When?

Another
School day
Filled with
Laughter
Learning
Love
Shattered
By sounds
Gunshots
Impact
Screams
Cries for help
Violent deaths
Followed by
Silence-
Children
Teachers
Hiding, frightened
Training put
Into action
Training
That should never
Have been necessary
For actions
That should never
Have occurred

When will we decide enough is enough?
When will we choose love instead of hate?
When will we weep instead of arguing?

Mourn for
Innocent lives
Left lying
On the floor
Of the very place
They should have been safe

Today was our last day of school. Smiles, tears, good-byes. Ready for summer break. I drove home, exhausted. And then, I heard the news of another school shooting at an elementary school.

Listening to the reports was heartbreaking. And then there was a comment about training. The fact that students and teachers were hiding as they practiced. The same drills I have had to discuss or practice with students. It should not be this way. 💔

One Plus One

Twenty to one. Twenty-five to one. Thirty to one. No, not betting odds, teacher-student ratios. What happens when that one is changed to a two?

First-grade music class had a visitor today. My teacher friend, Mrs. Eakes. Angela, a former classroom teacher, is now an EL coach, passionate about all-things literacy and education.

Angela recently shared some articles with me about the benefit of echo songs. Particularly in helping students strengthen literacy skills. Echo is a big part of teaching music, and I was excited to incorporate the specific songs shared in the articles.

My kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classes have been singing the songs over the past few weeks. Some with motions, all a little silly. All a lot of fun! Most of the time…

Confession…even with our current curriculum and these engaging songs, sometimes I struggle.

It is challenging to simultaneously stay calm, focused, and energized. Keeping students engaged while also settling disagreements or drying tears. I know I’m not the only teacher who sometimes feels this way…outnumbered.

When Mrs. Eakes joined our class, the difference was immediate. Not only for me but also for the students. Yes, one plus one equals two. But in music class, today, one plus one equaled ten!

Teacher Appreciation Week

Holders of the Future

Schools are failing
Some would like
You to believe
Wisdom says
Otherwise
One only
Needs
To look
To listen
Hundreds of lives
Working together
In community
Not simply teachers
Teaching students
But people, both
Young and old
Connecting on
Common ground
One that seeks
To meet needs
Heal wounds
Tell stories
Solve problems-
So, what are schools?
They are not failures
But holders of the future-
Take a minute
To stop
To look
To listen
Not at the ones
Talking about
Schools
But the ones
Walking inside
Every
Single
Day

As a teacher, listening to political rhetoric can quickly become discouraging. Especially when I truly stop and think about all of the stories. And I am only one of many. So, I only hear some of the many.

I watch as students take home extra food. Listen as concerns are shared among staff. Notice when students receive much-needed services. And this is in addition to the love and care received from their teachers.

Each day there are tears of joy and sadness, screams of excitement and frustration. But isn’t that life? Don’t miss the bigger picture because of the voices attempting to drown it out.

The second poem was written for a recent school volunteer celebration. But it seemed fitting for my teacher friends as well. ❤️

Ready to Bloom

Imagine the
Blooming daffodil
Magically captured
In time-lapse
Photography
Instant joy in
Sunshine yellow
If only you could see
The results
Of your work
In this manner-
Nurturing hands
Thoughtful words
Freely planting
Seeds of confidence
Gently watering
Pulling weeds
Re-planting when
Necessary
Always shining
Your light…
So much light
Tending to
Each new stem
Each new bud
Each precious child
With love and patience
As they emerge
At their own pace
Right alongside you
Ready to bloom

Intrusion

Unwelcome thoughts interrupted my morning. In those early moments when it was unclear if I was awake or still dreaming. Images that made my heart sink.

An image of me trying to secure a class of elementary students in my storage closet. Was there enough room for everyone? Wait, there is a glass view window in the classroom door. Can I lock the closet door from the inside?

Next, my daughter is in a similar scene. Except hers is a high school special education classroom.

I know why these thoughts appeared today. 

A result of the news yesterday. 

Another school shooting…

There have been so many in our country, it is impossible to keep track. That statement makes me sad. And while I know I cannot live in that sadness, it must be acknowledged.

I choose not to live my life in the what if’s. Yet, as an educator, these stories are troubling. As a spouse and parent of educators, they are personal. For all of us, they are heartbreaking.

I do not write to offer a solution. Only to express my heart. The heart of a teacher who loves her students and would do anything to protect them. A teacher, like many others, who are tired of the ugly truths that bring these intrusive thoughts.

I am thankful for all the smiling faces that greeted me as they entered our beautiful school this morning. Those smiles helped push the sadness away.  

Run Away

Bath towel
Pillowcase
Bedsheet
Any material will do
A giant eagle
Flying free
Surveying
The yard
Before perching
On the porch
Superman
Wearing
His cape
Ready
To swoop in
And save the day
Or maybe
A friendly ghost
Playing
A game of
Hide-n-seek
Shaking with
Silly giggles
Any material will do
When paired with
The wild imagination
Each child holds
Once they feel free
To let it run away

Why is it our imaginations seem to shrink as we get older? As a child, I could always see objects in the clouds. It still happens sometimes, but I often second-guess myself.

Dress-up clothes, imaginary friends, playing pretend. Crucial elements of childhood. Sadly, it is not so simple these days. I was reminded of this while talking to a crying student this morning.

Oh, to be able to help them feel safe. Safe enough to let imaginations run wild!

The Best Medicine

There are few sounds sweeter than pure, honest laughter. The kind that, once started, is hard to stop. I heard this precious echo twice in my classroom today and welcomed it with open arms.

