more happy dance & how a tearjerker song made me grin

And today, purple paper made me do my happy dance.go purple paper, go purple paper–

I learned several years ago that having a signature paper color for important documents and handouts is a smooth move for a teacher.

  1. It sometimes never gets lost in bookbags.
  2. Parents are impressed that the local school system is rich enough to buy color paper. {Shhhh…. They need not know who purchases the pigmented parchment.}
  3. It turns the back aisle of an office supply store into a disco.  —go purple paper, go purple paper–

Lime green, teal, and now “Planetary Purple” from the Astrobrights line by Wausau Paper hath made me dance.  Thank you, trees.  Thank you, dye.

You know what else made me smile?  This conversation:

Me:  Gab, you wanna check my memory on these verses?

G:  Yeah!

Me:  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

B:  Now do the one about outerspace treasure!!


G:  You mean…?

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Me:  (woah)

Thank you, Jesus for your toe-stomping words, and thank you, Lara Williams for your challenge to memorize those words.

And for my final trick, I will tell you how the saddest song I can think of at the moment also brought me joy this week.

My new (larger!!) roster of recruits students showed up yesterday morning.  They were cautious, not sure what they’d gotten themselves into.  After an hour, I felt I had them posed to jump on board.  Then one girl said, “Well, you should sing for us.”  So I preached a little more about how even I still get nervous doing this sometimes, and I promise I’ll never make you do something I won’t do myself.

Two, three… four song titles, and I’m not feeling even one of them.  Someone says, “Do you know Tank?” Um, no.  Shoot.

One of them mutters something about how I Can’t Make You Love Me is her jam.  (Non-teenager people:  That means she loves that song.)

WHAT?!  Does Tank sing that?  Kids, Bonnie Raitt is my hero.  Well, one of the many.  And yes, I know that song. It’s my jam, y’all. Done and done.

For the first few lines, one of the kids is kind of uncomfortable that I’m singing, and she’s being silly to cover it.  I decide not to give my don’t talk while others sing speech.  I start to realize how hard it is to sing over the air conditioners and get worried that I sound dumb.  What a professional I am. Then, before I get to the chorus, I hear two girls whisper to each other, “She can sing.”  “She sho’ can sang.”

SCORE!!!!!!  I think I hooked ’em.

Thank you, Bonnie Raitt and your ridiculously sad song.

new shoes, a dream, & a happy dance

These shoes are one of my favorite things today.  B feels infinitely cool in them, refers to them as his ‘rockstar’ shoes, and informed and proved to us that they’re fast.  A new pair of stellar shoes, like a fresh haircut, is like a new lease on life to me.  Going shoe shopping the first school night of the year is a new one for me, but we have all learned to be pretty flexible considering the number of meetings, lessons, and rehearsals that must be attended by either Mom or Dad most nights of the week.

Tomorrow, I think I may get a real roster.  By real, I mean more than 5 students in each class.  That’s the hope, anyway!  The poor guidance counselor practically lives at the school, so if he decides to eat dinner at home tonight instead of changing schedules at 7 PM, I’ll get over it.

Some teachers look at me with crazy eyes when I say I want more students, but would you want to try to lead a choir with 3 people in it?  We aren’t the Andrews Sisters, people.  Although one time, I did have 5 freshman girls who sang SSA music, and I kind of felt like B in his shoes.  (Non-Musician timeout:  SSA means soprano-[2nd]soprano-alto.  In other words, they sang 3-part harmony.)  It’s my dream for this school to have a choir that represents them well in the community.  I’d love to hear people saying things like, “They’re small, but they’re good!”  “Did you know 12 kids could sound like that?!”  “I thought those kids were too bad to be out in public, but they were great today.”

Another favorite thing today?  Calling my husband on the way home from work and being able to say that I executed a certain teaching strategy better than ever before.  The assignment that used to get practically no results actually got kids thinking and talking today.  —doing my little celebration dance–  

Why was it more successful?  Because I broke it down further than I ever have before.  Itty bitty, teeny tiny baby steps help people who have previously been unsuccessful feel that success is possible.  {REMEMBER THAT, ME!}  Teachers call it scaffolding.  Parents call it raising kids.

