I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Teaching’

The Show Must Go On.


Can’t what, you ask? Stay in the bed, as I wanted to do. There was a Veterans’ Day Assembly at work and naturally, the music teacher was on call. On the program today: a 1st grade class singing America and This Land is Your Land, and a Kindergarten class matching with flags to The Stars and Stripes Forever. 

I first went into the first grade classroom to do a quick run through with them. I smiled as they stood up and faced the American flag, excited to represent their school in front of the entire student body and the guest veterans. I kept it together as they sang America, but as soon as they started bouncing cheerily for This Land is Your Land, tears came to my eyes. The simple lyrics of the first verse: 

This land is your land

This land is my land 

From California

To the New York island

From the redwood forest 

To the gulf stream waters 

This land was made for you and me 

You. And. Me. 

I love that I teach an ethnically diverse group of students, each of whom sings enthusiastically and believes in that America. Each time they come to my classroom, they stand and face the flag giddily, prepared to start, sing, and end together prior to the beginning of that day’s lesson. Whenever I teach them their patriotic song in the beginning of the year, I ask, “Why do you like singing these songs in particular?” 

I love America.

It is fun living here. 

America has lots of stuff to do. 

I am humbled to have a job where I help children express their positive feelings about our country. I ask them to think about the people who have served America in the military prior to singing, the ones whom have helped make America a lovable, fun place with lots of stuff to do. I demand that they sing their best because so many have given their best so our children may sing freely. I strive each day to give them my best so they have as many opportunities as possible; to think, to grow, to challenge themselves. 

I brought my Kindergarteners into my room to rehearse the flag march, and let me tell you something – you have not seen excitement until you’ve handed 20 5-6 year olds each two miniature American flags to wave.  I reminded them to hold the flags still and respectfully, just as we should respect our country. As I heard the introduction of our national march, I started to tear up again. I stepped outside myself to ensure that my students were moving correctly, marching steadily, facing their conductor. “If you are not paying attention, you don’t get to celebrate veterans with us today -” was indeed an effective warning for them. They were eager to do their best, for me, for their school, for their families and country. 

As we filed outside for the assembly, I saw the veterans to be honored on the stage. After making sure my performers were seated and knew what to do, I stood to attention, as the color guard was about to enter. 

I lost it. 

Tears were streaming down my face. 

I wiped them away, not wanting to cause anyone concern, but all I could think was, 

“There are people who don’t want me here.”

There are people who see the many colors of my American classroom as a bad thing. There are people who see others as enemies solely because they appear different, worship another deity, or were not born in the United States. I know this is hardly news, but these people are elated that America’s president-elect has helped them express their views more comfortably. 

I understand that there are many people who voted for Mr. Trump that have no interest in discriminating against that which is different. I understand that there are people that I love – and that love me – who did so. I am saddened that this was the man who excited the conservative base in our country, because there were 16 other candidates with the same agenda who didn’t have an interest in overtly provoking the racist dragons that have existed in America from its beginning. I don’t expect them to feel how I do, but if you are truly my friend, I do expect you to consider my feelings. Consider that you probably have never had to question whether people viewed you as American enough. Consider that people likely don’t approach you with pre-judgment. Consider that I am wondering if my uterus should remain vacant until 2020 because I am not sure if this is the America I want my child(ren) introduced to. 

I truly believe the biggest lie told during the presidential campaign was that America is not already great. I could not stay in bed and reflect today because I had a show to do. I have rehearsal every day until Christ comes back (maybe between December 20 and January 20; I am kinda curious to see how my marathon goes – relax! I kid), and my mission in America’s practice room is to make her better by engaging with people who think differently than I do in a respectful manner. Helping others achieve their dreams. Serving my community. 

We’ve got a show to do. 

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Hurt 

It’s hardly news that Lady J does not handle her imperfections well. However, there is one type of mistake I make that bothers me more than any other by a long shot. I would venture to say that this is because it is one, at least from my point of view (which may indicate this is an area in which I need more work), that I do not make very often. 

I believe that I hurt someone who was already hurting. This hurts me not only because I try to love the way Jesus loves me but because of how I couldn’t see that it was happening. I think of myself as sensitive to the needs of others and fairly emotionally intelligent but right now I feel like a complete idiot. 

I am fighting back tears as I type these words. This is the first time in my 4+ years as a classroom teacher that I have felt legitimate remorse over how I’ve dealt with a student. 

