My classroom is a big open space. Perfect for music! I created smaller areas within this large space using sit spots. A big circle, visible right as students enter. We use this space for movement activities, games, drum circles, etc. A rainbow row of dots in front of the Smartboard. These create rows where students have their own music spot to sit.

We often move from one area to the other multiple times in one class period. This was true Wednesday during first grade. As students began to transition from our circle to their music spots, I noticed one precious girl assisting a friend. She was speaking calmly and sweetly to her friend. Both of them smiling, holding hands.

I was just about to remind this helpful girl about the location of her music spot. After all, she was heading in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I did not say anything. An interruption would have been sad. The friend she was helping is a sweet boy who happens to have Down syndrome.

We have some awesome paras in our building. They attend specials with specific groups of students. Because of their disabilities, these friends just need a little extra guidance to have a positive experience in class. These ladies provide invaluable assistance which makes that possible.

Although success in regular education settings is an important goal, how much more valuable is gaining a friend? For a friend can help us in ways no one else can. A friend is something we all need. Some might even say having a friend is a success.

This week I witnessed a sweet new friendship. I hope it continues to grow. I hope to encourage many more.   

List the Positives

Yesterday I vowed to keep a list of positives throughout the day today in hopes of helping my mood and focus.  Well…I have a list.  It took me until lunch time to actually start writing anything down, but by the end of the day my list covered both sides of a post-it note.

  •  Cooler weather
  •  Students positive responses to having a choice between whiteboards and popsicle  sticks for writing or constructing their rhythmic patterns.
  •  Hearing, “I got it right!”
  •  Receiving three books from students off of my book fair list.
  •  Unplanned, improvised “singing” of one of those books.
  •  A student who has severe anxiety, always sits alone and doesn’t speak to me,  accepted a music stamp on his hand when leaving class today.

Was it a perfect day?  No-there’s no such thing.  But was it a good day?  Yes.  And even though I may not be able to use my mood as an indicator for the success of the day, I can look back on my list and be reminded of the things that were good.  Funny thing is, almost all the items are things over which I have little or no control.

So what do I have control over?  Continuing to look for the positive.  My responses to the people and situations I encounter.  Loving my family, friends, and students.

Any guesses which book I sang today?  It was super fun!




What is a champion?  The word often brings thoughts of athletes, winning the ultimate game.  Webster’s definition includes warrior, fighter, defender, one fighting for the rights of others, and lastly the winner of a competition.  Although I like the order of those descriptions, there is much more to this idea of being a champion.  Or at least there should be…

Do I think of myself as being a champion in my role as wife? Mom? Teacher? Friend?   Truthfully, no.  But what if I did?  After all, each role is important and has the power to influence and encourage my family, friends, students, and community.  What if I consistently worked hard at improving my skills in each role?

The official music video for Carrie Underwood’s song “The Champion” (feat. Ludacris) does a beautiful job of expressing the broadness of this word.  Included in the lyrics are invincible, unstoppable, unshakable-mixed with images of hard work, honesty, integrity, and sacrifice.  People from all walks of life, facing every kind of challenge imaginable, working hard,  persevering.

I love watching my students’ reactions to this video.  Of course, the song is energetic and exciting.  They love to sing along.  When I ask what people they notice, the answers are all over the place-football player, swimmer, surfer, soldier, someone with cancer, a person with prosthetic legs-you get the idea.

What they don’t usually notice, however, are the students, teachers, parents-doing everyday things.  They are students.  As I like to remind them, doing school is their job.  But do they consider themselves champions in that role of being a student?  This is not a naturally occurring thought for them-or for us as parents and teachers either I’m afraid…

It’s never too late for a new mindset, right?

So where to begin?  The answer will be different for each of us.  For me personally, maintaining motivation is a constant struggle.  Lack of sleep, feeling tired, possibly getting sick-anxiety levels begin to rise leading quickly to negative thoughts-I don’t think I can keep doing this, am I a good teacher, have I been a good mom-a rapid, downward spiral pulls me away from the much-needed motivation.

