Future Teachers and Frogs

Driving to school this morning, I was feeling a bit tired. Honestly, I was having one of those “not sure how much longer I can do this” attitudes. I love music and teaching, but it is exhausting. The amount of energy required is for the young.

Thankfully, two things helped my attitude change. The first was a college student coming to observe my classes as part of her teaching practicum. This young, smiling face greeted me at my classroom door.

It was the perfect way to begin the day-discussing teaching with a future teacher. She asked thoughtful questions. Questions which made me think about what I do and how I teach. She took notes, smiled, and participated right along with students. 2nd graders even rushed over for a group hug when it was time for her to leave.

Our conversation time was brief. She was only in my classroom for two and a half of my morning classes. But what a breath of fresh air.

The second game-changer was a little green frog. K, 1st, and 2nd graders met Freddie the Frog today. I was a bit nervous. Last year, this little green friend breathed new life into my teaching. But what if it didn’t work this time? What if the kids didn’t buy it?

The simple truth is, kids are kids. They loved Freddie! I smiled as they watched him while they sang, eyes wide and curious. And once again, I felt that surge of energy.

Students were anxious to give Freddie a high-five and a hug goodbye when class was over. They whispered in his ear, and he even got a few kisses on the top of his head. Precious.

Will tomorrow have its challenges? Yes. Such is teaching. Such is life. But I will approach tomorrow with the memory of today. Remembering the much-needed spark which came from a future teacher and a little green frog. ❤ 🐸

Chanel No. 5

I don’t wear a lot of perfume. I’ve had a couple of favorites as an adult, but allergy sensitivities often keep me from enjoying them. Currently, I own one bottle of Chanel No. 5.

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this particular bottle. During our recent unpacking, it caught my eye. I could not remember the last time it was open. The design is so classic and pretty, I decided to leave it out.

One morning last week while getting ready for school, that bottle of Chanel caught my eye again. This time, I opened it and placed a small drop on my finger, then dabbed it on my neck and wrists. “It might be nice to wear a little perfume again,” I thought.

As the familiar scent filled the air, a flood of memories filled my mind.

When I was a little girl, visits to my Aunt Martha and Uncle James’s house were a treat. They, along with their children-Jim, Angela, and Brad-moved several times. I remember trips to Fayetteville, Memphis, and Louisiana. Typically, it was a week-long visit during summer vacation.

Some memories are as clear as a photograph. Dressing my cousin, Angela, up in her Raggedy Ann doll clothes. Riding the bus with my cousin, Jimmy, from Little Rock to Memphis and spilling an entire big bag of M&Ms. Kick boxing with Uncle James. Rolling a piano from room to room so I could play while Martha and James painted their house.

So, why did this sweet smell cause such reminiscing? Because Aunt Martha always had a bottle of Chanel No. 5. And when I visited, she would let me wear some of her perfume. Just a tiny drop on my finger, then dabbed on my neck and wrists. Such a treat for a little girl.

I continue to be amazed by the beautiful complexity of the heart and mind. The simple scent of perfume has the power to transport me back in time. It leads me to precious childhood memories. And it reminds me that the love I experienced then has only grown over the years.

I still live far away from Aunt Martha and Uncle James. I look forward to our visits, no matter how far apart. And I am thankful for time spent with them as a child.

Who would have thought a bottle of Chanel No. 5 could make such an impression on one little girl? 😉

Short and Sweet

There is something special about the words, “I love you.” In my life, the meaning behind those words is as varied as the people who hear them. The same is true of the people who say them.

When speaking to family and friends, I don’t say them lightly. For me, they carry the message, “You are important. I’m glad you are part of my life.” They imply a connection, the key to a successful relationship.

As a parent, I spoke these words to my children before they were even born. As they grew up, the words accompanied celebrations, encouragement, and discipline.

My children are now young adults. And hearing those words from them is priceless.

Our youngest son, Ryan, started his college classes last week. Once again, parental roles are changing. Finding a balance is difficult. I need to offer support while allowing him to be an adult.

On his first day of class, I wanted to acknowledge this big step. A simple text; “Have a great first day of college! I’m so proud of you!”

Even though part of me wanted to add reminders, advice, etc., I resisted.

His response was also short and sweet.

Those four little words filled my heart to overflowing. Did he realize the effect of his words? I’m not sure. But he took the time to say them, and that is what matters.

I’m thankful for the ability to love and be loved. Hopefully, I never take for granted the power held by these three simple words. Hearing them from my children always makes this mama’s heart smile.

The time these words hang in the air may be short and sweet, but their meaning lasts a lifetime.

Reset Button

Some days I feel the need for a reset button. There have been many times as a wife, mom, and teacher I longed for a second chance. Times when I was impatient. Times when things didn’t go the way I planned.

I’ve recently experienced such times. Last week, I was not always a patient teacher. Despite my best plan, attempts to connect with my students often fell flat. By Friday, I was frustrated and confused.

