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Monday, September 29, 2014

31 Days suggestions

Hi everybody,
   I'd like to take part in the 31 Days challenge to get me back in the habit of writing more often on my blog. If I'm writing for 31 days on 1 topic, I figured I'd ask you guys what you might want to read about. I have a few topics that I'm thinking of but I'm unsure what I really would like to do. I have to decide by tomorrow night. If you have a suggestion, please leave it as a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


      I have almost completed my first month of teaching for this year. I have been thinking a lot about my profession lately. My schedule changed a bit so this year seems a little more hectic but the past few weeks have reminded me how much I love teaching. Here are some notes from the trenches:

- Everybody gives middle school kids a bad name. These kids, trying to be adults, can be the sweetest little people. If they know that you care about them, most of the time they will attempt to do what you ask them (or at least the minimal expectations).  Some of them will go way above and beyond because you took the time and effort to invest in them. If you have prejudged them, they're smart. They can usually tell that right away and you have just made yourself (and your class) unimportant to them.
- If you meet a teacher don't say things like "Oh! You're the music teacher. How FUN!" or "Wow, it must be so nice to not have to do anything during the summer" or talk negatively about other professionals in the building. (or other people's children.. that's really bad too.) You should show interest in what your child might be learning and sharing information about your child is helpful too- especially if they're struggling with something you know that teacher is trying to work on in class.
- Music is an extremely rewarding subject to teach. I have been blessed over the past few weeks while watching kids discover that they're pretty good at things they didn't know they could do, listening to 75 kids ending the day in song, and seeing the students grow in their musicianship over a period of a few years.
- As a teacher, sometimes I know that I am one of the only adults in a student's life that actually cares about their well-being. It's not many kids, but even 1 is just too many. I'm happy to say that I have not discovered "this child" yet for this year but I know that I am very important to many of my students.
-Yes, policies, standardized testing, administration, colleagues, students and parents can all be annoying but I really do love what I do. (And I can be annoying too.. sorry.)

      Here are some things that I have experienced over the past few weeks that have made me smile:
- 8th grade students in a choreography lesson. Adult enough to want to do a good job and have their movement fit to the music but kid enough to be HILARIOUS while doing so. It always surprises me which kids get really into this lesson.
- Having someone in administration mention me in a meeting as someone who works really hard. I wasn't in the meeting and I didn't even know this person had any idea what I actually do. I don't like a lot of recognition or a big deal being made, but an acknowledgement of my efforts over the past years was really touching to me.
- When you give 6th graders a bunch of junk and tell them to make it into an instrument, their creativity will amaze you. One group "invented" an instrument that "sounds like a mix between a trumpet and a dying whale."  It was beautiful.
- I have a group of 8th grade boys writing an opera based on Phineas and Ferb. They make me smile everyday.
- I have to walk my 5th graders from recess to my room every day. I hate lines. I secretly change the pace, walk in zigzags to frequently stop just to see how many funny things they will follow me through. Only 1 girl has caught on.
- I have 6 students who consistently take a few minutes after chorus to straighten up the chorus music.  They have no idea what a blessing it is to me that I don't have to crawl around in my room making sure everybody put their music back where it was supposed to be and that it is neat.
- I got 4 super nice parent e-mails. One e-mail from a dad thanked me for exposing his son to something that he (dad) was really interested in and opening up lots of conversation at home. He also said that he was discouraged at the state of music ed support in our school but very excited that his son had me as a teacher. This kind e-mail touched me deeply. It probably took him 5 minutes to write it. I wish we all did that as parents.
- I have no 7th grade girls who are eye-rollers... yet! Amen.
- I ended my day on Thursday just enjoying listening to my 7th/8th grade chorus. I switched from the role of director to accompanist for a few minutes and just felt proud of all their hard work and how lucky I am to be a part of the lives of these kiddos.
- New students keep signing up for chorus. Friday I had 2 really nice, super sweet 6th grade girls try it out. I always lose a few at the beginning of the year but I think this year I have gained more than I have lost.
- I had 10 students (out of 38 who had the project due) turn in their projects early so I didn't have to grade them all at the same time. They're all high quality work too!
- I got confirmation that we will be bringing a group of current students to see a former student playing a lead in the national tour of Cinderella.
- Every student who says "thank you" or "have a nice day" after a class.
- The fact that I get to laugh at myself every day as well.
-Having 2 days off for Rosh Hashanah. I'm not Jewish so I spent today going out to lunch with my husband, getting a massage and hanging out with my kids once they got home.
- An former student of mine, now in 9th grade, saw me after a faculty meeting and came up to give me a big hug and tell me how much she misses me.
- New lessons that work and watching the engagement of the kids.

    Wow.. I could go on for a while. Unfortunately, sometimes when I hear negativity I can get drawn in and I could write a list just as long and a lot less edifying. I was reading Psalms last night and I read Psalm 141 which said:
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies.

   I am not a person who will purposely do anything "wicked" but I can be negative and critical.  I am hoping that I continue to have a great year and that I check in with the blog more often. 

Question for you:

In October I am hoping to join up with 31 Days, I'm having a hard time deciding what to write about. Any ideas? It would be a good time to jump back into primarily writing about my mail but I'm willing to write about anything people are interested in reading about. :)

Have a blessed day! I'd love to hear from you if you are a new reader (and some old friends too!)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How are you?

