Posts from the ‘education’ Category

Absent Part 1

I have been woefully absent from my blog.  

(And I am woefully absent-minded this morning, as I poured myself a second cup of coffee.  In a new cup.  Which is now sitting next to my partially full first cup of coffee.  Heh.) 

So here’s what I’ve been doing. 

1)  I finished the semester Friday.  8th grade had their continuation, it was a sweet ceremony full of cute baby pictures and awards.  (I have asked to be reminded how hot it is in our gym any time I get a hare brained idea to have a program up there.) Next year we’ll print the program on fans, I think.   And both the students and I are happy that I will be returning in the fall.  Whew!  🙂 

2) I drove down to Canon City for the wedding of one of our Planinas.  Which means there was lots of music. 


And more music. 

I would love to know what they're singing about. It was in Lithuanian.

And cake.  Made by Planinas. 


And more cake. 


Congrats to Damon and Laima!  It was a beautifully fun wedding and I wish you guys all the best!  And can I just say that Canon City is gorgeous!?  I am embarrassed to say I snobbishly only associated it with prisons, but it is just beautiful down there.  Small town but large enough to have stuff to do.  And they had a yarn store!  Where I may or may not have purchased some yarn.  And needles.  

(I actually already wrote this post once and wordpress ate it.  Who knows where it is now, so this version might be a bit shorter.  Heh.)

I’ve got blisters on my fingers!

I’m not sure how or when it happened.

But it did.

I am now a guitar player.

What started out as me learning enough to teach my students has become an obsession.  I practice all the time.  My fingers really hurt. 

It’s so nice to be able to go out on my front porch and practice in the beautiful sunshine then stay cooped up with the piano.

(Don’t worry piano, I still love you too.  And I don’t forget who helps pay the bills.  Grins.)


So part of the reason I’ve been blog AWOL for so long is I’ve been playing pit orchestra for Aida (Elton John, not Verdi). 

1)  Dear SIR Elton, is it really necessary to write the entire musical alternately in the keys of  G flat and B major?  (6 flats and 5 sharps, respectively.)  Nobody likes those keys.  They’re just mean.

2)  I love playing pit orchestra.  Especially ROCK band pit orchestras.  It fulfills my high school dream of playing in a band.  And these kids were good.  I’ve never seen kids follow singers as well as these did.

3)  High school kids are wonderfully weird.  Yes.  This is a giant shoe pile.  I’m not sure why.  It was a pit orchestra solidarity thing.

4) No pictures of the show this year.  Didn’t get to see it.  Because I was in the pit.  Heh.  Sure sounded good though.  🙂

Happiness is

…successfully pulling off the middle school production of School House Rock.  Because it did.  Rock, that is.  🙂

Listening to my daughter sing her homework instead of reading it.  (She so gets that from me.)

Realizing later that the tune she is using is Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow.

Knitting the second arm of my mothers dress.

Drinking hot chocolate while the snow falls.


Remember that second grade I was worried about?  Well I’m not sure what happened  but the last two times I’ve had them they’ve been the most charming 2nd graders I’ve ever seen.  Sometimes as a teacher when you have a lesson plan, you have how you hope it will go, and how it really goes.  Most of the time, it’s the latter.   They’ve been the kind of group you wish you would get your formal observation during.  So weird.  I’m pretty sure the other teachers think I’m making it up.  (I probably would think that too.)

Middle school is giving me headaches.  I’m not sure if it’s belting Interplanet Janet 5 times a day or just the fact that it’s not ready to perform.  Today, after consulting the middle school teachers, I pretty much assigned parts by sneaking up on kids in the hall way and telling them they should do one.  Could that be construed as bullying?  Heh.   I’m going to be handing out mini scripts on Friday and a few kids are going to be surprised to find that they have a part.   I’m also building in some fail safes in case a part doesn’t show (something I learned to do a long time ago).  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun musical, but man, I’ll be glad when it’s done.


So today I was teaching a rhythm cup passing game (so creatively named “Cup Thing”) to the 5th graders.  I’ve taught this more times than I can count so I’ve learned that if I want them to listen to instruction they need to either have their cup on the floor not touching it, or hold their cup in the air.  Today I chose the latter since they already had them in their hands.  Taking a chance, I asked them “Why do you think we have our cups in the air?”

And one boy seriously said, “So you can say, Cheers!”


Too funny.

And did I mention I have a high school intern?  I sort of knew this, but I forgot until he showed up today.  Luckily he’s a kid who really loves music and throws himself into whatever the kids are doing.  I think this could be very cool.

Back in the saddle.

So I’m two days in and still alive.  Tired, but alive.  🙂  And I mean that in the most positive way.  I’ve had such great fun teaching these last couple days.  It will be sad when the honeymoon is over.  But it will.  And there will be testing. (Both by the kids and by the district.  Heh.)

So what I’ve discovered so far is:

1) Middle school kids can be cute.  Loud, and sometimes annoying.  But cute.

