Thursday, November 29, 2012

Posting so I don't forget

I had a good day today.  Started with a student's mother pulling me aside to tell me that her son talks about me constantly.  So much so, she has to remind him that she is not me and shouldn't be expected to do everything the way Ms. Darci does it.  LOL. 

Later my boss told me one of my autistic music students was inspired by a snowman I made as a decoration for my classroom.  He went home and made an exact replica.  His mother thought it was so cute she posted a pic on facebook. 

As I was walking back to class today one of my students shouted out, "You're the best teacher in the whole world" to which 3 other students concurred in agreement. 

Two of my other students randomly said, "I love you Ms. Darci."

Another student said, "You have the best hair!"

Then to end my day, a former student who is now in college commented on my facebook post, "I still owe nearly all of my music theory knowledge to your ear training classes in 8th grade strings. You were and sounds like still are a great teacher!!

All this in one day.  I post this not to brag....ok maybe a little, but also I want to have it documented somewhere so I can go back and read it on those not so good days when the kiddos are driving me insane and I wonder why in the world I am a teacher.  No, seriously, I have a great job folks!   I am so blessed!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In case you needed a laugh Part II

Yesterday I was trying to describe to my students what prophecy was especially as it pertains to the prophecy of the coming Messiah years ago.  I used an example of a man coming up to you and predicting that you would win a million dollars and then finding out later that you do, in fact, win a million dollars.  So today I asked them if they remembered what prophecy was and what a prophet did?  The answer, "When you win a million dollars!" 

Ugh!  Guess I have some more work to do.  LOL.  Sure hope they don't tell their parents that they learned a prophet helps you win a million dollars.

In case you needed a laugh

Today I was trying to describe what an eighth rest looks like to my 4/5th grade class.  I drew one on the board and then pointed to the parts saying, "this rest has a long line and little stick with a ball on the end of it."  Of course, as soon as I said it I knew that it was a mistake.  I tried to act like I didn't hear the giggling that insued from the boys.  Finally, I caved and admitted that perhaps I made the wrong choice of wording in my description.  Geeze!  Gradeschool boys.  I tell ya. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gonna work on it

Something that has been on my mind lately is the amount of physical affection I show to my oldest.  It dawned on me (perhaps God has called this to my heart) that although I do show my oldest physical affection, it is not quite as much as I dish out to my youngest.  Why?  Simply put, the bigger she gets the more awkward it gets.  My parents were not overly physically affectionate when I was growing up.  I'm not sure if this is why.  It seems natural and easy for me to give lots of hugs and kisses when my children are small, but apparently not as easy when they are bigger.

I didn't even realize I was doing this until last weekend when I observed a mother with her children and the absence of physical affection towards them the short time we were together.  I know without a doubt this mother loves her children and perhaps she doles it out on them when we are not around.  I only bring this up to point out that it made me reflect on my own parenting.  I do believe some children who are classified as "behavioral trouble makers"  should be be reclassified as "attention seekers who's behaviors stem from attention deprivation."

The good news is, I do give both my children physical affection and emotional attention.  The bad news is, I need to work on evening it out a bit.  I need to get over the awkward feelings I have about dishing it out on them when they grow into their bigger bodies.  If it's this hard for me when they become school aged, how much harder will it be when they are teenagers?  I've got to get over this!  I don't want to be one of those mothers who's kids say they don't remember their mother hugging them or kissing them much. 

Awhile back I read Dr. James Dobson's book on raising girls.  He addressed this issue in his book.  He stated that children, even in the teen years, crave physical affection from their parents.  He says that children at this age will act like it embarrasses them, but they do in fact want it and crave it despite their objections.  He further goes into the benefits of this physical attention and it is astounding.  If you haven't read this book and have a daughter, you really must.  Very interesting.

So all this is to say that I am going to try to make a more consorted effort to dole out love to my oldest as much as I do for my youngest.  Even though her body is changing, she still deserves the validation of my love through hugs and kisses.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day one down

I finished my first day of teaching Kindergarten.  Easy breezy.  I had to improvise a little as I forgot some of my worksheets at home, but I did pretty good thinking of things on the fly and had a few extra minutes before class began to make some copies.  Part of the ease was due to the fact that the teacher before me did such a fabulous job with the kids.  She had an established routine, had them writing their names, and beginning to read 3 letter words.  It was pretty easy to pick up from where she left off.  It's almost like the hardest part of teaching kindergarten was done before I even got there.

