Beyond the Baton - June 2021

An ode to teachers: 

I’ve recently completed my time teaching string orchestra at Boulter M.S., a public school here in Tyler, TX.  I’ve written briefly about my experiences (overwhelmingly positive) in a prior blog post.  In this post, my final one for the time being, I’d like to focus on an underappreciated and overworked segment of our city, teachers. 

Yes, teachers are on summer break right now, and this break is relatively long, given the standard vacation time workers are entitled to in this country, but they deserve every last minute to enjoy, recharge and come back (hopefully) refreshed in the fall. 

Most of you have or have had children, nephews and nieces and while you may love them to bits, one must acknowledge the CONSTANT effort and attention required to keep them safe and engaged.  Multiply this by a factor of 10 or so, and that’s a pretty good representation of how hard teaching is.  It is exhausting, frankly, to maintain that level of attention in even the most well-intentioned group of students, and to find new and creative ways to cajole and even trick kids into listening to the teacher and even learn something on occasion!    

It is tough, thankless job for sure and not suited for all.  You may recall from a previous blog post that I in fact did teach full-time in Toronto for 5 years.  It is a job that paid relatively well, had great benefits and an incredibly generous pension.  My first conducting job, in contrast, had no benefits or pension, I took a serious pay cut (66%!) and I had to live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, BUT I was happy and way less stressed.  I knew I had found something I could do for the rest of my life. 

Teachers certainly deserve better pay, but more importantly, deserve our support and our utmost respect.  Korea is a good example of a culture that reveres teachers.  My immigrant Korean parents always wanted me to be a doctor first, but teacher ranked in the top 4 or 5 professions in their mind, more desirable than getting a law degree, (again, according to them!)   It is of course also a culture that values education highly, thus a respect for those who teach comes very naturally to Koreans. 

If you are a teacher, I thank you and please know how much I personally respect you for what you do every day, year in and year out!  I GET IT and you have a life-long ally in me.   I always feel vaguely guilty that I was not able to stick it out longer than 5 years, forgive me, it was way too hard! If you know a teacher, thank them for their service to our children and our community.   Wish them a safe and happy summer holidays and don’t begrudge them a single day of their time off! 

Looking forward to seeing you from the stage soon, 

Richard Lee

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