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! 😉

Love to Hope

This was not the subject I planned to write about immediately following Christmas. But I could not ignore the story. A local news headline read, “Toddler critically injured by a gunshot.” None of those words belong in the same sentence, yet here they were again.

An innocent 18-month old baby, sitting in the backseat of a car, had been shot. I don’t know the whole story. Just that someone shot a gun into an SUV and a bullet struck the child.

The shooting occurred the day after Christmas, near my school.
I quickly checked the location of the incident, wondering if I knew the family. Faces of students immediately came to mind. Did they have younger siblings? I didn’t know.

Further investigation showed this specific apartment complex is not one of my school’s neighborhoods. But it was very close.

For a brief moment, I felt relief. And just as quickly, guilt. The reality is a child was shot. And whether or not I have any connection makes the story no less tragic.

I began to wonder. Would my reaction differ if I had known this child or family? Would my anger and sadness lead to action? And if so, what possible action could I take?

Too many unanswered questions. Too many stories repeated. Too many children left with overwhelming emotional scars.

Being a teacher, I sometimes witness the manifestation of these scars. Withdrawal, aggression, and fear top the list. All lead to an inability to connect with others. An inability to trust. An inability to love or be loved.

I teach in a building full of individuals who love every day. We set expectations while recognizing the need for grace. We challenge students while also advocating for them. We mostly smile during the day and sometimes cry at night. I know this is true in other schools as well.

So, how do we continue? Especially in the face of such heart-wrenching stories. We hook arms, grit our teeth, and hold each other up. Remind each other of our purpose. Offer reassurance that what we do each day matters.

We love in hopes of making a difference.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Romans 12:9

” Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Loud and Clear

My house is quiet this first morning of Christmas break. But moments of joy from yesterday ring loud and clear in my mind.

The last day of school before the break is filled with treats, parties, gifts, and PJs. For teachers, a crazy mix of fun and exhausting! When the day was done, one quote came to mind. It perfectly described two events of the day.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Buddy the Elf

As students entered the building, they were greeted by teachers singing and playing hand-held percussion instruments. Jingle bells, maracas, and drums accompanied various Christmas carols.

But the fun did not stop there. Once students were settled in their classrooms, one group of teachers decided to take this musical show on the road.

With instruments in hand and portable BlueTooth speaker in tow, we were off. Traveling through the entire school, past every single classroom. Familiar tunes of Jingle Bells, Frosty, Rudolph, and Feliz Navidad filled the air.

Students and teachers smiled their biggest smiles. Faces pressed against windows, students waved, some sang along. Some eyes even filled with tears. The joy was almost tangible. Most assuredly contagious and loud!

The second event occurred in my classroom. Not nearly as loud, but just as clear in its joy.

My kindergarten class was watching “The Nutcracker Prince.” During the movie, I decided to sit on the floor near the kids. Soon, I had five or six kiddos sitting right next to me, leaning in and smiling.

When the movie ended, I stayed put and asked all the students to move closer. Picture me sitting on the floor, twenty-plus little ones piled up around me.

I started to sing. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”. They all joined in. We continued with “Rudolph” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Their voices and smiles were precious. And once again, the joy was evident. It may not have been as loud as the morning caroling, but it was just as tangible and clear.

My hope is for students to remember our singing. And for the memories to remind them how much they are loved. A simple message delivered loud and clear. ❤

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.  ❤