Friday, October 31, 2008


I have never seen so many kids dress up for Halloween at school since elementary when all the younger grades dressed up for their Halloween parade.  I have to hand it to our kids at Dixon...I had some classes where I could count on one hand the number of people NOT dressed up.  When I was in Jr. High School, dressing up was kind of dorky I thought...but it HAS been a long time, so who knows.  One of my male students was dressed head to toe in an entire clown get-up and it wasn't considered lame.  It was awesome. I was very impressed.

It was sad because I was chatting with one of my students and I asked why he didn't dress up.  He said he actually was all dressed up in his pirate costume this morning and when he got to school, he saw through the window some kids not dressed up.  He was so afraid that he was going to be the only one dressed up that he had his mom drive him back home and he changed.  When he got to school, he was definitely in the minority :-). Poor little guy.

Most creative costume: 

A mushroom.  My student dressed in all tan and carried around a red umbrella with spots on it.

Most common costume:


Scariest costume:

One of my boys dressed up as killer grandma.  He wore his thick white socks pushed in to some black heels he got from his grandma.  By the end of the day, he was in his tennis shoes.  That's right, boys have no idea what we women do for fashion.  He claimed his heel broke :-).

Best costume in pairs:

A ketchup bottle and mustard bottle

Best Teacher Costume:

Mother goose.  She had a huge goose around her middle and her legs were inside the gooses legs.  There were fake legs on either side of the goose.  It looked like she was riding on the goose.  It was hilarious.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Iron Chef

Today in class, one of my hilarious little students with dimples was talking to the person behind him during warm-ups.  The teacher I student taught with, Lois Johnson, taught me a little trick about how to solve that problem.  I have the student "catch up" and sing alone the warm-up they missed while chatting.  I had him do the warm-up three times or so.  Hoping to prompt him not to talk again during warm-ups, I said, "So what are you going to do in the future...?"  Without skipping a beat, he exclaimed sincerely, "Be a chef!"  You ask an obvious question, you get an obvious answer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Living the dream!

In choir, we make all kinds of analogies to help kids find the proper sound.  It isn't uncommon to hear phrases such as, "pretend like you're biting an apple," or, "pretend like you're sipping through a straw" in order to help students breathe properly or get lift in their sound. But one of the favorite ones I've heard was today.  My pre-student teacher was trying to get the girls ensemble to sing louder.  He said, "Pretend like I'm in the other room and I have a hearing problem and I'm about ready to die and the only thing I want before I die is to hear you sing this song."  I thought that was pretty creative.

After one of my classes today, two girls came up to me with arms linked.  I had just changed the seating chart because of these exact two girls in front of me.  My excuse for the new seating chart was that it was the beginning of term; in all reality, however, I needed to split up their group of friends.  They came to ask if they could please sit together.  I was a little surprised by the audacity--their request came after several warnings and talks last term and obvious displeasure on my part at their lack of attention during class.  I told them they could not change seats and they told me extremely seriously that they simply could not sing unless they were sitting by a friend.  They acted like I was being downright cruel for splitting them apart and causing them to lose their inspiration for singing.  I pointed out to one of them that she hardly sang even when she WAS sitting by her friend. I have made the mistake in the past 3 months of buckling in to this kind of pressure and second guessing myself.  But this time I wasn't going to budge.  If they can't sing unless they can sit by their friend who they talk to and pass notes to all during class, than I think they may fare better in a different elective.  Wow.

I had one of those "this is why I love teaching" moments after school today.  I was at an IEP for one of my special ed students, which is a meeting to check on the child's progress.  I told the mother that her son had been after me for weeks to let him make up a test he missed.  She just looked absolutely shocked and said, "My son came to you to ask you about a missing assignment? Are you sure you're talking about my son?"  I have rarely seen such pure joy as the realization hit her that her struggling child was starting to take responsibility for his life and care about his school work.  She was blown away by what seemed to me a fairly insignificant piece of news.  I was overwhelmed by appreciation that I could witness that moment.  My student's mother was so proud of her son and could see light where once there had been darkness.  It had nothing to do with me, but it is something that I get to witness.  What a privilege!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meet a Flinstone...

