Level 2

A short while ago, I shared that I had passed my Praxis PLT test.  This was a wonderful day for me.  I had passed, on the first try, a test I had heard horror stories about.  A test that requires all teachers to show knowledge about the theorists we learn about in college.  Yet this test is not required to be taken until one’s third year of teaching.  To me, this implies that we would teach in such a way that we would try all of these theories on our unsuspecting students.  We all know this is so not the case.

Despite passing this test, my journey towards a Level 2 license was not complete.  I had to a form signed by my principal that stated I had passed the test, completed a new background (which came back faster than the score for the test), and numerous other requirements.  I then had to send it off to our HR department so they could verify the information and recommend me for Level 2 certification.

So, it took care of the paperwork and sent it off through district mail.  And waited. And waited. And waited. And began to get slightly frustrated not because I had to wait, but because no one even verified they got the document. Admittedly, I had had things lost through district mail so maybe my view was colored but I thought it would be at least courtesy to send an email saying they got it.  Wouldn’t you? It seemed it was easier to prove a bank or credit union had received my mortgage papers than it was to get a district to even acknowledge anything had come in.

I will admit, I only waited a little less than two weeks.  I was a bit impatient.  I just wanted to know if they got it.  So, I sent off the email.  I requested the receipt of the document.

I guess I waited just long enough…I got a return email! And…it said all of the information had been verified so I could now follow the link provided and pay $55 more to upgrade my license.

I did it! I paid that rotten fee and I got my new license! I even saved a copy on my computer just in case. Good for five years. YAHOO! 

But the whole process has left me questioning why teachers have to pay so much to relicense or upgrade their license when 1) the whole process is required by state law, 2) teachers aren’t really paid all that well, and 3) whether other organizations make them pay for their licensing or recertification.  I mean, I know most officers don’t have to.  Their departments usually cover all costs.  I only know this because of knowing someone who is an officer. But, I don’t even know if the costs are equivalent.  I just know that I paid $150 for the test, $60 for the background (less by $20 because I was an employee), $55 for the upgrade and could have paid for testing supplies and/or classes to help me prepare for the test.  Which, of course, is less than I paid when I was going for my teaching license the first time around. And that doesn’t even cover the time it took to take classes required for the upgrade that thankfully didn’t cost money, just several hours of time each.

At least I can say…I made it.  I got to the Level 2 club of teaching.  I can get back to working with students!



Choral Biases

When I think of choral bias, I immediately think of the comparisons that are often made between instrumentalists and singers.

Let me explain: 


When I was in high school, we had band and choir.  I participated only in choir, as that was my love, but I had many friends in band.  We hung out, we talked music, we participated in musicals together, etc.  It didn’t seem to matter whether you were in the band or the choir or both.

However, when I got to college I was in a for HUGE shock.  Not only was I a small fish in a big pond where competition amongst was enormous but now I had to contend with those who looked down on me.  The first class I remember attending that had both instrumentalists and singers in it was my piano class.

Now, I had taught myself how to play the piano simply because my grandparents didn’t believe I actually wanted to learn the instrument. Thankfully, they saw my desire and got me into lessons. The problem was in that I had taught myself so much, the teachers I had assumed I had more technical skills than I did.  This plagued me for years.  Because of the lessons I ended up taking from my choir teacher (who was a fabulous pianist) I continued to get better at playing and even accompanied one of the choirs I sang in on multiple occasions.  However, my technical skills still weren’t that fabulous when it came to scales, arpeggios, and Hanon (since I had never heard of that until I got to college).

Anyway, the first day of piano class came and we all introduced ourselves.  As soon as I said that I was a vocal major, I saw an immediate response that SHOCKED me.  A vast majority of the students looked at me with disgust on their face as though being a singer was a “less than musician”.  Some even voiced that opinion.  They said things like, “Oh…you’re a singer” and “Do you even know what the piano is?” The teacher even shared their opinions.  Every day after that, I felt as though I had to prove my worth as a musician.

Ok…I know, you’re out there saying “Well that’s just one class!”. Well, I hate to say it but you’re wrong.  That was only the first one.  Every theory, sight singing, dictation, or conducting class, etc. where musicians were not separated by instrument, I got the same response.  I didn’t get it.  Why did they think singers weren’t good enough?  Why did there seem to be such bias?

