Motive

What is the motive
Behind my words?
To cover ugliness
Buried deep
Inside my core
Or reflect light
Bright enough
To blind hatred

Deceitful smiles
Worked tirelessly
To transform those
Once-searching into
Icy, cold stones
Harboring lies
Spewing hatred
Difficult to erase

Will kind sincerity
With no motive for self
Thaw angry hearts?
Is love strong enough?
Can it push thru the cracks?
My hope remains
Even though today
My heart is broken

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.

What are You Thankful for?

Feeling a little low? Need your spirits lifted? Just ask a group of first graders what they are thankful for. You will smile, laugh, and maybe even cry…guaranteed! And their answers just might surprise you. 

Since it is close to Thanksgiving, I chose to do some silly turkey activities in music class last week. We used our voices by following changing lines to help Mr. Turkey escape from the farmer. Then we sang “Super Turkey!” It’s a riot. I’m not sure who likes it more, me or the kids.

After all the silliness, I introduced a sweet song called, “Let’s Be Thankful.” The tune is “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and the words talk about friends, family, food, and being glad. Another plus, the song also has accompanying sign language.

Before singing the song, I asked the kids what they were thankful for.  Their little hands shot up in the air, ready to share. Calling on them one at a time, I wrote their answers on the Smartboard. The list looked something like this:

• My mom and dad
• Family
• Dogs and cats
• The whole world
• All the people
• My games
• Food
• Cousins
• Friends
• School
• Music
• Having a safe home

One little boy said what sounded like, “My wife.” I’m sure my facial expression showed confusion, so he said it again. Thankfully I realized he was actually saying, “My life.” Sweet baby still has a little trouble pronouncing certain letters.

The board was filling up quickly, but there were still hands in the air. And then it happened. I called on one sweet boy, “What are you thankful for?” With the biggest smile, he says, “I’m thankful for you, Mrs. Morris.” “That’s what I was going to say,” chimes in the little girl sitting behind him.

Needless to say, I immediately choked up. Taking a few deep breaths to help hold back my tears, I added my name to their list. “I’m thankful for you guys, too.“  I smiled as I wrote the word “students” on the board.  Their faces beamed.

Moments like these help me come back to school each day.  Some days I’m so tired, lacking in energy and motivation. Thoughts turn to how much longer I can continue this routine. But then there’s a precious reminder that what I do matters and I feel a push that says, “Keep going.”

So, what am I thankful for? So many things. I need to make my own list!  Today it would begin with this:

• Kind words from a first grader
• Time to rest and refuel next week because it’s Thanksgiving!

What about you?  What are you thankful for today?

List the Positives

Yesterday I vowed to keep a list of positives throughout the day today in hopes of helping my mood and focus.  Well…I have a list.  It took me until lunch time to actually start writing anything down, but by the end of the day my list covered both sides of a post-it note.

  •  Cooler weather
  •  Students positive responses to having a choice between whiteboards and popsicle  sticks for writing or constructing their rhythmic patterns.
  •  Hearing, “I got it right!”
  •  Receiving three books from students off of my book fair list.
  •  Unplanned, improvised “singing” of one of those books.
  •  A student who has severe anxiety, always sits alone and doesn’t speak to me,  accepted a music stamp on his hand when leaving class today.

Was it a perfect day?  No-there’s no such thing.  But was it a good day?  Yes.  And even though I may not be able to use my mood as an indicator for the success of the day, I can look back on my list and be reminded of the things that were good.  Funny thing is, almost all the items are things over which I have little or no control.

So what do I have control over?  Continuing to look for the positive.  My responses to the people and situations I encounter.  Loving my family, friends, and students.

Any guesses which book I sang today?  It was super fun!

books

 

Contagious

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.

Champion

What is a champion?  The word often brings thoughts of athletes, winning the ultimate game.  Webster’s definition includes warrior, fighter, defender, one fighting for the rights of others, and lastly the winner of a competition.  Although I like the order of those descriptions, there is much more to this idea of being a champion.  Or at least there should be…

Do I think of myself as being a champion in my role as wife? Mom? Teacher? Friend?   Truthfully, no.  But what if I did?  After all, each role is important and has the power to influence and encourage my family, friends, students, and community.  What if I consistently worked hard at improving my skills in each role?

The official music video for Carrie Underwood’s song “The Champion” (feat. Ludacris) does a beautiful job of expressing the broadness of this word.  Included in the lyrics are invincible, unstoppable, unshakable-mixed with images of hard work, honesty, integrity, and sacrifice.  People from all walks of life, facing every kind of challenge imaginable, working hard,  persevering.

I love watching my students’ reactions to this video.  Of course, the song is energetic and exciting.  They love to sing along.  When I ask what people they notice, the answers are all over the place-football player, swimmer, surfer, soldier, someone with cancer, a person with prosthetic legs-you get the idea.

What they don’t usually notice, however, are the students, teachers, parents-doing everyday things.  They are students.  As I like to remind them, doing school is their job.  But do they consider themselves champions in that role of being a student?  This is not a naturally occurring thought for them-or for us as parents and teachers either I’m afraid…

It’s never too late for a new mindset, right?

So where to begin?  The answer will be different for each of us.  For me personally, maintaining motivation is a constant struggle.  Lack of sleep, feeling tired, possibly getting sick-anxiety levels begin to rise leading quickly to negative thoughts-I don’t think I can keep doing this, am I a good teacher, have I been a good mom-a rapid, downward spiral pulls me away from the much-needed motivation.

Sometimes the spiral slows with a prayer, a deep breath, a confession of feelings to a trusted friend. Other times it requires tears, and possibly a nap.  Thoughts begin to refocus. A successful lesson, an encouraging word from a colleague, and a reminder that what I do has value, and therefore requires hard work.

Eventually, the search for motivation begins all over again, and I look for ways to make changes and improvements in my chosen roles. And who knows? Maybe there will be that moment where I feel like a champion.

Even better–maybe someone who crosses my path will feel like a champion.