Question?

Question of the week-
Which is harder
Only seeing faces
On a screen
Or seeing faces
In-person, yet
From a distance?

The computer screen
Filled with little faces
Smiling, waving, singing
An adventure
Controlled chaos
No group hugs
Yet, welcome connection

The short visits
In-person, tho
Physically distant
No pats on the shoulder
Yet, beautiful smiles
Kindly delivering
Much-needed messages

Both experiences
Bring a rush
Of emotions
Tears, happy and sad
Despite attempts to
Swallow the lumps
In my throat

Maybe it’s not
A question of difficulty
Instead, a reminder
Both complex
And beautiful
Of how desperately
We need each other
Up On the Roof by Carole King/Gerry Goffin
"And if this world starts getting you down
There’s room enough for two…"

Ripple Effect

Our district, Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK, currently has four sites working daily to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for children in our community. In one week, over 70,000 meals were distributed. Today marks the end of week four.

It takes a massive amount of work for this to happen. There are so many people behind the scenes planning, organizing, preparing for this need. And many other volunteers step in to help with distribution.

Whether they realize it or not, those working in the background are creating ripples. Not just a pebble tossed into a pond, more like a boulder lobbed from the shore. All of them working together to create a lasting, powerful ripple effect.

Just imagine. A family drives through the line. They receive enough food to feed their children for that day. And they can do the same thing the next day. Actually, every day, Monday through Friday.

The parents and children realize how much their school community cares for them. They share their experience with friends and extended family. A tiny glimmer of hope in an unsettling time.

No, this is not the answer to all of the problems families are currently facing. Many are dealing with job loss, not to mention isolation. But not having enough food? I cannot imagine the fear that brings.

I hope it is these kinds of things we will remember when this time has passed. People recognizing a need and doing whatever it takes to fill that need. People working tirelessly with no thought of their own recognition.

I hope these difficult times remind us to stop and look around. To see acts of kindness. And to recognize each as a ripple with the ability to become a wave.

A wave of compassion that has the power to wash over us all.

A ripple effect with endless possibilities for positively impacting the future.

Welcomed Guest

Computer screen
A dozen windows
Energetic teacher
Excited students
Smile and wave
Learning together
Finding their way
In this new normal
Students engaged
Sharing projects
Listening intently
A read-a-loud
Started before
Quarantine
Now continued
...during
In this new
Familiar
Yet, unfamiliar
Space
Older siblings
Quietly sneak 
In the background
Hoping to be seen
Younger siblings
Sit in laps
Soaking up
Extra attention
And me?
Grateful to witness
The energy of
A dedicated teacher
Grateful to see
Smiling faces
Hear familiar voices
To say, “I miss you.”
Grateful to be
A face in one
Of those windows-
A welcomed guest

Cues

Cue-a signal (such as a word, phrase, or bit of stage business) to a performer to begin a specific speech or action.

When I think of the word cue, it is usually about music. As a pianist, I’m very good at giving and receiving cues. For example, I might follow a singer’s breathing or lead them into an entrance with tempo/musical changes. The cues help us stay together, resulting in beautiful music.

This week, I’ve been forced to listen to a different kind of cue. It actually took several days for me to even recognize that it was a cue. 

If only it had been a musical cue. 

But no, this was an emotional cue manifesting in a physical symptom.

The first time it appeared was around 5:00 p.m. I had planned to cook dinner-homemade meatballs, roasted veggies, and pasta. 

All the ingredients were ready.  

Suddenly, I began to feel a little nauseous. “Hmmm, that’s weird,” I thought. I immediately began to worry about getting sick. But I hadn’t been anywhere, and it was not likely. I almost changed dinner plans to take-out.

But then, I decided to push through. We needed a home-cooked meal. It would surely make us all feel better. So, I cooked. It was yummy. I even baked cookies. When the cookies were done, I realized the nausea was gone.

The same thing happened the next day, at the same time. Curious. 

“I wonder if this is stress?” I asked myself. This time, my daughter and I took a short walk around the neighborhood. Guess what? Nausea once again disappeared.

That night, I told my husband what had happened. I also expressed that I thought it was a reaction to stress over all the changes occurring right now. He agreed. 

Somehow, just sharing how I was feeling helped.

As I thought about this more, it made sense. I may be putting on a good front, staying calm, and saying I’m not worried. But truthfully, these are unsettling times and they are affecting my emotions. This little cue was trying to get my attention. Trying to tell me it’s ok to not be ok.

The time of day also made sense. Each time I noticed this feeling, it was around 5-5:30 p.m. This is the time of day we would normally be getting home from work. Everyone would be sharing about their day, talking about what went well and what didn’t. Talking about students and what we were planning the next days, weeks, etc.  

