“Mrs. Morris Said So!”

A parent stopped me in the hall this morning. ”Our family had an interesting conversation about you at our house last night.” My first thought was, “Oh dear. What did I say?”

Her daughter, a first grader, was sharing all the things she wanted to be when she grows up. Her older brother chimed in, saying she would have to choose. She could not be all those things. Her response? ”Yes, I can! Mrs. Morris said so!”

As the mom and I continued to talk, I remembered an impromptu conversation from her daughter’s class the day before. At the end of class, we watched the Wintergatan Marble Machine video. Students love this video, and so do I! It sparks imagination and encourages great discussions. https://youtu.be/IvUU8joBb1Q

After students watch the video for the first time, I ask the following questions. Do you think the marble machine creator is a musician? An engineer? A builder? A mathematician? The answer is always yes! This leads to conversations about what students want to be when they grow up. I love to encourage the idea that they don’t have to be just one thing.

On this particular day, I mentioned that I had not always been a music teacher. Being curious little beings, several began to ask about my other jobs. So, I shared my list. I have worked as a piano teacher, staff accompanist, college instructor, paraprofessional, special education teacher, and currently an elementary music teacher.

Apparently, this one little girl took our conversation to heart. At home, after declaring, “Mrs. Morris said so!” she continued with “Mrs. Morris has been at least five or six different things.” Then she proceeded to share my list with her family. She really was listening!

Her mom and I had a good laugh. Our conversation ended on an encouraging note. “The kids just love you.” Her kind words started my day with a smile.

I’m thankful what stuck with her daughter was not, “Mrs. Morris was grumpy today.” Some days that is true. And I also learned an important lesson. Evidently “Mrs. Morris said so!” carries a lot more clout coming from a self-confident first-grader than from a grumpy Mrs. Morris. 😉

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…😉

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? 😉

Friday Confessions of a Music Teacher

For teachers, Fridays create an interesting contradiction. The day begins with an air of excitement. Yay! It’s Friday! We made it! The weekend is in our sights, and that means rest and regroup.

So, where’s the problem? We still have one whole day ahead of us to teach. And for me personally, that second half of a Friday is one of the most difficult parts of my week.

This week was no exception. Three forty-five-minute classes filled with rhymes, body percussion, singing, and playing instruments made the morning fly by. On my feet-singing, clapping, snapping, scanning the room. Making sure everyone is engaged. It was exhausting! I’m not complaining here, just stating a fact. 😉

Next came lunchtime. Always a welcomed break. Visiting with my team, laughing while we ate. But right as the break is about to end, I suddenly found myself lacking the motivation to finish strong.

The afternoon brings kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders. They require a much different level of energy when compared to my morning classes. In addition to the usual music activities, I now have to be a convincing puppeteer, tie shoes, and remind them to keep their hands out of their mouths and off of their neighbors.

Gotta love puppets!

Confession time. Today I was tempted to scrap my afternoon plans and take the easy way out. Surely there was an appropriate music activity we could do which would require less energy from me. After all, it was Friday.

But then the thought hit me-these little ones deserve the same energy I gave my morning classes.

I’m happy to say I did not give in to the temptation. And I’m so glad. We marched around the room while reviewing tempo terms, listened to a Freddie the Frog story, and played instruments. Instruments! Little hands echoing rhythmic patterns on xylophones and metallophones. They were making music, and their smiles made it all worthwhile.

Freddie the Frog

Most certainly I will face this dilemma again. It’s part of being a teacher. If I’m being honest, there will be at least one “change of plans” day before the school year ends. My goal, however, is to remember today and the positives which resulted from pushing through. And when I feel this way again, allow those memories to help me once again finish strong.

Merry Christmas From A Tired Music Teacher

For teachers, Christmas break feels like it will never arrive. Those last few weeks are crazy! Students are restless, teachers are feeling the pull between home and school. Searching for time to decorate, shop, make travel plans…one can start to feel overwhelmed.

This year proved no different. Our final day before break started with leading the choir in some hallway caroling. Then my teammates and I assisted with parties in the gym. And although it was fun, we were on our feet all day.

Exhausted, but relieved break was finally here, I drug my tired body home. I could barely move. At home, I shuffled from couch to bed to couch and finally to bed for the night. The best part? No alarm!

The next morning was awesome. First coffee, a snack, and catching up on the morning news. And next? A nap, of course! Mornings like that are a luxury.

