If there's anything I've learned in a decade of teaching--and it took most of that decade to learn it--it's that stepping outside of my comfort zone is often what yields the best results for me as a teacher. This is especially true for me when it comes to asking for help (my considerable Leo pride can get in the way of that) and also in putting myself out there to new people. See, I'm not the most extroverted person I know, but nor am I an introvert (the term for me is ambivert, and it really depends on my mood and current stress level). However, I have a deep dislike of feeling like I'm pushing myself into someone else's space, which I believe comes from hating having my own space pushed into.
Sometimes, though, it's necessary, though in this case, it's no so much pushing myself in as just blatantly asking for some time. If I'm going to be a successful choir director, I have to start building relationships and learning everything I can now. So in the last month, I have emailed two different local choir directors and asked if I could watch them teach.
Both teachers I met or encountered at least briefly at a couple of recent choir events I took my kids to, so it's not like I'm some perfect stranger coming out of the woodwork. Still, we're all busy getting Winter Concerts ready, so having someone come in to watch can be a distraction, even if that someone is perfectly happy to sit in a corner taking notes. But both times, now, I've found that both directors were really happy to have someone want to watch them and learn from them, and both have been happy to sit and talk choir between class periods. It's gratifying, to slowly make myself part of this community, to know that I, too, can be a bigger part of it as I grow in my own teaching.
Of course, it makes my boss happy, but that's not why I am doing it. I'm finally realizing that to become an expert, one must be exposed to experts in their chosen field. I must surround myself with experienced choral directors--singing for Don in Sac Choral, watching other teachers, maintaining good relationships with the other choir directors in my district--in order to grow in my own teaching. More importantly, I'm realizing that no one minds me asking for opinions or a bit of time to observe; in fact, I think they're rather flattered that I am singling them out.
It's been interesting, making myself step outside of my comfort zone to contact new people and ask if I can observe them, but it's paying off big-time. I'm finding new ideas, seeing how some things I already do are actually good practice, and I'm getting a better sense of how to run a choir program. It's all about putting that pride aside and acknowledging that I don't know everything--but I certainly can learn.