I came back to school after a brief and wonderful trip to California and heard that the girls in my classes REALLY wanted me to get the same substitute again in the future.  Apparently, he was extremely attractive and single.  I asked throughout the day if anyone had bothered to mention that their choir teacher was also single, and not a soul had.  I (mostly) jokingly chastised them for their oversight.  They asked for me to get him back so they could fix their mistake. Clever.  

Tonight is our work Halloween party.  This is my first work party ever.  I'm kind of excited.  Thanks to Tina, I have quite a lovely costume for this evening.  Now, those of you who know me know that I really don't like Halloween, and walking around with my hair on top of my head in a leopard print toga is one of the reasons.  I think I feel dorky enough as it is without having to push the issue through Halloween costumes.  But something about being a school teacher makes every holiday exciting and every opportunity to dress up a delight.  I can't wait to wear my costume to school on Friday.  It's much more exciting than wearing it around my colleagues tonight.  I guess that's the issue: I don't mind being dorky in front of my kids.  I need to adopt that philosophy for my whole life.

Today we were singing "Climb Every Mountain" and discussing the lyrics.  I asked my kids what their dreams were.  At this age, visions of professional basketball and stardom are very prominent in many kids minds.  One of my students asked me what my dream was.  I told them it was my dream to get married and have a family.  It was a sweet moment.  I realized that truly is the most important thing to me.  I, too, once dreamed of stardom and fame.  But right now, I have all I want as a choir teacher of these kids who I love so much.  The only thing more I could wish for is to have a family of my own...and that dream doesn't feel too far away.  It is my number one goal. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trading Spaces

Well, I had two days off of middle school choir in Utah this week, so I decide to check out what middle school choir is like in Austin, Texas!  My brother now works in Austin with his fiancee, Shana, who is a middle school choir teacher like me! When I found out her first concert would be during the time I had off, I figured it would be the perfect time to visit a new state, see my brother and his fiancee, meet little Louston the puppy, and visit one of my best friends ever, Holly Green, who attend graduate school at the University of Texas.  Go Longhorns!

During the day on Thursday, I relaxed while my brother and Shana worked. I got to babysit Louston and ended up being an incompetent dog sitter (surprise, surprise).  I let Louston out to do his business outside and he did it in the house instead when I let him back in.  Then he went and hid and my brother had to come home to coax him out from his hiding spot.  Joe loves that little dog, and I love to see that. It's so sweet.  And believe it or not, I love that little creature almost as much as if he were a human (almost).  

I got to see Shana's choir concert on Thursday night, which was INCREDIBLE! I got some awesome ideas.  The next morning, I went with Shana to school where I watched her teach three periods.  It happened to be "teachers dress up as students and students dress up as teachers" day (some things don't change from middle school to middle school!).  Shana had dressed up like one of her red-headed students.  One of the pictures is with him and the two other girls pictured are students wearing Shana's shirts, which she let them borrow so they could be her for a day.  You'll also see a picture of Shana with one of the principals :-).

Shana's kids were in for a big treat because it was the day after a concert well performed. She and her assistant director did some performing for the kids, which involved Shana dressing up in a lovely wig and long black gown and singing "Popular" from Wicked.  Her assistant did a really funny song that Kristen Chenoweth sings about having a crush on a boy in a coffee shop.  I even got in on the fun and performed "Defying Gravity" and then "Loathing" with Shana's assistant director (who also happens to be somewhat shorter than me...her name is Rachel and she's actually my brother's age, despite how young she looks in the photo!).  

After spending the morning at school, I went with Holly to a Friday Forum at her institute, where it was her turn to share her favorite talk from general conference. That was so fun.  It was definitely a talk I needed to hear, couldn't have been more perfect if she'd planned it.  She then gave me a 25 cent tour of her college campus which was awesome! It's placed in the middle of the city like I imagine NYU would be.  My camera battery died, which is why there are no pictures :-(.  The tour landed us in a little student store where we left proudly with U of T sweatshirts (2 for 20 bucks! You can't beat that!).

