Loving your People

I received my daily email from a blog I subscribe to where George Couros is a contributing blogger for.  In it, he talks about taking care of your people.  The first quote you see is: “You’ve got to love your people more than your position.”

 

This particular blog is for principals and those in leadership positions and I am definitely not one of those but I like the thoughts that are shared.  However this post made me keep thinking about my students.

I teach six classes each day.  Usually, all of them are energetic, positive, excited to practice and learn and are just overall amazing.  Today, one of the groups just didn’t seem the same.  On Monday, they were tired, which can be expected since it was after a weekend and it was after spring break.  However, they were tired again yesterday.  Not so they didn’t work well and learn much, just not with the same enthusiasm.  Today, almost seemed worse.  I finally commented to them about it.  I was trying to answer a student’s question about our starter and all the students just looked at me like I was that teacher from Ferris Bueller.  UGH, I could not handle that!

So I said, “What’s going on? You are usually so energetic and talkative.  I feel like I am standing here trying to drag it out of you.  What’s up?”

You know what their response was?  “Our class is right before lunch and I’m just hungry.”

It killed me.  I told them to think how I felt…I had to teach another class before I got to eat!  All I heard was more groans. That seemed to make them more concerned because they realized I had third lunch and they said they definitely couldn’t make it that far.  They felt sorry for me.

So what to do?  How do I take care of them so they can refocus?  I mean, I know I can’t afford to feed 40 some students on my own.  I could let them have a snack they provide, but we had to have a rule about no food and gum because students were leaving such huge messes or putting the gum under the brand new concert chairs and eating while trying to sing is not only gross to watch it inhibits the ability to sing.  Water bottles are allowed AND encouraged but students don’t like to carry them around for a number of reasons.  Although, having their own water bottle could definitely help, I haven’t decided what to do since this may be a bigger issue than I realize.  For today, I got them up and moving more than I usually do to see if we could get their minds to waken up.  It worked, at least long enough to last the class. They worked well.  We got some things figured out and we are making progress.

Although we have concert to prepare for and this class typically needs more time to process everything, the students are more important.  It will be hard if we have to stop to do something else, but we will just have to see what happens tomorrow.

UPDATE 4/20/17: Today was wonderful! I think some of the girls prepped a bit more today knowing I cared about them (at least I think so).  A couple were still tired (one said she hadn’t been sleeping well) but still did their best.  I am so proud of those girls for trying.  I have decided that I am still going to keep a closer eye on them to make sure they are getting their basic needs met just to be sure.

 

YouTube in the Choir Room, Part 1

I used YouTube in my class many times before as I’m sure many educators do. I’ve used it to demonstrate good performances versus not such good performances.  I’ve used it to model the vocal folds, breathing apparatus, etc for my vocal production units.  I’ve used it to show fun, random things occasionally.  Today, in on my technology classes, I thought of how to do this in a better way.

Although I’ve used YouTube and by virtue of YouTube being owned by Google, I have a channel.  However, not much more than that…until today.  One of our assignments was to create a channel that was separate from our personal one just in case we wanted to use it for our classroom.  I liked this opportunity because I could still have my personal items for me and maybe my own children but my students didn’t have to wallow through my searches and likes, etc.  My favorite part was where I could have YouTube restrict the videos by just selecting the Restricted Mode (at the bottom of your channel page).  This is extremely helpful since the school district (like most) have strict guidelines as to what we can show our students.  This is just one more feature that can me filter the comments (that we all know are not always kind or appropriate for our students’ ears) and it helps a bit with the videos too.  It’s not perfect so I know I will still need to do my job by previewing what I add to the channel.

Next we added a playlist.  I hadn’t done that one before so I found it really enlightening. I could allow the playlist to be private, unlisted or public. Currently, my playlists are private.  I felt this was a good thing for now because I can create the list with my students in mind but not allow them to have access until I have completed what I want them to see or even when I want them to see it.  So far, I have created two playlists.  One, is from the guy that created S Cubed Sightsinging…Dale Duncan.  I have linked his blog and product info on my Sightsinging Page so check that out. Two, is for videos I can use as performance examples.  I have been choosing the songs we are currently working on so I think this will be quite relevant.  What I like about this is the fact that once I make the list public, I can a link to my students through our Google Classroom site so they can review what we learned in class without having to find the correct video themselves.

