A Little While

“…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

How do I balance living in the moment with wisely planning for the future? If thinking only of today, will the future take care of itself? My heart says, “I know I’m not guaranteed another day.” My actions do not always match.

This is my tenth year as a public-school teacher. I’ve been in my current building for nine years, my longest stint in any job. Equal to the number of years I was a stay-at-home-mom. Cue feelings of restlessness.

Next week is spring break, followed by the final nine weeks. A flurried push to end the year strong is filled with activities. The toughest part of the year.

I am tired. Thoughts of, “How many more years can I do this?” begin to play over and over in my head. A desire for change creeps in, negatively affecting my mood. This describes my mindset for the past couple of weeks.

Suddenly, in the middle of the tiredness, a fleeting thought. Quickly dismissed. Did not write it down, afraid to say it out loud. But this thought would not leave me alone.

What if I continued teaching for ten more years?

I could look back and say, “Wow! I taught elementary school for twenty years!” An accomplishment I would be proud of. Imagine how many students would cross my path. But it sounds like such a long time…

Trust me, these ideas reflect the complete opposite of my recent list of wants:

  • Spend more time playing the piano
  • Search out new accompanying opportunities
  • Teach piano lessons again

At least, I think those are the things I want to do. Truthfully, at this moment I don’t know what I want to do. And that is ok. Maybe “not knowing” is a safe place to remain for now.

Whether I teach one more year or ten, I must give it my best. Allow some new life to be breathed into my teaching. Somehow James 4:14, “…a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” makes that feel possible. It may not be logical, but such is faith.

Feels like I have walked in one big circle. Now back at the beginning, I need to listen, reflect, and rest. And trust that is enough.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Dream Team Lattes

I work with an amazing team. We are Art, Music, and P.E. teachers at our elementary school. A.K.A the Dream Team, five years strong! The pink t-shirts we wear on Wednesdays give it away. Students have even started referring to us by our nickname.

Every student may not love each of our classes the same way. We know they have their favorites. But they all know we care about them and they know without a doubt that we are a team.

Love these Ladies! ❤

Our matching t-shirt idea has grown to quite a collection over the past few years. In addition to the original pink Dream Team shirt, we also have a sisterhood, Rosie the Riveter, and peeps shirt, all pink of course. This year we added a silly turkey shirt for Thanksgiving and a Santa’s Favorite (Music, Art, P.E.) Teacher. Each new shirt requires a new group photo. So much fun!

Recently I’ve been thinking about why we make such a great team. Each of us is in a different life stage-a grandma, an almost empty-nester, and a young mom. Tami takes care of the group-bagels on Friday, chocolate, cream for our coffee. Shannon keeps us organized, always remembering what needs to be done and when. And then there’s me-the emotional, sometimes scattered one. We balance each other well.

No matter what, I can count on these ladies. If I’m having a hard day, they will pick me up. When there’s a program or assembly, it’s not just my responsibility. Always a team effort. Tami sets up the stage, gets mics ready, etc. Shannon creates backdrops, artwork, whatever is needed. Both help organize and chorale students while I play piano or run a rehearsal. Our team is a well-oiled machine.

This morning I stopped at Starbucks to get our team a little pick-me-up. Only two days until spring break. Shannon was also bringing us a treat. For once, we would surprise Tami. She never lets us do anything for her. But today was the day!

As I pulled in the school parking lot, a little too sharply, the drink carrier sitting quietly to my left tipped over. I honestly thought all three drinks had poured out in the floor. Panicked, I lifted the carrier back up. Only one cup was empty. The other two still had their lids on securely. I don’t know how.

Quickly checking the drink labels, I realized the spilled drink was mine. Disappointed? Yes, but also glad it was not one of their drinks. I made it inside, shared my story with Tami, and borrowed an umbrella.

I could not believe I’d spilled an entire latte in my car! And how was I going to clean it up? Did I mention it was raining?

Back outside, armed with dry and wet cleaning cloths, I attempted to clean up my mess. Picture me, in the rain and wind, holding an umbrella, squatting next to my car, trying to clean up coffee and foam. Quite a sight, I’m certain.

Once I was back inside, wet and wind-blown, what did I find waiting for me? Half of someone else’s Starbucks drink, poured into my empty cup, sitting on the desk. I wonder who would have done that? 😉

This morning, things did not go as planned. But they turned out ok. We enjoyed our dream team lattes, a snack, and had a good laugh.

