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

Distance Learning Lesson No. 1

My school district is currently in distance learning. We have experienced it once before, but there is still much to learn. And I have a feeling the most important lessons will have little to do with academics. Oh, those will be woven in and out, but they will not be the lasting thread. No, the final fabric will be found in the simple attempts to cover the distance.

Distance…I do not like that word. It implies being away from family, friends, and now students. This is hard to explain to children, especially when we cannot see the ending.

I have been busy creating music activities to share. Students can access the lessons online. For the first one, I added a twenty-second voice recording-a short greeting with some basic instructions. Not a big deal…I thought.

These lessons also had a response page for students to share their favorite part of the story from this lesson. One precious kindergarten girl recorded her response. Her message was confusing at first.

“My favorite part was when she said I love you guys!” Hmmm, that was not part of this story. And then it hit me-she was talking about my twenty-second voice recording. At the end of the message, I said, “I miss and love you guys! Bye!”

Such a simple thing, I thought. Until this little voice spoke it back to me.

So, my first distance learning lesson? One phrase spoken from the heart covers more distance than any music lesson I could ever create.

Rock-a-Bye-Baby

My parents rocked me when I was a baby. They sang lullabies, read stories. Made sure I was cared for. I grew up around babies-younger cousins and my brother. I rocked, fed, sang, and played with them. The example had been set for me. When I had my own children, I knew what to do, or at least, where to begin.

Not everyone has that experience. And some that do become so bombarded with the struggles of this life, they forget what is vital. When this happens, the next generation suffers.

Little brains and bodies don’t develop as they should. Gaps are created in connecting, learning, functioning. I see the results of these holes in growth every day. Improvement is possible, but it takes time and focused intention.

And then there are those days…brief moments of light shine through.  A smile, a hug, a lightbulb turning on.  The reason may not always be clear, but the result is cherished.  I wrote the following poem after one of those days. 

Holding on to the hope for more like it in the future. ❤

TOOTHY GRIN

The first time
I saw you
My only thought-
Do you ever smile?
Not even a hint
In your distant
Young eyes
And then one day
A toothy grin
Shone through
Your tough shell
Brief and unsure
But sweetly present
Reminding me
That you are
A child in need of
Reasons to smile
Hoping another
Reason will find
You again soon
Turning that
Toothy grin into
A beaming smile-
Lasting and confident

Missing Pieces

At the beginning of quarantine, we worked a couple of jigsaw puzzles at our house. A way to pass the time while keeping the brain working. It is always interesting to me to watch how tiny pieces fit together to create one big picture.

The pieces all have different colors and shapes. Each one with its own place. Only fitting together with those directly surrounding. The togetherness grows exponentially. However, if there is just one missing piece, the picture is incomplete. So frustrating.

Each of us is born into a picture. With a family that will love us and helps us grow. Sadly, that is not always the case. And the missing pieces often leave big holes.

Children especially have a difficult time finding their place when these pieces are missing. They do not understand. Whether withdrawing or acting out, they are seeking control. This is sometimes hard to remember as a teacher.

Yesterday, I reacted to certain behaviors with little thought to what was behind them. They were frustrated. I was frustrated. I kept thinking, “If only these friends would listen and follow directions like everyone else!”

This morning, I woke up thinking about those friends. I wanted to find a way to improve the situation. Find a way to encourage appropriate behavior and participation. After all, music class is supposed to be fun!

But how? One word came to mind-connections. I know that is the key. Sometimes I just need a reminder.

Today, I worked on those connections. In the process, I discovered some of the missing pieces. The death of a parent, negative influences from older siblings, family instability. These little ones are dealing with big emotions and don’t know why or how to express them.

Our time together was brief. Leaving me with more questions than answers. However, there was also a glimmer of hope. Little faces, often angry, smiling just a bit. Showing a desire to do the right thing. Even if only able for a limited amount of time.

There is no way for me to fill in those missing pieces. They are irreplaceable. All I can do is recognize and acknowledge. But maybe the edges can be blurred, and a new picture of belonging will emerge. Causing the frustrations of the missing pieces to fade.

A Hug I Could Not Refuse

Social distancing guidelines do not allow for hugs in most situations. And compared to my typical teacher hug routine, I would guess I’m about 90% successful at school. Although honestly, it feels more like missed opportunities than successes.

One day last week, there was an opportunity I’m glad I did not miss.

Music class is supposed to be fun and engaging. At least, that is my plan. And when I cannot seem to get a student interested, engaged, connecting-it is frustrating. Last week I had one of those kiddos.

In our first class together, there was constant disruption. This student showed no desire to participate. No matter what I tried, he was determined to get out of the room.

The next time I came to this class, something was different. I have no idea what had happened before my arrival, but my friend was sitting there ready for music.

Now, several reminders and redirections were needed, but there was also participation! And he made it through the entire lesson. Even though it was a small step, I counted it a success.

Later in the day, I walked past the same class heading out to recess. I caught the eye of my friend. “You did a great job in music today. I am really proud of you,” I said. He stepped out of line and sheepishly reached one arm out to give me a hug. His reach was hesitant, his eyes looking down.

Needless to say, social distancing guidelines flew right out the window.

This was a big step, and a hug I could not refuse. ❤

Notes on a Page

Revisiting a page
Filled with notes
First learned
Many years ago
A glance brings
Faded memories
Of piano keys
Under my fingers
Muscle memory begins
To clear away
Cobwebs collected
In silence
Words and symbols
Carefully written
On the page
Bring a smile
Valuable reminders
Purposefully placed by
The trusted hand
Of a teacher-
Oh, if only
Squinting eyes
Revealed someone
Sitting nearby-
A guide
Patiently leading
Beyond space
And time
Beyond notes
And rhythms
Shedding light
On the mysterious
Sound of
Rich harmonies
Surrounding
Hidden melodies
Listening intently as
Eyes and hands
Once again read
Notes on a page

~In memory of Dr. William Trantham~

Singing Along

I introduced a new song to my classes this week, “You-Nique.” It is part of a music curriculum entitled “Quaver.” Music teachers in our district are participating in a pilot of this material for the remainder of the school year.

My impression so far? It is a game-changer. The material is innovative, relevant, and engaging. It grabs the attention of students and does not let go.

The song I mentioned is only a tiny part of the material I utilized this week. But what a powerful piece. On the chorus, the main character sings:

“I’m brave, I’m strong, I’m loved, I’m smart, and I’m unique.”

Each time I pressed play, the room fell silent. All eyes watched the video and listened to the music. There were smiles and lots of head bobs. Many students were soon singing along.

Each time the song ended, without fail, someone would blurt out, “Can we hear it again?!” “Of course! But let’s talk about it first.”

Not only was the song catchy, but it also allowed for a great discussion. I asked students what they thought the word “unique” meant. Their answers ranged from beautiful and special to different.

I asked students if they ever had days where they did not feel strong or brave or loved. Some nodded their heads; others raised their hands. So honest.

I wanted them to know they were not alone. I told them there were times in my life when I didn’t feel strong or smart or loved. My intent was to acknowledge their feelings while also encouraging them.

Wouldn’t you know they ended up encouraging me? One sweet little boy spoke up, “Well, Mrs. Morris, we all love you!” “Oh sweetie, I love you guys, too.”

The song ends with the line, “And there’s no one else in the whole wide world, exactly like me.” I think we have a new favorite song. I have a feeling it will be requested often. And I look forward to singing right along with them.