Last but certainly not least, we went to see a movie Friday night at a theater where you order dinner and eat it while you watch! It ROCKED MY SOCKS!  You write your order down and the waiter comes and gets it and brings the food out during the movie.  We totally feasted while watching City of Ember.  I had a bacon cheeseburger, a milk shake, and lots of popcorn. :-). That's the way to watch a movie, that's for sure.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Herself the Elf

The post is primarily for my Mom because I know she will love this story. Yesterday was "dress as your favorite mythological character" day, which I did not prepare for. My homeroom students decided to help make me into a mythological character. One of my students made me some pointy little ears out of paper and put them on. That's right, I was an elf. This perhaps has no significance to anyone except my mother who used to call me "Herself the Elf" because she was CONVINCED that I had pointy little ears as a baby. She would sing to the words of Braham's Lullabye, "Oh herself, herself the elf, oh herself the elf!" I wore the elf ears for three periods but then took them off at lunch because there was a very attractive young man without a wedding ring doing a presentation on pensions in the faculty room and I wasn't sure if HE knew that is was "dress as your favorite mythological character" day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's time to set some limits!

Today was talent day. We had a lovely duet of Beauty and the Beast sung by two students and a beautiful personal composition played by another. Two students brought in trumpets and played together and another duo performed the dance routine they did at Stadium of Fire. It was awesome.

We also had one boy demonstrate how he could roll his eyeballs back into his head and another do various tricks that showed how flexible he was. We also had a stunning performance on a set of "heelies," those little shoes with the wheels in the heels which can do some pretty amazing tricks. The latter three talents were all performed by 7th grade boys, by the way. I think next semester I need to be a little more specific regarding the kinds of talents performed on talent day (not that I don't appreciate amazing feats performed by the human body).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Milagres sao reias!

That's Portuguese for, "Miracles are real." That was a big theme song on my mission :-D. Tonight, it applies to something extra special.

We, Tiff's Tackling Tigers, won our game. Against all odds. And I actually got my first "tackle" (I pulled an opponent's flag off). I still have never thrown the ball nor caught it during a game, but it's all about baby steps. I didn't play the whole time either, but I definitely didn't spend half the game on the sidelines, which is an improvement from our first game. I even biffed it on the ground trying to pull someone's flag off. Even though I didn't get the flag pulled in time, the fall made me feel really serious.

I want to describe a magic trick that one of my students does daily to one of his peers. He's done it on me before, too. He has you hold out your hand. Then, he runs his index finger up each one of your fingers and asks at the end which finger tickled the most. Then, he pinches each of the three sections of that finger and asks in which section you felt the most pressure. Then, he has you secretly pick a number between one and five and show it to someone. He then proceeds to rub the section deeply as he intently stares into the finger. He then tells you what your number is. This has been going on for days now. It didn't work on me, but I'd say he probably has a 1 in 5 chance of getting it right each time! What a cutie. I love middle school.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I have never...

...been good at detecting lies.

Today, we played "I never" in my classes. Half of the seventh graders were supposed to go on a field trip today. I went to the cafeteria during lunch and found one of my 7th grade students crying. I asked why and she said "There are some of us who were supposed to be going wherever it was where we were going and we're not." I said, "Just you?" and she said, "No, all of us!" I said, "What happened?!" and she said, "They didn't get the buses!" Oops. Details, right? All the 7th graders got sent back to class instead of taking a trip to Salt Lake during periods 3-7 and I decided to play the game to boost morale before we finished watching "The Sound of Music" (and, let's be honest, I didn't have anything really solid planned for the day anyway...hehehe...).

In one of my classes, one student said, "I've never run a marathon." The students were supposed to raise their hands if they HAD done what the student said he/she hadn't. I had one of my 7th grade students raise his hand. Really? Is that even possible? Wouldn't that have to go in the Guinness book of World Records? 12 years old? I wasn't convinced. We explained it was a 26 mile run. Another girl raised her hand and I said, "Really? 26 miles?" and she put her hand down and said, "Oh I thought you said 20."

In one of my classes, I had a girl who raised her hand for every single "I never." One of the students said, "I've never played Cricket." The student of mine who raised her hand on every statement shot her hand up and I said to her, "What's cricket?" She hemmed and hawed a little bit until another student shouted out, "It's from Samoa!" She immediately said, "Yeah!" Does anyone know the history of Cricket?

