If you follow me online, it’s no secret that this year’s OAKE conference was something I was looking forward to, and really needed. One of the last things I did in 2020 was go to OAKE in Portland. I was burnt out, overwhelmed, and really needed some time to myself. I skipped sessions, ate ramen, and spent too much money at Powell’s Books on things for my classroom. This year, I really felt the need to connect musically with other music teachers. I struggled to pick sessions because there were so many I wanted to go to, I ended up doing half sessions trying to see two in some of the hours. I also had one student, a high school senior, sing in the National Chamber Choir for a third time. I’m so proud of all he’s done and having one last chance to help him make music warmed my heart.

I got so much out of the conference this year, I could talk about it for hours but I want to pick a few for you so here are my three big takeaways from OAKE.

1. Connection

Oh. My. Gosh. CONNECTION. With other music teachers, with friends, with musicians, with music. If you haven’t done something for you to connect with these people and things in recently, DO IT. Schedule a chat with your music teacher friends, go see some live music (kids singing ❤️), or find some music teacher PD that will warm your heart. Lots of places are starting to offer in person workshops and it felt so profound to have that.

2. Representation

This is something we already know, but hearing it so many times felt necessary to say it. And it is necessary to say it. A huge theme in so many of the amazing sessions, the concert and Rollo Dilworth’s keynote is representation matters. But it’s not enough to just represent. Do the work. Understand, find a culture bearer, or talk to the community. Don’t assume it’s ok for you to teach things. Let kid’s see themselves in every part of your class. Books, music, videos, puppets. It’s not only important for your students to feel represented, but also for your students to see other people.

3. Joy

Music is joy. I’ve always believed that if you aren’t having fun, your students aren’t having fun. But just as important, YOU need to have joy. If you’re been feeling joyless lately, I hope you can find something that helps bring you some joy. Connect with a friend from college, take time to practice your instrument for the joy of making your own music. Plan a lesson for your students that brings YOU joy. Share your favorite musician, or a performance that makes you happy. Take a mental health day. Get outside and get some fresh air. Try to plan lessons that don’t suck your energy. I know it sounds like such little things as we approach two years of the shutdown, but I hope that you can take control of something to help you reach the end of the year.

Bonus: Impact

This week I had a huge reminder of my impact on a student. Teachers, often times you don’t know how you impacted your students. They won’t tell you, you don’t know where they end up, or it isn’t obvious. Every once in a great while, someone will actually let you KNOW your impact. But believe me. YOU HAVE AN IMPACT. What you do in your classroom MATTERS. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Go make an impact.

Melissa Stouffer-1

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