Community

One day this week, our elementary school glee club took a little field trip. We traveled by bus, only about a mile, to a local supermercado. It may have been a short ride, but it left a lasting impression.

One of our school’s community partners sent a request several weeks ago. Did we have a small group of students who could sing at an awards ceremony? A businessman in the community was to receive special recognition from the Mexican Consulate. That is all the information we received. 

We gladly agreed to participate. The performance would be short and sweet, only two songs. The location was close to school, so it would not disrupt our whole day.

The students were very excited! There were lots of giggles and squeals as we boarded the bus, wearing our new glee club t-shirts. Upon arrival, our community school’s coordinator went in ahead of us to get details. 

While we waited, some of the students noticed a car from a local tv news station in the parking lot. Now there were nervous squeals. “Are we going to be on the news?” 

We soon learned the significance of this celebration. As we entered the supermercado, we were met by people dressed in formal attire. Tables with black tablecloths indicated a fancy reception. Long tables were filled with appetizers and desserts. Servers were dressed in chef’s attire, ready to serve.

Family members and distinguished guests had come to honor one particular businessman for his steadfast work to better his community. And our small group of students got to be part of the celebration. 

Students’ nerves soon settled, and they took their place in front of the crowd. Their performance was energetic and exciting! Through contagious smiles, they sang “La Bamba” and “Oye.”   

Once the music stopped, the air quickly filled with applause, bravos, and the snapping of photographs. Students were then invited to partake of the wonderful food. As a teacher, I was both pleasantly surprised and a little nervous.  😉

There was no reason to worry. Students followed instructions, politely chose their food, and listened to the presentation while they ate. I was even able to sneak a little taste. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a specific group of students.

This whole experience left me thinking about the word community. I suppose I belong to many different communities. Whether through family, home, work, church, each is important. And my responsibility in each varies.

This week, I was privileged to celebrate the community where I work. Our students had the opportunity to show pride in the community where they live. And all it took was a short bus ride, two songs, and lots of smiles.

I hope students walked away with a lasting memory. One which will encourage them to be leaders in their communities, both now and in the future. I know I did.  ❤

Unexpected Wisdom

Kids love to share their thoughts and opinions. Sometimes, they express wisdom beyond their years. I was reminded of this during my second-grade music class.

Our music lesson this week was an introduction to Thanksgiving. Before teaching students a song about being thankful, I asked a question. “What are you thankful for?”

The answers from this particular class were basic and sweet. Food, clothes, family, and friends topped the list. One boy excitedly mentioned his grandmother coming to visit from Mexico.

And then one little girl gave the most precious answer. She very sincerely said, “I am thankful for the food my mom cooks. Even if it is food I don’t like. I would never want to hurt her feelings.”

The more I considered her answer, the more wisdom I recognized. This little girl truly understands what it means to be thankful. Being thankful for something, even if it isn’t exactly the “something” you want. I don’t always display that level of maturity.

Thanksgiving will be here soon. My home will be filled with family, friends, and good food. Hopefully, I will remember that being thankful has very little to do with “things.” It has everything to do with the attitude of my heart toward others.

As for today, I am thankful for the unexpected wisdom of a sweet second-grade girl.

Small Victories

Today was the last day of school before Fall Break. Honestly, I was pretty much in survival mode. My focus was on getting to the end of the day. And I almost missed a small victory.

One particular third-grade class has been a challenge. I’ve had a difficult time connecting with some of the personalities in this group. And I’ve allowed this difficulty to turn into frustration on several occasions.

The classroom teacher for this group is awesome! She is patient, kind, and supportive. She has witnessed my frustration on several occasions. And yet, also recognized my desire to connect with the students. Today’s success began with her.

Last week she mentioned a student’s interest in rapping. There had been some impromptu rapping going on in their class. This knowledge opened the door, giving me a way to connect with one friend in particular.

I asked this student to share in class. His initial response was one of hesitation. He did not share that day but said he would keep working. At least the mood was lighter. I was able to relax and have fun, creating a silly rap myself.