💓💓💓

Oh, and my car smells like coffee…

Best Moments and Braids

One kindergarten girl stayed extra close to me during music today. She wanted hugs, asked about my family pictures. ”Do you have two sons?” ”Yes, I do. And one daughter,” I replied. Making time for one-on-one conversations is difficult with twenty other little ones waiting. Although the others were perfectly content to laugh, talk, and roll around on the floor.

Finally, I coaxed my friend to her music spot. Our class reviewed scat singing and continued to learn more about jazz. We turned Old MacDonald turned into a jazz tune and listened to Ella Fitzgerald’s version. If you’ve never heard it, you should take a listen. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/old-mcdonald/1447184655?i=1447184659

We further explored the Pink Panther theme, including a short clip from the original cartoon. They loved it!

The class was over, students lined up at the door. My little friend gave me one more hug. I commented on her pretty braid and asked if she thought I was too old for braids. She giggled and followed her class down the hall.

I moved on to first-grade music class. Halfway through class, my little braided hair friend appeared. ”I made you something,” she smiled. A folded piece of notebook paper with the words ”I miss u,” printed on the outside in purple marker. It had been a whole twenty minutes since I’d seen her.

The inside contained a drawing. A big person and a little person. The smaller one labeled ”me” and the taller one labeled ”my music teacher.” Required some deciphering, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it said. She gave me one more big hug as I thanked her for the picture, and she headed back to class.

What prompted these events? I have no idea. But they were the best moments of the school day.

Here’s to tomorrow. Three days until spring break. I need to be on the lookout for more ”best moments.”

Maybe I should wear braids tomorrow…😉

Geneva’s Daughter

”You remember Kelley. She’s Geneva’s daughter.”

Gart and I drove to Little Rock this weekend to visit my family. My mom and her siblings had a cousin reunion on Saturday. My memories of my mom’s cousins are vague. But what fun to watch and listen as they reminisced.

Also, my Aunt Elizabeth made a mayonnaise cake. Yummy! But that is a story for another day.

Sitting outside on the deck, I listened, chatted with family, enjoyed the sunshine. In the middle of all that, overheard the following. ”You remember Kelley. She’s Geneva’s daughter.”

Geneva’s daughter. I love that description. But what does it mean?

First, I have to tell you about Geneva. She is the fourth of nine siblings. Growing up, she never liked her name. Diagnosed with rheumatic fever as a child, she remembers being sick. In high school, she excelled in her classes and was a basketball star.

As an adult, she took care of our household. Worked successfully as a secretary in a variety of fields-business, education, church. Suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Has been married to my dad for over 50 years.

Geneva bravely faced breast cancer. She is now a five-year survivor.

Even at 73, she does her hair and make-up every day. If someone asks why, “Because it just makes you feel better,” she replies. Within her family, known for writing poetry.

But what about her role as my mom? She taught me to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and took me to church. Purchased every Dr. Seuss book there is and helped me learn to read at a young age. Ordered Highlight magazines for me and my brother.

My mom spent hours waiting in her car while I was taking piano lessons. Found a way to purchase a violin when I came home in 4th grade announcing, “I signed up for orchestra today!” Encouraged me to go to college and graduate school.

Mom never gave up on me during difficult times. Ones due to poor choices on my part. She demonstrated the importance of family in her roles as sister, daughter, wife. Prayed faithfully (and continues to pray) for me and my family.

Is she perfect? No. Neither am I. She often frets too much. She sometimes struggles with relinquishing control. She has trouble letting go. So do I.

She is my mom, Nana to my kids, my friend. Her life experiences affect mine, as mine affect my children’s. Not a picture of perfection, but a picture of love. A ”no matter what” kind of love.

I’m proud and grateful to be described as Geneva’s Daughter.

Scat and Skedaddle

Such funny words. Not ones I often hear. Can’t put my finger on a specific memory, yet certain they were part of my childhood. I imagine phrases like “Skedaddle! Go outside and play!” or “Get out of there! Scat!” Spoken in a loving, playful tone, of course.

What brought them to my mind? A Freddie the Frog book entitled “The Flying Jazz Kitten.” I was uncertain about a jazz lesson for K-2nd graders. But the kids love Freddie the Frog, and so far, none of the books have disappointed. As a matter of fact, they have helped introduce a long list of music concepts.

• Treble & Bass Clef
• Note names
• Note values
• Dynamics
• Rhythmic patterns
• Tempo terms (in Italian!)
• The Blues

So why not jazz?

