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!

Inner Voice

My brain hurts
Well, actually
I think it’s numb
Tired body
Tired heart
Words are
Bouncing
Around
In my head
Aim is off
Can’t seem
To find
Their way out
Maybe for the best
Probably wouldn’t
Sound the same
If I said them
Out loud
Perhaps writing
Them down
Would help…

Today, I…
Need to rest
Don’t want to listen
Don’t feel like engaging

Whew! Think I feel better!

After writing this poem, I had a revelation. If I feel this way some days, so do my students. And while I can put my feelings into words, that is not always easy for children.

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t a revelation, but it was a reminder. I need to be aware of facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice-mine and my students. Tempering my actions and reactions by keeping the clues close at heart. ❤️

Not Statistics

They return every day
Same building
Same rooms
Until some move away
And new ones come
Each one carrying
Their own story
Their history
Good and bad
Happy and sad
All blended
Together
Creating empathy
Understanding
And yes, conflict
Frustration
But ultimately
Learning that lasts
For a lifetime
And successes
Not measurable
By any test
Not represented
By any numbers
Because
They are not
Statistics
The teachers
Or the students
They are people
Connecting hearts
Healing heartaches
Every day
In this place
We call school
 
Turn on the news. Read a newspaper-state, local, even national. There will most likely be a story about public education. And it will probably be negative.

This constant negativity can weigh heavy on those of us in the field. Until we see those light bulbs turn on. Witness the progress, even if it is baby steps. Listen to their stories, and they ours. And sometimes, see their hearts.

A young student had been saving his money to spend at the book fair. Always a fun event at school. He was so excited! And then he saw his friend crying because he did not have any money for the book fair.

This precious little boy took his friend with him to the book fair. He shared half of the money he had saved with his friend. They both left with new books and happy hearts, one from giving and one from receiving. ❤️

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. 😉 ❤️