My next assignment is to create a 5 minute video I would use in my classroom and post it to my channel.  I haven’t thought about what I would create yet so I have no idea what will be posted there.  I think I may talk it over with one or more of my classes and get their input.  Knowing my students, they will love to give their input and some will even want to help create it.  I will add a link when it finished though.  If you have suggestions of items you would like posted there, feel free to make a comment using the form below.

A Really Interesting Day after Spring Break

Today was my first day back after having a week off for Spring Break.  Although I had really enjoyed my time off because I got to spend time with my children, start this website and blog and clean my house a bit, I was really looking forward to school today.  I couldn’t wait to work with my students again!

I teach six choir classes every day😉  My 7th grade Men’s Choir is an awesome group of young men!  They come enthused every day for class.  They jump right in whatever we are doing, whether it’s our starter, sight singing, rhythm practice, physical and vocal warm-ups, or working on our pieces for our final concert of the year.  They are simply wonderful!  If I have come in a little down, worried or in pain, they help me start the day with joy.

Today, I was excited to see them.  They were energetic as usual and worked right through all everything beautifully.  I love to see how quickly they learn and master a song!  I love that they look or try to look into the music to see how it fits their lives.  I love how they emulate the music they are preparing.  Of course, it helps that they love the pieces they are working on and they know how we are going to set up the concert with lights, choreography, slide show, etc. and that a lot of their thoughts and ideas are going to go into the preparation.

Each class I go to…2 Women’s Choirs, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and Cantata Choir, reacts very much the same way every day.  Crescendo Choir (my after school Jazz/Show Choir) is always enthused and it sometimes amazes me that they come diligently EVERY Wednesday to practice.  It is a simple joy to teach them all.

Today, in Concert Choir, we had some hard decisions to make.  We hold two concerts each time because we don’t have a traditional auditorium. We have what’s called a KIVA (basically the set up of an outdoor theater inside) We had eight songs (wow, I know, crazy) that we were preparing for the concert.  I showed them how many pieces were supposed to be in the concert they would share with Chamber, Cantata and Crescendo Choirs.  When they saw and heard how many pieces there were, they realized that they needed to give up a few.  We quickly discussed the realities of all of the pieces and then they voted.  I think they did a great job figuring out which ones should stay in the concert.  We cut three pieces.  I was so proud of them.  Crescendo and Chamber will also probably have to give up one piece but they know it, so it won’t come as a surprise.

One of my favorite things to happen today, occurred during Concert Choir today.  In addition to figuring out the changes in music, we had time to begin auditions for the solos in one of the pieces.  I was so pleased to hear the growth the students have had over this year!  As most of them are 9th graders so will be leaving me at the end of the year to go to Bingham High, I didn’t do the mid year vocal checks I did with all of my other groups.  I was impressed by how much their voices had grown.  There was one girl who auditions for everything!  Last year, she tried out for everything but never got a solo.  Today, she rocked it.  I still haven’t decided who will get the solo as there were a couple of other girls that did just as well, but I can say that I was immensely proud of her and her accomplishments.  We ran out of time as class is only 50 minutes to give all of the feedback I wanted to give, but I was grateful that she stopped in my room at the end of the day as she always does so I could I tell her how impressed I was.  Her smile made my day even brighter.

My favorite thing about teaching choir (and just about any subject) is the connections I make with my students and the growth that I get to see.  I know I see long before they realize it.  That’s why I try to give them feedback that is specific and constructive as quickly as I can.

Blessings

I hope no one begrudged me the day off yesterday as it was Sunday.  I tell my students, I take one day off every week from doing ANY work even including their emails or Remind texts to me, and now I will include this blog as I see it as work albeit quite enjoyable work.  So this post was written Saturday evening.

