I Almost Missed It

Today’s first-grade music class was quite busy. We covered a lot of ground. Singing the musical alphabet reggae style, forwards and backward, along with Freddie the Frog and his friend Eli the Elephant. We also practiced writing and labeling bass clef notes on our music staff whiteboards. Oh, and I almost forgot-practicing our song for tomorrow’s Veterans Day assembly. Whew! What a whirlwind!

As students first entered the classroom, I noticed one usually perky friend was looking a little sad. He asked if he could share something about his parents going out of town. I told him yes, we would have some time to share at the end of class. With all those activities, I’m so glad I didn’t forget…

The class was winding down, students sat on the floor as I played a song on the piano. And then I saw my little friend and remembered my promise. He came and stood by me and begin to share, “My parents had to travel to California because my grandfather died.” He continued to explain that he and his sister couldn’t go with them, and he was obviously sad about that.

We talked as a class about how hard it can be when sad things happen and that we needed to be especially nice to this friend, helping him to feel better. Which of course lead to other friends raising their hand to share a sad story. The domino effect was in full swing. I needed to reel it back in before things got completely out of hand.

About the time I had decided not to call on anyone else, I heard this quiet voice from the back of the room. “When’s it my turn?” Some background information is needed-this friend is new, only four days at our school. He also has special needs which include difficulty with eye contact. I haven’t known him long, but I was surprised upon hearing his sweet voice and clear question.

“Of course, you can share. Come on up here by me.” Looking down at the floor he began to talk about how he missed his house. And how his mom had to work all the time. We talked about how hard moving can be. I reassured him that even though he was sad about moving, we were so glad to have him at our school.

Sharing this story with my daughter this evening it dawned on me…I almost missed it. I almost missed the chance to help this special student not only have his turn but also connect with his peers at his new school. He may not have looked me directly in the eyes, but his smile was communication enough. Hopefully, he went home at the end of the day with a new sense of belonging.

Thankful I didn’t miss those few precious moments today at the end of first grade music class…

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.


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.


Morning car duty, the day after our first elementary choir rehearsal, one of my favorite fourth graders hopped out of his car with a big smile. Running over he gave me a big hug and chimed, “Choir was so much fun yesterday! I told my mom and dad that you almost cried when we sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” A tad embarrassing but he was right-I did get a little teary.

Same day-first hour-fifth grade. I showed students one of the new puppets I had ordered for my younger classes. Just delivered and so cute! The students smiled and I heard some awwws-that’s all it took. I began telling them how much the little kids love the puppets and how I wished I’d had puppets when they were in kindergarten and first grade.

A fifth grade boy spoke up, “Mrs. Morris, I’ve never seen an adult so excited about puppets before!” Well, guess what? I soon had twenty-something fifth graders asking to play with puppets. Of course I said yes.

What a sight! The biggest kiddos in the school using the cutest animal hand puppets, singing along to Carrie Underwood’s The Champion. Priceless!

Then it hit me! The enthusiasm of a fourth grade boy had been contagious.

There was a positive attitude domino effect at work. This cycle continued for most of the day, the most encouraged I’ve felt about my teaching so far this year. Don’t misunderstand, not all days work this way. I’m not attempting to paint a “perfect harmony little cherubs singing” portrait. Nor am I anywhere close to being Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

Truthfully, it took the excitement of a student to adjust my attitude. And if this one student has the power to do that for me, how many students and colleagues should I be able to influence?

Attitudes are contagious. And I can either spread one that is positive and encouraging or one that is negative and frustrating. Here’s to having an attitude others want to catch, not one they try to avoid.

Choir-It’s Elementary

If the words “Elementary Choir” cause you feelings of anxiety, welcome to my world!  I’m teasing, mostly, but I do find it challenging.  Choir was part of my high school and college life, but most of the time I ended up behind the piano.  That is where I’m most comfortable.  I’ve never felt as confident with my singing, hence my hesitation with directing a choir.

