The Naked Truth-Pt.1

It’s December 2009 and I’m two months into my Music National Service work at Meadowbrook View apartments, in north Seattle. My mission:

“to create vibrant communities in housing projects with immigrant families, through music rich after school programs, intergenerational, and cross-cultural music exchanges and performances that celebrate the diversity and cultures of all resident families.”

Celebrating diversity through music, what a marvelous idea! After all, music is universal, it brings people together, and it saves lives. After returning from an incredible two week training in San Francisco, I was excited to start my work and make a difference in the world but the truth is, I haven’t made a difference at all. I’ve taken a beating ever since I got here and I don’t see how this “music saves lives” thing is going to pan out. Right now, I feel completely ineffective and my ego is shot to the ground.

I know it’s not about me, but before I continue with the rest of this story, let me tell you a little bit about myself.  As conceited as this sounds, my resume is pretty damn impressive. I’m a certified music teacher with fourteen years experience in various public school settings, I’ve mentored student teachers, published articles, co-authored music textbooks, and presented music workshops both regionally and nationally. Heck, I was even invited to present at my first international music conference a few years ago. My point is, with all of this experience, I’m simply not prepared for the struggles I’m facing at my service site.

Imagine walking into a room with ten kids, ages eight to fourteen, and being completely ignored. I greet them with a smile and they don’t even look at me much less acknowledge my presence. I ask how their day went and all I get is that detached monotone response, “fine” that is, if I get any response at all. I tell them it’s time for class and they give that long drawn out sigh and roll their eyes. I’m lucky if I make it through ten minutes of class without the finger drumming, fake singing, or constant bickering.

I know what you’re thinking, “This is typical adolescent and teenage behavior, be firm, it’s a phase, they’ll get over it.” Well, let me just stop you right there because the issue goes much deeper than that.  You see, conflict resolution and relating to one another in a respectful manner is not a part of this community make up, at least not yet. Loud vulgar music blasts from windows and words like “faggot” and “fuck you” and “bitch” fly around with no thought or consideration to their meaning; on the other hand, sometimes they’re said very intentionally. This is the life at Meadowbrook View, it’s just the way it is and don’t get me started on the CPS investigations and the lock downs with the S.W.A.T team on the property.

Is it any wonder the kids behave the way they do?

How am I supposed to accomplish my mission with all this instability?

What the hell was I thinking?!


2 thoughts on “The Naked Truth-Pt.1

  1. So I just read your blog post. Even though we hardly know each other at all, except through Twitter world, I feel I couldn’t dismiss my thoughts. I am not in your shoes and have no idea of the struggle of teaching. It’s hard enough for me to teach one kid guitar, I couldn’t image the pain of a group. Also, I am no motivational speaker and I don’t normally do “stuff like this” But listen, even though none of those kids act like they care, ignore you, have no respect, etc…At least one or two do somewhere deep down. First of all, it’s Monday. Yawning and disrespecting is part of their jobs. But second…I can’t name it exactly, but I know for a fact there have been a few classes I was in that I acted the same way, doing those same things, but then you know what…5-10 years later, I went back to that teacher and explained how much their class helped me in the long run and why I actually enjoyed it so much.

    Just think, if even one of your students somehow connects with you in 2, 3, 15 years and says “you know what, I always loved your class and I am deeply appreciated you taught me what I did” Wouldn’t all of your teaching be worth it for that small moment for that one kid? This all may sound like bullshit to you and maybe it is bullshit, but you are teaching kids music whether it feels like it or not. No, it’s not English or math, but for us “music people” think how important music is and should be in their lives.

    I have recently been contemplating going back to school and doing what I needed to become a music teacher, but it just seems far too risky with the budget cuts and non funding of the arts in schools these days. So I envy for you having the courage to want to share your knowledge with anyone who may listen. What you do is special and you should remember that.

    So I’m not sure where this came from, but just remember you can’t let 8-14 year olds get to you dude. It’s just not worth it. And also, it may not seem like it now, but somewhere, at some point on down the line, somehow you’re going to affect someone’s life for the better.

    Keep it up! 😉

    • G!
      Your response is exactly what I was hoping to get out of people! I love your vigor and willingness to contact me and tell me (and that music teacher you once had) how music changed your life!

      Let me explain my purpose for this. First of all, this is a re-edit of my original 4 part series the “Naked Truth.” This repost will include a new Pt. 5 which culminates into final thoughts and my latest experience with these kids, just last week.

      And by the way, the photo you see on the blog are my last 5 survivors of our tumultuous year.

      Right now for Music National Service, we’ve had many of our fellows in other cities and sites encountering this similar problems and as a result, 3 walked away in the middle of the year. One fellow was calling me and emailing me for help. In the end, it proved too difficult and that’s not his fault, just the toughness to the REALITY of what we’re dealing with here.

      My purpose for this blog is to get people to really stop and think about the value of music in our everyday lives! Just how much it really matters and how we REALLY can’t live without it. And how it nurtures our very core.

      I’m being controversial for a reason. I hope to ignite ‘courageous conversations’ about what’s at the core here, as you will see in future posts.

      I hope you will stay with me and read the future blogs!

      Also, please tweet this and pass it on!

      Many Thanks!

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