I want to say THANK YOU.  I say thank you for a number of reasons.  First, This past week* has been an amazing ride!  *I’ve already written about my ‘bumpy’ ride since January but you can read that post later.

 

It was amazing because I am an introvert.  Once people get to know me and I feel comfortable around you, you forget how introverted I really am…because I can talk nonstop:0 However, I went so far out of my comfort zone this week in starting a blog that I’m almost surprised I did.  I will admit that when A.J. Juliani, in one of the videos from Innovative Teaching Academy, said one of our assignments was to start a blog, I almost did what I complain about others doing…I started to blub, to mutter, to come up with reasons I couldn’t do it and on and on.  I can’t really say why I stopped myself but something within me said to just suck it up and do it.  So I did.  

For me, this road has been almost cathartic.  It’s been an emotional roller coaster in a number of ways and for a number of reasons.  However, as much as I have worried about what to write and what to add to the website (there is still a lot I want to add) and have learned much through trial and error about putting together a website, I can say I have learned most about myself.

Despite being told by different people over the years, many who were family members, that I couldn’t do this or that because of this or that, I realized I can do just about anything if I put in the time and the effort and I truly believe in myself.  I tell my students to do this all the time.  However, I can’t say I completely believed it for myself.  My students are young, with endless possibilities and opportunities ahead of them. But I often feel I am limited.  Limited by my age, my size, my education (I’m not smart enough for some, too smart for others) and other numberless ideas I can think of.

However, there is really good song that truly sums up what it feels like to let go, do something new and even scary, and almost feel free for the first time…Defying Gravity.  I know, you though I would “Let it Go”.  That one is definitely good.  However, Defying Gravity is a song that I share a love of with many of my students.  Many have not been through, although too many might have too close a glimpse through their own experiences, what I have been through but I still think we can share the wonderful knowledge that we too can change and take charge of our own destinies.

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!”

Read more: Wicked – Defying Gravity Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Wonderful news to wake up to!

When I woke up today, I did one of the things I do most days…I checked my email.  There I discovered a wonderful bit of news I have been waiting for since March 17th…I got an email telling me that my Praxis PLT scores were waiting for me.  I even shared it via Twitter and Facebook.  That’s how excited I was!

Why is this important?  Well, those of you that teach in states that require this test, you already know.  For the rest of you, it’s a test that gauges your application understanding of philosophical theorists that are considered the people all teachers should know about and how to apply their concepts in order to be effective teachers.

You may be still asking why it’s so important.  In Utah a new teacher must have had a mentor each year, organize and monitor a portfolio showcasing their lessons and student work, be considered Highly Qualified, have passed this crazy PLT test along with a new background check and have taken a 2 hr Suicide Prevention class all before the end of their year of teaching before they can upgrade their license to a Level 2.  If they fail to do this before the end of the third year, they can lose their job if they can’t qualify for an extension.  I have been diligently taking care of everything I could over the last almost three years except the PLT test and the background (couldn’t start that one until the spring of this year).

I took the PLT on March 17th and have been waiting for what seems like an enormous amount of time for the scores to post.  They were supposed to be posted yesterday in the EVENING of EASTERN TIME.  Wow, that was descriptive!  I was beginning to worry I had messed up the test or something. But this morning, I woke to the email posted at 12:02am my time (around 2am for them) which made me ALMOST chuckle for a minute. At least they came.

Most tests today are completely multiple choice and so the score pops up on the screen at the end of your session.  Unfortunately, the PLT contains FOUR constructive response questions.  Due to those FOUR different questions, I had to wait until someone reviewed the questions, which means almost an entire month of waiting.  UGH!

I have been rather blessed in that tests are usually not a problem for me.  ACT was fine.  When I took the Elementary Praxis was fine.  When I took the Music Praxis, I unfortunately, missed it by TWO POINTS! That is a lot harder.  I even looked up info about the test and found that nationwide this test usually takes most people two or even three times to pass although I did notice a number of people who couldn’t pass it even on their seventh or eighth try.  I really felt for them.  So I admit that after having been away from Westminster College for three years, I was a little worried.  I knew that the professors at Westminster had really prepared us with the knowledge we needed to pass any test, but knowing that the information was in your head and having it translate to a test under that kind of pressure was, needless to say, a little disconcerting.  So I did what I could to review the material and I just went for it.