The kids were very complimentary of me.  I heard things like, "You're the best teacher ever!" and "You're so fun Ms. Darci!"  Each nodded in agreement.  I'm not sure if it's just the newness of having me or what.  They had already had me in music, so it's not like they didn't already know my style before.  One of the little boys rolled down the window as he was driving off and shouted, "I love you Ms. Darci!!!!"  Sigh!

One of my goals with my switch is to do a better job not taking my work home with me.  I went above and beyond and way over the top when I was preparing my preschool lessons.  Partly because there wasn't as many resources available, partly because it felt good to be a professional again and I wanted to do my very best, and partly because I just enjoyed it.  However, my house sure did suffer these last two months with me taking my work home with me.  With more resources available to me to teach with at the Kindergarten level there is no reason for me to take work home (although I know occasionally I will get creative and have to take something home just for fun). 

I found it funny that my boss came in to my room after I took over and took one look and said, "I knew you would rearrange the desks this way."  My reply, "Is my type A personality that obvious?"  Apparently it is.  I confessed my personality type to the previous teacher to which she responded, that's probably a good thing.  These kids probably need a personality like that.  This comes to me as a relief seeing as how I just can't seem to run a classroom without a lot of order with a big side of fun.  To me though, fun can never happen without order first.  This means lots of rules, procedures, and routines.  Without them I feel out of control, and frankly, kids this age need a lot of boundaries.

So to wind this post down I just want to say, if today is a testament to the rest of my year teaching kindergarten then I'd have to say it's going to be a great year! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Teacher stuff

This week I have been shadowing the current Kindergarten teacher.  I had built her up as this totally amazing teacher that I would never mount up to based on what others had said and seeing her in action in passing.  After two days of observation I have discovered we're actually pretty similar in our teaching styles.  However, I can also see some differences, things I'd like to adopt into my own teaching. 

One of the things I noticed was how much she took time to really listen to what the kids were saying, even if it was totally irrelevant to what was being covered in class.  I think this really helps the kids feel validated.  I want to work on this in my own teaching.  Kindergarteners are notorious for getting off topic, but I don't think they're trying to be disruptive, it's the nature of their age and as annoying as it can be to have some kid raise their hand and tell you about their dog in the middle of a letter lesson, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and listen with interest so they know you still care.  God bless em!

Another thing that I noticed is how much sit and concentrate time the kids were expected to do.  I may take a few more wiggle breaks when I teach, but it made me realize that kids have to be taught how to focus and the only way to do that is to require more focus out of them.   Kindergartners are capable of sitting for longer periods of time. Teaching 30 minute classes in music doesn't require a lot of work on focus because focusing in music for 30 minutes is cake for most kids.  Preschoolers naturally don't have a lot of focus because frankly, it's just impossible for them to focus much longer than 15 minutes at a time do their age, so you have to pace quickly and change activities frequently.  It will be nice to not have to feel like you have to move 100 miles an hour to keep their attention.

Lastly, I have learned to be more thorough with my questions to check for understanding.  Ask for the same information a thousand different ways.  Give them time to answer, don't jump to the answer for them just because it may seem they don't know it.  Some kids just process more slowly and need an extra time cushion or a couple hints to get the right answer.

So those are the things I want to work on have picked up in my two days of shadowing.  What's weird is after being away from my preschoolers for a couple days now, they look so tiny to me and....I miss them.  They still shower me with hugs in the morning and declare their love for me. BUT...I am looking forward to taking over Kindergarten officially on Monday.  I'm not sure why, but moving up a grade makes me feel a little more important.  So silly really.  Every grade is important.  Without preschool teachers, the groundwork for kindergarten would never be laid. Some kids would start school not knowing how to hold scissors, a pencil, use glue, and identify their colors and some letters.  Preschool teachers cover a lot people.  Out of all the things I've taught, teaching kids how to use scissors and pencils has got to be the one of the hardest because they all need one on one help and there's only one of you to go around.  That coupled with short attention spans can make for a crazy mess. 