That has all changed. We are together most of the day at home. Not knowing when we will go back to work. Worrying about our friends and family. Worrying about our students. All things that are out of our control.  

No wonder my physical cue was nausea.

The most important thing about cues? They require a response. How could I respond to this one? Well, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.   

  1. Take a walk
  2. Tell someone how I’m feeling
  3. Cook
  4. Play piano

This experience also made me think of our kiddos. How do they react to stress? What is often their first complaint? “My stomach hurts.” I guess some things never change. 😉   

Take care of yourselves, friends. Listen to your body and pay attention to your emotions. Don’t be afraid to say how you’re feeling.  ❤ 

I See You

You walk down the hallway
Eyes forward, downcast
Your expression distant
As if somewhere else
Maybe at home
Maybe your previous school
I don’t know, but
I see you
A storm, churning
Under the surface
Barely able to
Maintain control
I can’t help wondering
What happened to you
What made you
So angry
I smile and say
Good morning
Your glance is quick
Your words inaudible
Standing in the breakfast line
You remain stoic
Surrounded by
An invisible wall
Your actions
Presenting a mystery
I am afraid
To solve
Tomorrow, I will
Greet you again
Hoping for a small
Crack in that wall
Allowing in a little light
To let you know
You are not alone
I see you

I wrote these words after a brief encounter with a new student at school this morning. An encounter that left me sad, but challenged. I have no doubt there is a story. Another one in a sea of many, I’m afraid. Another student in desperate need of connection. Another student facing unimaginable challenges.

I wish my words were an exaggeration. That tomorrow, someone would inform me I was mistaken. That this kiddo was just having a bad day. But I know that is not the case.

And yet, I have hope. Hope that seeing one child at a time, right where they are, can make a difference. ❤

Singing Along

I introduced a new song to my classes this week, “You-Nique.” It is part of a music curriculum entitled “Quaver.” Music teachers in our district are participating in a pilot of this material for the remainder of the school year.

My impression so far? It is a game-changer. The material is innovative, relevant, and engaging. It grabs the attention of students and does not let go.

The song I mentioned is only a tiny part of the material I utilized this week. But what a powerful piece. On the chorus, the main character sings:

“I’m brave, I’m strong, I’m loved, I’m smart, and I’m unique.”

Each time I pressed play, the room fell silent. All eyes watched the video and listened to the music. There were smiles and lots of head bobs. Many students were soon singing along.

Each time the song ended, without fail, someone would blurt out, “Can we hear it again?!” “Of course! But let’s talk about it first.”

Not only was the song catchy, but it also allowed for a great discussion. I asked students what they thought the word “unique” meant. Their answers ranged from beautiful and special to different.

I asked students if they ever had days where they did not feel strong or brave or loved. Some nodded their heads; others raised their hands. So honest.

I wanted them to know they were not alone. I told them there were times in my life when I didn’t feel strong or smart or loved. My intent was to acknowledge their feelings while also encouraging them.

Wouldn’t you know they ended up encouraging me? One sweet little boy spoke up, “Well, Mrs. Morris, we all love you!” “Oh sweetie, I love you guys, too.”

The song ends with the line, “And there’s no one else in the whole wide world, exactly like me.” I think we have a new favorite song. I have a feeling it will be requested often. And I look forward to singing right along with them.

The Grandma Connection

Teaching begins with connections. Teaching over five hundred students every three days makes this quite a challenge. Sometimes it happens when least expected.

This was the case with one of my fourth-grade classes. It all started before Christmas break when one student called me “Abuelita.” We all had a good laugh. The end. That is what I thought…

https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2019/12/19/a-new-nickname/

Fast forward to the first week after the break. The previously mentioned fourth-grade class came to music. We reviewed classroom expectations and played several rhythm games. And then I heard it again- “Abuelita.” I laughed, “You guys are so funny.”

For the remainder of our class, their name choices for me expanded. Students were calling me Mom, Mama, or Grandma. I smiled and went along. Even as they lined up to leave, I heard, “Bye, Grandma,” several times.

I still didn’t give this much thought, until walking through the building one morning.

Some mornings, I like to walk through the building before my classes begin. My intention is not to interrupt, just to see students in their regular classroom. And for them to see me interacting with their teachers.

I took one of these walks one morning this week. A few students smiled and waved. I talked to a couple of teachers in the hallway.

And then I passed by that fourth-grade class.

They all started jumping up and down and waving. Their sweet teacher smiled. I peaked in the door and said good morning, apologizing to the teacher. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Everyone started calling me Grandma.

I suddenly realized this was a connection! A connection I could have never planned-The Grandma connection! Being an adopted grandma might not be so bad! 😉