BANG! {and they’re off!}

The boys are down for a nap, and I’m waiting for my brand spankin’ new 1st grader to come home.  (New to first grade, not to me.)  “Waiting” makes it sound like I’m killing time, but I just finished writing my to-do list in green dry erase ink.  Everything needs to be purposeful (including blogging!) because school is back in session.  Go back and read that last phrase in your slow motion voice.

Whiteboard Markers

The kids’ laundry is cooling in the dryer, my big honkin’ pink binder impatiently waits to collect yet unwritten lesson plans, and a black leotard is faintly calling, “Find me!  T minus 2 hours…”

There is some wisdom in advice that says to leave your work at work, but I find that impossible to do, even if I leave my copy of my curriculum standards in the school building. During the opening day assembly in the dim gymnatorium, I smiled to myself remembering how excited G was this morning.  When I got home, I wondered how many of my recruits will actually get to have their schedule changed to include a music class.  My two worlds bleed into each other in my mind and heart, whether I like it or not.

I loved the reminder from Lara Williams today that God prepared these jobs (big and small) for me.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by them as long as I remember that he chose and has equipped/is equipping/will equip me for this spot I inhabit today.  I feel like I have quiplash after typing that.

T minus 30 minutes til I hear how awe-inspiring it is to be a first grader.  Better get that laundry before it’s stone cold!

zeroing in with your help

If I say, “music teacher mom,” what are you thinking?

If I said, “a blog written by a music teacher mom,” what would you expect to read?

In staff training at school last week, I learned that I’m a “green” personality with almost equal “blue” tendencies, according to the True Colors personality assessments.  To simplify, this means I’m an {over}analyzer who looks for the heart connection. (Mr. Man, the hubs, interjects here to say that he thinks I’m way more green than blue.  I digress…)

I need to know why and for whom I’m writing.  I think I’m finding the purpose for this blog.  I’m a mom.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a learner.  Put those experiences in the blender with some coffee and froyo and pour it into the address currently in your browser.  (That is, unless you’re reading in a blog reader.  I digress…)  Back to my questions:  Does ‘music teacher mom’ create that expectation for you?  And what kind of things might a music teacher mom have to say that could be valuable for you?

Thanks for helping me with my green and blue traits today, y’all.


“You’re all about the gimmicks,” he said nonchalantly.

Looking back, I think my coworker was partly right.  At the time, the words really stung, and I rejected them entirely.

Last week, I taught the Bible lesson every night at VBS.  It took me 2-3 days to get past the gimmicks of the activity-hyped and somewhat incoherent curriculum to figure out how to teach hearts.  It turned out to be a lot simpler than I realized.  I still used portions of the curriculum as they were intended, but my focus shifted.

As opposed to checking off which activities we could complete in order to learn the lesson, I began asking myself questions like, “What’s the take-home message here?” and “What do kids already understand about this concept?”  Yeah, pretty basic, huh?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in wrapping up the teaching in a pretty package that we end up ruining the gift.

I think I’m to a stage in my public school teaching that I’m over the gimmicks. Believe me, I still love a good catch phrase or a cute bulletin board, and I’m fascinated with marketing in general. It’s just that those things are more peripheral now, and I can’t go home for the day feeling good about my work if the best thing that happened was finishing cutting out those game tickets I laminated. (That’s still really painful to admit that I’ve ever had those days.)

Yesterday at the end of our school staff retreat, we were asked to write down our goal for this year.

I want my students to walk out on the last day of the semester almost shocked at the skills and knowledge they’ve gained.

No gimmicks.

possibly too much pre-coffee irony

A few of you may have noticed that button over to the left that says something about mornings.  You may have groaned at the sight of it just because of the ‘m’ word, but it’s a heart warmer for me!

Columbia River Gorge at Sunrise, From an Elevation of About 7,000 Feet 05/1973

Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent to some other women who are taking the Hello Mornings Challenge.