Over the weekend, I began to think about expectations. I had worked to establish student expectations, but what about teacher expectations? I was expecting myself to successfully teach certain materials without first creating a solid foundation. Maybe not the best plan after all.

Although unintentional, I had placed myself in an uncomfortable position. One which was bound to negatively influence my connections with students.

I see my classes on a three-day rotation and today started the beginning of a new rotation. So, I decided to hit that reset button. I did not worry about what I wasn’t teaching. Instead, I shared a growth mindset lesson about which I am passionate.

What a difference! Students were interested and engaged. We had some awesome discussions. We spent time getting to know one another. Our foundation grew a little stronger. Oh, and we still had time for some music activities. 😉

Tomorrow and Friday bring new sets of students. Two more chances to press that reset button. Here’s to learning from my mistakes and allowing myself a little grace.

Cookie Sheet Life Lessons

My cookie sheets are twenty-six years old. They were a wedding present and came as a set of two. Very nice, air-bake sheets which have proven faithful over the years.

I did not always take the best care of these baking sheets. They even went through the dishwasher a time or two. I know, I know, that is a big no-no! But somehow, they survived my inexperience.

Many dozens of sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and chocolate chip cookies baked on these cookie sheets over the years. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point, my chocolate chip cookies became the famous ones.

I love baking and sharing them with others. They’ve been present for celebrations of victory and times of grief. They’ve reminded my children how much I love them. The intended message always being, “I am thinking of you.”

I believe these baking sheets are crucial to the success of the cookies. They now look worn and are covered with stains. Some might think they should be replaced, but I can’t imagine my cookies coming out of the oven on anything else.

These days I take extra care of the pans. Wash them immediately after the baking is done, dry them thoroughly and carefully put them away. I wish I had treated them that way from the beginning.

Yes, I know they are only things. But the way I treat things influences my attitude in general. If I take material things for granted, acting as if they are easily replaceable, I run the risk of being wasteful and ungrateful.

So, here’s to life lessons from my cookie sheets. Every time I use them, they remind me that time is precious. They remind me of the importance of thinking about others. And they remind me that just because something appears to be worn out, it is still capable of producing great things. ❤

Oh, and they remind me how much I love chocolate chip cookies. 😉

Emotions of Change

I survived the first full week of school! By Friday, I had cried several times and was feeling overwhelmed. Not that it was a horrible week, I was just exhausted.

As the relief of the weekend arrived, I began to contemplate the many reasons for my emotions. One answer stood out-change. Change, even positive change, is difficult. And this year is going to be filled with change.

I taught at my previous school for nine years. As far as jobs go, this was a record for me. It was comfortable, familiar. I knew the layout and the great people who worked there.

My new building is beautiful. It is a welcoming space filled with a positive, dedicated staff. And though I love entering each morning, it is still unfamiliar. I’m learning my way around.

For the past five years, I taught with the same two ladies. Teaching art, music, and P.E., we truly were the dream team. We quickly transformed from colleagues to good friends, sisters. I didn’t realize how much I would miss seeing them every day.

My new team is amazing! We are in a larger school, so there are six of us. Two teachers for each subject-art, music, and P.E. They’ve already helped me more than they know. But we are just beginning to know each other.

Learning my way around a new building. Getting to know new colleagues. Connecting with a new set of students.

As I considered these changes, I began to think about my almost five hundred new students. They are facing changes as well. Summer ending and school beginning again. For many, it means attending a new school.

Learning their way around a new building. Getting to know new teachers. Connecting with a new set of friends.

They are experiencing similar changes. And if these changes have such a powerful effect on me, how might they affect my students? Are they also feeling emotional and overwhelmed? Most certainly.

As I approach the upcoming school week, I need to be more aware of emotional reactions in myself and my students. We will work through the growing pains together and come out stronger on the other side. In the end, the results will be worth the change.

Tree Memories

I have always loved trees. Not only are they beautiful, but they also provide refreshing shade. Though all are important in their way, some stand out above the rest.

Several specific trees from my childhood come to mind. A large tree near my grandma’s house had a basketball goal attached. I spent hours under its shade shooting hoops with my cousins. It provided family fun and a sense of security.

A lovely mimosa tree graced my parents’ front yard. With pink, feathery flowers, it made the perfect picture backdrop. I can see me now, standing nearby in my Easter dress holding my little woven basket.

We closed on the sale of our house today. This afternoon, I had one last visit with one very special tree. This tree watched over our backyard for the past sixteen years.

Our family took advantage of this picture-perfect spot many times. Easter, Mother’s Day, proms, graduations. Even those ”just for the fun of it” pics with the kids sitting up on the branches.

Today, I snapped one last picture. But this time, the tree was my only subject. Standing tall and proud, the sun shone through its branches. Inside my head, I whispered, ”Thank you.” As the wind rustled its leaves, I imagined a whisper back, “You’re welcome.”