Best-Laid Plans

Dominoes
Carefully
Lined up
Waiting patiently
Their rhythmic fall
Will soon begin
One onto the next
Onto the next

Dominoes
Carefully
Lined up
Impatient
Some hopping
Out of line
Causing gaps
Heavy sighs

Dominoes
Neatly stacked
Back inside
Their box
Resting quietly
Until the box opens
Revealing tomorrow’s
Best-laid plans

Due to President’s Day and icy weather, we only had one day of in-person school last week. It was not my best teaching day. Also, not my worst, but…Whew! I went home exhausted and a teeny bit irritable.

The struggles started with step one. Some I was able to fix, others I was not. No need to name them. That would only serve to re-ignite feelings of frustration.

That is teaching. That is life. No matter our plans. Rarely do all the dominoes fall in perfect order. And truthfully, that should not be the goal.

Here’s to a new week, new plans, and renewed purpose. And hopefully, a bit more patience.

Lightbulb

This week, my 3rd-5th grade classes have been utilizing our new keyboards. Moving beyond simply exploring. Recently, we had a lesson about line notes and space notes. Learning to recognize the differences on the staff and identify by letter names.

Every Good Boy Does Fine. F-A-C-E face.

After a brief review, I explained how to find those same notes on the keyboard. Students were divided into three groups, rotating between three activities. One was playing the notes on the keyboard.

Fifth graders can be a challenging group. Wanting so badly to grow up, yet still kids in so many ways. Acting tough, not knowing when to stop, etc. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect from them with this lesson plan.

Halfway through today’s class, I hear, Mrs. Morris! Come listen to this! Not only had this student found the line and space notes, but he had also created a rhythmic pattern and was playing it over and over. 

When it was time to alternate, I could see he was not ready to move on. He got the staff paper for the next activity but headed back to a keyboard. He wanted to write down what he played! I told him to keep working on it. 

I have tried to connect with this student. There always seemed to be a new wall going up. Maybe this was a start.

Class ended. Students left. Then my art teacher friend came in for lunch. Apparently, as the kids passed her in the hall, this friend waved his paper toward her. Hey! Mrs. Pordash! I really like music now! ❤️

Could this day get any better? 

Tonight, were parent/teacher conferences. Guess who stopped by the music room to show his mom what he did today? Here was my chance. As he stood at the piano, I said-You made my day today. You probably didn’t realize that. But I need you to know that you made my day!

Yes, I got a little teary-eyed. But, oh my! A lightbulb turned on for him and brightened my day in the process!

Controlled Chaos

My students are on a three-day rotation for specials. Tomorrow is day three since our return from a week of distance learning. Whew! So many emotions. So much exhaustion.

When students returned, they got a surprise-ten brand new keyboards! Their first question when entering the classroom?

Are we going to play those?

Oh, yes, you are. 😊

By the end of the day tomorrow, all my students will have spent time exploring a piano. Now, this was not a piano lesson, as such. It was a chance. A chance to experience something new. A chance to be in their own little world for a few minutes.

This plan meant giving up some control. For me, that is. I divided each class, K-5th grade, into three groups. While one group explored on the keyboards, the other groups colored, played games, or read books. Loud, chaotic, but so worth it!

Music was so much fun today!
That is the first time I’ve ever played the piano.
Will we get to do this again?

Yes, sweet friends, we will do this again. Probably next week. ❤️

Possibilities

Seven little letters
On seven little keys
Along with their neighbors
The twins and triplets
Stepping and hopping
Walking and dancing
In and around
Up and over each other
A musical little bunch
Together, they will make you
Laugh, cry, maybe even dance
Depending on their patterns
And when you learn
To play them
Creating patterns
Of your own
Well, the possibilities are endless

I cannot wait for my students to see and play our new pianos! ❤️

Home

Today, I heard you calling my name

A few notes from a familiar song

In the passing of minutes, maybe seconds

A few notes, but only one word

Each new song the same

One after another, after another

Only a few notes, still the same word

I heard you again even after the music stopped

This time, a whisper from the row of pines across the road

I could smell their fresh, clean scent in my memories

See their lovely green against the blue sky

As in the songs, also in the pines

I heard you calling my name

At the end of my fifth-grade music class today, we watched the Pentatonix video, Home. It is a medley of songs all about, you guessed it, home.