Here is what’s been happening: 

I see my students who meet for one of my after school ensembles once a week. I also see these same students in class. I have one, new to our school, with whom I’ve found myself particularly frustrated. Not only does it take several redirects of his attention to get him to be on task, but when he tries something new, he complains about it. As I work to manage 15 other students whose fine motor skills have, uh, equal room to grow, one who will NOT quit complaining just grates my nerves. It’s the end of the day, I want to be home, I feel like I’m asking something simple, blah, blah, blah. I am not a teacher who raises her voice often; I believe in economy of dynamic. If you live a Fortissimo life it won’t be effective very long. Turn it up from my usual mezzo forte and there is no mistaking that Ms. Lady J is serious. Yet I’ve found myself turning it up quite a bit toward this young man, because I thought it was what he needed. 

Our concert is coming up and I thought he could use some additional help, so I reached out to his mother to see if I could spend 30 extra minutes with him on his own after school. As the day came closer, I was dreading dealing with his complaining. I contemplated canceling and making some excuse. I hoped he or his mother would forget. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as carline ended and I walked back to my classroom, he bounded toward me. 

Let me tell you something – I needed that 30 minutes of extra time INFINITELY more than he did. 

We reviewed chords. We had some spontaneous music battles with one another. I saw quickly that his musical struggles were indeed minimal. He smiled a lot and when he missed something, he would sigh, look up, and try again. Then he would get it. By the end of our time together, I was asking him some questions. He wouldn’t look at me as he answered. I asked if he was okay and he said he was just shy. He told me he was excited that his Grandma is coming from New York to live with his family and that he likes his new school. I walked him out, met his mom, who thanked me, and drove home, pensive. I had invited him for extra help but God knew that I was the one who needed the time after school to correct my attitude, not some sweet kid’s chords. 

I have been trying not to beat myself up about being overly firm with this student. He just needs a gentle touch and I was too wrapped up in my agenda to see that. It is humbling to be reminded that despite not being a beginning teacher any longer, I can miss the forest for the trees. I am praying that he continues to adjust to school and that I can bring him as many smiles as possible. 

I hope that in time, music can be something that gives him the confidence to look people in the eye and share what he has to offer. For me, though it hurts and I am scared to make a mistake like this (and I am sure I will again), I have to keep sharing what I have to offer, too. May my best continue to get better. 

  

The Death of Summer 

Well, summer has once again come to an end. Every June, I have said to myself, “I know what I’m going to do! I am going to work a little each week of summer to ensure that I have the smoothest start of the school year possible.”  

 Yeah. Didn’t happen. 

I’m your classic procrastinator. Most times, I would rather not act simply because I’m fearful that the outcome will not be what I feel it should be. I generally will not act until the fear of the consequences of not acting is greater than my fear of failure. When it comes to the beginning of the school year, I end up scrambling to prepare because I fear being an ineffective teacher more than I fear being an imperfect one. 

I frustrate myself. When am I going to live more like the Christ follower I am? I am living a life of fear until I absolutely must be faithful…or else. It frightens me to think of how many blessings I must miss, especially given that a life of procrastination does not lend itself to real, peaceful rest. There are things you just don’t plan for, like 2 family deaths within 48 hours of each other, one happening the morning you return to work. 

Regarding work – it has to work out, heh. God has been both faithful and gracious and I will do my absolute best to be the music teacher my students deserve and give them a great year. Because this: 

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭103:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I’ve squandered more time than I care to think about and received some stark reminders this week that there will come a time when there is no more time. This first world life of mine can be scarily deceptive. Every day is a fight to remember why I must continually submit my will to His. 

It may sound weird, but the two funerals I will attend in as many weeks make that fight easier. Death makes it very difficult to run from reality. I am hugging everyone around me more tightly and was able to take an important step today that I’ve been putting off for much too long. 

My relationships with the spawns of Adonis have been good, but one has made me more nervous than the other. The Big One is more like her father, who won’t tell you he needs things but when you offer, or just show up and do it, you know he needed it. Lil One, mercifully, requires a *tad* less intuition. I reached out to Big today and told her I would see her tomorrow at her godfather’s funeral, and she said something that helped me be brave, and I quote: 

“You’re da best Joan. Thanks for being a great future step-mom.”

If that doesn’t give me hope for a solid relationship with lots of room for growth, I don’t know what will. So I took a leap and told her I loved her and got the I love you return! Mind you, I had made the decision to love her as soon as I knew of her existence, and have liked her since I’ve met her, but I’ve been sitting on it because I didn’t want her to reject me, quite frankly, or see me as trying to replace her mom. I’ve simply deferred to less explicit ways of showing love by checking in with her, hugging, etc. I look forward to being there for Big One and telling her in person! 

The death of a loved one always sucks. You wonder if you told them the right things. Did the right things for them. Death, however, also brings rest for those who no longer must fight. I hope and pray that I continue to die to myself, that I conquer fears more quickly and live the life of faith that will enable me to experiences the Lord’s blessings to the fullest and help others on their journeys to do the same. 

