Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bubble Popped

Well, just when I had achieved the closest thing to happiness I guess I'm capable of, I had to come back down to earth. I've been having a great time as a baby music teacher, but I've also been a bit stressed out about it. Each week I've been drilling the songs on my own and practicing singing loudly and with great energy. Part of my job is to keep the babies happy but also keep the grownups from feeling bored. I have to make the songs and exercises seem like the funnest thing anyone could imagine. There's a lot of running around to do as I pass out toys, lead the exercise, then collect those toys and pass out different toys for the next activity, then collect those toys again, etc. And all the while I'm trying to keep track of every baby's name and face. Gotta get those names right no matter what, even if fifteen babies show up and I've never met half of them. Still, I've been doing my best and having a great time at least as much as I've felt nervous about getting everything right. Each week I've improved and have been thinking it's just a matter of time until I master this job.

Then last week, after four weeks of teaching two classes a week, I got a call from the head of the music program who wanted to meet with me. She ended up observing one of my classes, plus the founder of the school observed another of my classes. The founder! That's the buck-stops-here person. They each gave me feedback on my teaching and it was a lot to think about.

It turns out that this job is even more complicated than I thought. In addition to all the things I've been focusing on, I also need to pay more attention to what's going on in my classroom at all times. For instance, if all the babies are under the parachute, but one of them isn't, I should take a moment and let that mother adjust so that her baby isn't left out. I realize I have not been doing that. I should also take some time to relax and notice and comment on things like, "Emma was so serious at the beginning, but look at her now!" or "Well, Benjamin likes the Popcorn Song!" I know I can do more of that. I must also not have my back to anyone and must make sure I'm including everyone with my eye contact and body language. I admit I hadn't been focusing on that. In general, I'm a bit stiff and nervous and really need to relax more so that the mothers can relax and enjoy the class. Relaxing is always a big challenge for me.

So after getting all that feedback on what to improve and very little positive feedback on what I'm doing well, I felt pretty bad last week. I wondered if maybe I'm just in over my head. All of the suggestions for improvement make sense to me and I can see that I really need to be more alert to everything and more interactive. I know I can do this job, but it's going to take more supportive supervision and feedback and probably more training. Mainly it's going to take time. Can they be patient while I get there? I wish I were the teacher they want me to be, but I'm just not -- yet.

Well, it turns out the music director, founder and program director also realize I'm not the teacher they want me to be and know that I need more training and supervision before I'll be ready to do the job they hired me for. But they explained to me that they don't have the resources to train me like that -- so they let me go. I've lost the baby music teacher job.

I've had so many jobs, maybe 18 since I left grad school. I've also been let go, whether it was being laid off because the business was going under or being fired for inadequate performance. But those inadequate performance jobs were always jobs I didn't really want anyway. I wasn't doing a good job because I knew the job was a poor fit and I wasn't very interested in keeping it. Being let go was a relief.

This isn't a relief. Well, there's some relief because I really was in over my head and was stressing out each week about it. But really I'm sad because I enjoyed this job so much. I love babies and I love singing and this job combined those two and it was like a dream come true. I thought it was the perfect job for me. I knew if I just got enough experience I'd stop feeling scared and then it would flow more.

But the staff are probably right. It would have taken me quite a while to master this job with all of its complexity, high energy and dynamics. It's a huge job. And look how long it took me to stop feeling afraid of waitressing: two years. It just so happens that I'm able to freak out and still do a satisfactory job of waiting tables. My natural nervousness and fear don't totally compromise my serving skills. But they do compromise my ability to be a good baby music teacher.

So that's the end of that. I've been feeling so bad, I've eaten a lot of cake in the past week. I lost this job I loved. What do I do now? Besides add ice cream?

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