I asked students to count how many different songs they heard. I counted right along with them. The total was fourteen! ( I missed one. 😉)

Though our purpose was listening to count, the activity had a slightly different impact on me. I found myself wanting to make a list and listen to each individual song. Maybe another day…

Scenes from School

Scene One

Fifth-grade girl: Mrs. Morris, I am going to bring you some poems I wrote. They are about love.

Me: (Reading her poems.) She’s right. Love is unpredictable. 😉

Scene Two

Fourth-grade girl walking to the library to return her book. I notice that the book she is holding is my book.
She smiled. “It’s a good book, Mrs. Morris.”

We snapped a cute picture. She made my day!

Scene Three

Kindergarten student: Mrs. Morris, we are coming to see you tomorrow! You better be prepared!

Scene Four

Students drew pictures while listening to a Mozart piano concerto. Here are a few of my favorites from fifth grade. ❤️

Teaching is hard work. This week had its challenges. But I am choosing to focus on the ones that made me smile.

Scenes from School

Scene One

The cafeteria during kindergarten lunch. Twice this week, as I’m assisting with lunch, I hear the following -”Hey! You’re the music people!” “Yes, yes I am!” Nothing like The Village People. Well…

Scene Two

Kindergarten music class. “Hey, Music Teacher! I have ten kittens. I want to give you a kitten!”

Scene Three

Same as above, except at kindergarten lunch. Same sweet boy. ❤️

Scene Four

Talking with three 5th graders about self-control and being leaders. One girl says to the side, “Cute outfit!”

I’ll take it! But probably not the kitten. 😉

There are more, but I’ll stop there. School is exhausting. Kids are funny and sweet, grumpy and angry. But they are kids. I’m working to find the best in each day with them.

Music helps. 🎶❤️🎶

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.

Time for Music

Precious, fleeting, brief
There is never enough-
We want it to slow down,
Then speed right back up.
I’m speaking about time, of course-
Such a fascinating concept
We break it down into
Hours, minutes, seconds
Weeks, months, years
To what end?
Today, I played
A piece of music
On the piano
Baroque music written
Four-hundred years ago
Can that be correct?
History says it’s so
As amazing as the
Four-hundred years
May sound, the wonder
Occurred in one brief moment-
The eyes of a child
Listening and watching
Questioning how those
Notes on the page
Made their way
To my hands

I love playing the piano for my students. The only downside is not being able to teach all of them to play. Someone always asks, and I smile, wishing that was possible. In my dream teaching world, I would have a room full of keyboards. And each student would have the opportunity to experience that note-to-eyes-to-hands connection.

This week while playing, I heard one of them whisper, “That must be a recording.” Then they snuck over and peeked around the side of the piano. Another class was lining up to leave. One little boy said, “One of my favorite things today was hearing you play the piano.”

And one of my favorite things was being able to play the piano for you… ❤

Good Tired

Last Friday was my first day back at school since before Christmas break. Not only that, the two weeks before Christmas break, we were in distance learning. Basically, my students and I had not been face-to-face for six weeks.

Two of my classes on Friday were brand new. These students had chosen virtual education for the first semester but were now returning to in-person learning. Some faces I recognized from last year, but there were many new ones.

I quickly realized the challenges of the day. There was a little hesitation from older students. One of my friends said, “Oh, Mrs. Morris! I thought you had quit.” I quickly reassured him that “Goodness no! I have been sick.”

Old connections needed to be reestablished. New connections had to be created. Good, but challenging work. I tried to physically rest as much as possible while teaching. But that was impossible with my first and second-grade classes.

Those littles were excited and ready for music. I found myself moving with them, pouring out what energy I had left. Those smiles, wide eyes, listening ears…responding and participating. It was so much fun!

At the end of the day, I was tired. But it was a good tired. The kind that gives me hope and pushes me to keep going.

Recurring Theme

There is such a tired
As good tired
Feeling accomplished
After working hard
Doing the right thing,
Simply because it’s
The right thing to do-
Not because of
Reaching the next
Step on the ladder
That is a never-ending
Cycle of exhaustion
Dependent on approval
Of those standing by
Watching and waiting
For a fall from grace-
No, this tired says
Job well-done
Now it is time to rest,
Sit beside quiet waters,
Listen and let the sound
Refresh mind, body, and spirit
As the work of life continues,
And good tired becomes
A recurring theme