By now, most people have seen the video about Mitchell Marcus, a developmentally disabled boy, and how he was treated with total kindness and sportsmanship during a high school basketball game. If you haven’t (grab the tissues!), or you just want to see it again, here it is:
I told you that tissues were needed!
As a teacher, it warms my heart to know that students out there understand the importance of treating others, especially those that may have things a bit harder than most, the way that we want to be treated.
For me, the best part about this video and the story that it tells is that it reminds me of MY students! I teach around 500 students each week, and the level of kindness and understanding that some of them show to their peers is mind blowing and beyond their years! Our developmentally challenged students aren’t shunned or made to feel left out in group scenarios; other students clamor to take those kids into their groups and under their wings for their time with me. Our students are empathetic, compassionate, and kindhearted….to the point where I have to take a minute to compose myself at times. The gym teacher has shared stories about scenarios in her classroom similar to the Mitchell Marcus video, and it makes me well up with pride just hearing how our students act when they think no one is watching.
There are always going to be a few “bad apples” in the bunch, but I am so proud to say that they are few and far between at my school. I feel lucky everyday to work in a community that raises such wonderful kids and with people that are committed to fostering this kindness in the future generation.
Now that the school year has ended and summer school teaching has wound down for me, I finally have a chance to reflect on my first year as an elementary music teacher. My first three years in the field were spent at the middle school level – what a change it has been! I was so used to the attitudes, the resistance to learning, and an overall negative aura in classes (these were general music classes – where students got dumped if they were not in a performance group), that I was taken aback when I began teaching my new students last September!
I have learned so much from this year that I wanted to get some of it down to remember. Of course, this year has taught me so much more than I can fit in this post, but these were definitely some of the highlights (in no particular order):
- Keep a stockpile of tissues and hand sanitizer at all times! As cute as they are, elementary kids are a walking pile of germs! In one year alone, I’ve seen enough nose-picking and pants-digging to make a grown man cry!
- Never underestimate what elementary kids can do. Coming from the middle school level, where I was able to make wonderful music with the choirs, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much with younger kids. I was happily mistaken! These kids LOVE to be challenged! The musical ability of students as young as 1st grade astonished me and I realized that elementary is incredible because of just that – I am the one that gets to foster these abilities and instill a passion for music in these students before they get to MS.
- Communication is key! Even though this applies to every level of teaching, I found that I made more phone calls and wrote more emails this past year than I did in the last two years of teaching combined! Parents WANT to be involved at this age, something that differs slightly from the MS level. Once they leave elementary, I have found that a lot of parents dismiss music as “not a real class.” I found that elementary parents want to know how their children are doing and how they can improve when they are in my room. It’s actually quite refreshing and has gotten me over my dislike for making phone calls.
- Homemade is always better. I never expect to receive anything from my students, so I am always grateful when they think of me for special occasions. I have come to learn that while store bought cards are very sweet, I really love the homemade cards and gifts that I’ve received. I love how many different ways children spell my name and the crooked letters make them so much more endearing! I make sure to keep a file of things I’ve received for one of those not-so-happy days….they are sure to make me smile!
- Celebrate the little things. Elementary school children are small, but they have such huge hearts. They have taught me that even the smallest triumphs and successes can and SHOULD be celebrated!
What is it about January 1st that makes people want to change? Is it the idea that a new year equals a clean slate? Do we really get more motivated at the strike of midnight? Who knows! I have to admit, I do slightly play into the hype. The new year is a time when we all take a look at what we have done and accomplished in the last 12 months and decide how we want to better ourselves in the coming new year. I don’t typically like to use the word “resolution,” as it has a bit of a flakey connotation to me; I much prefer the word “goal.”
In the spirit of Auld Lang Syne, here are my goals for 2012:
Become more organized.
Personal: I believe that clutter equals stress, and I constantly feel like I cannot fully relax at home because there are things that need to be organized. My goal is to organize these areas of my home and develop systems to keep these areas clean and tidy so that I can more fully enjoy my time at home.