I have had many years to ponder this and experienced more instances when this happened both in and out of school.  I’ve even seen it as a choir teacher from my students’ parents.  Why does this happen?

One of my colleagues, that is a trombonist and teaches orchestra, and I talked about this.  He had never thought about the things that I shared.  Yet, as we were discussing my experiences and feelings, he realized that he too had participated in such events.  He admitted making fun of the lack of musicianship he had seen in singers.

Over the years, I’ve had many theories.  They usually come down to the teachers and/or parents that pass on bias to their students.  This is usually in the form of how difficult it is to play and instrument compared to how easy it is to just open your mouth and sing. Not even looking at how difficult it is to maintain pitch with or without accompaniment, how difficult it is to maintain respiration just as a trumpeter or oboist.

However, I have also noticed that too often there are singers that decide they want to be music majors but have failed to prepare themselves for the rigors of the program as much as they should.  Sometimes, they have been repeatedly advised to prepare but have failed to do so. Unfortunately, more often than not, they get to college unprepared because they either didn’t have a teacher to inform them of the requirements, a teacher that was qualified to inform them or a teacher that spent all of their time making choir “FUN” that the skills of a musician never got taught.  The students sounded great but didn’t understand what they were singing, why they were singing it or how it was created.

Both of these theories may not have been proven but they did seem to align with what I hearing from my colleague.  He felt I was definitely on right track. 

Well, the bias I have, has definitely been influenced by my experiences because of the feeling I had of always having to prove my worth.

It manifests itself in how rigorous my choral program is and the expectations I put on myself to prepare for class every day.  It meant that my first year I put an inordinate amount of pressure on myself to create that rigor and maintain it.

It manifests itself in what pieces I choose, what I teach my students, and the standard that has been placed on my students as I try to create a solid program that can compete with two of the finest musicians I have been privileged to work with…the band and orchestra teachers. Their skills make me want to be better.  They never try to make me feel inferior, yet I do.  The bias I have lived with for so long still performs in my mind and constantly recreates itself so I feel like I am still proving my worth.

I find that those same biases I complain about, I have had for my students.  I found myself, in my first year, comparing students based on whether they had taken piano lessons or not prior to taking my class.  I was finding myself wanting to teach to those students who had previous musical experience before those who had not.   What a terrible thing to do!

Thankfully, I realized what I was doing.  I can’t say it was a quick realization but at least it happened.  I realized that just because one of my students has had musical training prior to my class does not guarantee they will understand what I have to share with them. Sometimes, it’s the so-called ‘non musician’ that understands it first.  Today, I look at each student, make sure they understand, ask specific questions to check understanding and see how they apply the knowledge.  It is fascinating to me when it all comes together.  


Music and Collaboration

If you haven’t already realized I often think and communicate in the form of song, you haven’t read enough of my blog entries;) I don’t go through the day without having had many concourses of songs pass through my mind by the simple expresses of a word or phrase given to me in conversation with students, colleagues or family.

I was just reading an article about how bringing music and song lyrics into the classroom can impact the learning in your classroom.  The author even goes so far as to say:

“It’s amazing how song lyrics dig themselves deep into our minds and stay there our whole lives.

However, when we want to learn something and try to memorize it, it won’t stick as easy as a song will.”

That got me thinking.  

What do you when your WHOLE CLASS is all about music and especially song lyrics? Well, in my case, you try to make sure the lyrics mean something to the students.  You discuss them together, you listen to the student’s thoughts and feelings about the text, you try your best to make them understand why the composer and/or lyricist wrote the lyrics in the way they did.

But this article was about those OTHER CLASSES. 

“Music and lyrics can play powerful roles in the classroom. They can help students remember key content. They can encourage conversations. Plus, there’s great fun in creating music that relates to class content.”

That brought a thought to mind I’ve had many times before:



especially those that teach CHOIR?

The sad reality is…I don’t think we always know or will always know.

I know a lack of collaboration can occur because sometimes there’s a disconnect between “CORE” subjects and “Elective” subjects.

Intentionally or Unintentionally, teachers of so-called “CORE” classes think their class in more important and don’t see benefit in a class where you prepare music, therefore no thought of collaboration happens. But I’ve seen this happens with classes that are deemed “Elective” courses just like music is.