In another period, I had to confiscate a cell phone. The student came up to me after class nearly in tears and asked if I'd give it back. The school rule is that the teacher takes the phone to the office and the student can't get his/her phones back until a parent comes with the student to pick it up. She told me that her parents were out of town and couldn't come to get it with her. She said she was just checking the time (even though a few texts came in while the phone was sitting in my pocket during the rest of class). She also said that usually teachers give a warning. I didn't budge but felt like a jerk all the way to and from the office. I started doubting myself...what if she was just checking the time? Had I been too hard on her? I went back to my office and decided to make a phone call. Her mother answered. I told her who it was and then asked, "Are you out of town?" She said, "No..."

Turns out her parents had a discussion with her about the phone just the day before. I don't feel so bad anymore.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Family Love

My family came for general conference and I was soooooo happy to see them! The only missing member of the fam was our brother Joe, his fiancee Shana, and Looston. Yes, my brother and Shana adopted a little puppy and his name is Looston. Pictures of the the puppy to come! For now, here are pictures my mom really wanted to take in honor of Utah's fall leaves :-).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Welcome to teaching in the 21st century...

I chose a handful of kids from one of my 7th grade chorus classes to sing a descant on one of our songs. We were preparing to sing the song and one girl from the small group raised her hand and said, "Do you want the people who are singing the desktop to go over there?"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Talk about self indulgence!

Today we did talent day early for my 8th grade choirs who have a field trip in another class tomorrow and many will be gone. I brought some music books so we could have a sing-a-long when the talents were done. We definitely rocked out to High School Musical. That was very selfish on my part, but the girls ensemble especially had a grand old time right long with me.

Another tiny 8th grade kids are doing a fundraiser and I wanted to open it up to you if anyone is interested. They are raising money for their choir outfits and their competition/trip to lagoon next semester. The fundraiser is through Lehi Roller Mills. They sell gourmet baking mixes that come in cute little seasonal fabric bags (which makes them great for holiday gifts). They have hot cocoa mix, cookie mixes, muffin mixes, pancake mixes, and more. They seem to be pretty popular. My mom loves them. I told my students I was going to fundraise along with them, so I better get cracking! We are selling for 2 weeks, ending on October 15th. The mixes will arrive to us in early November (in time for the holidays). The mixes/gift baskets range anywhere from $6.00-$20.00 each. Let me know if any of you are interested!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

I felt like my guts were going to spill over today because I was so happy to be a choir teacher. I honestly had such a feeling of delight that wanted to burst from my soul as I went about my daily tasks. It feels like a crime to get paid for having so much fun. My kids give me such a sense of purpose in life. I know who I am when I am in that classroom. I like who I am. I like being myself because they accept me unconditionally. I know what they expect of me and what my role is in their lives. I want them to feel happy and accepted in my classroom. When I go home at the end of the day, I wonder who I am again. Where is that confident teacher who loves and is loved? How can I love myself there and yet wish I was someone entirely different when I have to go home and be Katie instead of Miss Houston? When I see myself as a teacher, I see someone I am proud to be. I never thought that the place where I could truly be myself was in front of nearly 250 junior high school students. But it's so true! I am who I want to be from 7:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m in room 104.

I love it when the kids come in before school and play on the pianos.

I love it when a student who struggles with learning disabilities comes to me over and over again to re-take tests and/or make-up work. His/her desire to overcome his/her weaknesses and succeed is truly inspiring.

I love it when I have to ask a student to come sit next to me in the front because they're misbehaving and I get to listen to them and encourage them privately while they are near me.

I love it when my 7th grade students blow me out of the water by learning something extra fast.

I love it when one of my "tough guy" students actually sings and I can tell him how much we need a voice like his in our classroom.

I love it when my students encourage and lift each other on talent days by their kind written comments.

I love it when my students call me "Miss Houston."

I love it when my 8th graders get really excited about fundraising and ask questions like, "Can we fundraise more than what we're supposed to?"

I love being able to refer to the choirs as "my show choir kids" or, "my girls ensemble." I know they aren't really mine, but our individual choirs are like little families. And I guess that makes me Big Mama!

I love calling my students by name.

I love it when my students sing diligently!

I love it when my show choir buckles down and works up to their potential.

I love it when my students get really excited to share their talents on talent day and plan and prepare ahead of time.

I love it when my students correctly identify a note value or a symbol.

I love it when my students get excited over anything we may be doing in choir.

I love to love my students!