Posts from the ‘music’ Category

The hardest things

So there’s this boy in one of my middle school classes. Pretty decent musician. Which means he’s somewhat of a behavior problem. Because that’s the way it always is. Anyway, he was complaining because his part in the piece we’re playing is “boring”. I said, that’s funny since you chose that part. And he said, yeah, because it was easy.

And so I said, yeah, well the most significant things I’ve done in my life, the stuff I remember and am proud of, have always been the hardest things.

Teaching where I teach is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Every day I learn something new about myself and about my students, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. It’s like my job is bi polar.

Yesterday, a particularly difficult second grader had a wonderful day in music. Usually we give them school PBIS bucks to save towards a reward, but when I offered him one, he asked if I could have lunch with him instead. He didn’t want a thing, he wanted time. With me. How could I not go? So I didn’t do the photocopies, or my lesson plans. I just spent some time with him at his cafeteria table. And talked about how we both like jalapeños. He asked how his sister was doing in music. Fine, I told him. When I saw his mother later at conferences, she said it was all he could talk about that day.

And then I have a day like I had today. Not the worst day. But not awesome either. Mostly management. Not enough music. Pretty sure one of my students was making fun of me for half of the class, trying to derail my teaching. Luckily drumming is too cool and won out. I hear myself teaching and I don’t recognize my voice. I sound frustrated. I sound tired. In the teacher’s lounge, we all say the same things. Don’t take it personally, while we do the exact opposite, trying to figure out what we could have done differently.

And so I’ll go to school tomorrow, and it will probably be better. I need to listen to my own words.

The hardest things we do are the most significant.


Babybels wear pajamas

So yesterday the boy and I went to Costco and bought some of those babybel cheeses. As he is taking off the waxy part he says, “Mama, it’s like the cheese is wearing red pajamas!”

There are so many blog posts that I’ve had in my head, unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to writing them down. So I’m kind of going backwards.

Earlier this week, the girl decided to attach her homework together with spray cheese. Yep. Needless to say that was a redo.

On Thursday, I had a complete freak out before class. The poor librarian must have thought I was insane. I’m doing an Orff unit with the middle schoolers (that i plan to write about later) and there were no mallets in my class room. Couldn’t find them anywhere. And since I had just read what happened to Sophanne, I feared the worst. The class coming to music that day was the group I was a little worried about in terms of buy in and to not be prepared is asking for trouble. As it turned out, one of those students saved the day. The day before, if you’ve been following Colorado weather, it dumped snow and many of our teachers were stuck, including one of my teammates. When this happens, we often double up the classes in my room and have a movie fest. 60 kindergartners at once. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Anyway, I had asked one of my choir students to help clean up the room before they came and put away anything that she thought would be distracting. Thankfully, she was in that class coming down the hall, saw my distress and quickly showed me where she had hidden the mallets. I ❤ my students. Heh.

Over break, I actually knit! Ear flap hat and mittens for my friend and soon to be sister in law, 1940s watch cap for my brother and mittens for my nephew, the most happiest toddler.

Can't find any pictures so I'll leave you with a cool sunrise shot I got the other morning in the way to school.


10 Things I Know To Be True

I was very inspired by a talk by Sarah Kay on  She’s a spoken word poet who encourages us to write a list and then discuss it.  It can be anything and you need to not think about it too hard.  So here goes.

1. When your child/student tells you you’re the best mom/teacher ever, it probably means that you said or did something that you didn’t think through.  Yeah, go ahead and have that soda.  Before bed time.

2.Most kids don’t learn to like something.  They learn to dislike something.  And they learn that from us.

3.Kids will almost always do what we do and never what we say.  Grown ups are the same way.

4.Being part of a musical performance/event is something all humans should experience.  It’s part of what makes us human.  As I tell my students, ants can build cities but they can’t sing the blues when they’re sad.  (or maybe they do, I just don’t speak ant.)

5.Life is about learning.  And evolving.  I am not the same person I was last year.  Or the year before that.  Hopefully I am  better.  (Seriously, who wants to be worse?)

6.No man is an island. Or an archipelago.

