Determined

No pain, no gain
That’s a wrap
Show’s over
Saved the best for last

Hmmm…so many thoughts and emotions. Yesterday marked the final two performances for our all-school musical, Newsies. One matinee and one evening show brought all the hard work to an end. As I reflect over these past few months, in particular, the last two weeks, determination is the word I choose.

I watched as students on stage and in the pit showed determination. A determination to work harder each day. A determination to always give their best. A determination to share their hard work with gladness and grace.

They may not realize it, but their energy was contagious. It had a profound impact on me and my attitude, particularly on those days it felt like I had no energy left to give.

Some have asked, “Will you do it again next year?” Others have suggested, “Maybe it’s time to give this up.” Comments made with my best interest at heart, no doubt. It is an exhausting process which pushes me further than I think I can go. And each year, the physical challenge grows just a bit.

Yet, this year as I thought more about this thing-this musical season-I realized how much I love it! I can’t imagine not being a part. I don’t want to imagine…

Following one of the evening performances, a sweet colleague said, “You must be exhausted. But it has to be so worth it!” Yes! Simple truth. I’m certain she had no idea how much I needed to hear those words. My husband expressed the same sentiment, understanding how important this is to me. These combined with my daughter’s, “Proud of you, Mom” gave me the spark I needed to finish strong.

Hence the word, determined. As long as the opportunity is there and I am able to play with excellence, I am determined to be part of what is Union Public Schools All-School Musical. Even though it wears me thin, it is worth every ache and pain. Worth fighting for every ounce of energy required. Worth every afternoon nap. Worth every extra cup of coffee consumed. 😉

And so, I say, “Farewell Newsies!” It was a pleasure to make music with you all. Remember the lessons learned through this amazing story. I know I will! 🙂

#seizetheday #watchwhathappens #newsiesforever

Best of Both Worlds

From the beginning of November until early February, my life is a little crazy. It’s musical season! During this season, my usual teaching day is followed by a three to four-hour rehearsal. Extra long days and lots of coffee. 😉 ☕️

This year marks my fourth consecutive Union Public Schools all-school musical-Newsies! Each year I think, “I’m not sure I can do this again.” But each year I cannot say no. Time spent in my favorite place, behind the piano, while being part of something bigger than myself. Amazing students, colleagues, and music.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked several of our Newsies cast members if they’d be willing to perform for our elementary school students. My team was planning a Responsibility assembly, and these students were the perfect guests. After all, their success depends on being responsible.

Today was assembly day. These three were rock stars! They spoke with enthusiasm and animation. They performed their songs beautifully. Despite beyond full schedules, they were willing to spend quality time with younger students.

For me, today brought the best of both worlds. Students I teach every day heard from students I’m privileged to work with during the musical season. Elementary students got a glimpse of what’s possible when they choose hard work and responsibility. High school students remembered their younger years and realized how far they’ve come.

And I witnessed it all from behind that piano. Doesn’t get much better…

Much-Needed Spark

”Rough morning, Mrs. Morris?” Sobering words from a 5th-grade student to begin my day. It’s one thing for a colleague or family member to notice-but a student? I was honest. ”Yes, yes it has been, ” I smiled, a tad embarrassed.

Truthfully, I’m running on fumes. My eyes certainly gave it away. (Maybe I should have applied a little more makeup this morning.) My dragging feet also gave clues to my state of being.

So, today I say, ”Thank goodness for 5th graders!” Today anyway. 😉 First of all, one of them noticed and acknowledged I have bad days too. And that’s ok. Second, 5th grade rocked music!

This group of almost middle schoolers entered my room excited, ready to participate! It was an amazing hour of music-making. And we have audio to prove it.

In addition to the awesome 5th graders this morning, some precious moments also occurred in the afternoon.

Looking around my classroom a sweet little girl commented,” I get why you call this music class. You’re always letting us do everything music. And reading us awesome stories.” Another chimed in, ”Yeah, plus she really likes music.” Like, duh.

Lest you think it was a fairytale day in Mrs. Morris’s music class, I would score both the morning and afternoon classes success rate at 2 out of 3. And you know what the song says….that ain’t bad.

Will I still look tired tomorrow? Yes. Will my feet continue to drag? Most likely. I’m afraid it’s just that season.

Today’s reminders. Kids are aware of those around them. Sometimes they act on and voice that awareness. When they do, I need to watch and listen. I also need to be more aware of those around me-kids and adults. Giving voice to someone else’s ”bad day” might encourage them.

My actions and words have the power to provide what was provided to me today…a much-needed spark.

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.

Look to the Future

As I sit in a waiting room waiting to have a mammogram and ultrasound to check out a spot, I notice words along with the flowers on my pretty pink gown. I snap a picture, zoom in and see the word future.

So interesting. All week I’ve been talking to my students about how their attitude today affects their future. And here I sit with this word on my pink gown. So, what is my attitude at this moment? Honestly, I’m a little nervous. I keep telling myself it’s probably nothing. I’ve been through this before. But there’s always that nagging thought in the back of my mind. What if it’s something this time?