Once I was out of bed for good, Christmas music was on my mind. “Charlie Brown Christmas” was my first choice. I pressed play and started getting ready for the day.

Hair still wet, no makeup on, I suddenly had an urge to play the piano instead of just listening. Christmas carols, of course. The thought of recording songs to share had been in the back of my mind the past couple of weeks.

My initial plan was to go buy a book of fancy arrangements. But on this first day of break, I suddenly changed my mind. Upstairs looking through an old hymnal, I decided to simply play some of my favorites.

And that’s what I did-played these beautiful carols, adding a little of my own style. Nothing fancy, just honest and peaceful music.

My offering may not be extravagant, but that’s ok. It’s from me…from my hands…from my heart. The heart of a tired, yet grateful, music teacher.

Merry Christmas! Hope you enjoy!

Special thanks to my husband, Gart, for getting me set-up, giving me a refresher course on using garage band, and being my editor-in-chief. ❤️


Away In A Manger
Carols Sing
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Silent Night
The First Noel

5th Grade Words of Wisdom

Why is it I’m so surprised when kids speak words of wisdom? Yes, sometimes it is difficult to catch amongst all the silliness and play. It seems to appear when least expected. Like today in the middle of Christmas Carol Bingo, for example.

I wanted the last few days before Winter break to be extra fun and relaxing. If I’m feeling stressed, I know my students are even more so. What could be more fun than Bingo? And when it involves Christmas carols, you can’t go wrong.

                                   Christmas Carol Bingo

My first class of the day is 5th grade. In the middle of our game, one of my students said, “Sometimes I have anxiety. There is so much to get done.” “Me, too,” I responded. “But sometimes music helps my anxiety.” This brief conversation, then the game continued.

It really was a fun class. We were singing along while we played. And of course, there are peppermints for prizes when one gets a Bingo. This first forty-five minutes of the day flew by.

Our game was over. All the marker pieces put away. Students were lining up to leave and face the remainder of their day. That’s when my friend from earlier walked over and gave me a hug. “I just wanted to say thank you, Mrs. Morris. I was having so much anxiety earlier, but now I’m not!”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Even as adults it can be difficult to deal with anxiety. First, we must recognize it, then find ways to cope. Maybe we can eventually learn to see it coming and feel prepared. But not kids. They need our help.

The funny thing is, in the process of helping my friend today, all be it unintentionally, his words actually helped me. I often talk about the power of music, the ways it can calm. I often forget, however, to utilize music when I’m feeling anxious.

These 5th-grade words of wisdom could not have come at a more appropriate time. Two days of school left before Winter break. Preparation for holidays and travel with family. Last-minute shopping. Joyful yet stressful times.

I think I’ll start working on my music playlist now. 😉

Here’s a good place to start. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/river/571368921?i=571369254

Broken Hearts in Music Class

“Mrs. Morris, you’re breaking my heart.” These words from a kindergarten friend during music class this past Friday.

He walked over in the middle of our Bingo game to inform me someone had spit in his eye. My investigation began, interrupting our game. By the time it was over, only a few minutes, he had confessed the entire story, including the part about him first “spanking” the alleged “eye-spitter.”

The game needed to continue. This was my first attempt at playing Bingo with kindergarten and I wanted to get to the best part! Five-in-a-row and BINGO! The prize, a piece of candy, was sure to be a hit.

My two friends involved in the conflict were not allowed to finish the game. Yes, it was sad, but there are consequences when we make poor choices. Spanking and spitting definitely fall into that category.

My two friends were definitely disappointed. The game continued, and finally we got to Bingo. I got out the candy, and their disappointment turned to devastation. Crocodile tears began to flow along with audible sobbing. And then those words, “Mrs. Morris, you’re breaking my heart.”

The proclamation was followed by a quiet comment about “just getting candy at home,” so I’m pretty sure there were not actually any broken hearts.

Oh, my goodness. So dramatic! It was difficult not to smile. Admittedly, part of me wanted to let them finish the game. In some ways, that might have been easier. Fewer tears would have been shed. But what message would that send to the other students? You can do whatever you want to your friends, and no one will hold you accountable.

When I see my friends again next week, I’m sure there will once again be smiles and hugs. All will be forgiven. And when it’s time to play Bingo again, hopefully, my friends will remember to keep their hands ( and spit) to themselves and play the game. I certainly don’t want anyone else’s heart to be broken during music class. 😉