Scenes From School

There are so many factors currently affecting morale among educators. It is easy to feel weighed down. Challenges are real, as are celebrations. I remind myself often to look for the good. And the funny. Knowing they will help balance the frustrating and the heart-breaking.

Scenes from school are intended to show just a tiny glimpse of the moments that brought a smile. ❤️Hope you enjoy! Think I’ll go take a nap!

Scene 1

First music lesson objectives for kindergarten: Rules help us. Music is a treasure.

During kindergarten last week, I asked if they had rules at home. Several yelled out No! But then there were answers such as-Don’t jump on the furniture! Don’t jump on the bed! Don’t jump off the balcony! And the final answer-Don’t smoke in the house!

Scene 2

First graders were practicing keeping a steady beat. But end-of-the-day restlessness set in. The kiddos and me. One little friend sensed my frustration.

Come on, Mrs. Morris! Let’s find that steady beat in our hearts!

Scene 3

I was greeting fourth-grade students at the door. Good morning! Have a seat around the circle. As one little boy passed by, he said You look beautiful today.

From Above

A flash
Wings
Aflutter
An audible
Gasp!
One might
Think I had
Never seen
A cardinal
Before

Why so curious a reaction?

Marveling
Over a new
Perspective
Beauty on
Full display
Feathers
Unfurled
In-flight
Observed
From above

The school year is quickly winding down. Today was fifth-grade graduation! This group of kiddos can be challenging, but they also can surprise. Today, they rose to the occasion and sang My Shot from the musical Hamilton for their graduation ceremony.

Our district photographer captured a shot of me leading them. This tired teacher, ready for summer, was full of energy. Perhaps, like with the cardinal, it was all in my perspective. ❤️

Do I look excited, or what? 😉

One Plus One

Twenty to one. Twenty-five to one. Thirty to one. No, not betting odds, teacher-student ratios. What happens when that one is changed to a two?

First-grade music class had a visitor today. My teacher friend, Mrs. Eakes. Angela, a former classroom teacher, is now an EL coach, passionate about all-things literacy and education.

Angela recently shared some articles with me about the benefit of echo songs. Particularly in helping students strengthen literacy skills. Echo is a big part of teaching music, and I was excited to incorporate the specific songs shared in the articles.

My kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classes have been singing the songs over the past few weeks. Some with motions, all a little silly. All a lot of fun! Most of the time…

Confession…even with our current curriculum and these engaging songs, sometimes I struggle.

It is challenging to simultaneously stay calm, focused, and energized. Keeping students engaged while also settling disagreements or drying tears. I know I’m not the only teacher who sometimes feels this way…outnumbered.

When Mrs. Eakes joined our class, the difference was immediate. Not only for me but also for the students. Yes, one plus one equals two. But in music class, today, one plus one equaled ten!

Two Recommendations

Every sound
Amplified
As if a megaphone
Was pointed directly
Into my ear
Each step
Heavier than
The one before
I try to smile
It’s not all bad
But, yesterday was great!
Why does today feel so opposite?

Same place
Same plans
The same me-I think
So, what could it be?
Energy expended
Yesterday
Not recouped
For today
Just two recommendations-
First, listen as
Five and six-year-olds
Sing their favorite songs
Second, go home
And take a nap

A great day of teaching requires a great deal of energy. Those where I wake up rested and ready tend to be the best. I can focus on the students and the music, all of us engaged and having fun.

But oh, those days when I did not sleep well the night before. Or some unexpected stress. Those days can be a struggle. My lack of energy affects my focus. If I am not engaged, neither are my students.

Teaching is both challenging and rewarding work! Some days will not go as planned. But some days are not all days. Children singing, particularly songs from the movie Encanto, and naps help. 😉 ❤️

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! ❤️

An Old Friend

A jeans and t-shirt girl
That is what I call myself
Oh, I enjoy getting dressed up
For the occasional night out
But if you ask my preference
The answer never changes-
A comfy pair of jeans
And a favorite t-shirt
Now, those jeans can’t be comfy
Without a little wear
Walking down a rugged path
Resting on a large rock or two
Carrying smooth pebbles in my pocket-
They find their purpose that way
Not just a protective covering
No, much more
A reminder of where I’ve been-
Legs crossed sitting by the fire
Those jeans feel like an old friend-
And the t-shirt?
Well… if it’s my James Taylor t-shirt
There is no contest-

Today was a virtual/distance learning day for students in our district. Yes, we know in-person learning is best. But when so many teachers, staff, and regular subs are out sick, it makes in-person learning pretty much impossible.

That meant I pushed out music lessons/activities for students on an online platform. I receive a notification each time a student submits a response. They always make me smile.

After lunch, I noticed a stack of boxes near my classroom. I quickly discovered they were the new keyboards recently ordered for my piano class! Ten of them, complete with stands, headphones, pedals. I’ve got some work to do tomorrow!

This may not have been an ideal teaching day. But there were bright spots. And here I am, sitting on the floor in front of those beautiful boxes, wearing a favorite pair of jeans and a school t-shirt. It was a good day…

Not my James Taylor t-shirt, but it will do. ❤️

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…