Are They Listening?

Most teachers have moments of wondering-are they hearing anything I’m saying? Sometimes it is difficult to know. I want to believe our students remember more than we think they do. Especially the things that are most important.

My attitude has not been great this week. Several reasons that really don’t matter. But I could have easily been described as tired, grumpy, and irritable on several occasions. Today there were a couple of sparks that helped change all of that.

First, if you’ve never heard First or Second graders sing, it is precious. Their voices are pure and sweet. Today, they were learning about how music notes are placed on lines. And how they could learn to read those notes. Specifically, sol and mi.

Each song we learned was a different combination of those two tones. In one of the activities, I would sing a pattern, they would echo. The fun came when we sang along with an accompaniment.

They sounded so sweet! I was trying to express how happy it made me hearing them sing. One little First-grader raised their hand.  

Mrs. Morris, are we filling your bucket?

I smiled. Yes! You are filling my bucket!

Our teacher says we filled hers, too.

I recorded their song and let them listen. There were giggles and smiles. Then I emailed the recording to their teacher. I also relayed their bucket comments so she would know they had been listening after all.

First Grade Music Class ❤️

Heavy Hearts

Your sweet smile
Gives no hint
Of the hurt
In your heart
They say children are resilient
That may
Be true
But a heart
Can only hold
So much pain-
When loss and
Instability
Frame each day
The future
Will not go
Untouched-
Not to say
There is no hope
Only that there are
No easy answers
Except for the ability
To always return
Your sweet smile

Each time I learn about another student facing traumatic circumstances, my heart grows heavy. Here they are, at school, trying to function. And quite often with a smile.

I am also reminded to stop and listen. Be patient and not too quick to judge behaviors. Seek out helpful information. Find ways to encourage.

Not that I am always successful. Honestly, my patience level today was low. But tomorrow is a new day. Another chance to observe, listen and love.

Teachable Moments

Writing helps me process feelings. During one of my classes today, I decided to put that truth into practice. It wasn’t a terrible class, just loud. Lots of yelling at each other, mostly playing but foiling my attempts to teach songs/play instruments.

I could feel myself getting frustrated. So, I decided to try something different. I started a short music video, and I began to write. Some noticed, curious. And when the video ended, I explained what I had done.

I explained how writing helps me process my feelings. And that I was feeling frustrated. Then I read to them my words.

I love my job. But there are some moments. Especially the crazy ones that follow the awesome ones. The awesome ones are filled with music and laughter. So worth the energy.

I want each class to have that experience with me. To see the me that loves music. The me that loves life. The me that loves them. Not the me constantly saying, Sit down! Listen! Please don’t hit each other with the rhythm sticks or lick the dots on the floor.  Maybe next time…

It was suddenly quiet. I had kept myself from overreacting. They were listening.

Reflecting back on the day, it was mostly the fun kind of exhausting. This was only one small piece. A piece I felt was worth sharing. Because perfection is never the goal. The goal is learning. Life-long learning. And sometimes the lesson is for the teacher. ❤

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. 🎶❤️🎶

Worth Carrying

Holding your little hand
As we walk
From outside
Thru the doors
Down the hall
To your classroom
Today
Unlike yesterday
I gained
Your trust
And trust
Is always
Worth carrying

Seeing your sweet smile
As you exit
Your car
Walking towards me
On the sidewalk
Stopping for a hug
And a quick
I’ll see you tomorrow
Today, I felt
Your joy
And joy
Is always
Worth carrying

Seeing tears
Fill your eyes
As we talk
In the hallway
At the end of
A difficult day
So many questions
So hard on yourself
Today, I offered
Encouragement
And encouragement
Is always
Worth carrying

As this day ends
I wonder
What will be
Worth carrying
Tomorrow?

Once again, I had the privilege of joining a poetry circle facilitated by Ali Grimshaw https://flashlightbatteries.blog/. It was the perfect end to a long day of teaching. To write, not worrying about what shows up on the page. To listen intently to others and be heard with the same intention. Time to be still and reflect. Not to mention, getting to know people from all over the world. What a joy! ❤️

Scenes from School

Scene One

A third-grade class is entering the music room. One little boy says, “You remember me.” “Of course, I remember you!” He gives me a big hug and says, “I missed you so much!”

He was in my music class last year.

Scene Two

A fourth-grader calls out to me from the cafeteria line. “Hey, Mrs. Morris. What happened to your hair?” “What do you mean?” “Well, it looks whiter.” We had a good laugh.

He was in my music class last year.

Scene Three

Fifth grade is entering the music room. I see familiar eyes smiling above a face mask. Suddenly, this student is hugging me and will not let go. “I missed you so much!” When she let go, there were tears in her eyes. And then, of course, tears in mine. “Oh, my goodness. You were in virtual all last year! Look how tall you’ve gotten!” She nodded her head and smiled.

She was in my music class two years ago. My first year at this school. And we were only in person until Spring Break due to the beginning of the pandemic.

