Saturday, December 11, 2010 By: Suzanne

New Paths - Important Goals

I made a decision yesterday that will change my career path. In the past when I've thought about leaving music therapy I have been very sad, which led me to believe it was not the right decision. At least, it was not the right decision at the time. Maybe it was simply because I was not ready to give up on my dream (this is what I've wanted to do for a very long time) or maybe it was because I had not discovered the right place for me; where it was I supposed to go after music therapy. I believe I have found it.

As a music therapist my favorite population to work with has been the PPCD classes. For those of you not familiar with the Texas educational terms that means Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. The children in this group are aged 3-5 with a wide range of needs, from severe autism to needing just a little extra instruction before going on to the general population. I've worked as a music therapist with children in these classes that will, in all likelihood, be in special education classrooms the rest of their school careers and I've worked with children that went into regular kindergarten classes afterward. I even worked with a young boy who only said "hello" when I met him at age 4 and was speaking in full sentences and ready for general ed by the end of that same year. I am good with this age group and am most comfortable doing "my thing" as a therapist and some time teacher.

If you've read my posts in the past you know that right now I am not working this age group. Right now I am doing music therapy with elderly with Alzheimer's. While I find that I get some satisfaction from working with this group, I also find I am simply drained by the end of the day in a way I never was when working in the schools. I am drained in a way that tells me I was right to believe I am not truly equipped to be working in this population. It is not right for me. I've been working on getting a program off the ground in the town I live in that will be private therapy for children and young adults with disabilities. I've been working on this program for more than 6 months now and have exactly 0 clients. It going nowhere and I am getting frustrated. Frustrated to the point that I have been having visions of taking any fulltime job I could find just to be able to have a fulltime job. 

My first thought was just to go find a job at one of the universities here. That would mean secretarial type work but I can do that. I haven't been happy doing what I love for awhile now so I'm sure I would fine doing something I don't love if I knew I could save money to do the things I do love. Then I had lunch with a friend yesterday and my world changed.

She said she had considered leaving music therapy too. She had gone to the extreme of getting her certification in Special Education and even applying to the different school districts around here. In the end, her job situation changed and she decided to stick with music therapy. It got my brain rolling. One of the things I had considered doing in the past was getting my certification as an elementary music teacher. I even went to the orientation meeting for the alternative certification program to see what I needed to do. I decided it wasn't for me as I KNOW I simply wouldn't make a good music teacher. But I also know I would make an excellent SPED teacher. I don't know exactly why I know this but I am sure of it and suddenly that's what I wanted to do. It's all I could think of as I left my lunch with my friend. I went to see a piano student (the one I got instead of an actual music therapy student in the place where I'm building my new program) and as he was 10 minutes late I stood there and thought about this program. How it's going nowhere. I know that programs can sometimes take years to get off the ground but I have put my all into this for more than 6 months and have seen no return. That's extremely discouraging. My first thought was to take on more private clients outside the area. I've done that before and the driving is horrible but the pay is good. "Ok," I thought, "get those clients so you are working and seeing a little income and let this program build as slowly as it's going to need to." But I still wasn't satisfied. "So this contract thing is going to be life?" No, I am not happy with that.

I sat through my student's lesson and was really irritated that he had not only not practiced but had been playing "Chopsticks" all week and wanted to show me. I said to him, "It's wonderful that you are having fun with the piano, but just because everyone else in your family knows how to play Chopsticks that doesn't mean that's what you should be practicing. Hopefully, if you practice what I give you, you'll be able to play much better than all of them someday." Hopefully, my extreme irritation did not come through. Trying to live compassionately after all! :)

Then I was driving home and it came to me. I WILL take on those extra clients, but not just to make money while I wait for this program to kick in to high gear. I will do it so I will have the money for alternative certification. I am going to become a SPED teacher. And I was relieved. I was happy about it.

I think that means I've made the right decision. I know it will take a couple years for this to come to fruition, but I have a goal.

This morning it came to me why this made me so happy. Goals are important. I haven't really had a set goal for awhile now. Oh yeah, build the program to make it a fulltime position but that wasn't really something I could see as goal for some reason. THIS is  goal. And goals make us strive to be important.