My first job as an instrumental music teacher was an eye-opening experience. I taught 4th through 8th graders in a small district. I was the only instrumental music teacher in the school, which meant I had no one to collaborate with. The program was in its infancy and I was hired in the hopes of building it up from ground level.
As a first year teacher, I had to prove myself to a new district. I had new children to get to know and to convince I was a good teacher. I had to recruit new children into the program, and I had to keep them all interested in music enough to deter them from quitting when baseball season came along. On top of this, I had to prove to myself that I was able to juggle the crazy schedule and deal with parents and teachers that were less than sympathetic to the program.
My colleagues in the district could not understand what I was up against. They were classroom teachers, albeit with their own set of problems, but they had small classes of 15-20 students each. I had upward of one hundred students in my fourth grade band. And they weren’t responsible for putting on a concert in front of the entire faculty, student body, staff and parents twice a year, which can be terrifying even to a person trained in the field.
As the year progressed, my stress level escalated. What started out as a career centered on my passion for music soon became a stress-filled routine. I needed something to bring the life back into me and my teaching. Half-way through the year, I attended the Music Educator’s Conference—a two-day forum filled with workshops, panel discussions, concerts, and other helpful activities all centered on the love of music.
I met music educator friends of mine whom I hadn’t seen for a while and we talked about methods and teaching situations. I visited the vendor booths and got free items to promote teaching. I browsed through scores and scores of new music, picking out a few that I thought my kids would love to play. I was energized by the speakers who through their words put the love of music back into my heart. Overall, I came home with a renewed love for my craft, a new desire to teach, and a positive outlook that I could pass along to my students. It was well worth it.
Everyone should have an uplifting conference to go to, to help revitalize their craft. Everyone does…
Conferences have always been part of the true Church of Jesus Christ” (Elder Robert D. Hales, Ensign, Nov. 2013)
If you think about it, what is everyone’s craft? Humanity—doing good deeds to others, being kind, helping others as best as we can. But we can’t do that if we are emotionally weak and our spiritual cupboards are bare. We need a place to go where we can set aside our daily troubles, listen to uplifting speakers and become revitalized about humanity and our role here on earth. We have General Conference, twice a year, for just such a purpose.
“Oh how we need general conference! Through conference our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened.” (Elder Robert D. Hales, Ensign Nov 2013)
When I began looking at my life’s work as helping God with his work, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:9) my outlook on life changed. I began to see myself as a teacher of Christ-like love above and beyond teaching in my field. That was a wonderfully enlightening experience, but it also brought with it a degree of fear. How could I handle such an overwhelming task?
There are so many people in this world. So many hearts to soften, and I only have so much light to give. The idea was enough to scare me away before I even got started. But then I remembered how I handled my first teaching assignment when I felt overwhelmed—I went to the Music Educator’s Conferences. I set aside time to attend. I took care of lesson plans for my kids back in school so they would be taken care of. I committed to go.
I left my familiar environment and drove to the hotel where the conference was being held. During the conference, I immersed myself in all that was offered. I didn’t worry about my kids back in school. Instead I let the conference nourish my musical side and replenish my musical heart.
When it was over, I couldn’t wait to get back to my kids to give to them all that I had learned. It was as if I was starving and had been fed a bounteous feast, with enough left over to give freely to my hungry kids. This was the pattern I was to follow in being a true servant of the Lord.
“The only safety we have as members of this church is to…give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet.” (President Harold B. Lee, Ensign, Nov 2013 pg.7)
It’s General Conference weekend! This is your time to replenish your spiritual cup. Make the commitment to attend or watch even one session. Put aside your troubles and fears. Empty your heart of all the worries you may have over matters you cannot control.
Allow the words of living prophets to fill your soul, strengthen your determination, and revitalize your faith. I promise if you do this, you will have a renewed outlook on life. You will love your family more, your troubles will feel lighter, and you will have compassion for those with whom you may disagree. All these blessings are especially reserved for you. Through conference you can recommit to being a good person, because conference helps you recommit to the Lord.
Nanette O’Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.