Our conversations at school stemmed from learning the song “Look to the Future.” I’ve been singing this song every day with 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. It’s a positive, upbeat song and I love the lyrics. The chorus says:

Look to the future
What do you see?
I see peace, and plenty, and harmony

My favorite line from the song is-Tomorrow’s world is made from words of today. For me, this line means we must live in the moment while recognizing today’s impact on the future. Initially, the words today and future seem to contradict each other. But they actually create balance when viewed together.

These discussions with my students are very much like ones I’ve had with my own children. You cannot make decisions today based on what-ifs, especially if the “what if” is followed by something negative or some terrible fear. Focusing on all the things that could possibly go wrong makes it difficult to see any hope for your future.

We certainly shouldn’t live today afraid of what might happen tomorrow or five years from now. There’s no peace in that. However, we must take responsibility for our words, choices, actions, attitudes.

So how did my conversations surrounding this song impact my current situation? They provided the perfect reminder, along with the word on my pink gown, not to worry. Yes, the question still looms-What if it’s something this time? If it is, I will be ok. I will continue to live one day at a time. That’s all I’m promised anyway. And with that perspective, I can look to the future with hope.

FYI-My test results were good. Follow-up in 6 months to make sure there’s no change. Also, my mom is a breast cancer survivor. Always get your regular mammogram. It is so very important!

Friendship=Success

My classroom is a big open space. Perfect for music! I created smaller areas within this large space using sit spots. A big circle, visible right as students enter. We use this space for movement activities, games, drum circles, etc. A rainbow row of dots in front of the Smartboard. These create rows where students have their own music spot to sit.

We often move from one area to the other multiple times in one class period. This was true Wednesday during first grade. As students began to transition from our circle to their music spots, I noticed one precious girl assisting a friend. She was speaking calmly and sweetly to her friend. Both of them smiling, holding hands.

I was just about to remind this helpful girl about the location of her music spot. After all, she was heading in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I did not say anything. An interruption would have been sad. The friend she was helping is a sweet boy who happens to have Down syndrome.

We have some awesome paras in our building. They attend specials with specific groups of students. Because of their disabilities, these friends just need a little extra guidance to have a positive experience in class. These ladies provide invaluable assistance which makes that possible.

Although success in regular education settings is an important goal, how much more valuable is gaining a friend? For a friend can help us in ways no one else can. A friend is something we all need. Some might even say having a friend is a success.

This week I witnessed a sweet new friendship. I hope it continues to grow. I hope to encourage many more.   


Thoughts from the Orchestra Pit

Have you considered how many times in our lives are we called to provide a foundation for something we will never get to see? Parents, teachers, even musicians in an orchestra pit can all relate to this dilemma. How will we know if all our hard work paid off? Did we provide enough support to lead to a positive outcome?

Decisions we make as parents definitely fit that description. Parenting is hard work. We raise our children not knowing what their future holds. All we can do is our best. Trusting that we laid a strong, though most assuredly imperfect, foundation.

This idea also applies to a teacher. Think about all of the students a teacher inspires. New groups every year multiplied by the years taught. The numbers can be staggering. And the range of influence for all of them cannot be seen. Yet teachers continue to lay a foundation for students to learn and be successful.

As I was practicing in the orchestra pit this week for our upcoming all-school musical, it hit me how the experience provides a literal illustration for this truth. Think about it. All these amazing musicians, hidden under the stage, working hard every day to play beautiful music. And their music provides sure footing for everything that happens on stage.

The downside? We never get to fully see the amazing things occurring on stage. If there’s a long enough pause in the music, we might stand up and catch a glimpse of the actors and sets. Since we are performing during the most dramatic and exciting parts, those we never get to see at the moment.

Although it makes for an interesting predicament, those of us in the pit wouldn’t change a thing. We get to be a part of something bigger than us. Something which takes many people doing many different jobs to succeed. The final outcome is incredible, and we get to be the foundation. (Not to mention, it’s a fun place to hang out.) 😉

Even though we may not be able to see the final outcome in each of these situations, there are moments which affirm our choices. For a parent that affirmation may come in witnessing a thoughtful or compassionate action by their child. For a teacher, it might come in a simple thank you from a former student. No, not the end result, but the motivation to continue doing what needs to be done.

So, what about those musicians in the orchestra pit? What is that moment for us? I’d have to say it’s at the very end of the show. That moment when all the singers, actors and dancers have taken their bow and they direct the audience’s attention to the pit. They all point in unison towards us, showing their appreciation while encouraging the audience to do the same.

Hopefully, this reflection will help me look for more of those significant moments instead of worrying about the future. Realizing what I do today is important. And that I am not working alone. No matter which role I happen to be in on any given day, there are others right alongside me, working for the same outcome, laying the same foundation.

Here’s to hope for the future, which just happens to include a bunch of talented students performing in a musical-on stage and in the pit.

Good snacks in the pit are a must! 😉