      My name’s Mrs. Morris, and I like to play
       The piano every single day
       I love you guys, but you drive me crazy
       Especially on the days when you act lazy

Yes, I know a career in rap is not for me. However, my students and I had a much-needed laugh. 🙂

Fast forward to today. Students were talking about rapping when they walked through my door. Two students got up to share their rhymes in front of the class. They acted silly and embarrassed, but they did it! The one student I was hoping to reach? Still no rap.

When class was over, I encouraged him to keep working and bring what he had written to class next time. I also reminded him that it didn’t need to be finished or perfect. I tried to honestly express my interest in what he had created.

And that’s when the victory occurred. No, I did not hear the rap. I did, however, hear about his other interests. Suddenly, he was telling me about things he had done as a kid. He was proud of these things and eager to share.

Our conversation was brief. But our conversation was positive. It was the first time this student talked to me as a person. And possibly the first time I truly listened.

During the few minutes between classes, I quietly celebrated.

I have more work to do. I’m sure there will still be moments of frustration. But in between those moments, I will remind myself to look for similar successes. Small victories that are truly worth celebrating!

Neighborhood Walk

It’s that time of the summer. Back-to-school ads are everywhere. School staff members are working hard to make sure everything is ready when the students arrive. It is a team effort.

I spent most of last week preparing my classroom. But on Thursday evening, I experienced a different type of back-to-school preparation. I went on a neighborhood walk.

What an amazing experience! Around sixty school staff members gathered in the cafeteria for snacks and instructions. Our goal? To visit the families of our nine-hundred plus students.

Each team received a list of names with addresses and a map. We drove together to our assigned neighborhood or apartment complex.

Walking door-to-door, we greeted each student at their home. We introduced ourselves and gave each child a backpack. Parents shook our hands, grateful for the information shared. Kids’ smiled, telling us their grade level.

During our walk, one family stuck with me. As soon as we introduced ourselves, the mom began speaking in Spanish. Two precious little girls stood close by her side. Although I could not understand what she was saying, I sensed she was happy.

Thankfully, our assistant principal translated. He told us the mom had shared that her daughter was excited about school. She knew teachers were coming to visit that day, and had been awake since 5 A.M. waiting! The walk did not start until 5:30 P.M. She had been waiting for us all day long! ❤

A little later, we walked back by their apartment. I noticed the little girl standing on the landing with her younger sister. They were playfully hiding behind a post. When she saw us, she looked out from behind the post, smiled, and waved.

The smile on that little girl’s face was the real reason for our walk. Yes, we handed out important information. Yes, we provided a few school supplies. And yes, we were hot and sweaty. 😉 But more importantly, we made connections. We made connections with colleagues, parents, and students.

The first day of school can be stressful. But just maybe, the connections made during that back-to-school neighborhood walk will help ease the stress for our students. I know it helped ease mine. 🙂

Encouraging Student Musicians

Today was solo-n-ensemble contest day. I spent the entire day accompanying brass, string, and woodwind players. Twenty-five of them to be exact. These young musicians spent many hours over the last weeks and months preparing for today. Choosing a piece, learning notes and rhythms, memorizing, rehearsing with their accompanist.

Today, all of their hard work culminated in one brief performance. Each of them walked into a room, faced their judge, and began to play. Making beautiful music. That is the point. At least, it is supposed to be…

No student walks in that room thinking, “I really hope I don’t play well today. Hopefully, I will have a big memory slip.” Those statements are ridiculous! Each student hopes for positive results. They want to play their best. They are hoping for the highest rating and a chance to move on to the next level.

After some of the first ratings posted this morning, I overheard a disturbing conversation. Students who had received their scores were warning other students. “Well, if you make one mistake, there’s no way you will receive a I (the highest score.)” They were attempting to prepare their friends for probable disappointment in this particular room.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting everyone deserves the highest rating. I certainly would not want to be in the judge’s seat. However, I can speak as a professional musician concerning our responsibility to these young musicians. If we are pushing perfection, we have it all wrong.

I’m happy to say the other rooms I accompanied in did not have this effect. The atmospheres were inviting and encouraging. The results in those rooms also accurately reflected the performances. Performances of high school musicians, not professional ones.