Ignorance Was Bliss

“Agree to one husband, get two children to mentor without your getting (additional) stretch marks FREE!” 

How could I not take the deal. 

19 and 10. Girls. Both smart and beautiful enough for me to claim them. In public. It may shock you to know that it took me several months after becoming engaged to have my first panic attack about being a stepmother. What brought it on, you ask?

Lil One’s dance recital. 

It was the second dance recital I’d ever been to – the first was my own in 1990. A lot changes in 25 years, the most obvious being showing up to the recital hall and suddenly realizing you play for Team Mom now. Holy crap. I sat in my chair and had to partake of my purse booze that I keep for bumpy flights to help keep it together. One, I immediately had empathy for all my music parents who ask me, “How long will your program be?” because we were there for over three hours. No more self-righteous thoughts – not that I’ve ever been stupid enough to program anything that long! Okay, for real now – no more self-righteous thoughts. Lil One danced twice in three hours. I’m all about supporting kids I don’t know on stage, even when they are literally picking their noses, but combined with the realization that I have signed up for the nightshift of child rearing was too much for me at the time. 

I began to reflect on all the sacrifices that have been made for me. Hell, that are STILL being made for me. How many evenings did my parents give up so that I could remind other parents to support other people’s children? How many weekend mornings do they still give up to watch me cross a finish line? I felt incredibly guilty for being such a leech. I resolved then not to tell them about any other races I’m doing because I didn’t want to take their time. Pretty selfish of me, huh? 

In the past, I’ve told my parents that I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t have me because I’m a lot of work. They usually would first stare at me like I have two heads and then tell me how they couldn’t imagine life without me. Then Daddy would get on his soapbox about how wrongheaded people are who don’t want to have children because it’s hard. Lather, rinse, repeat, boom, I’m 30 and at a dance recital, not able to imagine life without girls I didn’t know a year ago. 

Being sarcastic and scared about child-rearing was fun, I admit. It was ignorance, and the worst kind. The type that is self-absorbed and seeking its own ends. I no longer have that privilege. Instead, I am becoming part of an insta-family who will consistently and lovingly challenge me to be a better, stronger wife, daughter, stepmother, and hopefully mother of Jamerigreeks someday. That growth will not be easy, but truth, especially with love, beats ignorance every time.  

 

Missed Opportunities: On Turning 30

I was partying so hard with my loved ones that I’m just now getting around to my birthday post, tee hee. 

A little more than two weeks ago, I walked into my classroom and saw that it had been decorated with banners. “Happy 30th Birthday!” they read. I have incredibly thoughtful colleagues, I thought to myself. Then I ripped everything down that had the “30” on it. I was pretty sure that it was the part of me that is a private person that had this reaction. I don’t think that 30 is old; rather, I just don’t think everyone needs to know personal things about me and I consider age to be personal. 

30. Whoa. I suppose my adulthood is pretty legit at this point. As the last of my close friends to turn 30, I’ve watched varied reactions, ranging from indifferent to negative. Meanwhile, at work I was told by a colleague that she had seen no one more happy to be 30 than I was. It’s true – I am happy! I love celebrating my birthday, as displayed by how I went dressed to school that day –  

 

Yeah, I definitely look my age. What I’m not sure I understand is why this is a problem, unless it’s just the “holy crap I’m actually gonna die someday” rearing its ugly head. I also feel more aches and pains than I did 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. If there’s anything I am bummed about, it’s that I’ve had 30 years of opportunity to be good to my body and I squandered quite a bit of it. I got to be over 200 pounds – twice! I caused a car accident – thankfully, just once. Then the good stress, like starting my first job and finishing school. I’ve earned these stray grays and aches for sure. I don’t think it’s particularly fair to blame aging for any of this when it is simply the effects of long-term abuse. It’s like blaming the victim when she’s had enough and being upset that she needs therapy when you really should be seeing how you can help.

I am thankful to be 30. I am blessed that my body is still pretty healthy. I am well enough to say that I would take the wisdom that comes through surviving my twenties than the energy that it took to do the stupid stuff I did. Who knows, perhaps I will make fewer mistakes now only because I go to bed much earlier, hah! I get to continue doing all of the things I should have been doing in the first place – eating well, seeing the doctor regularly, hydrating properly, sleeping sufficiently. It’s not as though I suddenly need them now that I’m older. Finally I am wise enough to see how indispensable these things are. 