Professional: Part of my advice for new teachers is to stay organized. Even though this is my fourth year of teaching, it’s my first in this position and in elementary school and I could definitely use some attention in this area. My goal is to better utilize online resources to streamline my lesson planning as well as to create systems in my classroom for better organization of papers, music, and classroom materials.
Personal: Even the control freak in me realizes that we can’t always plan for things or events in our personal lives. My goal is to better plan out the things that I HAVE to do (I’ve been known to procrastinate heavily when it comes to chores and car maintenance) so that I can better enjoy the things that aren’t planned….hopefully they are more fun! 😉
Professional: Planning ahead in my teaching lessons has never been something that I’ve done well, and I am not entirely sure why. It’s been especially tough this year because I am surrounded by so many new resources and so much new information for elementary music that I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what I want to work on with my kids. My goal is to plan my lessons at least a week in advance, though I am striving for two. Consequently, I am hoping that planning further ahead will help with cohesiveness between lessons, particularly with my older students that I only see once a week.
Make more time for people.
Personal: I am by no means a hermit, but I do enjoy my alone time. My goal is to make more time to connect/reconnect with the people in my life, especially my family. We suffered quite a few losses this past year, and it reminded us all that life is too short and very fleeting – you have to enjoy the time that you have with each other and make the most of it. That’s what I intend to do.
Professional: I want to make myself more available to my students and colleagues in the coming year. My goal is to set up extra help time for my students before/after school – many have requested it, but the first half of the year was quite an adjustment for me and I could never wrap my head around it. I also plan to eat my lunches in the faculty room or with other teachers instead of working and eating – the faculty at my new school is so sweet and wonderful. I want to get to know them better and for them to know more about me.
Of course, there are other things that I plan to work on, both personally and professionally. Another big goal is to eat healthier – I tend to get tunnel vision when I am working on a project and I often forget to feed myself! Admittedly, I can also get lazy and resort to fast food when I’m “not in the mood” to do anything. By eating healthier and at home more often, I will save money as well as help my often weak and unreliable immune system. I will also be participating in the Project 365 photo challenge (though it will be 366 this year) to help me better appreciate the little things in life. I created a new Posterous account just for the challenge!
I’m hoping that by writing out my goals and committing to them in front of all of you, I will hold myself more accountable…I hate to disappoint!
What are your goals and resolutions for 2012? Would love to hear about the things you plan to work on both personally and professionally!
As a part of our last-day-before-break-lesson yesterday, I taught my 1st and 2nd grade students a Thanksgiving Song that I learned when I was their age. It was always near and dear to my heart, and it really hit home to be on the teacher side of the song this time around. I will admit, I got choked up.
Hearing all of the children’s voices singing, “There are many things I am thankful for…” made me really start to think. This is the time of year that everyone starts to speak up about the people and things that they cherish, and I am no different. I would like to think that I show how much I appreciate everything on a daily basis, but the truth is, we can always do more.
An unexpected loss always makes you reevaluate the way you handle yourself and your life. Did I tell my family members that I love them often enough? Do I thank people for the little things? Do I reach out and connect/re-connect with the people in my life that I am missing? Did I offer help/support to someone in need? These are the things that I have been thinking about the past few days, even months.
- I’m thankful for the family that I still have, no matter how far apart or out-of-touch we may be.
- I’m thankful for the few close friends that I hold dear.
- I’m thankful for the many new connections that I have formed through undergrad, grad school, my job, and my wonderful PLN.
- I’m thankful for having a job that makes me happy and gives me a sense of purpose.
- I’m thankful that I have been afforded the opportunities that I have been – my life was in a very different place 5 years ago.
- I’m thankful to be alive and healthy and happy.
Life is so very fleeting and you never know when things will change – cherish what you have now and don’t ever throw away the chance to be with someone you care about or the chance do something that makes you happy. Don’t wait for a holiday or an unexpected event – start now.