Sometimes, there is an expectation of the music class to work on specific types of music so, in this case, it could the music teacher’s reluctance to collaborate because it might interfere with “their plans” or required competition or even the expectation the community has for the required performances of this class.

I think a lot of times, it’s just not thought of.  Collaboration is often thought of within one’s content structure.  Math teachers collaborate with Math teachers. Science teachers collaborate with Science teachers.  Choir teachers collaborate with Choir teachers.  This goes on and on.  It’s there in excess once you hit the middle/junior high school or high school realm.  Everyone is thinking about what “I” need “my” students to do in “my” class.

I have had a dream for a number of years where the bounds of collaboration are broken.  Where a Math teacher can find ways to work with any other subject and make relevance.  I know this happens often with Elementary school teachers, but that is sometimes because that teacher teaches all subjects (at least they do in Utah). My dream would be that classes cross boundaries.  We get out of the mindset of mine and yours and think “OURS”. When the classrooms become OURS, then I truly believe that learning can be pushed past boundaries, past mandatory testing, past what I keep hearing people saying is wrong with public education today. It also means that our contents become AUTHENTIC, RELEVANT and REAL to our students because they won’t see anything other than a COMMUNITY. 


I don’t know about you, but if I get the opportunity to find a place where that happens, I’m going to grab it and run all the way there.  It won’t matter what it takes for me to be prepared, but prepared I will be and innovation I will see.



Confusion can happen at any moment.  

Confusion is just that…confusing.  

Confusion can be frustrating, especially when it comes with the caveat of a needed decision.

  • What do you do when you know what you want and you can’t have what you want so you have to find something new?
  • What do you do when you think you know what you want and you are told it’s not possible so you have you look in a new direction?
  • What do you do when you have what you think you want but are told it has to change?
  • What do you do when you’ve done the work to look somewhere else and you found, not just one but two valid possibilities?


Decisions can be just as frustrating.  It’s hard enough to make a decision when you don’t see any options or when there are two options presented.  It’s worse when there are three.  Because then you can take those three options and make SO MANY MORE.

All of this reminds me of Cinderella’s lament from Into the Woods.

“You think, what do you want?
You think, make a decision…It’s my first big decision,
The choice isn’t easy to make.”

Too often people decide not to decide.  They put off the decision. They leave it until it’s too late and they lose out on a better life or at least the opportunity of one.  They might even hurt the ones they profess to care for through their indecision.

Decisions may be hard and even sometimes painful, but you have to make them.  Life does not go on without decisions.

How do you make the right decision? 

Well, I can’t tell you the RIGHT way for you or even for every situation.

I can only tell you what I do.  

Start with the pros and cons of the situation.  Are the pros and cons equal? Are there more pros than cons or vice versa? Are the pros and cons equivalent? Can they even be compared? Does your list contain feelings or logic or both?

I would tell you to eliminate the feelings, at least initially.  To me, if you are going to do a Pros & Cons list, feelings can’t be there.  This is supposed to be the logical part.  Feelings and intuition will come into play later.

Once the list is done, look at it. Does it make sense? Do you get any sense there is a distinct way to go? YES? Great, you probably made your decision and it was rather quick.  NO? Unsure? Yep, you’re like me.  You probably somehow, intentionally or unintentionally, made sure the lists were equal in length.  Yep…you and I have a problem.  Our need to have things even made it so the list isn’t as helpful as it is intended to be.

So what next?

I say…look at that list again.  Is there anything on the list that when push comes to shove you would say it’s not really important?  Is there anything on one side or the other on that list that you simply dismiss because you really have already made your decision, you are just prolonging the potential joy or agony?

For me, sometimes the list tells me everything I need to know.  Sometimes it tells me what I already knew.  Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to really help at all.

So…I ask again…what next?

If you have faith of any kind, this is the time to use it.  If your faith is a huge part of who you are, I would recommend praying since that is one of the inherent qualities of having any kind of faith. If not, keep trying with different logical situations and deeply ponder it. Talk to friends, etc.  Either way, process completely yet don’t take too long.  You don’t want something to pass you by that would benefit you, your family and/or others you are intending to help or work with. You may also have to process quickly because you are given a time limit.  We all know that adds to the stress but is sometimes a necessary requirement of an organization.

Confusion?…Process and make a Decision.

