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.

Check out my first poetry collection! Available at the following links.

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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. ❤

Unfinished

Surely by now
I should be
Finished growing
I’m certainly tired
And somehow, tired
Leads right to selfish
Question after question
How much longer?
When can I do
Whatever
I want to do?
Seeing the words
On paper
Saying them
Out loud
Makes me want
To erase them
Suck them back in
And yet, they remain
Telling me I still
Have lots to learn
And in turn
Lots to teach-
I saw it in their faces today
Thru smiles and frowns
Unfinished lessons
Unfinished me

This is the point in the school year where I find myself thinking, “Do I have the energy to do this another year?” I am tired and ready for summer. But interactions with students this week confirmed that I am not yet finished. And a time of rest will provide the energy needed to start another school year.

Today I had an arm wrestling challenge with four third-grade boys. Can you say end of the school year? One more week…

Caution, Kids at Play

There have been many discussions in recent days concerning play in education. I don’t want to discuss the how’s and why’s of whether or not play is crucial to a child’s development. As a teacher and parent, I have witnessed its benefits.

The opportunity to pretend and create and have fun is vital to a child’s happiness and success. And today, with only seven days left in this crazy school year, I was reminded of this truth most surprisingly.

The end of a school year is challenging. Teachers are tired, students are stressed. Emotions run high. Particularly for students making transitions for next year. Oh yes, fifth graders. The last few weeks of school with these friends can be particularly challenging.

With that in mind, I tried to keep things simple. Give up some control. We have played rhythm games, bounced balls, hula hoops. There have even been a few rounds of hot potato and musical chairs. Sometimes things went well, other times…well, let’s just say no one was injured.

Today was a little more laid back. Students love to color, so there were music-themed coloring pages. Almost everyone in the class grabbed a paper. They quickly circled up around the basket of crayons and markers. That in itself caught my attention. They were laughing, talking, and sharing. They were playing.

It gets better. A few of the boys didn’t want to color. One asked if he could read a book. The other three were quietly talking. I noticed one of them lay down with his head underneath a chair. He said, “I’ll fix it.” Strange, I didn’t know it was broken.

Suddenly, all three boys were on the floor, heads under the chairs. I called my reading friend over and asked what they were doing. “Oh, they’re fixing cars,” he said. I watched more closely. One was “on the phone” with a customer. They were talking back and forth, mentioning specific types of cars.

Then it hit me. These boys are playing pretend! Fifth-grade boys are pretending to run an auto shop in the back of the music room. Wow! They needed time to play. And I needed to be reminded that they are still kids.

Dream Keepers

Children are the keepers of dreams
Their imaginations
Opened wide
With hope for
A bright tomorrow
Children are the keepers of dreams
Their imaginations
Dashed, stunted
If not acknowledged
If not encouraged
Children are the keepers of dreams
If only we would listen
And remember what it’s like
To fly to the moon
While swinging on a swing

I was excited to share this poem with my colleagues. My hope was to give encouragement for this final push of the school year. It was a reminder for me to take a step back and focus on my students. Make sure these last weeks of school are fun and memorable…even though we are all a bit tired.

The day I shared the poem ended up being the most difficult. It started out great and quickly descended into hot mess status. Me, the kids, my hair…the air was heavy and thick with hot-mess humidity.

And still, the words I had written the night before remained true. Children are the keepers of dreams. I was reminded as a fourth-grade girl brought me her poems to read for the second day in a row! And again, when a sweet first-grader told me she really liked my hair. (It was possibly my worst bad hair day ever.)

Maybe I need to get outside this weekend. Breathe in the fresh air. Go to the park and swing on the swings. And remember, it is my job to be an encourager of those precious imaginations., even on hot-mess days. 😉

Fading Away

I can never unsee
The look
In your eyes
Or the bruises
On your legs
I can never unhear
Your response
When I asked,
What happened?
Little hand in a fist
Tearful words…
Me mommy
How was that possible?
I did not understand
But never doubted
Your brave declaration
Forever seared
In my memory
Words to be
Recalled years later
During the trial
I will never forget
But knowing you
Are happy now
Seeing you smiling
Your bright smile
Helps bad memories
Begin to fade
I hope they are
Fading for you

I have not written about our friend, Marie, in a long time. Face to Face with Child Abuse: Personal Reflections of a Teacher But she is coming to visit this weekend! I am both nervous and excited. Recent pictures show how much she has grown and changed. And her smile-bigger than ever! Hoping to add to her list of happy memories. ❤

Rockstars

Kindergarten teachers have my heart. Imagine spending your entire day with twenty-something little bodies. Helping them learn how to get along, be part of a group, understand expectations. It is not for the faint of heart.

This school year brings additional challenges. The many levels of stress due to the pandemic affects both students and teachers. Not to mention the trauma many of our students have faced and continue to face.

All that said, these teachers are still smiling at the end of most days. And still finding ways to encourage others. I would say, kindergarten teachers, are rockstars! ❤

Today’s Lesson

Carefully folded
Pieces of paper
Some covered
With drawings
Of hearts
Music notes
Happy faces
Sad faces
Neatly stacked
On my desk-
Drawn by hands
So small, hands
Still learning
How to write
How to get along-
Simple messages
Meant to cheer
While saying
I’m sorry
Signatures
So sweet…
A humbling
Experience
For this grown-up
Teacher who has
Hard days right
Along with the kids
As we navigate this big old world-
Our lesson for today?
We can make
Tomorrow
A better day-
Big or small
Young or old

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… ❤