In an effort to be more open, I did tell a Kindergarten class that I am 30. I think it’s stupid that women try to hide their age and I regretted ripping down the 30s from my classroom and thus perpetuating that foolishness. There’s a lot of awesome ahead; God promised me in the book of Jeremiah. I’ve survived myself, thank the Lord! The kids’ reaction? “OMG you’re so old!” I chuckled. 10 is old to a 5 year old. Not doing it again though – must protect instructional time, after all! Note to self – only share if not teaching. ☺️

Thirty. Bring on the next decade!

  

Thanksgiving, Day 2

1. My “good” students. They fill my life with love and laughter and remind me that I count for something.

2. My “bad” students. I try to fill their lives with love and laughter and remind them that they count for something. I am driven to become a more loving person for them and because of them. Can’t be mad at that, though I can be annoyed in the moment…

3. Facebook. It’s great to be able to stay in touch with the amazing people in my life with such ease. Also, it’s a fantastic outlet for my wit.

4. My blog! Recording my thoughts in this manner has helped me to see just how cyclical my life and moods really are. I find myself whining about whatever is happening and then can say, “Hey! I remember getting through that! I wrote it down.” Pretty nifty!

5. The piano. Aside from my parents, this is the longest relationship I’ve had. Only God knew at the time how important learning this instrument would be; from helping to fund my higher education to being able to play for family functions, the piano is kind of a big deal.

6. A healthy body. “Oh no, I have plantar fasciitis!” Shut up, self. I’m richly blessed.

7. An amazing family. Everyone who knows us marvels at how tightly-knit we are. I have a crazy amount of love in my life.

8. My cousin Megan! She’s like a big sister that I don’t have to share a Mom with. It’s awesome to have a best friend to whom you are related.

9. Dancing. One of my favorite ways to express joy.

10. Being alive. There was a time in my life that was very dark and I questioned if life was even worth living. I can’t imagine having missed all these blessings! I thank God for each new day.

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Permission Granted

Every Triathlete Ever: OMG, it’s so hard; this is so much work. I’m miserable right now. You should totally do this. It’s great.

Um, what?

I can’t be the only person who has noticed this. When E.T.E. is asked why I should, like, totally do this (this being sign up for X or Y race), typically the response involves his or her addiction to racing. “I just love it, Joan.” Of course, having chosen to do it more than once, I’ve experienced the thoughtfulness of E.T.E. as I panic and question my decision. However, not one of them warned me of what would happen after my first half-ironman.

The afterglow.

Don’t misunderstand. Any fool could reason that life after a big event would feel calmer. I knew my training load would be lighter, despite having two races left in my season. Time in the pool and on the road feels easier now that I’ve experienced what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. What I was NOT expecting was to be a more forgiving person in the classroom.

I realize that things probably should feel different for me this year, in that I’m no longer quite a rookie at work. I am noticing drastic changes for the better. The way I talk to my students is different. I am much more calm in general, and it takes a lot more for me to become upset by anything that happens at work, really. I had thought that I was already judicious with choosing my battles, but now I am seeing that some situations aren’t even battles. When a student is flipping out about playing a. stupid. note, I handle it much more sensitively.

I must admit that I feel more than a little foolish about this change. I am an experienced musician and have no shortage of empathy for my students as they deal with performance anxiety. Why, then, have I been such a (relative) bitch to them in years previous? I believe the reason is twofold:

1. I have had the opportunity to see their growth despite my imperfection.

One of the many reasons I love being a specialist is that I am privileged to work with my students for several years. There are times I have looked through and executed my lesson plans and thought to myself – shit. Did I teach anyone anything? Now I am able to see students who used to look at me like I have two heads use musical terms with ease and play confidently. Children who once were completely unenthused about playing by themselves eagerly raise their hand to show me what they can do. While I don’t take all the credit, I think it’s fair for me to take some when what they do is pretty solid. They quote things that I have said that make it seem like they have paid attention to me throughout the years despite all the errors I’ve made along the way.

2. I have had the opportunity to see my growth despite my imperfection.

From the department of the bleeding obvious – I’ve always been imperfect. I’ve always made progress nonetheless. However, I have been a musician for so long that the process has often taken place without my being aware of it. The difference between the person who starts something at 4 and the one who starts something at 27 is stark. Only a complete dumbass My head would have to be buried under the sand for me not to be aware of the risks I’ve taken in the last 22 months; I’ve signed more “if you die it’s your own damn fault” waivers than I can count.

It took me 7:35:58 to finish 70.3 miles. Were there things that could have gone better? Of course. Did I do my absolute best? Totes. Are most people faster than I am? Am I black? I know I have a lot of room to grow, not because I’m black and therefore inherently meant to participate in endurance sports but because I know my best can get better. I’m giving myself permission to enjoy where I am right now, despite all of my flaws.

How gracious of me to allow myself to be human, whether I’m in the classroom, on the race course, or anywhere else. I’m welcome.

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