Choreographed Progress

Today, most of the choir classes got at least half of a song choreographed.  Some even got all the way through to the end of the song. YAHOO!  Such progress! I am so please that the students are grasping onto the concept of choreography and performance in this way.  The students are beginning to really let go and make it happen.  I can’t even tell you how exciting this is.

What even excites me even more is how open they are to possibilities and how willing they are to make suggestions.  Sometimes I have to tell them their suggestions won’t work or don’t fit the piece. But a lot of times I can use the idea or modify it slightly to make it work.  Another student choice day…what a wonderful thing.

Tomorrow marks three weeks until our final concert for the school year.  If the students keep working as hard as they are, they will be so ready and polished for the performance that it will be a joy to all who witness it.  I am so grateful for their perseverance, tenacity and willingness to do what needs to be done.

Tuesday Afternoon


Somehow, Tuesday is always harder on my students than Monday was.  Those that were wide awake yesterday are exhausted today.  I’m sure why that happens.  It just seems to work out that way.  Thankfully, most were excited to come into our classroom and work to learn right away.  Those that needed more time, took a few more minutes to regroup and quickly joined in.

Today…Tuesday, was our first day with staging our pieces for our upcoming concert.  This is always a challenge because some students don’t feel comfortable “dancing” in front of an audience.  With the help and support of the other students, we find ways  to help alleviate most stresses.  Through this process, we realize that if we all work together, the show will be a success.  If someone doesn’t give their all, it will be that person the audience looks at…sometimes with a critical eye, sometimes with confusion, sometimes with pity.  If they do their best, no one will know they don’t feel comfortable.  The students are also reminded that we have about three weeks to practice and accomplish all of this…ample time to help each of us become more practiced and at ease with what we are going to do.

I haven’t told most of the classes yet that I will be singing with one of the groups.  The group I will be singing with knows, just not the others. I haven’t ever sung with my students at any of our concerts thus far. When we practice and I demonstrate what I want from them, many of my students have asked me to sing to them.  Some have even asked me to sing with them on occasion.  However, I have always felt it was their show…not mine.

Earlier this year, I went to a music training where the presenter talked about ways to enhance our choir performances.  Many of those ways are in the works for this concert.  But one stuck out to me…the presenter asked us why we weren’t singing with our students.  The responses given were very much like my thoughts.  He then went on to say…If you aren’t sharing your talents with your students, what are doing teaching them? Wow, that made me think.

So, I went to my advanced group and asked them what they wanted.  Did they want me to sing with them?  Would they rather have it be solos from the students? Although there are always students that want to sing solos, I was really surprised by the number of students that wrote on a silent/anonymous ballot that they wanted me to sing with them.  I was honored.

I still want them to shine more than me so I gave into their requests for me starting the song with a black stage and spotlight, them slowly joining me on stage singing as they enter but then I will back off so my voice blends rather than stands out.  It will be an interesting evening as this piece is our closing number.  It will be interesting because many decisions should have been made by then.  It will be interesting to see what some of the parents say about me performing with their students.

For now, I worry not about those things.

For now, I care much more about getting the students ready and finding my groove with how we want to perform it.

For now, I will continue to look for Tuesday afternoons:

I’m just beginning to see
Now I’m on my way
It doesn’t matter to me
Chasing the clouds away


Monday, Monday


Everyone knows that Monday can be an awful day.  It can be drudgery coming off of an amazing weekend.  It can be the day we dread for any number of reasons.

However, my Monday was really good.  My students came to school tired but excited to be there.  This made it so much easier to work with students I already care a lot about.  It made is easier because my Sunday didn’t end the same way it began.

Sunday was a hard day to get through.  I made it through because of my wonderful children that rode the horrible ride with me.  I made it through because of a whole lot of faith that I could.  I made it through because some wonderful people stopped by just when I needed them to.  They brought laughter and joy and celebration.  I couldn’t return to my previous thoughts and stresses with that kind of reception. I made it through because I couldn’t worry any more.

This made it easier for me to show up to school with the hope that my students and I would make beautiful music together…And WE DID!  They are making so much progress each day that I just can’t believe it.  They are literally taking everything I can give them and making it even better.  A teacher can’t ask for more than that.

Well…I could only hope for one other thing.  A possibility that started last Tuesday, manifested itself in all of its glory on Friday and came closer to reality today. It is a dream I have never shared with anyone.  It is not reality yet but I am hopeful that it can be.

