Ever since I started my formal music education studies, I wondered what students would think of me. Would they like me? Would I be an effective teacher? What would they call me when I wasn’t around? Will they come up with some weird nickname? Lo and behold, I think I’ve reached an answer at this point.
At Hofstra, a close friend began to call me JareBear, quite clearly by taking the first syllables of my first and last name and combining them (in a non-Long Island accent). Somehow, with what I can only count as many degrees of separation, I was bestowed the same name while studying at the University of Georgia.
After completion of a summer or two working at NYSSSA, the nickname somehow found its way into that circle, and a student of that program tweeted me during that following school year saying “is this why we call you JareBear” with a picture of a concert poster with me clearly singing, alongside a bear. After making its way into three completely separate circles, I began to realize that this may in fact be the nickname not just given to me by some friends, but it has made its way into the creative minds of my students. But perhaps it won’t make its way into the school where I teach.
Lo and behold, we fast forward to my first year teaching. I remember sitting in my office, unbeknownst to the students in the classroom, and overhearing them refer to me as “JareBear”. After I popped out of my office, they were mortified that I heard, and unsure how I, a new teacher, would react. I had thought word had perhaps spread, but it seems different students thought they were being creative in referring to me as JareBear. A student, knowing I was tech-savvy and had a Twitter account, made me a shirt which I proudly wore – #JAREBEAR. And you should see my yearbooks ever since – often addressed “JareBear”.
Alas we are three years down the road into my high school teaching career, and as this year’s seniors graduated, they presented me with my very own JareBear (an object they stated was three years in the making). A Build-A-Bear version of me, in my concert tux and all with a baton.
Beyond the aforementioned physical gifts, my students have been the true gift to me. They all claim (and I trust it to be true, or I have taught them to lie well) to have learned much from me, but I have learned from them. I’ll always remember Dr. Santo Barbarino (affectionately, Dr. B) referring to all of us as his “kids” – always and forever his kids. He cultivated a community – a family, and was revered and loved by all, and that’s why we all loved him. This nickname to me, shows that I have on a small scale, done the same, and that’s what gives me joy in knowing that I made the right choice to enter education.