I began this challenge back in January, when groups were assigned (randomly, I guess?) and I hadn’t met any of the participants.  The challenge started about a week before I went back to work after having taken a semester off.  A few weeks after that, I began experiencing odd medical symptoms that have had me back and forth to doctors all year long.  Weird symptoms, a stressful teaching environment, an infant who wasn’t sleeping well… It sort of seemed impossible, but it wasn’t!

Because of the Winter session, my heart is believing more and more that early morning time with the Lord is crucial Twenty more minutes of sleep isn’t going to make a difference in my symptoms, but twenty minutes of time with the Lord will make a difference in how focused and loving I am today.  And you know what else?  One of the people I have leaned on the most through these tests and doctor visits is a woman with a similar story that I met through #HMC11.  Think that was a coincidence for us to be put in the same group?  I don’t!

I sent that 2 days ago.  Then this morning, my youngest woke up crying 20 minutes before my alarm went off.  And I was so focused and loving irritated.  The irony is not lost on me.

Really, I was irritated because I knew he wasn’t going back to sleep easily (or maybe at all) and I just wanted the silent morning all to myself.  I’m selfish.  And that is exactly why I need the Hello Mornings Challenge.  I need some accountability – via social media – from other women who have the same thing in mind:  getting up earlier than the rest of the family so I can spend time with God (and maybe even exercise and plan ahead for the day!)  I’m a selfish woman who will become less selfish if she gets that all-to-herself time with God.  (Again, ironic?)

Taking on my days this way has impacted me so much that I decided to be an Accountability Captain this go round!  Being a leader makes me step up my game, so here’s to more consistency!

I’m linking up at Inspired to Action today and Kat (our fearless pre-dawn leader) asked if we have any tips.  I do.

Use a plastic baby utensil to stir your coffee, and you’ll never hate your silverware for being too loud.

how ’bout them questions?

We made a decision!  I’m headed back to work part-time at the alternative high school.  Best part?  After crunching the numbers and realizing we had no option, my husband looked at me and said, “I would have told you that you should go back anyway.”  Why?  (I know you were thinking that, too.)  “Because I feel like the Lord has called you to work with those kids.”  Well, okay then!

So teaching in the public school setting is back on my mind and my Pinterest boards.  And I keep hearing/reading/experiencing stories of kids, we’ll say ages 3-30, being less independent these days.  When you stir those things up along with a couple of jigsaw puzzles and a handful of “Huh, Mommy?” moments, you get a blog post on the importance of asking high-quality questions.

The child’s question:  Where does this piece go?

Good response:  Well, where does this tiger’s eye go?

Better response:  What do you see on the corner of that piece?


The child’s question: Can I go get dressed now?

Good response:  Did you put your cereal bowl in the sink?

Better response:  Have you done everything you need to do here?

The child’s question: Whuhhhhh?

Good response:  Did you hear me say it’s time to get ready to go?

Better response:  How long do you think it will take you to be ready to go?

Spoiler alert… made-up word ahead. The point is to be two steps ahead of your questionee.  Don’t ask a yes or no question if you want mental independence.  You’re wasting precious time.  Don’t even ask a question with an obvious answer, unless you’re working with a 2 year old.  Ask the question just beyond that, and your questionee will usually answer both for himself.  If they can’t, step back with them and work through the progression.  The older a child gets, the further away you can step with your questions.

Whatever you do, don’t lecture all the time.  BOOOOOOOO, lectures.  You know you hate being lectured.  And don’t ruin the beauty and usefulness of questions by using them as a lecture.  I absolutely detest hearing teachers practically yell questions at students that aren’t expected to be answered.  You know you’ve seen an adult back a child up against a wall and say, “How many times do I have to tell you….?!”  That kid has just learned that they’re not responsible for answering your questions.  They’re just responsible for standing with their eyes on the floor.  We won’t go into all the other problems with that scenario today.

Asking good questions is an important part of a relationship.  When you’ve been listening well, you can ask a deeper question.  When you ask a deeper question, you can often see the heart behind the response.

Who doesn’t want to teach hearts as much as they want to teach minds?