how to get folks talking for no reason

I leave the high school chorus room and head straight out into the parking lot, blazer on one arm, clear party glass full of bubbly, golden beverage in my hand. I’m singing to myself, like I do far too often. I stumble in my heels and slosh said beverage all over said blazer.  I try to play it off and keep heading for my car.

Black High HeelsOh, hello couple in the truck 25 feet in front of me probably waiting for your grandson to come out of the locker room.  Thanks for staring. 

Never mind that it was white grape juice and ginger ale for a party to celebrate a retiree.  Never mind that the parking lot is full of rocks, and my middle name isn’t Grace. Never mind that no group of teachers in their right mind would drink on campus.  (Don’t Google that, readers.  You’ll find reports of teachers drinking on the job, and I’ll remind you that they weren’t in their right minds.)

I can tell, sweet couple, by the look on your faces that you think I’m actually that stupid.

Ah, well.

remember3More importantly, it’s a pretty amazing thing to celebrate someone who has served students for 30 years.  Congratulations, Mr. Don Greene… Teacher of 3rd Grade Me, Elementary Choir Genius, Rhythm & Staff Reading Taskmaster, and Encourager of Many.  May you spend all summer in your garden of Eden (I mean, yard) without a single sunburn, and may you never, ever again have to write a lesson plan in yet another new format.

Advertisements //an embarassing post//


A few days ago, I upped my nerd points by tweeting Reeve to ask what to do when your toddler sings in a lower key than the one you set.. Yeah, I’m really getting picky here, but please, Popular Kid, don’t abandon me next to the lockers just yet.

We briefly went over vocal development of infants and toddlers in a music ed class I had back in the day.  I remember, because we held that class at Carribou Coffee.  (Dr. Huff, you’re my fave.)  We probably had more than one session on it, but I don’t know, because no coffee.  Children’s voices are a little higher than adult voices.  I start twitching a little when I hear adults leading kids too low, but I’ve already said too much about that.

We frequently hear our son busting out an “ee-yi-ee-yi-yo” from his crib, and all the pitches are in right relationship to each other. In other words, he’s in tune.  When I sing the first line and he responds, sometimes he matches me.  Sometimes, he completely ignores whatever key I’m singing in.  Is this the new rebellion?  Sing in F-sharp when Mom is in G?  For real?

So I set out to make a video to capture this phenomenon to show Reeve, whom I’ve never met in person.  My nerd points just lifted the roof off the gym.  (I fully intend to get to one of her shows and you should, too.  March 15th, maybe?)

Please note that I am not auditioning for Y’all Got Talent via this video.  This is my “singing with kids” voice.  My “singing for other people” voice may or may not be different.

Clearly, this is not what I was going for, but I knew someone would appreciate the uber-cuteness of my son.  AND – did you catch that?! It’s like he knew I told people he sang lower than me and decided to overshoot on purpose.  Pray for me.  My child is extra-rebellious.

Bottom line: Should you worry about how in tune your toddler is?  No.  Just sing.

Gymnasium roof, you may now return to your rightful place.

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.

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?

the end of the year & dean smith

“If I can’t give this team that enthusiasm, I said I would get out.  And that’s honestly how I feel.”

That’s what Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith said at the press conference to announce his retirement.  He still loved basketball, but he was 66 at the time. He was just ready to do something else.

Former UNC Coach Dean Smith, Tar Heel Basketball Legend

Gallery 2 Images

I’ll be 31 in about a week, but I know that feeling that he’s talking about.  Ready for something else.  I’ve never met a teacher who wasn’t excited about the coming of Summer.  Even the best of us, who love every child and smile every day, need a break.  The end of a year brings testing [groan, sigh, stomp, groan again], weird schedules, squirm-in-your-chair assemblies, inventories, cleaning, remediation, packing… But worst of all, the kids know it’s over.  They’re mentally checked out, leaving them with little motivation for anything constructive.

I spent 7 years working full-time.  Nate (our third child) was born last August, and I took the semester off.  I started working part-time again in January.  Less than five months of only 3-4 hours a day.  So why am I burned out?  It’s not the students.  It’s not the curriculum.  It’s not the administrators.  It’s the end of the year.  This is normal, even in the very best circumstances.

Q: Why did Dean Smith wait to have this press conference on the first day of Fall practice? 

A:  Wisdom.  Every basketball season –unless you win the National Championship– ends with a let-down, and he knew that he shouldn’t allow that to cloud his decision.  He was in a unique position in knowing that if he stepped down, the program to which he’d dedicated his life was in good hands.  He waited out the end-of-the-year blues and waited to see how he’d feel when practice started up again. Normally, he’d feel “charged up” again. But October 1997 rolls around and for the first time, the enthusiasm wasn’t there, and so he left.  I really admire that.  I wish everyone had the option to walk away from a job that they aren’t loving in order to do something they do love.

Unfortunately, in my school district, teachers are asked to sign on the dotted line in April or May every year — right as the descent into the muck begins. Are you coming back or aren’t you? And unfortunately, things like paychecks and benefits and lack of immediate options can force our hand to the contract page.  Furthermore, we don’t all have a Bill Guthridge waiting in the wings to take up where we left off without a hitch, so it wouldn’t be fair to students or administrators if we waited until the first day of class to say, “Um, nah.  Not feeling it.”

We teachers have to do this thing on faith.  While staying late to clean up cumulative folders, make a point to remember the high points of the year.  When you are still tracking down that lost power cord that belongs to someone down the hall, be grateful for the rest you are just about to receive.  When it hurts to think about doing this all over again,  ask yourself if there is a child who is going to wake up soon and wish they could be at school with you.  And if you are a believer, be sure of your calling to this ministry called teaching.  If you’re not sure, it’s time to get that settled, because it could be time to step out in faith in a new direction.  You don’t want this end-of-the-year feeling to be your beginning-of-the-year-feeling, too.