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.

Teacher Brain

I know that face
It’s a year older
But, still, the face
Of a child
The smile
A bit more
Confident
You were one of my favorites that year
Yes
I remember
Kind
Hard-working
Friendly
Artistic
Your face
Why could I not remember your name?
Hours later
And miles away
My mind clears
A name appears
That’s it!
Remembering
Makes me smile

Last night was meet the teacher time at school. Former students often return with their younger siblings to say hello. One stopped by my table. I was so glad to see him. We talked about the previous school year. I asked if he was taking an art class. Yes! He smiled.

Tomorrow is the first day of this school year. There will be so many faces, old and new. And though it may take a while to remember their names, connections will begin with their smiles.

Unexpected Beauty

I love Colorado! Our family has taken many vacations to this beautiful state. We are currently here with our adult children. We have been relaxing and enjoying the cooler temps and beautiful surroundings.

Today was a family hike. And it affected me in a way I had not expected.

I knew this hike would be challenging. 6.2 miles with an elevation gain of 941.6 ft., beginning at an elevation of 8,913 ft. But the thought of family time witnessing mountain scenery, wildflowers, and a waterfall was motivating. The views did not disappoint! But that was not what consumed my thoughts as we trekked up and back down this mountain trail.

No doubt, my hiking pace would be the slowest of the group. All the kids are in their twenties. And Gart is in a little better shape, stronger. This truth was quickly realized as we headed down, or should I say, up the trail.

I am at a disadvantage, I thought.

I was bringing up the rear. Keeping my own pace. Telling myself that was ok. But also falling behind. And we were just getting started. And then this thought popped into my head.

Is this how some students feel at school? Ones facing a disadvantage? Whether in ability, family support, or resources. How do they feel when they sense they are falling behind? Are they, like I was, afraid of not reaching their goal?

My family slowed down and waited for me to catch up. After a short break, I was placed in the middle of the pack. No one seemed to mind the slower pace. They encouraged me.

You can do this, mom! Remember, take smaller steps. Breathe and relax your shoulders.

And even though still afraid, I kept going. Even picked up my pace just a little. At our next stop, Gart suggested I take the lead. They would follow me. Of course, he remained close behind. Constantly saying I was doing great. Reminding me that I am strong.

I still had doubts, but my determination was growing. I wanted to reach the top of the trail and gaze at that majestic waterfall with my family.

We told the kids to go on ahead. They needed to move a little faster. We would see them at the top! It felt good to let them go ahead of us. Gave me even more reason to keep going. Even though my body hurt. It was hard to catch my breath. And it would take every drop of energy and willpower I could muster.

Gart and I continued together. I asked him to take a picture of an unusual flower for me. We walked over log bridges across the flowing creek several times. The water flowed underneath from the waterfall that would soon be in sight.

I was going to make it! I struggled not to cry. Needed to keep breathing. As we rounded the last corner, I saw our daughter, Rachel. Smiling, hands up in the air. You made it! A big hug and tears came. I felt so proud.

Our son, Robert, and his wife, Erin, had hiked above the falls. They waved and smiled. Ryan, our youngest, was sitting nearby on a rock and soon walked over. You made it!

The waterfall was mesmerizing. A roaring cascade of water flowed over the edge to the stream below. I sat and had a snack and some water. We took pictures. And then the inevitable. We had to go back down.

Yes, most of it was downhill, but my body was exhausted. Some spots required careful steps. But thanks to the continuing encouragement of my husband and some light, cooling rain showers, I made it back to the car.

I can’t believe I did it! Pretty sure I said that at least ten times.

In all my relief at completing this six-mile hike, I couldn’t shake those earlier thoughts about students who are at a disadvantage.

What if they had someone to pull them from behind to the middle of the pack? What if their confidence grew enough to take the lead? What if they fluctuated back and forth, working hard, supported, and encouraged until reaching their goal?

I guess today’s hike made me focus on the beauty of humanity over nature. Realizing the ability each of us has to make a difference in the lives of others. Grateful that today, I was on the receiving end. ❤️

There are times we all need to hear-You can do it! Don’t give up! You will not be disappointed when you look back at the journey and see how far you’ve traveled.

The Whole Story

I wish I knew the whole story. How your life began. The circumstances surrounding your birth. How your big sister played with you. What you were like as a toddler.

When we first met, you were bossy and tall for your age. But you had a big smile and beautiful long, dark hair. You loved flying high on the playground swings. I’m glad for those moments of joy in your life.

Schoolwork did not come easy. You worked so hard. No matter what we tried, letters and numbers couldn’t find their way into your memory banks. Not long-term, anyway.

You enjoyed listening to stories and spending time playing pretend with your friends. Somehow, unphased by the lack of remembering academic details.

Traveling between Mexico and Oklahoma seemed to be the pattern. You, your mother, and your older sister. That must have been stressful and scary. Not knowing how long you would stay in one place or where you belonged.

I wish I knew the whole story. Why the older you grew, the less care you seemed to receive. Understanding there must have been challenges in raising a child with disabilities. But still, you deserved to be cared for and loved.

What love there was somehow faded with the birth of a new baby. Slowly turning to neglect and abuse. My heart breaks over what I do know.