As adult musicians, college long behind us, career paths chosen, it is easy to forget those early days of learning. The anxiety that often accompanies those first performances. The searching for approval.

Today I was reminded that this seven-minute performance represented so much for these young performers. They needed someone to acknowledge their hard work. And their hopes for positive results rested in the hands of a complete stranger. Hopefully, a stranger who recognized the power they held in those seven short minutes.



Broken Hearts in Music Class

“Mrs. Morris, you’re breaking my heart.” These words from a kindergarten friend during music class this past Friday.

He walked over in the middle of our Bingo game to inform me someone had spit in his eye. My investigation began, interrupting our game. By the time it was over, only a few minutes, he had confessed the entire story, including the part about him first “spanking” the alleged “eye-spitter.”

The game needed to continue. This was my first attempt at playing Bingo with kindergarten and I wanted to get to the best part! Five-in-a-row and BINGO! The prize, a piece of candy, was sure to be a hit.

My two friends involved in the conflict were not allowed to finish the game. Yes, it was sad, but there are consequences when we make poor choices. Spanking and spitting definitely fall into that category.

My two friends were definitely disappointed. The game continued, and finally we got to Bingo. I got out the candy, and their disappointment turned to devastation. Crocodile tears began to flow along with audible sobbing. And then those words, “Mrs. Morris, you’re breaking my heart.”

The proclamation was followed by a quiet comment about “just getting candy at home,” so I’m pretty sure there were not actually any broken hearts.

Oh, my goodness. So dramatic! It was difficult not to smile. Admittedly, part of me wanted to let them finish the game. In some ways, that might have been easier. Fewer tears would have been shed. But what message would that send to the other students? You can do whatever you want to your friends, and no one will hold you accountable.

When I see my friends again next week, I’m sure there will once again be smiles and hugs. All will be forgiven. And when it’s time to play Bingo again, hopefully, my friends will remember to keep their hands ( and spit) to themselves and play the game. I certainly don’t want anyone else’s heart to be broken during music class. 😉

The Brody Bunch

When our school behavior tech walked into my classroom carrying a beautiful poinsettia, I knew immediately who it was from. As I began to share the story with my students, tears welled up in my eyes.

Before I became the music teacher, I taught special education. These flowers were from the family of one of my former students. Even though I’m not his teacher anymore, his grandmother continues to bring me this lovely gift each year. The tag reads, “We love you, Mrs. Morris.” From “The Brody Bunch.”

My student’s name was Brody. The first year I taught special education, he was in my class. Brody is a funny boy. He has his very own sing-song language. Listen closely and he will let you know if he’s happy, sad, playful or upset. Although understanding his language takes practice, it is worth the effort.

Brody has autism. Our first year together as teacher and student, I had more questions than answers. His family was helpful and gracious as I navigated my new job. Somehow Brody and I connected. He would look directly into my eyes, often a difficult task for individuals who have autism. It seemed as though he was peering right into my soul, understanding much more of me than I understood of him.

Brody’s grandma, know as Meece, was sweet from the beginning. Meece brought Brody to school almost every day, walking him to my classroom. Her morning greetings always started our day on a positive note. Then she and Gramps would pick him up in the afternoons. Brody and I enjoyed a daily afternoon walk to meet them in the parking lot after school.

Although I’d communicated with Brody’s mom and Meece, it had been several years since I last saw him. Last year while visiting another former student at a different school, I heard a familiar song. It was Brody! Looking all grown up and much taller, but the same Brody.  

Not sure if he’d remember me, I walked over to say hello. His approach was cautious, his look at first puzzled. But then he grabbed my hand and looked me directly in the eyes. That same look I’d seen many times before. Yes, he knew me.

The delivery of this beautiful red and green poinsettia not only added some holiday cheer to my messy desk, but it also brought a flood of memories. Memories of both the challenges and joys of those first teaching experiences.  Memories of the challenges Brody faced and continues to face.

Memories of one precious student and his amazing family-The Brody Bunch.