The first experience was with fourth-grade boys. Our lesson today was about the Brass family of instruments. After a brief discussion of the word family and its relationship to musical instruments, we watched a short video showing the trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba.

Students saw both teens and professional musicians playing each of these instruments. Plus, some shenanigans about unwinding the tubing of the instruments. Here’s where the laughter started. In this video, the tuba was referred to as the “Big Daddy” of the Brass section.

At first, there were just a few giggles. The next thing I knew, one friend could not contain his laughter. It was that innocent kind of laughter, uncontrolled and contagious. We all had a good laugh.

The next incident was in second grade. We were singing a song about lunchboxes. There was a measure of rest where students were supposed to say what they hoped their mom would put in their lunch box.

I decided to go around the room and have them each name their item. There were apples, cookies, milk, grapes, bananas. And then someone smiled and said Chick-fil-A! I responded, “Oh my goodness! Now I am going to be thinking about Chick-fil-A all day! Thank you very much!”

I went on and on…and the laughter began. Guess what the next lunch box suggestion was? Starbucks! I’m thinking they had devised a plan. 😉

Reflecting on the day, I did not realize how desperately I needed to hear, feel, and experience laughter. I’m grateful for those sweet voices able to let it freely flow. It is the best medicine, after all.

An Unfamiliar Smile

The strangest thing happened on my way home from school yesterday. I had not driven far and was stopped at a red light. The soundtrack to “Hamilton” was blaring on my radio, and the sun was shining!

A quick glance to my right, and I noticed someone waving. The car window was rolled down, the driver smiling. His eyes looked familiar, but it took a few seconds to recognize him.

This was someone I see at work every day. But he is new to our school this year, and that meant I had never actually seen his entire face. Or, if I had, it was only for a few brief seconds.

Wow! I know we are all feeling the changes in how we connect during this time of a global pandemic. We have to work even harder at getting to know new people. Wearing masks, though necessary, makes it more difficult to speak, hear, and recognize others. And not being able to just run up and hug everyone I see…well, that is another thing altogether.

This experience was a real punch. Here I sat, realizing that this was the first time I had seen this guy’s entire face! We have been in school for over two months!

I waved and then rolled down my car window. We were both smiling. I said, “Man, it is good to actually see your smile!” He laughed and said something about wearing masks all the time. I nodded. We both drove our separate ways.

Did I mention we were both smiling?

It was like finding two puzzle pieces that fit together. That unfamiliar smile perfectly matched those familiar eyes.

Point of Reference

I grew up with a large extended family. My parents have been married for over fifty years. In my circle of family and friends, we have experienced life and death, cancer, anxiety and depression, and, of course, art, and music. I could discuss any of those things all day long.

There are other things I would rather not discuss. This week I was reminded more than once of life experiences for which I have no point of reference.

The first one involved a younger student. Before class, the teacher mentioned that the father of this child was going to prison. This friend was restless, struggling to engage and fit in. Quickly moving between over-excitement and complete stillness. I think it had been a rough day.

I had my young friend sitting right beside me during music class. When I sensed a little restlessness, I slowly patted on the back-a steady, gentle, sixty-beats-per-minute pat. It seemed to help.

After class, I found myself thinking, “How could my actions possibly help this situation for the long-term?” Yes, they might have helped at that moment. However, in the grand scheme, offered little.

The second involved an older student. This student was able to put their feelings and experiences clearly into words. Nothing could prepare me for hearing, “I was taken away from mom. I talk to her sometimes, but she really doesn’t want to see me.”

I managed a short response, “I’m sorry. You are special. I love you.”

I cannot possibly understand how this student feels. I could offer a listening ear, a kind word, and a smile. Was that enough? It certainly did not feel like it at the moment.

Thankfully, I am not the only one listening. I work in a school building, a district, and a profession with many other caring adults. Many of them listen to heart-breaking stories every day. And the collective listening and responding do have the power to make a positive impact.

No, I may not have a personal point of reference for these two students. And I know there are many other stories I have not heard. But there is strength in numbers. And tonight, I will rest in that point of reference.

Let Go

I wrote this poem yesterday. The same applies today, I’m afraid. Just different levels of worry. Different levels of seeking control. I keep telling myself this is not the time for opinions. And that not everyone agrees with me anyway-shock, I know. 😉

It is difficult, however, to remain calm and consistent when so many others are expressing opinions concerning what school should look like during this worldwide pandemic. Those opinions have the potential to affect me as a teacher, as a wife, as a mother.

So, I will not share any opinions today, only this thought. Continue striving to let go…

The Anxious Me

The anxious me
Keeps dropping by
I must admit
She is not
My favorite
Always grasping
For control of
Things that are
Out of her reach
Not logical
I realize
But here she is
In the flesh
Short visits
Are acceptable
Long enough to
Bring awareness
But extended stays
Become tiresome
Weighed down with
So much worry
She has been here
Most of the day
Time for her to go-
With compassion
Of course-so I can
Rest, focusing only
On what matters
Nothing else
Not giving in
Or giving up
Just releasing the
Concerns of today

Challenging Times

Planning like
Never before
Worried about safety
Worried about health
For our students
And ourselves
So much at stake
Far beyond academics
Far beyond testing
The emotional health
Of our children
Of our families
Of all of us
So many needs
To be met
Too many needs
To be met
By only a few
But we are not a few
We are many
We are educators
Waiting patiently
For difficult answers
To impossible questions
And no matter what
Others may say
We will shine-Our
Students will shine
With kindness, passion
And innovation as we
Face our fears during
These challenging times