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?
🎶

Going to Mars

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been fascinated with the moon, the planets, and stars. Being far away from the city lights, able to see uncountable numbers of celestial objects, was something I looked forward to. I don’t even begin to understand the science behind these bodies. What are they made of? How long have they been shining? Will they burn out? Despite my lack of scientific knowledge, my fascination is not diminished.

Today was an exciting day! NASA sent another object to Mars-the InSight Lander. It has been traveling on a seven-month, 300-million-mile journey, and today was landing day! Apparently, it is supposed to spend two years studying the inner workings of the planet by measuring seismic activity. I know enough to understand that means earthquakes on our planet.

My point is not understanding all of the science behind today’s events or their purposes for our society. It’s really about curiosity and how events such a this spur the imagination. Sharing this information with some of my students, watching live while the scientists waited on the landing, their anticipation and excitement were contagious.

Even though we could not visibly see the InSight Lander, there was a countdown scrolling along the bottom of the screen. With each goal that passed-heat shield working-heat shield separating-parachute deploying-students would gasp as if they’d been holding their breath. Once the landing was announced, they clapped and cheered right along with the scientists in that NASA project control room.

Of course, there were some funny moments too. More than one precious kiddo asked, “Are we sending a man to Mars or just a robot?” “Mrs. Morris, I’m so excited about a person going to Mars!” “Not a person…not a person.” Also a few concerned, confused looks. Possibly related to watching too many sci-fi movies or playing too many video games. With a little reassurance and my simplified explanations, they were at least able to understand the basics of what was happening, and know that we were not being attacked by Martians.

I’m sure there will be some interesting conversations tonight if students are asked what they did in music class today. Who knows? Maybe that little detour from our music lesson sparked some new interest. It certainly reminded me of the beauty not only in our world but also in our universe.

We may not be able to see it all up close and personal, but we can appreciate it by simply gazing at the night sky, looking through a telescope, or viewing images taken in space and transmitted back to Earth…from a camera on a capsule…which traveled for seven months…and then landed on Mars.

I can’t wait to show my students the first image that was sent back from the surface of Mars today!

Pictures in the Clouds

This week I rediscovered the children’s book “It Looked Like Spilt Milk” by Charles G. Shaw.  I love this book!  If you’ve never read it, go look it up.  The author creatively takes his readers through a series of images in white on a dark blue background.  Childlike pictures are paired with simple, repetitive words, creating a beautiful backdrop for the imagination.

After reading this story to my students, I asked if they’d ever noticed pictures in the clouds.  Most excitedly raised their hands, eager to share.  We discussed the importance of using our imaginations, and I shared about finding pictures in the clouds when I was a kid.  Funny how that has become more difficult to do as an adult.

Creatively using our imaginations as a grownup often requires more intention than when we were kids.  Our adult minds are on information overload, concerned with family and job responsibilities.  Being imaginative gets put on the back burner, seen as a luxury instead of a necessity.  I wonder what would happen if that changed?  At the least, our stress levels would go down.

At the end of class I challenged my students to notice the clouds next time they go outside and report back to me what they see. Hopefully some of them remember.  Truthfully, I’m the one who needs to be challenged. Maybe my students responses will inspire me to take the time to go outside and look up.

The pictures in the clouds are always there, just waiting for us to imagine them. What do you see?

Something to Say

The following essay was written for a Writing Contest hosted by Positive Writer entitled You are Enough.

http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-are-enough/

I believe each one of us has something important to say.  Valuable ideas, opinions, and questions are always hovering at the forefront of our minds. The decision to keep these thoughts inside our head, say them out loud, or write them down is personal. But once we decide to engage in this process of writing, the freedom experienced far outweighs any prior apprehensions.

Whether typed on a personal tech device or handwritten in a journal, the simple act of writing words down gives them life. Suddenly we see them in a different light. Simple ideas once floating around in our head instantly become concrete-combinations of letters in black and white ready to be read over and over, edited and expanded.

Once words are given life, we have another choice to make. Will our words remain private or will we find an appropriate platform for sharing?  Some may remain unread until we are no longer living, leaving behind insights intended only for those closest to us.  Others we may choose to display freely for anyone to read.

My family recently received a wonderful gift of words. After the passing of my Aunt Pearl, numerous precious pages written in her own handwriting were discovered by her children. Did she consider herself a writer? No-yet her words, beautifully describing her life, her hopes and her dreams, provided comfort during a time of grief.

Certain words, however, need to be shared in the present. Not only for the writer’s benefit but also the unexpected help they may provide others. A strong likelihood exists that other people are coping with the same life challenges and fears, yet have not found the courage to give their thoughts life.  Your words may provide the encouragement they need.

I was extremely nervous about sharing my personal story concerning depression in written form.  Typing those confessions gave them a new sense of reality.  Once I took the next step and clicked the publish button, a flood of positive responses arrived. Others suddenly felt free to tell their personal stories, and their powerful words provided the realization that I was not alone in my struggles.

What happens when we choose courage and allow our words to make a positive contribution to this world?  We won’t know until we write. Don’t be afraid!  Your thoughts have great value. And once put into words, they help tell your story-the specific set of life experiences belonging only to you. No one else is exactly like you, and someone out there needs to hear your words, your insights, your story! Get busy writing!

