas, I found myself getting excited, as my students did, about the coming Christmas break at school. It’s almost as if I thought I was still teaching, knowing there were only a few days left before vacation began. I think it is because, although I was not doing my usual multitudinous school programs, I was still involved in church and Choral Society seasonal presentations, so my mind occasionally and perhaps subconsciously thought I was still in school, looking forward to the time off between Christmas and the new year.
One pleasant aspect of my retirement is that I now had time to be able to drive to Oregon to see and help with my music teacher daughter-in-law’s school Thanksgiving program in November.
The music teacher slumbering within me enjoyably awakened as my daughter-in-law had me direct ensembles of band instruments and melodic tone bar instruments while she directed the Kindergarten through fifth-grade choir on songs she had arranged.
I was proud of my daughter-in-law. She created the script for the program and selected and arranged the songs that went along with the action on stage. She featured the theme of building community between disparate groups that misunderstand each other. She used the idea of the Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together from completely different and diverse reference points.
The program, a bit reminiscent of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” featured a modern girl, Samantha, who is irked because some of her Latina classmates were speaking Spanish, and Samantha thought they were talking about her. The girls tried to explain to Samantha that she was not the object of their conversation, but she was unconvinced.
She ran away from them and tripped, knocking herself unconscious on a rock. It was then that she was discovered in turn by a group of 17th-century Pilgrim lasses, and later by a group of Wampanoag Native Americans and their chief, Massasoit. She learns of the mistrust each group had for the other, and is eventually able to bring the two groups to an understanding and acceptance of each other. Then they share a meal together — the first Thanksgiving.
Samantha gets sleepy after the meal and dozes with her head and arms on a rock. She comes back to consciousness with the concerned Latina girls asking if she is all right. She tries to tell them about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, but, of course, they are mystified by what she is saying. However, she apologizes to the girls for mistrusting them by making ignorant accusations, after which friendships resume and acceptance is restored. In today’s world climate of tension and mistrust, the message of the program resounded with bright hopefulness and idealism.
It felt good to be in a school situation again, doing some of the things I did for so long. Besides the directing of the instrumental groups, my daughter-in-law also gave me the task of duplicating programs, and other things she needed help with. Not having to be “in charge” was a pleasant relief. Been there, done that!
I must say that music teacher daughter-in-law definitely shows evidence of being a born teacher. She is well organized, creative, caring, dedicated and most important for a teacher, adaptable.
Also in November, I helped the Kindergarten teacher at the school from which I retired. She and I had done a Thanksgiving program several times in years past. I wrote the script and collected the music and titled it “My Trip to an Indian Village.”
The Kindergarten teacher organizes a meal for all her students‘ parents and grandparents, after which came the Indian program. My lovely wife and I always looked forward with anticipation to this event, as the meal made by the director of food service at the school was mouthwatering and delectable. And the Kindergarteners were so cute as they presented the program.
I’m glad to be involved and useful, continuing in my former profession as kind of a teacher “emeritus”.
This teacher retiree is not out to pasture yet.
Terry Koch is stepping into the life of a retiree after 46 years of teaching music at the grade school, high school and college levels. He can be reached at 509-529-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.