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. ❤

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! 😉

A New Nickname

Nicknames can be mean, intended to make fun of their recipient. But they can also be funny and endearing. I’ve had several during my lifetime. Spaghetti and Kelley Girl top the list. Each name attached to a person or memory.

This week I received a new one. And though I’m unsure of the original intent, I have no doubt about the outcome. It all began with a group of fourth-grade boys.

As students entered my classroom on Monday, I overheard some boys laughing and saying, “Abuelita.” I smiled, “They think I don’t know what that means.”

“Did someone just call me Grandma?” I chuckled. “I am not your Grandma, although I am old enough.” I smiled, assuring them I was teasing. The boys grinned.

Soon we were playing Christmas Song Bingo. The group of boys was a little chatty during the game. After reminding them several times to be quiet and listen, I decided to have a little fun.

With the help of Google, I discovered how to say, “My grandson talks too much” in Spanish. After repeating the phrase in my head several times, it was time to act. I quietly walked over to the boys, leaned down and said, “Mi Nieto habla demasiado.”

The look on their faces was priceless! We had a good laugh and continued with our game.

At the end of all my classes, I like to stand at the door and tell each student goodbye, have a good day, see you next time, etc. Today was the “Abuelita” class again. As they were leaving, one of the boys smiled, gave me a big hug and said, “Bye, Grandma.”

I have no idea whether or not my new nickname will stick. But if it does, I will answer. It represents a connection with another student. And that is what truly matters.

Pep Talks

Who doesn’t love a good pep talk? Especially a memorable one. A couple from favorite movies come to mind. Aragorn’s rallying speech at the Black Gate in Return of the King. Or what about the final scene from Dances with Wolves. Wind in his Hair shouts his message of lasting friendship to John Dunbar from a nearby ridge. Both are examples of acknowledgment and encouragement during difficult times.

I have recently found myself on the receiving end of some pep talks. One of them came from me but most were from my husband, Gart.

My chat with myself was relatively simple. I was taking a quick bathroom break between classes, preparing to rehearse for our upcoming Veterans Day assembly. As I caught a glimpse of my frazzled reflection in the mirror, I muttered something like, “Just breathe. You can do this. You can do this.” It helped a little.

Gart’s pep talks were much more beneficial. His words reassured me of my skills as a teacher. He took the time to acknowledge my state of exhaustion. And he described strength in me that I don’t always recognize.

The funny thing is, I’m not sure I realized how much those pep talks were needed until after they occurred. And even though I reacted with tears, a weight was immediately lifted. I suppose that’s what happens when a pep talk comes from someone who knows me so well. Someone who challenges me and loves me no matter what.

Our pep talks may not qualify as blockbuster movie moments. But in my reel of life’s moments, they are more than simple highlights. They are crucial moments etched in my memory. Moments that keep me going long after the sounds of the words have faded.

Any Other Way

Yesterday, a little kindergarten girl asked me about my kids. I don’t remember her exact question, but I responded, “They are all grown-up now.” She looked at me with her big, wide, beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you still their mom?” This sweet girl has no idea of the impact of her question.

What is it like to be a parent of young adults? It is something I’ve pondered quite a bit lately. My parental role is in a constant state of flux it seems. As are my emotions.

Not only has this season caused me to reflect on my years of parenting, but it has also given me a new perspective concerning my own parents.

In a recent conversation with my mom about my kids growing up she said, “Well, you left home at seventeen and never came back.” I’d never thought about it in such black and white terms. Don’t misunderstand, she was not being negative, simply stating a fact. One intended to help me better understand my feelings.

My children are finding their way as adults, following their own paths. And my reactions are helping me to understand how my young adult decisions impacted my own parents. They loved me through some challenging times, and never stopped being my parents. Our bond has only grown stronger. I hope my children will be able to say the same.

Both laughter and tears will cover the days ahead. And some days, there will also be uncertainty. The uncertainty which accompanies figuring out my new role. That is what it means to be a parent.

One simple question from a kindergartener opened the door for this reflection:

Yes, I am still their mom.

I will always be their mom.

And I would not want it any other way.

Future Teachers and Frogs

Driving to school this morning, I was feeling a bit tired. Honestly, I was having one of those “not sure how much longer I can do this” attitudes. I love music and teaching, but it is exhausting. The amount of energy required is for the young.

Thankfully, two things helped my attitude change. The first was a college student coming to observe my classes as part of her teaching practicum. This young, smiling face greeted me at my classroom door.

It was the perfect way to begin the day-discussing teaching with a future teacher. She asked thoughtful questions. Questions which made me think about what I do and how I teach. She took notes, smiled, and participated right along with students. 2nd graders even rushed over for a group hug when it was time for her to leave.

Our conversation time was brief. She was only in my classroom for two and a half of my morning classes. But what a breath of fresh air.

The second game-changer was a little green frog. K, 1st, and 2nd graders met Freddie the Frog today. I was a bit nervous. Last year, this little green friend breathed new life into my teaching. But what if it didn’t work this time? What if the kids didn’t buy it?

The simple truth is, kids are kids. They loved Freddie! I smiled as they watched him while they sang, eyes wide and curious. And once again, I felt that surge of energy.

Students were anxious to give Freddie a high-five and a hug goodbye when class was over. They whispered in his ear, and he even got a few kisses on the top of his head. Precious.

Will tomorrow have its challenges? Yes. Such is teaching. Such is life. But I will approach tomorrow with the memory of today. Remembering the much-needed spark which came from a future teacher and a little green frog. ❤ 🐸

Emotions of Change

I survived the first full week of school! By Friday, I had cried several times and was feeling overwhelmed. Not that it was a horrible week, I was just exhausted.

As the relief of the weekend arrived, I began to contemplate the many reasons for my emotions. One answer stood out-change. Change, even positive change, is difficult. And this year is going to be filled with change.

I taught at my previous school for nine years. As far as jobs go, this was a record for me. It was comfortable, familiar. I knew the layout and the great people who worked there.

My new building is beautiful. It is a welcoming space filled with a positive, dedicated staff. And though I love entering each morning, it is still unfamiliar. I’m learning my way around.

For the past five years, I taught with the same two ladies. Teaching art, music, and P.E., we truly were the dream team. We quickly transformed from colleagues to good friends, sisters. I didn’t realize how much I would miss seeing them every day.

My new team is amazing! We are in a larger school, so there are six of us. Two teachers for each subject-art, music, and P.E. They’ve already helped me more than they know. But we are just beginning to know each other.

Learning my way around a new building. Getting to know new colleagues. Connecting with a new set of students.

As I considered these changes, I began to think about my almost five hundred new students. They are facing changes as well. Summer ending and school beginning again. For many, it means attending a new school.

Learning their way around a new building. Getting to know new teachers. Connecting with a new set of friends.

They are experiencing similar changes. And if these changes have such a powerful effect on me, how might they affect my students? Are they also feeling emotional and overwhelmed? Most certainly.

As I approach the upcoming school week, I need to be more aware of emotional reactions in myself and my students. We will work through the growing pains together and come out stronger on the other side. In the end, the results will be worth the change.