2) There is a seriously different dynamic when all your classes have twice as many boys in them as girls.  No really.  They do.  The most extreme is at a 17 to 3 ratio.

3) Some second graders need to work on their brain filters (we call them “Positive Choices!”) as I was asked if I was a man today.  Awesome.

4) 3rd grade sings on pitch!

5) 4th grade is pretty rhythmically solid

6) I taught the most mature group of 1st graders I’ve seen since’s Ms. O’s class back at the old job that loved to listen to Chattanooga Choo Choo as a reward for good behavior.  (No really.  They did.  Would you like to play a game?  Nah, but could you put on some of that big band music?)  I had the wrong roster for today’s class so only half of the kids were correct on the seating chart.  Which could have been disastrous.  But they just played along, told me their names and found their own places to sit on the floor.  Too crazy.

7) 2nd and 5th are going to be the challenging ones in this rotation.  But only sort of.  They were still easier than other classes I’ve had.  🙂  I also find that sometimes the best stories come out of those classes.  So stay tuned…

PS Music Teacher friends: I’m sorely in need of some pitch matching exercises that aren’t dull and boring.  And any advice for the changing middle school voice would be greatly appreciated… 🙂

Stormy Weather

I had such a wonderful morning.  🙂  Kids got up.  I got up.  On time.  Got to daycare and school.  On time.  Met the staff at my new school.  Everybody was super nice and I got such a great vibe from all of them.   You really get a sense that kids come first here.  And that’s awesome.  (I love the word awesome, but it’s so hard not to hear Keanu Reeves when I type it.)

I feel at home and I haven’t even finished putting the room together.  And I figured out how to fit 7 congas in my cabinets.  4 more to go.

The weather was turning just as I went to pick up the boy.  Snow started fall.  Not the pretty kind but instead the blizzardy kind that obscures your vision and hides treacherous ice patches on sidewalks.  Which I did manage to find and fall on.  I’ve been afraid to look at what I’m sure is a very lovely bruise.

As the weather continued to worsen, so did the mood of the day.  My once cheerful children became sullen and whiny.  (Apparently it is very unreasonable to turn off the TV at dinner.  Who knew?)

The phone rang.  One friend was calling me on behalf of another.  To tell me her cancer is back.  She and I were diagnosed at the same time.  Similar stage, though she had different pathology.  We went to the support group together.  Our kids are roughly the same age, though she had the added challenge of a baby during treatment.  My heart is broken for her.  I feel like there are icicles in my lungs as there is cancer in hers.  All that she’s been through, the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, didn’t keep it away.  I will never understand why treatment works for some and not for others.  It is incredibly unfair.  But then disease is not concerned with fairness.

Pray for K and her family.  Please.  For the right chemo cocktail to keep her cancer in check.  For strength as she starts the fight again.  For hope, because none of us has an expiration date stamped on us.


Once upon a time I had a plan.  Sort of.

When I was 23 it was to be a High School or Middle School Choir Teacher.  And then I got the job teaching elementary school General Music.  And I loved it.  It was amazingly rewarding to see kids who wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to make music discover that it was for them, too.  That it’s meant to be part of the human experience.

Then I fell in love with my best friend and got married.  This fit right in with my plan and I kept teaching music to the kids that I adored.  I could see myself teaching there until I retired.

Then I got pregnant.  As excited as I was, I was torn about whether to quit teaching.  I toyed with idea of being a working mom.  My husband and I both had mothers who stayed at home and felt that we’d benefited from it, but I still wasn’t sure.  Finally, a good friend of mine, who happened to be pregnant as well, said, “Nicole, you are the sort of person who throws herself completely into what she’s doing.  If you try to teach and raise your child, you will always feel guilty about neglecting the one you’re not with.”  Or something like that.  It’s been seven years and my memory’s not what it was.

So I’ve had seven wonderful years being the stay at home Mom.  My friend was right and I never regretted it.  Over the years, I’ve had offers to come teach music at different places but none ever seemed to fit my schedule.  I had a new plan.  When the boy was in school full time I’d go back.  I figured I’d substitute teach for a while, and then look for a part time position.

Then my friend (the same one) called and invited me to interview for the part time general music position at her school.  I couldn’t ignore this one.  It fits with my kids’ school schedules, I get to teach general music again, and I still get to have time with the boy in the afternoon.  My husband and family were unanimously excited for me.

So I went for it.  And I got the job.  I am both scared and excited.  It’s all I can think about.  I’ve even started having teacher dreams again; (Gratefully, not the kids-hate-me-and-throw-a-riot dream.  I hate that one.) trying to remember what I used to do.  It’s like a dormant part of my brain is waking up.

I told L today and she rushed over and gave me a hug.  “I’m so happy you got a job, Mama!”  I asked her why she was happy and she said, “Now you have something to do while I’m at school!”  Heh.  First graders are funny.

So anyway, here’s the moral of the story.  The most significant things in my life have never followed my plan.  Sometimes you just have to make the proverbial leap of faith and know that everything’s going to be ok.

(Remind me of this a couple months from now, please.)  🙂