7.With experience comes wisdom, but being old does not mean you are always right.  And yet, the simple realization that we are not always right shows wisdom.  (Sounds like a fortune cookie.)

8.Fortune cookie’s do not always have your best interests at heart.  Really?  A cat?

9.Thai Basil Eggplant at Thai Chili is really the most amazing dish I’ve ever eaten.

10.You can buy your children the smartest, most educationally sound, creative toys, but their favorite will always be the annoying Donkey Shrek toy from a Happy Meal that yells at you.  Until you shut it off.

Here’s the original video.

I look forward to reading your 10.

Picture day 2011

Miss? Why are your lips blue? Are you ok?

Um. That would be makeup. But thanks for asking.

So I’ve started to have the kids sign out when they use the restroom. Don’t judge. I need to know where they are. 🙂

I checked the log today and saw (names changed)

Jim. 9/27/11
Bob. Poop

I love teaching! Where else would this stuff happen?!

5 Snapshots

If you’re my facebook friend you’ve probably already seen these, but they are too good not share.

Giving her brother a fauxhawk. Or at least trying.


Happy Dinner Time


Planina at the Russian Festival in Boulder


L's reminder to throw away 2 year old frozen turkey


Most Cheerful Baby's Summer Reading

School’s Out!

First real year back to teaching is in the can.  All in all, I think it was a good year.  Last week was crazy, K-5 field day, Kindergarten concert, 8th grade continuation and Middle School field day all in one week.  I’m super proud of my students and all we did this year.  I’m pretty sure my learning curve was as steep as theirs.  Heh.

Middle School did a movement unit this year that culminated in a “Tinikling/Line Dance/Thriller Flash Mob”  Sort of.  Lots of work but totally worth it.

1-2’s did a seasons program with songs that spanned the year.  (Thank you K-8 magazine!)

3-5’s did The Elephant’s Child.  Pretty sure I’m never going to get the Great Grey Green and Greasy Limpopo River out of my head.)

3rd trimester in Middle School is the guitar unit.  My beginning guitars had a contest to play our school song for the Kindergarten Program.  They were adorable.   6th graders and Kinders.

8th grade pulled off a classy continuation.  I had a pair of 8th graders who performed Vegas by Sara Bareilles and it was lovely.   They made the song their own which I thought was just brilliant.  It was just acoustic guitar and her voice.  Loved it.  Can you tell how I really feel?  Heh.  I wish I could show you the rehearsal video.  Stupid personal code of ethics.  Here’s a live version.

So anyway, it’s summer and I slept in all the way to 7 am.  Heh.

Getting my knit on

So I’ve got an accompanying job this week. For years now I’ve played many different Missoula Children’s Theatre productions around town. It’s a touring group of 2 that come and teach a week long musical to local students. Definitely a high quality experience and worth your time if one comes to your town. Anyway, I’ve played the piano for them for about 14 years now and marvel that I still haven’t repeated a show. Anyway, in the early stages of rehearsal I get a lot of knitting done. With the skirt finished, I needed a new portable project. I started the fair isle hat for my friend’s baby to be. It’s a free download from revelry. I’ll try to remember to post a link.

In other news, I got my first sunburn of the year. Woo. It was picnic day at school today and I sat outside with the kids. I so know better. Time to put a tube of sunscreen in the car for emergencies like that. I was wearing my compression sleeve so I now have a reverse truck driver tan. Again, woo.

And speaking of compression sleeves, a little girl asked me about mine at rehearsal.

I said,” the short version is that my arm doesn’t work quite like it should.”

She very seriously looked back at me through a darling pair of glasses and said, ” it’s ok. My eye doesn’t quite work like it should either. We’re lucky we caught it early. ” and skipped off to finish her dinner.


More Tales from the Kindergarten

The last few months have been so heavy, I thought it was time for….

More Tales from the Kindergarten!

Tale #1

As we are just finishing up CSAP, those in the Specials world know that it means our schedule is thrown into much craziness, often resulting in doubled and tripled classes either on Evil Giant Recess, or what I sometimes like to call Music/PE film festival.  This year, during one of our films, I overheard two kindergarteners talking very seriously about the war in Iraq.

Serious Little Boy, “Well.   You know what it’s all about, right?”