Fast forward to today…I got my background clearance yesterday after having my fingerprints done this past Monday…oh, the irony, and I got my passing scores.  When I return to school Monday, I will get the last paperwork done so I can pay another fee to upgrade my license.  But that stress is over.  WOOT! WOOT!

Where will your road lead you?

Where will your road lead you? 

If you are like me, my road is always bumpy.  Sometimes it looks like it will be smooth sailing, that is until we go around that next bend and then it’s… LOOK OUT!  Sometimes the road is just irritatingly bumpy.  It might have pot holes that don’t seem like much but, in fact, are really annoying little boogers. Sometimes the road seems like you’re climbing a mountain that has no end.  The good thing…it eventually it can smooth out so you can enjoy the next little while OR it can lead towards a winding road that is so curvy you have to take it painstakingly SLOW, OR a huge drop in altitude that feels like you’re falling and don’t know when it’s going to stop OR even better still..a road like the one I remember behind my maternal grandparents property when I growing up where you’d go up one hill that wasn’t huge but it wasn’t even close to being small and when you got to the top just as you were ready to go back down, you’d get a glimpse of the view ahead and realized there were so many of these “little hills” over the next several miles, it was going an interesting ride.

No matter what type of road you are currently on, everyone takes a ride on at least one of the examples above one or more times in our lives.  Where is your road leading you right now?  Is it a ride that you need to get off?  How do you do that?  How do you know when you need that ride to change?  How do yo know when you can get off that road or whether the road will change for or in spite of you?  Are  you content with your ride?

If you are one of the ones that are currently content with your ride, congratulations!  Enjoy every minute of it.  If you are one of those that are not, I only have one question for you… What are you going to do about it?

Comment below.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Where am I at today?

I have been thinking about my life the last three months.  It has been a whirlwind of activity.

I started my first accredited class for my Educational Technology Endorsement in January along with three other state courses (4-6 weeks each) that would also count towards the endorsement.  Wow, I really landed myself into a little bit of stress!  January through March is a busy time for a middle school choir teacher.

January is where recruiting and auditions begin.  We start with the elementary schools that feed into our school.  We then perform two more times for our 6th grade orientations (Feb/Mar) since our elementary schools are on a year-round schedule.  Finally, I get to audition my current students and those who didn’t take my class this year, for one crazy reason or another, to see if they will be in my Intermediate or Advanced choir for next year.  All of this has to be finished by the end of February while still preparing for District Solo & Ensemble (early Feb), our Combined Festival Concert with Elk Ridge Middle School and Bingham High School (end of Feb), and our District Choir Festival (Mar) that I was in charge of

I didn’t think I could accomplish it all.  Yet, I did.

Somehow I kept up on my classwork. I fed my kids each night and had some really good laughs while reading or watching tv together. I worked and shared my new ideas and understandings with my students.  I even asked them their opinion! WOW!!! And had my gall bladder out during emergency surgery at the beginning of March!

Last week, I started two new classes.  One required me to get a Twitter, which I thankfully had already done! One said to start or restart blog.  HERE I AM!  I have spent my Spring Break getting this blog up and running, added a Facebook page where I almost didn’t have the nerve to ask friends and family to look at my work.  But I did it!  I can’t believe how far I have come.

Next week is our last class.  During the semester, we had to create a portfolio that showcased the work we have done, the reflections we have written and even shown a little creativity.   I have attached a link although realize it’s really simple and almost rudimentary especially compared to what I have done this week.

The semester’s almost over.  The time has flown.  All that’s left is to present my portfolio and enjoy the evening.

I still have yet to finish out the school on a HUGE bang of a concert on MAY 18th.  I refuse to count down to the end of the school year, but I can’t help counting down to our concert. I will post how it goes.  My stage crew and all of my classes are excited with the music selected, the ideas we have discussed for entertainment factors, etc.  I can wait to see what happens next…it all begins again this Summer with another accredited class and a lot of state courses.

