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Bonny Buckley

American Violinist Teaches in Shanghai Int'l School

February 19, 2008 at 8:53 AM

From Shanghai

I am sometimes blown away by this job and how enjoyable it can be. In the years I have been a teacher in the past, I have never had a teaching assistant, let alone one who is a college degreed opera singer! It is a real privilege and joy to have her for many of my classes. Sometimes I have a professional dancer as my assistant.

And the work day--imagine having enough time to do your planning and keep up with grading, coordinating with other teachers and actually laughing over things at lunch. Did I step into a dream or is this for real? OK, the conditions are not what I had before, like the brand new school, antiseptic cleaning, adequate heat and hot water. And I will not deny that those things are all good creature comforts that I wish we had here now. But now I have to ask myself how relevant those things really were to an education. OK so we are leasing a former Chinese high school, with no hot water in the bathrooms, the service people never use detergent or cleansers on any surfaces and the place is frequently freezing cold. Still it is a pleasure to be in a school where kids love to learn and have the opportunity to teach some gifted youngsters and other absolute beginners on the violin. Kids from South Korea , Japan , US, Germany, Australia and Iran. A place where the two highest administrators actually believe in arts and music education. A place where if your hearts are settled in the right place with integrity, pacing and values, the rest falls into place. It is gravy. Those creature comforts really pale in comparison to teaching kids with supportive families in a fair school environment where staff are not so stressed out about their jobs that they can actually enjoy what they do on the job. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

Let's stop blaming American education for the problems it is enduring. Let's find a way to make education something we as a culture actually value and care about. It saddens me that I have to step outside my own culture to experience this.

A sub, here for 3 days, made a comment that he really liked the laid back atmosphere, with 6 or 7 kids in some classes. This is something of a dream. I feel like I paid my dues and now I get to actually focus on teaching and the kids--without my head spinning--a new and enjoyable experience.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 19, 2008 at 12:27 PM
I agree, you can do a lot with a good attitude, and all the bells and whistles in the most up-to-date facilities aren't the most important thing. In my town (Boston area) there is a lot of focus lately on school facilities: in particular one of the elementary schools needs to be replaced (so says the school committee anyway) in part because the heating system keeps breaking down. But the teachers still do a terrific job, doing a lot with a little. Test scores are high and, more importantly, the kids actually like school and enjoy learning.

All the negativity about the aging facilities can be very wearing and distracts from what's most important.

From Shawn Smith
Posted on February 19, 2008 at 8:32 PM
It would seem that I am fortunate. As the only string teacher for the public schools in my town (Natchez), I have small classes and administrative support, though the administrators do not always understand why music education is so important. I teach in out of date school buildings, but aside from that I love my job. The parents are enthusiastic about the program and have seen the positive transformation it has had on their children; they keep the administrators in line. LOL
From Craig Coleman
Posted on February 19, 2008 at 11:51 PM

It was great and inspiring to read about your teaching experience in China. I'm also the violin teacher at the Tsukuba International School here in Japan and your situation sounds identical to mine. I'm very happy to read you're doing so well.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 20, 2008 at 5:03 AM
Reading this blog made me feel very good. I am a private violin teacher, so most of my students have support from their parents and a real desire to learn. Keep enjoying yourself, and keep thinking about the difference in the lives of the kids you're teaching.

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