Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Top 5 Things I Would Tell My First Year Teacher Self

Reflection, self-awareness, consciousness, mindfulness.  We hear these words often, particularly within the educational realm.  Looking back upon my 24 years of teaching, what would I tell my first year teacher self? 

Teaching is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

You don't have to do it all in one year, or in the first three, or first five years.  For most of us, we don't really "figure out" teaching; content, classroom management, protocols of school, student development, how to deal with those "frequent fliers", political/social/emotional context of school, etc. until about year four or five! 
Create/make/enjoy five lessons and activities that worked well the first year, add five more the next year. Within four years you will have TWENTY slam dunk lessons and activities.  But don't stop changing them - never feel like you are "done" with lessons - always change them to meet the students needs and whatever direction they choose or need to take them.

Get into Orff!

Find a local chapter and get involved in workshops and in the organization.  It will change your teaching and the students learning in a beautiful, musical, artful, creative, and wonder-filled way!  I didn't really know about Orff until year 6 of teaching!  Oh how I wish I had known about it earlier and gotten Levels courses earlier!  Open yourself to all the experiences - your teaching and your students will be drastically changed - for good!

Be Kind, Then Be Kinder.

Be kind to those teachers who call you "green", or treat you as inferior simply because you are new. You have value, ideas, and strengths to contribute. Be kind to those who come over to slam your door or complain because they placed you next to the reading teacher and she can hear your music. Be kind to the front office staff, the school secretary, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and the janitors.Their jobs are hard and full of juggling and discouragement.  Be kind and then be kinder to students - they are little and someone loves them- yes, even the ones who frustrate and annoy you to beyond the world's end - they are someone's sweetheart, and sadly, if they are not, YOU need to find a way to love on them.

Love the Cactus Kids.

Prickly, sticky, mean, grumpy, dirty, matted, annoying, frustrating.  Describe any of your students?  These are the kids who need you the most- not the perfect singer or dancer, not the kid who can rap like crazy and throw down "beats". The ones who you know are not getting enough - food, shelter, hugs, warmth, affection, and yes, love. What the world needs now is love, sweet love - it's not just a song- it is the sad reason many school shootings have happened.  Find a way to make the outcast become part of, not apart from.  Love the unlovable and lead by example. You never know what seeds you are planting. A little kindness goes a long way.

It's OK, Just Breathe.

Your first year will be stressful - reach out to others for help and advice.  There will be very busy times and not so busy times - breathe and ask questions. There is a wonderful network of teachers who are wanting and waiting for you to ask questions.  I started teaching pre-internet (dinosaur era) and now teachers have access to thousands of years of experience via facebook and online groups for music teachers. I wish I had spent more time asking what I felt were "stupid questions".  Suck up your pride and ask.  Stay balanced with a healthy amount of school time and maintain your other "you" - continue to read historical fiction, make jewelry, go antiquing, take walks, perform, etc. Your identity as "music teacher" is not your only identity.

Monday, May 7, 2018

April Showers Bring May Flowers

I am a gardener at heart  - love to dig in some dirt and make something grow!  I have about 200 perennial plants- at least. I really love irises- they are one of my favorites and work for my no-fuss gardening style- if I have to mess with a plant in order to make it grow, I am not supposed to have it.  This year my irises went a little crazy- I have about 15 different colors and need to divide and give some away. If you live in NC give me a holler!
I have always loved this rhyme - here's a little twist! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Games to Play Outside (Or In) FUN!!!

Singing games are so much fun and there are so many fun games that work inside as well as out!
Here are a few of my favorite:

One, Two, Three O'Leary/One, Two, Three a Learie

This song is often cited as Irish, although it was first collected in California as an Anglo-American playground game, see Sail Away book, page 24.
There are several versions and ways to play.  My favorite way to play is version 2 (see songs below) and can be found here:
 Here is a different view:

Hope you enjoy all of these and get outside (or stay in and have some fun)!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

No Robbers Out Today

End. Of. The. School. Year.
Those words can bring a slight feeling of dread to even the most seasoned teacher.  This time of year the kids can become a pack of wolves, feeding on the excitement of field trips and field days, summer birthday celebrations and the impending excitement of summer!  I am getting ready to start camp songs for the last four weeks of school, which for me begins next week into May 29th, the last day of school for us.  Check out @ofortunaorff on facebook as I just this morning posted a video of "Alligator" - one of my students favorite camp songs!
For now, with my first graders, we are reviewing rhythms, learning a game of teacher vs. student "Poison", and also playing songs with games which keep them singing and moving!
This lesson starts with the song, "Not Last Night But the Night Before" and the book, "Twenty Four Robbers" by Audrey Wood. I posted about the book and song before - check it out here.
I prep the students with the "response" of "step back baby, step back".  I tell them no matter what I sing, they sing their part, "step back baby, step back", not mine.  This takes some practice if you haven't done a lot of call and response with your children. 
The entire book can be sung to the melody - until you get to "H O T....".  I prep this part before we read the book. I tell the children that the robbers had a little crazy dance moment because they got so excited about the hot peppers!  We speak: "H O T, H O T, H O T, hot peppers, whoo! (repeat).  Rhythm is titi ta, titi ta, titi titi tikkati then quarter note glissando on "whoo".  They stand up and dance, throw hands in the air on "whoo".  This gives them a quick movement section in several parts of the book.  They think this book is so funny and the illustrations are zany and fun!

Then we move to "No Robbers Out Today".  For the full pdf, email me at musicquilt@hotmail.com and I will happily share it!  There are several versions of this North Carolina folk song; one which uses Sol La and Mi, another with SM only. I have included both along with teaching pages with rhythm and solfege and the game instructions-  SO fun!! The game uses unpitched percussion - we chose to use drum, tambourine, maraca, jingle bell, rhythm stick, triangle, coconuts, and a frog rasp.
Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Vamos a la mar

Let's go to the sea!  I love the ocean - I recently did a video on my facebook site - @ofortunaorff with the ocean in the background while I sang a beach song and used cockle shells!
This is a lovely song from Guatemala and has a rhythm activity where small groups create rhythms using ocean animals. You can choose to have the students create the contrasting sections in Spanish or English and there are four different "sets" of rhythmic building blocks - colored, black and white, with rhythms, and without.
Consider adding ocean drums and rainsticks.  This is also a good one for ukulele - F and C7!
Email me for the full pdf - musicquilt@hotmail.com.
Now make plans to go to the beach!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

There Was a Crocodile Substitution Song

I love substitution songs, do you?  These are songs where the subject is sung with a motion, then the next time the song is sung, the lyric is substituted with only the action.  These kinds of songs were a favorite with my Orff Master's Level course teacher, Jos Wuytack.  In fact Judy Sills adapted a book of his songs called "55X Funtastic - 55 Songs with Motion for Children". Not all the songs have substitution games, but most do and they are so much fun!
I recently found this substitution song, my students love it!  This one is about that wonderful critter, the crocodile!