Kerri Greco teaches general music and chorus to students in grades 3-8 in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. During her 14 years teaching in North Smithfield she has also taught beginner band, preschool parent-child workshops and has acted as a cooperating teacher for Rhode Island College, University of Rhode Island and Providence College.
Why do I teach? This was a question — in its many different forms — that I asked myself more this school year than any other. I found myself asking over and again, “Why am I doing this? Why do I spend so much of myself on this job?” Answering myself wasn’t always easy, but the answer always seemed to boil down to “…because I care.”
This year had many challenges. I had difficult behavioral problems in several classes. I also traveled between two schools every day (I have no classroom at one of these schools and travel from room to room on a cart). Because this was the first year for the new Rhode Island Teacher Evaluation process, things that used to be fun — like performing at concerts and festivals — were now tools that would be used to evaluate me. On many days teaching for me became more about proving I was a good teacher and less about proving to my students that they could learn and that they could be free to experience music in addition to learning about musical concepts. I couldn’t let evaluations and data collection suck all the enjoyment of teaching out of me. I wouldn’t let it.
By the time April came, I had convinced myself that some rating on a paper said little about the type of person I am or the excellent musical experiences my students and I had together this year. My heart is for blending my love of music and my deep caring for my students together, and if I just focus on that my rating will work itself out.
I care. That’s why I teach. I care about the students. I let them know I have very high expectations of them, and I let them know that they will fulfill these expectations because I believe in them.
I care about my subject. Music is my life; it’s my love and my passion, and my students know it. It doesn’t matter if it is the fifth time I’ve taught that same lesson that week. Because I teach it as if it were the very first time, it is new and fresh.
Then in the last week of school something happened that blew my mind. A parent of a former student went out of her way to talk with me.
“Mrs. Greco, I meant to write you a letter years ago but I never got around to it. Ever since my daughter Lauren had you in second grade, she has had such a love of music. She is in college now, but she is always listening to all kinds of music. You really instilled a love of music in her, and I just wanted you to know that.”
Wow, I was speechless. That was what I needed this year to confirm what I had been trying to tell myself. So thank you, Lauren’s mom, and to all the other students and parents who have never gotten around to write letterS. I know this is why I teach!