I asked my young students if they’d ever heard the word scat before? A few hands went up. A handful said something like, “It means go away.” Yes! That is one of the meanings for this word.

Next, we talked about scat in terms of jazz singing. We listened to the story, full of scat singing examples. And finally, we echo-scatted with Freddie and his elephant friend, Eli. There is nothing quite as funny as little ones trying to echo scat. Well, maybe one thing…

During a 1st grade class, one little girl had a surprising answer to my “What does the word scat mean” question. Her little hand shot up in the air. I called on her to respond. “It means skedaddle!” she said proudly. Such an old-fashioned word coming from this little girl.

I laughed, “Why, yes! Yes, it does mean the same thing as skedaddle.” Then I thought about that funny word, skedaddle. Although an actual word, it could easily be mistaken for jazz scat nonsense syllables, especially to young children.

Words and music…music and words. I think it’s time for me to skedaddle and scat. Or is it scat and skedaddle? 😉

Change of Course

My lesson plan for today was in place. I had taught it yesterday to a different group and it went well. Today I would hit repeat. No need to change course.

The end of my lesson included selections from a list of students’ most requested songs/videos. Near the end of my first class, I mentioned this list and my recent promise to show some of them. Today was the day, and they were excited!

This list includes things like the Marble Machine, O Fortuna with Star Wars, and The Champion by Carrie Underwood. After viewing a couple of selections, a 5th-grade student said, “Why don’t you play the piano for us? Didn’t you add that to our list of favorites?” “You want me to play the piano for you?” I asked. “Yes! How about the Pink Panther?” someone else yelled.

I have taught this group of 5th graders since they were 1st graders. That first year, I often ended class by playing the piano. It was part of our routine, and helped students get to know me.

For some reason, I have not continued that routine. Not sure why. Trying new things, I suppose. Thanks to this one comment from a 5th-grade student, it made a comeback today. Not only did his class hear Pink Panther on the piano, so did every other class today.

This “change of course” may have been small, but it created bright spots throughout the day. A 4th grader commented, “I always love when you play the piano for us.” Kindergarten and 1st-grade students accompanied me with their maracas. 2nd graders created a scat cymbal sound while I played. Chhh-Chhh-Ch-Ch. So much fun!

Before you picture Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, strumming her guitar, children happily singing, let me assure you that was not the reality. Moments of frustration remained. Patience did not always abound. And I was a little grumpy right before lunchtime…

That being said, the day as a whole was a success. And not because of my lesson plans. Because one student suggested a small “change of course.” One which had the power to impact the whole day. I’m so glad I listened. Besides, how can you go wrong with The Pink Panther on the piano? 😉

Sparks

One morning as students were entering school, a sweet 3rd grader told me she was writing a song. I was excited, of course, and suggested she write it down and bring it to music class. With a promise to do just that, she headed to class.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks. I had honestly forgotten about this earlier conversation. I am happy to say, however, that my student remembered. Not only had she remembered she recruited friends to help with her creative project.

As 3rd graders entered the music room this morning, I suddenly had five girls surrounding my desk. The original songwriter, an illustrator, and three additional singers. Excited about their collaboration, they asked if they could sing their song for me during class. Well, of course!

They sat back down, waiting for class to start. Their smiles were huge. As we waited for everyone to sit down, one member of the group brought me a folded piece of paper. “This is for you,” she smiled.

Unfolding the paper, I read song lyrics at the top of the page. I smiled as I read them.

🎶I look up at the night sky
I see all those stars up high
🎶

My heart instantly melted. Then I looked at the drawing. Music notes, stars, a ufo…and then I realized the girl in the picture is standing on the moon. The earth is in the distance behind her. Wow! What a creative perspective.

The surprises continued. Turning the paper over, I saw a list on the back. The credits. Songwriter, artist, and singers. Followed by a precious note:

Hope you enjoy!

This was the highlight of my day. No, of my week! These sweet girls and their precious song about the stars gave me a spark. A spark that will help me make it to Spring Break, one week away.

I am grateful for that much-needed spark, but it brings an important reminder. Kids need the chance to be creative, and I need to incorporate more time for creating in my classes. That means giving up some control. Being ok with a little controlled chaos, a little extra noise.

It is worth the effort. I have experienced it before. How easily I forget, caught up in my daily routine. Missing the opportunity to spark some creativity, and receive sparks of encouragement myself.

🎶What do you think?
Is this the night to dream?
🎶