I'll admit, I feel pretty proud that in only two short months I had my whole kids holding their pencils correctly, identifying by sight and sound 9 letters and drawing them correctly, writing their own names, using scissors with ease, counting to 10, identifying 7 of the 10 numbers, using glue correctly, and beginning to blend letters together to make syllable sounds in words.  I'm telling you this, is no small feat for a group of wormy squirmy 3 and 4 year olds who are in class for only 3.5 hours a day.

So all this is to say, I wonder what I'll be able to accomplish with my kindergarten class.  If I can do that much with preschoolers in 2 months, the sky's the limit.  Oh the fun we'll have!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Moving on up

If you keep up with my blog you know one of my fears with my current job is that it is not secure.  Private school student populations fluctuate a lot often because people's circumstances change and sometimes what a parent could afford before, can not be afforded later.  Since I was one of two preschool teachers and the last one hired, I knew if the preschool numbers dropped my job was in jeopardy first. fear came true.  We are loosing two more students which puts the numbers down enough that a second teacher is no longer needed.  BUT.....God had my back.  Coincidentally,the Kindergarten teacher was just offered another job doing something that she is VERY passionate about, working with autistic children.  My boss asked me to take over her spot and start teaching the kindergarten class!!!!I am super excited about this for many reasons.  It gives me more job security.  I get to work with slightly older children. I get to move beyond learning ABC's and actually work on reading and simple math.  I get to job shadow the current Kindergarten teacher and learn from her (she's so good at what she does).  This is really just a very exciting opportunity. 

The other thing that was ironic to us all is that for the past two weeks in my absence the other preschool teacher has been covering my class in addition to her own.  She said she was surprised how well she did with the additional kids.  If you've ever worked with a group of preschoolers you would understand why this is big.  Even one extra kid in your class can change the whole dynamic of how things run by quite a bit.  So, it was almost as if God was preparing her, and the kids for that matter, for the transition through my absence.  The kindergarteners know me well from music so the transition for them should pretty easy too.

So next week is my last week of teaching preschool.  The following week I will be job shadowing and the week after that I will begin my new adventure as a kindergarten teacher and part time music teacher.  My hours will remain unchanged.  Like I said, my journey is far from over.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Getting me out there

Thanks to my wonderful inlaws who stayed home with Bren, I got to go to work and even stop by District office of Branson to drop off my resume.  They requested 5 more.  Apparently they don't have a human resources department.  All hiring is done on a per school basis.  With several new elementary schools opening up next year, I figure there's good odds something will open up.  They couldn't tell me for sure.  They're in the process of rearranging the staff they have for next year and then they will know where their holes are, probably close to January or February.  I also know, from my inside sources, they have one current music teacher fixing to retire soon.  Boy oh howdy, I'm excited!  The timing on this couldn't be more perfect. 

Do you ever just sit back and reflect on your life and marvel at the realization of the hand of God in it all?  I have doing a lot of this lately.  When it comes to my professional life, I couldn't have been more blessed.  Right out of college I got my dream job.  Not many people can say that.  I was able to work with some of the best music educators in the nation.  In fact, my music super visor was the NATIONAL president of the music educator's society while I was working there.  This is the largest professional membership for music educators all over America.  I loved that job and I will never forget it.  I still dream about it to this day.  Everything I do after that job will always be compared to it. 

BUT God also provided another dream of mine, to have children and stay at home with them while they were small.  I never thought that would be financially possible.  It meant giving up my dream job which at the time seemed like a big risk and sacrifice.  Do I regret giving up my dream job?  Nope, because I knew if my family suffered for me working I WOULD regret that.  Do I miss it?  YAH!  But the more I sat and thought about it I started to realize that giving up that job may have been in my best interest in the long run even for me professionally and let me tell you why.