 

Making things happen

The other night, I participated in a YouTube discussion with A.J. Juliani and George Couros, as part of the Innovative Teaching Academy.  The discussion was as phenomenal as I expected it to be.  I learned a lot, comment some but it was something that George said that really hit me.

How often do we spend our time complaining instead doing?

It really made me think.  Do I waste my time complaining (or worrying, or stressing, or any other adjective you can add here) about the things I can and can’t change?  I had to step back and really ponder that thought.  And hard truth was…sometimes, maybe even a lot of times.

I worry that being a short, older (not old) female that finished college later than most, I won’t be taken seriously unless I am perfect.  I worry that I won’t be able to provide for my children where my job status is unknown (decisions have yet to be made). As I find myself alone with two children, I worry that I haven’t been enough or done enough for long enough for the person that was supposed to be a part of my life forever.  I worry about a lot of things.  I’m sure you do too.

But you know what?  I realized that those things only provide excuses for me to not move forward,  taking control of my situation and saying I will get through it.  I have the resources and knowledge I need to help me achieve my goals.  I have colleagues and friends that I know have my back and will help if I ask.  I have my faith that guides and sheers me up when I feel worthless or alone.

So after hearing that statement and pondering on it, I have decided…I will spend my time MAKING THINGS HAPPEN!  I am going to continue to add lessons and technological examples I have created to the Teaching Choir Page. I will continue to post my thoughts to this blog.  I will continue to teach amazing students I teach every day (after Spring Break, that is). I will continue to look for new opportunities and even maybe a new job. But…I will succeed! I can do it! You can too!

 

Technology in the classroom/board room

Output or compliance?

“This is something that many people are struggling with in education and has nothing to do with age.  I have seen many younger educators bring pen and paper to a meeting while the veterans have access to technology. Whatever the case, we shouldn’t make assumptions about how other people learn because it looks different from us. Even if a person is doodling, that could be how some people process information.”

“I have been surprised how many leaders in education still ban devices from their staff during meetings or personal learning days, because they are worried what they might do or they are not paying attention.”

This is so true.  I have been many in meetings where the “RULE” is that NO ONE can be on technology of any kind simply because it’s viewed as wasteful or you aren’t paying attention to the speaker.  I am a major busy body that also happens to be a huge visual learner and therefore need to be doing something in order to even hear what people are TELLING me. Sometimes doodling works but more often than not, I can focus more if I am typing notes, or searching for something the speaker talked about or just staring at something on the screen.  If it’s that way with me, who knows how many of my students need something similar.  That’s why I allow my students to write down dates of concerts or even notes in whatever manner they need in order to remember it.

“Start from the learner, and move backward from there.”

Word Cloud and Interactive Poster

I wanted to share a couple of projects I have been working on for my Educational Technology Endorsement.  The first one is called a Word Cloud.

One of my choirs, Crescendo, sang this song for residents at the Beehive Homes in South Jordan.  My students love to share their talents with people, especially the residents at the Beehive Homes.  They know the power they have to impact the lives of the residents and they are grateful for the opportunity, even if it means missing three class periods;)  This is created by going to WordArt.com (previously known as Tagul.com) and entering whatever text you want and choosing a shape.  It is extremely easy to create a visual where repeated words are highlighted and often links to important concepts in the text like my example did.

The second project was to create an Interactive Poster.  There are a lot of websites that you can use to create them.  However, I wanted to see if it could be done using the Google products since I have found how user-friendly they are and how easy it is to share with colleagues.  I found that you can create your own using Google Drawings.  This is a really fun way to use pictures you already have or find free ones using the Google search (only looks up ones that are available).

The link to view the poster is below.  Let me know what you think.  Use the comments to share constructive thoughts I can use to tweak the idea.

https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1V4QuzIpRhiJTMNRHSG6ZqISo1mTK7EnQ1vhXXqZAv3k/edit?usp=sharing