Sometimes the spiral slows with a prayer, a deep breath, a confession of feelings to a trusted friend. Other times it requires tears, and possibly a nap.  Thoughts begin to refocus. A successful lesson, an encouraging word from a colleague, and a reminder that what I do has value, and therefore requires hard work.

Eventually, the search for motivation begins all over again, and I look for ways to make changes and improvements in my chosen roles. And who knows? Maybe there will be that moment where I feel like a champion.

Even better–maybe someone who crosses my path will feel like a champion.


Ready or not, here they come!

There are exactly ten days left until the start of school.  My fellow teachers and I are busy bees, frantically working to prepare our classrooms.  Searching for just the right bulletin board border, inspiring posters, room arrangement, etc.  Even though the decorations are not the most important aspect of this process, I do want my room to be warm and inviting.  A place students look forward to visiting which encourages them to be creative.  Since I spend most of my days in this space, the atmosphere is also important for my personal well-being.

This year begins my tenth year as a public school teacher, first a special education teacher and currently an elementary music teacher.  The ten-year mark has me thinking more closely about my focus as a teacher.  Why am I doing this?  What would I like to accomplish?  How long will I stay in this position?  Maybe my questions have something to do with turning fifty this past year…who knows?

I have chosen the word connections to guide my attitude for the coming school year.  After all, the success of the year is dependent on positive relationships with both colleagues and students.  Fellow teachers, no matter their age or level of experience, have something to offer.  A fresh idea, a long-tested method, contagious energy-discovered only when we take the time to get to know each other, listening and investing time-connecting.

And what about my students?  Why are connections so crucial?  Because music is personal.  Styles are endless, and we all have our likes and dislikes, especially kids.  Unless I take the time to get to know my students and let them get to know me, how can I expect them to explore and create?  Yes, they may learn basic music skills, building blocks, history.  However, unless they make a personal connection and recognize that music is all around them, I haven’t done my job.

This is not an easy task.  As the music teacher, I see between 400-500 students.  That’s a lot of names!  And I struggle with remembering names in general.  So that’s where we begin-movement and rhythm games, not only sharing our names and our favorite (fill in the blank) but hearing them repeated back to us.  Simple I know-but surprisingly empowering.  When students realize another person likes the same color, animal, food, song-a connection is made.  A first step…

Those first days back are exhausting!  It’s easy to become overwhelmed (and a tiny bit irritable) with the newness.  Adjusting all over again to the daily schedule and expectations.  This year I want to push past all that and see the people in front of me, colleagues and students.  I hope connections are made that very first week.  Connections which will become building blocks, and grow into an amazing, music-filled school year!

Ready or not!IMG_0301IMG_0299







A Father’s Day Story

How do you measure success?  Money, material possessions, travel, adventure?  Facing constant pressure to seek the “next best” makes success difficult to define.  A recent conversation with my dad led my thoughts to this subject.  As he gathered souvenirs to share with children at their church’s VBS, I began questioning him about his travels and compiling a list of his mission trips.  The word “success” permeated my thoughts.

My dad is a carpenter, strong and gentle, a man of few words.  A hard worker who spent much of his life building homes.  I believe however, his work in volunteer missions truly defines his success.  My dad ventured nineteen times to Brazil, five times to Mexico, twice to Guatemala, and once to England.  These trips often involved church construction in poor, remote locations.  He also volunteered in twelve U.S. states on multiple occasions, building, remodeling and repairing churches, as well as working in tornado and hurricane damaged areas.

Mom often accompanied dad on these trips.  Both now in their seventies, they once again prepare to travel, this time to South Dakota.  Most people would say, “You’ve done enough, rest.” Nevertheless, they continue to be faithful, embracing opportunities to serve others.  In the words of my dad, “Not too bad for a bashful old country boy.”  Now that is what I would call a success story!

Happy Father’s Day dad!  I love you!dad