By Brenda Winkle
Do you sometimes feel that no matter your experience, your educational achievements, and your work ethic, you continue to hope no one finds out that you are, in fact, an imposter? That’s imposter syndrome. Before we go any further, let’s clear up one thing: if you are taking your career seriously enough to be reading articles from your professional organizations, you are not an imposter.
I have experience at all levels and in different kinds of positions. I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome at all of them, except my current position(s). I’ll tell you why in a bit but here is a teaser: it has nothing to do with my jobs. To better explain this, I will share some of my teaching background.
My first year, I taught K-12 vocal/instrumental music along with speech and drama in rural Colorado. The next three years found me in Sturgis, South Dakota, as the director of choral activities at the local high school and I became the South Dakota ACDA state choral chair.
Following my tenure there, I moved to Kansas City. I taught 3rd-8th grade music and choir at a private school for 2 years before I had my daughter. This is where I had the opportunity to teach Eph Ehly’s grandson and meet Eph. A long commute led me closer to home and I accepted a position at what used to be known as Ervin Junior High in Hickman Mills School District in southern Kansas City, where I was the 6th-8th grade choir director.
A family work change moved us to Boise, Idaho. I was planning to be a stay-at-home mom, but I couldn’t give up choirs (and wasn’t very good at being an at-home mom). To keep myself involved in choirs, I volunteered for a local Catholic parish’s children’s chorus while I was between teaching jobs.
A divorce led me back into the job market in a town (Boise) where I knew very few people, and no one in the music or education worlds. Remembering back to the private school in Kansas City, I relied on a letter of recommendation written by Eph Ehly to get a job in the Boise School District, where I’ve spent the last twelve years.
In Boise, I’ve taught high school choir, junior high choir, leadership class, piano class, elementary choir, and all elementary music classes. Most currently, I serve as an elementary music specialist and choir director at an elementary school.
Three years ago, I became the Opera Idaho Children’s Choruses (OICC) director. OICC serves singers ages 3-18 and has three choirs. We have one chorus for kids ages 3 to 1st grade, one chorus for kids in grades 2-5 and an older chorus of singers in grades 6-12. This is a tuition-based community youth chorus program.
The combination of these positions has finally resolved the imposter syndrome I felt. Here’s why.
I was very active in my professional organizations as a high school and junior high choral person. When I moved to the elementary level after becoming a single parent, somehow I felt almost guilty attending ACDA.
I loved my job and working with the little ones, but I worried there wasn’t relevant content for me as an elementary person at ACDA. I had never met an elementary person at ACDA but didn’t know if it was because they weren’t there, because they weren’t openly elementary teachers or if it was because I had been so focused on getting my students situated in their honor choirs I only had the opportunity to focus on other secondary directors. The longer I was away from ACDA, the harder it got to go back.
When I took the job with Opera Idaho, somehow that felt like permission to re-join ACDA. And instantly, I fell back into the fold, even in a different state than where I was before!
Here’s what I know about the people who are part of ACDA. They are teachers who love what they do. ACDA members universally want to help others in this profession. Sometimes this means being a listening ear or even a shoulder to cry on. We protect each other and protect the profession of choral music education. Professionally, the techniques we learn are applicable to any age group. Only the way we describe things changes between the ages. This means the content is ALWAYS relevant no matter what level you teach or where you teach.
In ADCA we build each other up and share our tools. We want to be resources to each other. People LOVE to share ideas, especially teachers. An ACDA conference is a great place to share and acquire new ideas, tips, and tricks. An ACDA conference is a safe place to say, “This isn’t working in my choir. What ideas do you have?”
Worried about making new friends or going alone? I had THE BEST time at ACDA’s national conference! It gave me time to connect with my Idaho ACDA colleagues and friends, meet several of the Northwest Region ACDA members, and I made friends from all over the country. I came home from the conference with new ideas, new friends, new perspectives, and a ton of new music. Most importantly, I came back re-inspired and re-energized to do this important work.
Having taught at all public school levels, I can say with complete confidence, what you do is important and matters. No matter what you teach, your job is challenging. What you do is important. Working in small or large schools, private teacher, not-sure-you-want-to-teach, community or church choirs, all levels, you are welcome at an ACDA conference.
Looking to meet a new friend? Come find me. I feel new to Northwest ACDA and would really like to meet you! I promise you there are other people looking to find a new friend and colleague just like you.
Brenda Winkle is music specialist at White Pine Elementary School, director of Opera Idaho Children’s Choruses, and serves as R&R chair for children’s and community youth choirs for Idaho ACDA and ACDA Northwestern Region.