All Are Welcome Here by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

We often talk about the importance of connections. We don’t always grasp their power at the moment. Sometimes we might not see the results at all. And yet, we continue. Each day, learning a little bit more about these precious ones placed on our path. Each day, challenging them to grow. Each day, showing them they are loved.

I am grateful for these sweet reminders on this second day of school. Oh, and for the power of laughter. 😉❤️

Opportunity

Tomorrow is the first day of school. Parents and students will be gathered outside the building early tomorrow morning. Some will be excited, some nervous, some may even be afraid. Once again, they will be coming to school in a pandemic yet to be under control.

I have many thoughts, opinions, and experiences on this subject, but now is not the time. Now I have an opportunity. More important than any opinion I might share.

What is it? The opportunity to greet families. The opportunity to welcome students to the music room, making music with approximately 175 kiddos by the end of the day.

Will it all go the way I have planned? Probably not. And that is ok. Because the next day, I get to do it all again. A little more tired than the day before, but that is ok, too.

As for now, I think it is time for bed…😴

Young Poets

Although I am their music teacher, many of my students are aware I write poetry. Last year, fourth graders had a unit on poetry. I shared some of my poems with their teachers to use however they liked. The connections that occurred were precious.

Students began to ask about my book that was being published. Wanting to know if they would be able to buy it at the book fair. 😉 I assured them there would be copies in the library to check out. They were so excited! I would give each of them a copy if I could.

One day after school, a fourth-grade girl handed me a stack of small notepaper. She had been writing poems and wanted to share! Another day in music, one of her classmates, a boy, shyly handed me a folded piece of paper. “Here are some poems I wrote.” He quickly walked away.

Over the following weeks, I had several conversations with these two young poets. They eagerly shared their writing, and I happily celebrated them.

One of the students traveled to Mexico before the school year ended. I hope she will return next year. The other is transferring to a new school. Brief but powerful connections for me, and I hope for them.

I asked permission to share one of the poems. This young man is confidently referring to himself as a poet now. No more hiding. It is a beautiful thing.

green is for happiness
which means that
trees have happiness
within the leaves
another green that gives
good vibes is grass
that swerves with the breeze

I don’t know about you, but I was impressed! I am going to miss this young man next year. I hope he keeps writing.

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Raising Your Hand-A letter to my former student

I will never forget the first time I saw you, my new student. You hobbled sideways down the hall. Balance so bad, I was sure you would fall. Yet, you had learned the quickest way to get around or getaway!

One of your arms had to be amputated when you were a baby. Your vision and hearing were impaired. I cried at the thought of being your teacher.

I am not proud of my initial reaction. But I had no idea where to begin, how to connect. And no idea how you or I would manage with the other students in my classroom. As is so often the case, you became the teacher.

Oh, it was far from easy. Working to discover what you understood, what you wanted or needed. Sometimes it was trial and error, but you would not allow anyone to give up. And though you were often frustrated, your happy moments were life-changing.

One, in particular, is forever etched on my heart.

Our class was fortunate to have a college student volunteer in our room weekly. He was tall and quiet, and the students loved him. He would push them high in the swings on the playground.

One day, as the students were lining up to come in from recess, something interesting happened. Our young college friend was picking each student up so they could touch the ceiling where they stood. Each one excitedly waited for their turn. Each one reached up as if they were reaching the sky. It was a precious sight.

And then I saw you, my new friend. You were hobbling sideways up the grassy slope as fast as you possibly could move. Making your way up the sidewalk, fully aware of what was happening in that line.

You jumped up and down in front of our college friend, raising your one hand high in the air. There may not have been any words, but you were clearly saying, “My turn! Pick me up now. I want to touch that ceiling.” So, he did. And I have never heard such sounds of pure joy in my life.

I often wonder what happened to you. Even then, I worried about what your future would hold. I hope you are safe and well. You taught me so much in the short time I knew you.

Full-Circle Photo

Some photographs represent full-circle moments in life. I received one of those this week from my daughter.

Graduations are a big deal at our house. Times for celebrating with family and friends. Eating cake and opening presents. Looking back and ahead at the same time.

All three of our children graduated from Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Union knows how to celebrate its graduates. The name of each senior is displayed on placards on the school lawn. Balloon drops and confetti cover the sea of red gowns as caps are tossed in the air!

My husband, Gart, was one of the high school principals for our first two. He handed all three kids their diplomas as they walked across the stage. We have a wall of pictures in our living room to remind us of these momentous occasions.

I have not given a lot of thought to other Union graduations since our family’s celebrations. Until this year…

When I began my teaching career at Union, I taught special education. My five years in this field were challenging and life-changing. That was twelve years ago.

My daughter, Rachel, is finishing her second year as a special education teacher at Union. She spent her high school years as a peer tutor in the very same classrooms. The picture from my daughter was taken during graduation practice. She was standing in the middle of her very first group of graduating seniors. Three of whom were in my class in elementary school.

This full-circle photo was a powerful reminder. As an elementary school teacher, I need to picture my students walking across that stage. And as a parent, I need to celebrate the impact my own children make on this old world. ❤