Category Archives: Personal

Kindness

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.

Awww, Shucks…Now You’ve Made Me Blush!

Wanted to repost here since it contains some of my favorite Music Ed people!

Adventures with Veggies

I have only been at this blogging thing for a short time now – I write two blogs, this one and a blog about my adventures as a music educator. Both are just starting out, with around 10 posts each, and each has very modest statistics. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Facetious Firecracker (freakin’ hilarious blog – go read it now!!) nominated Adventures with Veggies for the “One Lovely Blog Award” and the “Sunshine Award” – THANK YOU!

Of course, there are rules that go along with these things! Check it out:

One Lovely Blog Award

  • Rules are as follows:
    • Link back to the blogger who nominated you
    • Paste the award image on your blog
    • Tell 7 Facts About Yourself
    • Nominate 15 other blogs that you would like to give the award to.
    • Contact the bloggers that you have chosen and let them know about the award.

Here are…

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What I Learned From My First Year in Elementary Music

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!
So there you have it – some of the lessons that my new cherubs taught me throughout the year. I am honestly looking forward to going back; I have yet to have the same position for two years in a row, so I am excited to watch these kids grow and mature. Elementary was definitely a wonderful move for me!
What are some of the lessons you learned this year? Please share them below!

A Special Moment

          About two weeks ago, my third grade recorder students, along with my fourth and fifth grade chorus put on their first Spring Concert under my direction. Before accepting this position, I was a middle school chorus and general music teacher, so this was a first for me. Working for and trusting me to lead them for this concert was a first for them, also, so there was a lot of trust involved. We did two shows, one for the students and teachers of our school during the day, and the actual concert that night for the parents and families. Both performances went well (though the nighttime concert was a bit smoother) and I have received nothing but positive feedback from my principal, the parents, and the kids.

I was expecting behavior issues from some students and a few minor logistical issues, but I was definitely not ready for the moment that I had with a third grade recorder student before the start of the evening performance. As the principal and I were calling all of the recorder players up to the stage to take their places, one little boy passed us and he was clearly upset – eyes and face were red, tears were on his cheeks. This particular young man happens to be on the spectrum, so I was especially concerned and approached him as he took his spot. I asked him if he was alright, and he assured me that he was.

I walked away but a few minutes later noticed that he was still visibly upset. I led him off the stage (this was before we had officially started the program) and behind the curtain where I had stashed a bottle of water for such situations. I let him take a couple of sips before letting him know that it is perfectly normal to be nervous during a concert and that it was all going to be great, especially since we had already practiced during the daytime performance. This young man looked me right in the eyes, with tears still streaming down his cheeks and said, “Ms. M., I’m not upset because I’m nervous, I’m crying because I’m just so happy!” With that, he grabbed his recorder, tears still falling, and scurried back to his spot on stage.

This little boy’s comment just about knocked the wind out of me – I had to stay behind the curtain for a moment to recompose myself before walking back out. I made sure to let the principal in on the moment that I had just had, and tears filled her eyes as well. Our student’s pure joy and excitement at the prospect of performing was overwhelming – for him AND for me! What a reassuring comment for a new elementary teacher to hear, even if this boy didn’t realize it. This special moment is one of those little gems that remind us that what we do makes a difference and that it has a purpose. When I shared what happened with his mom last week, she assured me that her son would not forget the concert and his music teacher; I assured her that I would not be forgetting her son and the moment that he shared with me!

Have you ever had one of those moments at a concert or at any other time? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

Is an Online Music Degree Right for You?

Online DegreeI am about to begin the very last class in my online Masters degree in Music Education and I am EXCITED to say the least! It’s been quite a journey and I am thankful that I was able to get my degree while teaching full time in a wonderful district. Even though I love being a student, I am ready to have some more free time in my schedule for other things that I love, like relaxation! 😉

When I began researching grad schools, I knew that I had quite a few options: I could go back to school and take classes at night (going back to school without working was not an option), I could take a summer intensive program, or I could get my degree online. After weighing all of the different options and doing a lot of research, I chose the online option.

There are pros and cons to every choice, both professionally and personally. Below, I have listed some considerations when choosing a particular program and how they relate to my experience.

Convenience

Because I am a working professional, the convenience of an online program was one of the biggest draws for me, particularly because it saved me the hassle of commuting to campus (all of the local universities are at least 30 minutes from me). I also liked that even though each class started on a certain date, I was not required to log in at a particular time.

What I learned very quickly was that, although the lack of a commute is very convenient, many aspects of the classes are scheduled and required. Several of the courses required our attendance at scheduled “live classrooms” during the week. Because we were not in a typical classroom setting, there were often 100+ students in each class, so we were divided into sections with different facilitators. We were often asked to meet with our facilitators in a live classroom setting during the week as well.

Duration of Program

Another huge draw to my program is that each class is only 7 weeks long as opposed to the typical class length of 14 weeks. That schedule has allowed me to finish my degree in less than two years, and that included a leave of absence because I wanted to wait for a particular class for my elective. In my research, I did not find an on campus program that offered 7 week classes instead of the longer duration, but choosing an on campus program would have allowed me to take more than one course at a time.

One of the drawbacks of having such short classes is the fact that each class is 4 credits worth of work – which means a TON of work in a short amount of time! Throughout the duration of this program, I have ALWAYS had something to do, something to read, something to post or something to research. Which brings me to….

Workload

Many people think that choosing an online program may equal less work, but I can honestly say that I had a completely different experience! In an online environment, the only way to convey understanding is to hand in assignments. I’ve written more papers in the last year and a half then I did in all of my high school and undergrad career! The reading starts to add up as well – we were told that we should “read like a grad student” in order to stay on top of things. I’ve even acquired a spiffy set of reading glasses from all of my hardwork.

Relevance to Your Field

When choosing a grad program, you have to be sure that it is relevant to your field and what your goals are. The drawback to choosing an online program is the lack of human contact and ability to create truly personal relationships with classmates and professors. Another issue to consider, especially in music, is the lack of a performance aspect in an online setting. As an undergrad music ed major, I was required to take lessons on my major instrument, as well as piano, and perform in juries at the end of each semester. Personally, I missed the performance aspect in this degree and would love to have had the opportunity to see/hear my classmates show off their abilities.

Do I think that I made the right choice with an online Masters program? For me, yes. Do I think the online setting for this particular degree is for everyone? Definitely not. My advice?

DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Know what is important to you. Make sure you understand everything that you are getting into. If you’re considering an online program, make sure it is accredited. Most of all, know what you are looking for and don’t compromise.

What type of program did you choose for continuing your education? Would love to hear your opinions on each type of program in the comments!

We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet…

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.

Plan ahead.

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!

I’m Thankful For….

Being Thankful

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.

Photo credit: formerlyfluffy-wls-blog-success-demands-actin-100-things-to-be-thankful-for.jpg