This past December, my teaching partner of the past five years passed away from the horrendous disease ovarian cancer. Ms. Lynda Wulkan taught me a million things throughout our time team-teaching music together that I couldn’t have learned through an AQ, a workshop or printed resources. She was an incredibly gifted oboe player and a brilliant musician. Her ear for music was unlike any I have or likely ever will encounter and she was a walking encyclopedia of classical music knowledge. She cared deeply about her students and truly loved the Orff philosophy and all that it helped students to achieve.
I was thrown into the music room with Lynda as a drummer with a limited number of skills to ensure success on day one. However, Lynda believed in me. Believed from the very bottom of her gut that I would be successful. She didn’t mince her words in telling me I wasn’t quite there yet but that I could truly do this if I set my mind to it. She talked incessantly about my natural talent and the fact that I could sing in tune if I just opened my voice and made a sound above a whisper. She looked me in the eye every day and believed. As teachers, we give 150% to our students every day and this sometimes leads us to forget to prop up and support the other adults around us. Lynda showed me how that support can feel to those who receive it.
Lynda also taught me that when you are excited about a topic the kids will feed off of your energy. She loved classical music and would talk passionately with me and all of our students about Beethoven, Saint-Saëns, Mozart and Prokofiev. The students enjoyed asking her questions and sharing in her joy of this kind of music.
She also taught me to get out of my comfort zone. In our last concert together Lynda decided to include a play put on by her grade fours. This was not Lynda’s area of expertise, however, she threw herself into the planning and preparation of this event by using all of her break time to practice with the students. She purchased all of the required props – suspenders, shovels, hats and all to ensure that the props were realistic and that the final performance was polished to her standards. On the night of the concert at Red Willow, the students performed beautifully and the parents were overjoyed at being able to see their children showcased so wonderfully. Parents and students still reminisce about this performance.
Overall, this year has reminded me that our time with our students is very precious. It will not go on forever and can be disrupted at any time. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It has reminded me to slow down the pace and take time to really laugh with the students when they say something funny by accident in class or when a sound comes out of an instrument that was totally unintentional. It also has reminded me that after the students we adore graduate, the people that we will reminisce with are the ECEs, EAs, principals, custodians and other teachers at our school. These people are our second family and our time with them is very precious too.