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.

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”.

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.