Monday ended up being unlike most.  It didn’t contain any drudgery.  It left a lot of questions that can’t be answered right now, but it definitely left me feeling as though “it was all I hoped it could be”.

Waitin’ for the Light to Shine

Waitin’ for the Light to Shine

One of my choirs is preparing to sing the song “Waitin’ for the Light to Shine” from Big River at our final concert of the school year.  Over the course of several weeks while learning the piece, we’ve briefly talked about the storyline…surprise, surprise, none of my students have read Huckleberry Finn.  We’ve talked about why the character Huck Finn might be singing this song.  We’ve  talked about what the words mean to them individually and as a group.  We’ve talked about how they want to perform it for the audience.  As the students internalize the lyrics, not just the music, I can hear the theme coming through their voices.  We have about 3 1/2 weeks until the performance and many days of staging and choreography before it will go to the stage, but already it’s at a great place.

The song has been on my mind lately.  As I’ve talked with the students about what the words mean to them, I’ve had to step back in my own mind and ponder the meanings to me.

I have lived in the darkness for so long
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
Far beyond horizons I have seen
Beyond the things I’ve been
Beyond the dreams I’ve dreamed
Are the things I’ve done
In fact each and every one
Are the way that I was taught to run
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
I am waitin’ for the light to shine
I have lived in the darkness for so long
I’m waitin’ for the light to shine
For me, we often have dark times.  We continually strive to get through them and we look out at the horizons around us for the strength and the dreams that we hope for.  As teachers, we even sometimes live through our students in order to get through those dark times and wait for those good or glorious moments when light shines around us.
In some ways I have felt that darkness Huck talks about in the song.  His story is not the same as mine as his challenges are not mine.  However, sometimes when you feel as though you walking in a cloud because of circumstances that are out of your control, you feel that darkness.  During that time, you are waiting for something to change, to brighten your day or even your life.  It could be of a personal nature or a professional one or both.
As a music educator today, job status is constantly being threatened.  I teach in a location, as do many of my peers, where no elementary student is ever taught music in a class unless the school is lucky enough to have a “general education” teachers that have an interest and knowledge in music to teach it OR they can apply for a one-year grant to hire a music teacher.  However, the school must reapply every year and funds may or may not be offered or available in subsequent years.  Who wants to work a job that is supposed to be full-time but may really be temporary?
Even middle/junior high school teachers’ jobs are not always safe from year to year.  Class size plays a huge factor in whether a teacher stays full-time. Most of the time the class size has nothing to do with the quality of the teaching but that obscure, non-transparent “number” that is applied to the class size that must be met for a class to hold.  If the schools overall numbers go down, so does your class.  If the school offers for choice for students, which I believe they should, they don’t adjust the class sizes to accommodate for that, they just reduce the teacher’s load.
School culture can play a role, especially if the music class has consistently been a “dump” class…a class to put every student they don’t know where to put.  The biggest problem with this one, is that the teacher has enormous pressure to “manage” the classroom effectively, now not just with large numbers of students but those students who have clearly had trouble in every other class they have been put in, but provide differentiate instruction, and create and maintain performances that are of a high standard.
I know that some of what I describe is not new to music teachers, nor is it new to any teacher, especially those that teach “elective” courses.  Sometimes with all of these pressures, it’s a wonder that teachers stick around.  I think that’s why we are having the crisis we now have.  Teachers are tired of waiting for someone to acknowledge their worth, their knowledge, what they can share with everyone not just their students.  Those that stick around usually do so because they care about their students so much.
The question is…how long will that last if something doesn’t change?  I know some teachers that are extremely supported by their administration, the school culture and the parents.  They feel safe, they feel blessed and they feel as though they are making a difference every day.  I think every one of us has one of these…I just think that teachers should have them all.  The students deserve it as much as the teachers do.
My year has not been easy.  I love where I teach.  I love my students.  However, it hasn’t been easy.  I have had health issues that thankfully were easy to fix but sure a pain to deal with.  I have had personal and professional situations that have not made my days always easy.  I keep going.  I try not to let it get me down because as Huck puts it….”[it was] the way I was taught to run”.  So now, I am just “Waitin’ for the Light to Shine”.