Something important needs to be said which only you can say!

Popsicle Sticks & Clouds

Time for confession-I am struggling this week.  Low days, fighting back tears, just the general blahs.  It will pass, I’m sure.  When this happens, thankfully I’ve learned to recognize it and say it out loud.  If it lasts longer than a week, there’s a need to talk with a trusted friend or family member.

All that to say-I found myself searching for the positive on my drive home from school today.  The sun was shining, the sky a beautiful blue with perfect, fluffy, floating clouds. Besides blue being my favorite color, I’ve always been fascinated with the sky and its inhabitants.  Seeing one like this today most definitely helped my mood.

clouds2

Once my attitude began to change, I remembered kindergarten class from earlier today.  We’ve been learning about rhythmic patterns while going on our adventures with Freddie the Frog.  Today was review time and students were creating patterns on the Smart Board.  Their ability to not only create a pattern but also read it out loud was a pleasant surprise.

Each of them was eager to give it a try-all twenty of them-at the same time.  Suddenly I remembered the popsicle stick basket. First and second graders had used them the day before to create patterns on the carpet. I hadn’t planned on using them with kindergarten just yet.

Change of plans!  I asked the kiddos to move to our circle and gave each a hand full of popsicle sticks-rhythmic patterns began to appear everywhere!  Once we cleaned up, I asked students to brainstorm ways they could do this activity at home if they didn’t have popsicle sticks.  Crayons!  Pencils!  Markers!  Legos!  And on and on and on…one mentioned writing down their patterns.  Impressive!

Encouraged by the success of my kindergartners, I decided to attempt the activity I had asked them to try at home.  Here are my results.

Goal for tomorrow-begin my day looking for the positive.  Will I be successful?  I don’t know.  But hopefully I will remember that the simplest things can change my day for the better-even popsicle sticks and clouds.

Teacher as Student

How often do we as teachers think of ourselves as students?  Do we look for opportunities to learn from our students? On those required PD days or weekend workshops, do we truly put ourselves in the position of learner?  I know the answer for me is often no, not really.  It’s easy to just check off another box or keep pressing through my lesson plans.  It’s much harder to focus on what I don’t know and admit needing help.

This weekend I truly experienced what it feels like to be a student.  There were moments of challenge that made my head hurt!  Activities that were way outside of my comfort zone.  I’d forgotten how frustrating those times can be, especially when they involve disagreements or differences in teaching philosophies.  I don’t particularly like to debate and often avoid conflict.  But I was reminded of their benefit and usefulness when used in structured and limited ways.

The challenging times were followed by moments of encouragement and creativity.  When you sing or dance with a group of people you’ve just debated, the air clears rather quickly.  There really is something powerful about music and it’s ability to influence mood and atmosphere.  And that is the root of what made this weekend so special.

Our topic was “Teaching Music to Students With Special Needs.”  The group of participants was made up of music teachers and special education teachers.  As you can imagine, the personalities, opinions, and philosophies were strong on both sides.  With the help of our amazing instructor, we were able to work together, learning new material and sharing helpful ideas from our own teaching experiences.

Tomorrow I will head back to my classroom.  Yes, I will be taking super fun, new, and exciting activities with me.  Hopefully those will help renew my energy as the teacher.  But more important than the activities will be the attention I give to my students as individuals, looking for ways to both support and challenge all of them.  Focusing on each one as a person first, while also recognizing and acknowledging their differences.

Being a student is hard work!  And to be a great teacher, I have to continue being a student, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Layers

Clouds are fascinating.  Since I was a little girl, they always captured my attention.  Maybe it’s the sky in general.  After all, blue is my favorite color, especially when in contrast with white, fluffy clouds.  When I was younger, a variety of images would easily appear in the clouds.  Now finding the pictures is more of a challenge to my imagination.  Oh, I still look, but there is a certain amount of effort required.

These days I tend to notice the many different types and combinations of clouds.  I love how they paint the sky in layers, with contrasting colors and motion, sometimes allowing small patches of blue to appear in the background.  These paintings don’t last long, morphing with the blowing  wind.  Photos rarely capture their true beauty.  Paintings may come close, but part of the beauty is in the movement, the gradual changes.

In many ways, life can be like those layers of clouds.  Sometimes it’s the grey, swirly ones that get our attention.  How will we face the coming storm?  Those sheets of rain off in the distance? Then we see the still, almost motionless layers underneath providing calm.  The storm is not erased, but the ability to get through becomes visible.  If we continue watching, witnessing the continuous changes, that patch of blue or ray of sunlight will soon appear.

Hopefully we also experience those fluffy cloud days, light and ordinary.  Nothing unexpected, time to rest in moments of shade. Or the wispy, almost laughing clouds, reminding us of a funny story or memory.  That kind of memory that makes us smile. Those are the days that revive us, giving strength for when the storm clouds reappear.  We know they will return, that is life.

Although I may never be able to capture the beauty of those clouds blanketing the sky, I will keep looking.  Watching for those moments of light and color to break through.  Reminded that life continues, moving with the swirls, through the storms, to the calm.

Layers upon layers upon layers… 

clouds