Scenes from School

Scene One: Fifth-Grade Boys

Fifth graders keep me on my toes. Some days, they leave me exhausted and a little frustrated. Other days, they leave me smiling and re-evaluating my life.

We have an afterschool program called Changemakers. Students create and present pitches to the community. Ideas to positively impact the future and make their community a better place to live.

One day last week, I received three business cards from fifth-grade boys. The first handed me his card as soon as he entered my room. The second came a little later during class. And the last one as the students was lining up to leave.

Each card read name, email, and Tulsa Changemakers. Any hesitations were erased when I expressed my excitement at receiving their cards.

Wow! Your own business card! This is great! I will keep these in my wallet.

These students will leave our building after this school year. They will find their way into their teen years. And hopefully, they will continue looking for ways to improve their community. I will be listening for those names!

Scene Two: Fridays and Kindergarten

Securing subs is a challenge these days. Cancellations happen, leaving staff to improvise, share responsibilities, etc. Our saying: It is what it is. We got you covered.

That brings me to kindergarten on Friday. I had an extra class. Students in the second class are not usually in my room. I may see them in the halls, but they don’t really know me.

A little girl from the other class started getting upset with a friend. I smiled. Do you want to come to sit by me? She did and within minutes had climbed up in my lap. She began to chat, asking about my earrings, girl talk. And then, as if our roles were reversed.

I am going to ask you a question. Tell me one thing that makes you happy. And one thing that makes you sad.

Hmmm. Of course, I had to answer.

Well, seeing all my kids makes me happy. They are all grown up. But I am going to see them all this evening! Saying goodbye to my mom and dad makes me sad. They live in another state, but I go visit sometimes.

Well, you should just go visit now!

They live about five hours from here.

Oh my! That would take at least three days!

Pretty sure I made a new friend. I know I met a young teacher. ❤️

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! ❤️

Stop, Look, & Listen

Clearly, my ears are playing tricks
But that sound is so familiar
A waterfall?
Rushing mountain spring?
Standing in my driveway
I know neither is nearby
Still…I cannot resist
The urge to turn around
And look

No, not rushing water
Merely the wind
Strong yet, peaceful
Making its way thru
A proud row of tall pines
I smiled
The wind subsided
Its message clear
At the end of a busy day…rest

The first day back to school after a break is always challenging. Yes, there are lots of smiles, hugs, and high-fives. But there are also tired kiddos and teachers all easing back into those all-important routines.

The first day back during a continuing pandemic adds another layer of challenge. Staff and students out sick, difficulty finding subs. Our resolve was tested on many levels. And yet, we keep moving forward, working together. But we must also remind each other to rest.

Scenes From School

Scene One

Walkway outside the music room.

Several First-grade students: Mrs. Morris! I am signing up for your piano class!

A Fifth-grade student: Mrs. Morris…why is it only for first and second graders?

I am excited to offer a piano club for the first time! It will be for First and Second graders. Looking into offering a second class. Shhhhh…

Scene Two

A group of teachers and school staff members at Target:

It is Angel Tree time at our school. Teachers and staff work diligently to make sure our students have what they need along with something they want. This year, a local corporation sponsored some of our angels. All they needed were shoppers.

What are you looking for?
Here are some cool Legos!
Oh, and these shoes are cute!
What do you think about this hoodie?

Passing each other in the store, all smiling as we searched for just the right gifts. The same as in the halls each day at school. Sometimes with tears instead of smiles, always with concern for our students.

A few of our secret shoppers. ❤️💚

Scene Three

The music classroom.

Me: Today is our student teacher, Mr. Malone’s last day with us. We need to say thank you and goodbye.

Student One: Why can’t he be our teacher? Are you ready to retire?

Student Two: Wait, is he a student? But he is a grownup!

Student Three: (Eyes welling up with tears.) I am going to miss him. (Crying along with a goodbye hug.)

Scene Four

The community kitchen-bustling with holiday cheer.

Friday morning, teachers and staff were treated to a pancake breakfast! The counter was lined with bowls of strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips. Complete with peanut butter, syrup, and whipped cream. The jolly cooks were none other than our administrators!

Two of our three amazing administrators. ❤️

One more week until Christmas break! ❤️💚❤️

Precious Boy

Nothing compares with the contagious laughter of a child. The kind that brings tears because it can’t be stopped. One of my first-grade friends recently demonstrated this phenomenon.

He is always smiling. When I see him in the hallway, in the music room, getting in the car with his mom to go home. Such a sweet boy.

Those with an honest laugh also have a sincere cry…

Today in music class, students sang a song about Thanksgiving. I then asked, What are you thankful for? Such sweet answers. My family, friends, brother, sister, grandma, and on and on. Almost all of them mentioned a family member.

This friend was no exception. He said he was thankful for his mom. I immediately pictured him running to his car every afternoon. Always wearing that big smile.

We ended class by watching and listening to a song about Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t say it is a sad song, but sweet. When the song ended, I teased the class.

You guys haven’t asked me what I’m thankful for!

What are you thankful for, Mrs. Morris?

You guys!

I followed this with a comment about their sweet smiles. And then I mentioned my one friend’s contagious smile and laugh. It was time to line up. I noticed he had a funny look on his face, eyes downcast. So, I asked what was wrong.

Tears began to flow. While the others lined up, I knelt to talk with him.

My sister died. When she was little.

Oh, honey, I am so sorry.

I told him how special it was that he remembered her in his heart.

Precious boy. I will not soon forget his laughter or his tears. ❤️

Scenes from School

Scene One

Fifth-grade girl: Mrs. Morris, I am going to bring you some poems I wrote. They are about love.

Me: (Reading her poems.) She’s right. Love is unpredictable. 😉

Scene Two

Fourth-grade girl walking to the library to return her book. I notice that the book she is holding is my book.
She smiled. “It’s a good book, Mrs. Morris.”

We snapped a cute picture. She made my day!

Scene Three

Kindergarten student: Mrs. Morris, we are coming to see you tomorrow! You better be prepared!

Scene Four

Students drew pictures while listening to a Mozart piano concerto. Here are a few of my favorites from fifth grade. ❤️

Teaching is hard work. This week had its challenges. But I am choosing to focus on the ones that made me smile.

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.