First, with budget cuts around the nation, the first music program that gets cut is orchestra.  Now I'm not saying I would have been out a job if I had stayed in my old position since I worked in a very wealthy district.  However, the program was on the chopping block for a list of proposed cuts every year.  Thankfully, there was a lot of support for it and it never got cut or even came close to getting cut.  The point is, it may not be that way forever.  With the economy in dire straights, each year gets more difficult for school budgets around the nation, even wealthy districts like Blue Valley.  The last music program to be cut would be vocal music as the costs to run a vocal music program are the least.

 Second, I think about the actual switch to teaching general vocal music over orchestral music.  There is a much wider variety of things to teach and ways to teach general music as opposed to instrumental music.  You can be more creative with your presentation and I thrive on creativity.  Being able to be creative is like food for my soul.  I guess in a sense, for a long term gig, it may be more mentally rewarding.  And I see my next job as "the job."  The one I will have until I retire....hopefully!

Thirdly, there's the issue of having a career that is family friendly.  Teaching in general is a family friendly job, but when you get specific, teaching elementary vocal music is way more family friendly than teaching instrumental music.  In order to have a successful instrumental program you really have to have students taking private lessons which is often done by the classroom teacher.  You have to have many outside school rehearsals, evening concerts, weekend festivals, and competitions.  There were many nights I didn't get home until 9 at night because I was tied up with those things.  I had to give up several weekends too.  General vocal music does require some evening concerts and maybe a weekend or two at a vocal music festival if you are teaching older elementary kiddos, but overall, their is no comparison to the time commitment outside of the school day.  And yes, I have taught both so I do know what I'm talking about here.

So all this is to say, I can't help but wonder if part of the reason God opened the doors for me to stay at home was bigger than just fulfilling a calling and a lifelong dream of having kids and staying home with them while they are little.  Perhaps, God was trying to have my back for  job security down the road.  Perhaps too, he knew that ultimately teaching vocal music as opposed to instrumental music would also be more family friendly and rewarding mentally.  The opportunity to teach music part time and preschool this year almost seems as such a perfect gig to get me back in the saddle and on the map.  Then the timing on these new schools opening is so perfect for me, almost to good to be true.  Man, I hope it isn't.  Yes, I have been tossing a whole range of ideas in my head as to why things have happened the way they have, and my story is far from over.  Of course, I'll be totally disappointed if I can't get a job in Branson public schools, but I know everything happens for a reason and God has always provided, always.  You can't helped but feel love when you look back on your life and see the blessings like I have professionally.  The next 6 months are sure to be full of great anticipation.  At least for now, today, I was able to get name out there by dropping off a resume.  HOPEFULLY step one in the next dream job.  We shall see.  Either way, thanks God. It's fun seeing your handy work and wondering where you'll take me next.

Halloween 2012

It was not the day I had thought it was going to be.  I was home for another day with my little Bren.  She went to the doc earlier that day and got the same diagnosis her big sis did a week before.  By the time supper rolled around her temp shot up to almost 103.  Keep in mind this was day five of having a fever.  Needless to say, she wasn't in any condition to trick or treat. 

My inlaws came up to help us celebrate.  They got dressed up for the girls.  Grandma was a nurse and Grandpa was some asian dude from some play uncle Jason was in awhile back. To be honest, I was totally surprised Grandpa went all out for halloween this year.  Two years ago he was a cowboy which for him is really just everyday wear anyways.  He was in charge of answering the door and he did SUCH an amazing job bowing to everyone that came to get candy.  It was funny listening the thier reactions.  The little ones were a shocked and big eyed.  The junior high kids thought he was so cool.

We let Bren dress up for pictures.  Her and her sister were K-State cheerleaders.  The outfits were bought for the game we went to earlier in the season so it really worked out perfectly for halloween too.  Jeff was Psy from Korea famous for his video "Oppan Gangnam Style."After K left with her Grandma and Dad Bren watched Charlie Brown Halloween specials, and I painted her tootsie wootsies to ease the disappointment.  She really did handle it all well I thought.  I even made arrangments to trick or treat at our close neighbors a little later when she feels better.  Our pumpkins this year turned out awesome. Our best year yet.

All in all, it was a good Halloween minus the disappointment for Bren.