Waitin’ for the Light to Shine

Waitin’ for the Light to Shine

One of my choirs is preparing to sing the song “Waitin’ for the Light to Shine” from Big River at our final concert of the school year.  Over the course of several weeks while learning the piece, we’ve briefly talked about the storyline…surprise, surprise, none of my students have read Huckleberry Finn.  We’ve talked about why the character Huck Finn might be singing this song.  We’ve  talked about what the words mean to them individually and as a group.  We’ve talked about how they want to perform it for the audience.  As the students internalize the lyrics, not just the music, I can hear the theme coming through their voices.  We have about 3 1/2 weeks until the performance and many days of staging and choreography before it will go to the stage, but already it’s at a great place.

The song has been on my mind lately.  As I’ve talked with the students about what the words mean to them, I’ve had to step back in my own mind and ponder the meanings to me.

I have lived in the darkness for so long
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
Far beyond horizons I have seen
Beyond the things I’ve been
Beyond the dreams I’ve dreamed
Are the things I’ve done
In fact each and every one
Are the way that I was taught to run
Chorus:
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
I have lived in the darkness for so long
I’m waitin’ for the light to shine
For me, we often have dark times.  We continually strive to get through them and we look out at the horizons around us for the strength and the dreams that we hope for.  As teachers, we even sometimes live through our students in order to get through those dark times and wait for those good or glorious moments when light shines around us.
In some ways I have felt that darkness Huck talks about in the song.  His story is not the same as mine as his challenges are not mine.  However, sometimes when you feel as though you walking in a cloud because of circumstances that are out of your control, you feel that darkness.  During that time, you are waiting for something to change, to brighten your day or even your life.  It could be of a personal nature or a professional one or both.
As a music educator today, job status is constantly being threatened.  I teach in a location, as do many of my peers, where no elementary student is ever taught music in a class unless the school is lucky enough to have a “general education” teachers that have an interest and knowledge in music to teach it OR they can apply for a one-year grant to hire a music teacher.  However, the school must reapply every year and funds may or may not be offered or available in subsequent years.  Who wants to work a job that is supposed to be full-time but may really be temporary?
Even middle/junior high school teachers’ jobs are not always safe from year to year.  Class size plays a huge factor in whether a teacher stays full-time. Most of the time the class size has nothing to do with the quality of the teaching but that obscure, non-transparent “number” that is applied to the class size that must be met for a class to hold.  If the schools overall numbers go down, so does your class.  If the school offers for choice for students, which I believe they should, they don’t adjust the class sizes to accommodate for that, they just reduce the teacher’s load.
School culture can play a role, especially if the music class has consistently been a “dump” class…a class to put every student they don’t know where to put.  The biggest problem with this one, is that the teacher has enormous pressure to “manage” the classroom effectively, now not just with large numbers of students but those students who have clearly had trouble in every other class they have been put in, but provide differentiate instruction, and create and maintain performances that are of a high standard.
I know that some of what I describe is not new to music teachers, nor is it new to any teacher, especially those that teach “elective” courses.  Sometimes with all of these pressures, it’s a wonder that teachers stick around.  I think that’s why we are having the crisis we now have.  Teachers are tired of waiting for someone to acknowledge their worth, their knowledge, what they can share with everyone not just their students.  Those that stick around usually do so because they care about their students so much.
The question is…how long will that last if something doesn’t change?  I know some teachers that are extremely supported by their administration, the school culture and the parents.  They feel safe, they feel blessed and they feel as though they are making a difference every day.  I think every one of us has one of these…I just think that teachers should have them all.  The students deserve it as much as the teachers do.
My year has not been easy.  I love where I teach.  I love my students.  However, it hasn’t been easy.  I have had health issues that thankfully were easy to fix but sure a pain to deal with.  I have had personal and professional situations that have not made my days always easy.  I keep going.  I try not to let it get me down because as Huck puts it….”[it was] the way I was taught to run”.  So now, I am just “Waitin’ for the Light to Shine”.