Unbound: What is your role in the education system? If a teacher, what age and subject matter do you teach?
Katie: I am a Music Educator, currently teaching High School Choir.
Unbound: At what type of school do you work?
Katie: I teach at a public suburban high school.
Unbound: Tell me about the demographics of your students.
Katie: Approximately 2800 students, 21% Asian, 12% Black, 18% Hispanic, 44% White, 5% other. 25% free and reduced fees/lunch.
Unbound: Why do you work in education?
Katie: I absolutely love working with young people and watching them discover new things.
Unbound: Do your worldview and your beliefs about religion and ethics affect your work in the school system?
Katie: Yes. I don’t think we can separate who we are from what we do. I don’t have to come right out and say it, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t listen to other ideas and opinions, but it certainly influences my choices. And for the most part, I think my students know that I am a Christian, and they know my views on more “politically” charged subjects like gun control or gay rights, even though I haven’t said it out loud. They also know that my room is a safe space for them to talk about things.
I have kids each year that say, “I can’t take chorus this year; it will bring down my GPA since I don’t get that extra .5” It makes me sad that they feel like they have to sacrifice something that they are passionate about.
Unbound: What is the most challenging part of your work?
Katie: Finding a balance. I work 12-hour days several days a week, and there is still more I could be doing. It’s hard leaving work knowing that you probably should have made a different worksheet for that student who struggles with reading, or you need to make up a sheet of notes for the kid that was absent.
Unbound: What is the best part?
Katie: Making music with students. Helping them discover their musical potential often helps them reach their academic potential, too. I feel privileged that I get to play a role in their lives, that I get to be there for them during the good and the bad. My students are the best!
Unbound: Based on your experience, if you could magically enact one large-scale change for education in general, what would it be? Why?
Katie: I would love to remove the immense pressure kids are feeling. Whether that is through getting rid of standardized tests, changing the college admissions process, or alleviating pressure they feel from family, I don’t know, but kids are stressed out beyond belief, and mental health is a huge concern. Kids need to feel encouraged and empowered to take the classes they want to take, not feel like they HAVE to take 5 AP (Advanced Placement) classes their sophomore year of high school because that is the only way they will get into a good college!
I have kids each year that say “I can’t take chorus this year; it will bring down my GPA since I don’t get that extra .5″ or “I’m going to take X class instead because it will look better for colleges.” It makes me sad that they feel like they have to sacrifice something that they are passionate about, and I think it leads to a lot more stress in their lives.
Read more interviews with educators!
Read more articles in this issue: Pedagogy for the Distressed!