Today was the first day of after-school choir.  We meet once-a-week for about forty-five minutes.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a long time to keep twenty-five 4th and 5th graders engaged and singing, especially after a full day of school.  We are all tired, and ready for a snack and a nap.  Well, I’m ready for a nap.  Not to mention being hot and sweaty from afternoon car duty…

As I walked back to my classroom to begin practice, I could hear kids saying, “Here she comes!”  And it wasn’t a “better stop what you’re doing” warning.  It was more of a “Yay! It’s time for choir” comment.  The room was buzzing with energy and excitement.  Students helped set up chairs and everyone was seated quickly, ready to start.  I went to the piano and asked them to sing a simple song for me.  There was a risk they would consider my request babyish, but I needed to hear how they sounded.

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” has never sounded so glorious!  I am not exaggerating!  Not only were their voices sweet and light, I could tell they really loved to sing.  My smile could not have been any wider.  After some up and down “ah-ah-ah” and “ha-ha-ha” vocal warm-ups, I asked them to fill out a short choir survey.  I’ll get back to that shortly.

After the survey we learned the first part of our choir theme song, “Friend Like You.”  One of the verses says, “I know with friends like you, friends that I can talk to, we can take on the world.  There’s nothing we can’t do.”  So simple, yet so powerful.  And once again, their sweet voices singing this timely message made my heart happy.

We wrapped up practice, everyone went home, and I packed up my computer.  Oh, and those choir surveys as well.  Once home, I decided to read them.  Oh my goodness…their answers.  Most said they love to sing and want to sing better.  Some admitted being shy or embarrassed.  And then there was this…”I sing to my siblings at bedtime.”  Remember, we are talking about 4th and 5th graders.  I can’t imagine anything more precious.

Today changed my outlook for choir.  This self-described awesome group of kiddos-who just want to hang out with their friends and sing-encouraged this exhausted, in-search-of-motivation teacher.  Because of their attitudes, I find myself looking forward to next week.  I will listen to those sweet voices, and teach them the rest of our theme song.  Hopefully their enthusiasm will spill over, giving this tired teacher renewed energy.

Maybe elementary choir is not so elementary after all.


Warning: Frazzled Teacher Ahead

All day today I felt like I should have been wearing a caution tape sash or carrying a big red sign.  Oh, you know, something like- “Warning!  Frazzled teacher! Approach at your own risk!”  Yes, I can laugh now but if I’m completely honest, there were moments I almost cried.

Car duty.  I usually enjoy morning car duty.  Greeting the kids as they arrive at school, lots of hugs and high-fives.  Most of the time, it starts the day on a positive note. Except on days like this…pouring down rain, holding an umbrella, trying to open car doors.  And today I decided to wear a skirt.

Needless to say, I was feeling frazzled as I tried to wring out the bottom of my skirt in the bathroom sink.  Taking the focus off my skirt, I looked in the bathroom mirror.  I’m not sure my hair has ever looked that frizzy.  My first thought-I have a music teacher meeting after school.  It would surely look lovely by then!  I wasn’t sure I would survive the day.

Despite my wet clothes and frizzy hair, the students were coming. Ready or not.  A cup of coffee did provide a little perk.  Then the music started playing, I started moving, and the kids followed in line.  Whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes-stepping in rhythm, learning patterns, playing instruments.  And that was just the morning!

Afternoon classes were met with high-fives from our new friend Freddie the Frog.  Songs, stories, dancing, coloring, laughing…maybe a little impatient by the last hour, but I had indeed survived.

Although there was that one little friend who decided to say “we aren’t going to miss you” and “please cry” instead of “we are going to miss you” and “please don’t cry” as we sang our “Goodbye Freddie” song.  Maybe he was feeling a little frazzled today too.

Yes, I am tired.  No, I will not be wearing a skirt to school tomorrow. The music will play again, I will move, and the kids will follow. Freddie the Frog will most surely make another appearance.  And all will be ok because…