Cute Know it All Girl, “Yes.”  Thinks. ” No.”

SLB, “It’s all about gas.  America has lots of gas and other countries don’t.”

CKIAG, “Well I knew that.”


Tale #2

Hello. My name is Buckthorn.

I’m a puppet girl.  Can’t help it.  They are sometimes extensions of my own psyche.  I’ve been known to go to lunch with the bunny still on my arm.  Oh yeah.  There’s a bunny there.  Anyway, I’ve had Buckthorn since I was a small child.  My librarian mama named him after a character in Watership Down.  It’s never occurred to me to change his name.  Till last week.

The kindergarteners know where my puppets live and get super excited when I start walking towards that cabinet.  I went to get my rabbit the other day.  One ecstatic little boy said, “You guys!  Sshhhh!  Be quiet! 

She’s going to get Butt-thorn!”

Shave and a haircut, two bits.  🙂


Sometimes I think the world feels ominous.  Where is my breaking point?

First, there was Kim.

Then there was a former student, who passed away suddenly last week.

My mother had surgery on her heart this week.  She is doing well.  Thank goodness.  Hopefully out of the ICU tomorrow.  Every time I see her she is better than the time before and I am confident she is going to be all right.

On the layover to my parents’, I got a call from my friend at school.  A whole family died in a car crash.  All of them.  Three sweet boys from my classes and their parents.  Gone.  It doesn’t seem real.  Then I see their pictures in the news.  I just talked to them.  On Thursday.  They were all standing outside the teacher’s lounge, presumably to go to the basketball game the oldest was playing in.  The oldest was really excited about his classes’ music project.  He very badly wanted me to add a Michael Jackson song to the line up.  And was so persistent in trying to get me to play “Keyboard Cat” on YouTube.  The middle boy, always quick with a smile, was learning recorder.  Always trying his very best.  And the little one had just finished his first big music program.  He was so serious.  Like a little grown up.  I’m pretty sure he remembered everything I ever taught him.

I feel like the world is ominous.  And heavy.  While I’m here supporting my parents through my mom’s surgery, I’m not really dealing with the grief of my lost students, but I know it’s going to catch up to me soon.  Most of the time it’s easy to focus on other things, but each time I think about returning to school on Thursday, I see their faces.  And I am enormously sad.

The gift.

Every teacher has one.  One of those kids.  Who am I kidding?  I probably have about 30 of them.

This one is a little girl and for some reason this year she’s trying everything to get attention.  Weird noises, rude comments, lack of participation… It doesn’t seem to matter to her whether it’s positive or negative.

So on picture day (yes, ANOTHER picture day story), I was complimenting her class on how nice they looked and she blurted out, “You look ugly.” (Yeah, seriously.  Twice in one day.  Did I mention I’ve started doing my hair different since then?)  To be truthful, it actually doesn’t hurt my feelings.  Being bald and scarred will do that to a girl.  I did mention it to her teacher though and he set some things in motion that gave me a wonderful gift.

He called the little girl on her behavior and had her send a letter home to her parents that needed to be signed.  And she came and apologized to me.  (This wasn’t the gift part. Though it’s a good reminder that we need to hold all kids accountable for their actions.)

Here’s where it gets good.  When you only see students every third day for 40 minutes, it is sometimes hard to really get to know a kid and where they’re coming from.  In that little 5 minutes I had with her, we talked about why she said what she said.  “I was trying to be funny.”  she mumbled.

Now I’m all about the funny.  Once, when I came back from an absence, one of my students ran up to me and said, “Thank goodness you’re back!  We didn’t laugh once yesterday!”

So the little girl and I talked about being funny but not at someone’s expense.  And I gave her a hug and she went back to class.

So here’s the gift part.

When she came to music, she sat right down next to me and sang the whole class period.  To be honest, I didn’t even know she knew the songs.  And out of the mouth of one of “those” kids, was a very sweet little voice.  On task, the entire class period.

Now, I can guarantee you she’s going to act out again.  It’s part of who she is and the life she deals with every day.  But now, when she does, I have this memory. 

Of the day she sang. 

 And the day where she really loved music.