Spinners in the classroom


There are a lot of students that come from privileged families that place in an inordinate amount of pressure on them to be “something”. This means expecting straight A’s even if another grade really reflects what they understand.  It means feeling as though they aren’t ever capable of being good enough.  It means anxiety.

Sometimes students carry around passes that give them a 5-minute break when their anxiety gets out of control. As teachers, we can sometimes help.  We can work with them over a course of a year and help them so they rarely use them. However, that is usually more because of the number of students in the class than anything we could really do. There are always new tools that are created with the goal to help students that have ADD, ADHD, Anxiety or any other situation manage classroom learning and expectations.  Recently, it’s been the spinner or the fidget cube.

When I see such a tool, the only conversation I have with them is a quiet one that asks them to use it as the tool was designed to be used.  However,  if I see it being passed around or thrown (yes I have students that will do those thing), I will have to ask that it be put away.

I have some have this be the result of such behavior.  They were asked to put it away until they could use it responsibly.  Usually, they just need to realize they needed the tool more than they needed to play.

As a teacher, I could ask that students have parent permission to use such a tool. Yes, there are teachers out there saying that’s in order for the tool to be used, parents must come in and explain to the teacher why it needs to be there.  However, I really feel that as teachers we don’t always need a form or file or parent input to do what’s best for our students. If a teacher finds the kids aren’t using any tool correctly, there should be a conversation with that student first. Students are smarter than we give them credit for (at any age).

I also think that as teachers, we sometimes forget that it really isn’t OUR ROOM. We go to school and say that we agree with our professors when we learn about setting up our classroom as a place of refuge for our students.  We even talk as teachers, in meetings, that we recognize our students often have lives at home such that our room is the only place they will feel positive reinforcement in their lives. So, if it’s supposed to be a place of safety and learning for those kids, when it’s OUR ROOM, can we really say that is always the case. I say, if its really that big of an issue in your classroom, “Let the kids take ownership of the room. Let them decide what should be done when someone takes something intended to be used for good and changes it’s use jeopardizing someone else’s ability to learn effectively.

Motivating Students with Choice

There are many ways and many ideas out there to help with motivating students.  I’m sure I have tried at least a dozen or so throughout my adult life when working with youth or even adults.  My favorite way?  Give them CHOICES.

My students love it when they have options!

Find things in your curriculum, your content, your home life.  Whatever you are using to influence and/or teach others to give choice.

Today, we did just that!  After our warm-ups, both physical and vocal, I gave each class choices.

Here’s how it went:  “1) Grab your music. Put in a stack on your lap.  2) You have a decision to make. You cannot discuss this decision because it is your personal opinion and need.  Look through your pieces and put the piece you think  you need the most help with on top.  This could be a piece you don’t feel comfortable with the notes, the rhythms, the style…whatever.  [Give the students time to think!!!!] 3) When I count down from three, show me the piece you need help with.  3, 2, 1 Show me”

If you haven’t realized, this is an extremely simple way to give choice.  Plus, it shows you really quickly how well they have been listening to your suggestions, your thoughts about notes, rhythms, style, interpretation, etc.  Can anyone say…Formative Assessment? It also shows you how in tune with how well they are individually doing.  Most of the students help up the same piece or some split to show two pieces.  This almost always aligns with what you are already thinking needs to be worked on, but now the students are invested because of that simple thing called CHOICE.

In almost all of the classes, students had a question about a specific area I knew needed help but I had not been able to get them to process it.  This way, they knew they had a problem and had control of the situation and felt free to ask for help.  It also gave me a chance to teach them a musical concept that would not have been as well received nor would it have been understood if it had not been in context with the music.

In a couple of classes, I even got to give them two choices! Some of the pieces were written in a way that section(s) could easily be sung as a whole group, as written or using small groups or solos.  So this time, I asked them to close their eyes.  I even said, “If you are one of those individuals that has a problem with peeking, “some might call that cheating”, cover your eyes with your music.” Some did! I then gave them the three choices and told them they would choose by raise of hands.  It was just a fun activity that took a couple of minutes but again, gave them choice.  All I had to do was say the options one at a time giving them time to raise hands and be counted, then tell them the results.  It was really interesting to watch.  It gave me a really good look at who these students were when it came to feeling camaraderie, inclusive or something else.  It was pretty cool!