Iowa has a long tradition of great bands. From Karl King to Glenn Miller to Meredith Willson, Iowa has long been known for great bands and band leaders. Those are the names that most of you know. The names you might not know include Robert Dean, Reggie Schive, Jack Oatts, and Milton Trexel (who started me on trombone as a 5th grader). Those are a few of the people who have devoted their careers to helping young people make music in our state. Every one of those people can be proud of the legacy that they have left behind. I just got home from the Iowa Bandmasters Association annual conference and, as always, my passion for teaching was renewed. What is notable about the conference is the juxtaposition of old and new. Every concert I attended included a mix of old standards and contemporary music literature. When you walked through the lobby you saw veteran music educators sitting with young people who have just started their career. There is a palpable sense of the importance of the legacy that Iowa music educators share and the desire to pass that legacy on to our next generation of educators.
Iowa has also has a legacy of great schools. I promise that Iowa’s teachers understand that legacy. Teachers throughout Iowa are getting ready to watch students graduate from their classrooms. Whether it is a kindergarten classroom or a high school calculus class I can promise that the teachers of Iowa have spent the year hoping to improve their curriculum, instruction, and assessments. They have worked hard to be better at questioning and providing feedback. Most importantly they have worked to build relationships with their students. The end of the year is always a melancholy time because we are sad to see our students leave our classrooms and yet we are proud of what they have accomplished. Iowa’s teachers understand the legacy we have inherited and we take it seriously.
The work of teaching young people hasn’t become easier in recent years. That’s OK. No one goes into to teaching because it is easy work (or to get rich, despite what some of my blog readers seem to believe). We got into teaching because we have a passion for it. We know that the work we do is important and we can look the mirror of a school year (25 of them in my case) and know that we have made a difference. We can be proud of our legacy.
This blog has become fairly political in the last month or so. That wasn’t my intention when it started. I wanted to share my thoughts with a small audience of friends and colleagues as a way to clarify my own thinking and practices. But, for good or for bad, education and politics are intertwined. So, as I spend today reflecting on Iowa’s legacy of great bands and great schools I wonder if our Governor and our legislators are able to look at their work in the last year and feel good about their priorities. As always, I am really asking, it’s not a rhetorical question. What is the legacy they are leaving to the next generation of Iowans? Who is it that is being enriched by their work? For teachers, the answer is easy….kids. Who would the Governor say is being enriched by his leadership?