You are unable to tell me your whole story. Only bits and pieces. Maybe I shouldn’t wish to know it. One thing I do know is you will always wear the scars. Yet, you still manage to smile. You give and receive love. And just maybe, that is the whole story. ❤️

Our sweet friend, Marie. So glad she is part of our lives.

A Matter of the Heart

I have a storage closet inside my music classroom. Shelves lining both walls hold musical instruments. There are stacks of chairs in one corner and drums in the other.

At various times in the year, certain sets come out.

There is a narrow walkway between the shelving.

More than once this school year, I’ve glanced in there with the following thought: would I be able to fit an entire class of students in here? I’m not sure. If I quickly moved some things out. But would there be enough time?

That is where I stop my spiraling thoughts. Any further, and they’d be unbearable.

Every day, I stand on the sidewalk outside my school. Along with colleagues and student volunteers, make sure kids get safely to their cars.

Several times during the year, I almost left my phone inside the building. But then one thought would invade-what if something happens? An emergency? And quickly, I’d put my phone in my back pocket.

I’m not the only one carrying the weight of such thoughts. But we rarely talk about them. Until another tragedy occurs and we realize it could have been our school, our students, or our friends.

I see the sweet faces of the Uvalde, TX victims in photos shared by loved ones. I see the desperation in the sobs of those left to mourn and question.

My heart breaks.

But my sadness quickly turns to anger as I listen to sound bites. As I hear political figures speak of rights instead of solutions, perpetrators instead of victims.

There are solutions. And please don’t tell me there are no laws or policy changes that would affect this epidemic of gun violence in our country. There are. And they are logical. Why do we refuse to take a stand in their favor? Well, that’s a matter of the heart.

https://www.nytimes.com/


Our descendants weep
As the blood
Of the innocent
Soaks the ground
Beneath the feet
Of misplaced allegiance

Super Kids

Fresh air
Sunshine
Running
Jumping
Spinning
Friends
Playing
Getting ready
For summer-
Next year
Some will return
Some will move up
Some will move away
But today is not about that!
There will be
Scrapes and tears
Fusses and squabbles
Maybe even
A few rocks
Thrown
Yet, at the end of the day
What will they remember?
Playing with
Their friends
Being silly with
Their teachers
And, of course
Eating popsicles-
Because
Super Kids Day
Is all about super kids

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!

Teacher Appreciation Week

Holders of the Future

Schools are failing
Some would like
You to believe
Wisdom says
Otherwise
One only
Needs
To look
To listen
Hundreds of lives
Working together
In community
Not simply teachers
Teaching students
But people, both
Young and old
Connecting on
Common ground
One that seeks
To meet needs
Heal wounds
Tell stories
Solve problems-
So, what are schools?
They are not failures
But holders of the future-
Take a minute
To stop
To look
To listen
Not at the ones
Talking about
Schools
But the ones
Walking inside
Every
Single
Day

As a teacher, listening to political rhetoric can quickly become discouraging. Especially when I truly stop and think about all of the stories. And I am only one of many. So, I only hear some of the many.

I watch as students take home extra food. Listen as concerns are shared among staff. Notice when students receive much-needed services. And this is in addition to the love and care received from their teachers.

Each day there are tears of joy and sadness, screams of excitement and frustration. But isn’t that life? Don’t miss the bigger picture because of the voices attempting to drown it out.

The second poem was written for a recent school volunteer celebration. But it seemed fitting for my teacher friends as well. ❤️

Ready to Bloom

Imagine the
Blooming daffodil
Magically captured
In time-lapse
Photography
Instant joy in
Sunshine yellow
If only you could see
The results
Of your work
In this manner-
Nurturing hands
Thoughtful words
Freely planting
Seeds of confidence
Gently watering
Pulling weeds
Re-planting when
Necessary
Always shining
Your light…
So much light
Tending to
Each new stem
Each new bud
Each precious child
With love and patience
As they emerge
At their own pace
Right alongside you
Ready to bloom

Reset Button

Is your phone not working correctly? Have you tried turning it off and then back on? Have problems with your computer? Same answer. At least, that is the answer if you ask my husband. And quite often, it takes care of the problem.

I’m starting to realize my brain works similarly. The only problem? My resets are not always intentional. It’s more of a hindsight experience.

Let me explain. My brain has been on overload for the past couple of weeks. Too many thoughts, dates, responsibilities, concerns, worries, etc. You get the picture. Partly because it is the end of the school year. The other part, well, that is for another day.

Gart and I drove to Arkansas last weekend to visit my parents. We took a personal day on Monday. On our drive home, I received a phone call asking me to play for a choir rehearsal Wednesday evening.

Yes! Sounds great! I’ll do it!

Of course, my answer came on a day I was not working. One day I was not thinking about all those upcoming events. Not thinking about how tired I would be after teaching all day Wednesday…

Wednesday arrived. I needed a nap between work and the rehearsal.

The music that I had little time to practice before rehearsal was by Mozart. Now, I have some pretty mean sight-reading skills. Legendary in some places. 😉 But an hour and a half of sight-reading Mozart? Well, there was no room for any other thoughts in my brain.

After rehearsal, I somehow drove myself home, made a cup of tea, and crawled into bed. When I woke up the next day, my body was tired. My brain, however, was calm.

Laughing to myself, I realized playing all that music was like hitting a reset button. Perhaps I should add sight-reading to my weekly routine. Do you think it would ensure a correctly working brain? Worth a try!