     You know what one of my pet peeves is? It really bothers me when someone is walking towards you, you said "hello" and they walk by and completely don't acknowledge that you exist. A close second is when you said "How are you?" and people don't answer at all. Realistically though, most Americans (not sure if this is an international thing) will just answer "fine," no matter how they're doing.  Today I was blessed with brutal honesty by someone I have known as an acquaintance for a few years.
     I saw this person and asked how they were doing and they answered by telling me they weren't really doing too well. Not really expecting this I said something like "Oh, I'm really sorry to hear that." After a few minutes he approached me and really opened up, explaining what was going on in the life of himself and his family. (Now, on a side note, anyone who really knows me will know that one of my biggest personal quirks (obsessive compulsive tendencies? annoying traits? lol) is that I CANNOT be late. If there is a real emergency, I can somewhat handle it but I really hate when people are habitually late and I would rather be 2 hours early than 1 minute late. Anyone who knows my husband will know that he is always late. God has a cruel sense of humor.. :)  So, here I am, headed from 1 place to another when this conversation occurs. )  At that moment I realized how rare this occasion was. How often do we have people, especially acquaintances, who really tell us what's going on? People who are really joyful about something going on in their life or struggling with things. How different would the world be if we just honestly listened when people opened their hearts to us? How much of a difference would we make if we showed kindness to someone who might desperately be needing it? How many acquaintances do we know are really going through things when their life looks "fine" from the outside?
     Thank you God for the glimpse inside someone's life and the fact that they trust me enough be able to be that personal with me. I have thought about this person all day and I think I will be thinking about their family for a while. It took 5 minutes of my time to be a friend. I hope I remember that the next time I make being on time more important than a relationship.

Back to school

    This week my boys went back to school. (I went back the week before.) I love the beginning of school. I love seeing the kids come in slightly nervous, but excited about a new year. I love the fact that, for many students, a new year is a chance to start again- no matter how good or bad the year before was. I love seeing the kids connect with new friends as well as meeting up with old ones. I love that my students come back in ready to start where we left off and ready to work hard. I also like being on the lookout for the kids who feel alone or nervous so I can help provide some of them a place where they can be themselves and be valued for it.  I read many articles about the downfall of public education but I assure you, there are many teachers who genuinely love their students and will do anything within their power to help develop them into good people who love to learn.
    Here are my boys and some info about their first week. Here is David:
He just entered 1st grade. We were blessed last year to have a WONDERFUL, caring teacher and I think we are just as blessed this year. He has 2 of his best friends in his class and he is super excited. He is excited to learn more things about math and he is even asking to practice some writing this weekend. Next week he will start all of his specialist classes, which he is excited about. He came home talking about art on Friday and how nice it was for him to see his art teacher. This little gem also came home in his bag. He said a lot of people in his class circled sad or afraid, but he was happy. I wish I could do this at the middle school level.
He started 3rd grade. Honestly, he was a little nervous about this year. There are a few kids in his class that gave him a lot of trouble last year and he only had 1 friend in the room. On a good note, he got the teacher he REALLY wanted (all of the teachers are great.)  So, we were hoping things would go well. At his "meet the teacher" day, he met 2 new students- one from Utah and the other from the UK. He has really bonded with the little boy from the UK and we actually went out for ice cream sundaes last night. I think they will become great friends and we feel super blessed that there is someone he feels like he can connect to. He is also looking forward to his specialist classes, building a working motor this year, science and being a reading buddy with a kindergarten student. I'm really proud at how he is trying to make the 2 new kids know that they are welcome.
    I didn't take a back to school picture of myself. I know you must be truly disappointed.. lol.
    On an interesting note, I read something today that said that little girls in the Ukraine wear flowers in their hair on the first day of school. What a beautiful tradition.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Catch-up postcard post and AJT#4

    Well, summer has officially come to an end for me. I went back to school last week. Though my schedule seems like it will be quite a bit more hectic, I was happy to see all of the students and jump right in with all of my lessons. (The students actually came with me too!) This week I see all of my choruses for the first time. It is always nice to talk to the students to see what is going on with their lives and to hear how they sound mixed with new students. It is also amusing to hear how different my middle school boys sound from one year to the next. I am very excited to watch and hear these young musicians grow over time.
     So, the art has slowed down too. I was working on the AJT3 (accordian book), but I'm still finishing. I'm also working on the vivid flower art journal page. (I might even just start an art journal.. lol)  For now, here's the grid from AJT4. Sorry if the 3 pictures are a little too much but I kept seeing different things as I angled the pad different ways. So, here's everything- with a lot of detail. I really like the sheep square and the 3rd one in on the left side, bottom row- which is a scrap of mine from gelli printing. The colors are more vivid in person. This was fun and therapeutic to do.

    This summer was a lonely summer for my mailbox. (Good thing I have Marianne who won't give up on me!)  Fortunately, it was great for postcards. Here are all the cards received since my last post.
From Russia- The postcard was sent in this cool Olympics envelope.  Does anyone know what the building in the 3rd picture down is? It is written in Russian on the back but... I don't speak Russian. 

 Wild Lithuanian strawberries.
From Ukraine
 From Germany
 Taiwan (the 2nd one depicts the story of Sleeping Beauty)

 The Netherlands
 Czech Republic
 South Africa:

   I think I'm officially caught up now. Oh, speaking of being caught up, if any penpals are reading this and I owe you a letter, please let me know. I have found a lot of older letters around the house but I lost track of which ones I have responded too. I'm not the best housekeeper. 
     I hope you are all blessed, happy and healthy.  Thanks for reading. :)