Thursday, April 30, 2009

Times Up! Part II...and Part III

If you can't beat 'em...join 'em!

That's why I'm searching for the perfect comeback prank to play on my 8th grade show choir students. They got me for a second time...and a third.

Two days ago, a student came in and helped me find a good hiding place for my timer. I had one timerless day. Yesterday, however, with my timer secure in its hiding place, I heard the melodic strains of "beep beep beep, beep beep beep," once again in my ears. As I moved toward the sound, I heard a chorus of, "hotter....warmer, warmer, warmer...colder, warmer, hotter..." as my students guided me to the source of the noise. I saw an unfamiliar looking timer on a high mounted speaker on the wall. Clever, very clever. One of the boys called out, "Can I have my timer back now?" He brought a timer from HOME to try to outwit me.

I figured that was the last of the wise-guy tricks. Today during second period, low and behold, a timer sounded. After scanning the room, I looked up to find a timer placed on top of the overhead projector screen. It looked different than any other timer I had seen thus far. Ten minutes later, I heard another timer and found it was identical to the first that went off at the beginning of the period. When I got my hands on the third timer of the day and found it was the exact same timer as the first two, I exclaimed, "Where do you get all these timers that are the exact same?!" The reply: "The Dollar Store!" They went out and BOUGHT four timers and placed them around the room.

At this point, I had completely lost control of my class and the song we were working on. I was fairly flustered and didn't quite know what to do. I put the timers next to the piano and tried pointlessly to forge ahead in the music. One of the boys came up and brought his bathroom pass for me to sign and I looked at him warily, with all the class laughing at the interaction. He dashed off to the bathroom and a few minutes after he got back, another time went off. But this time, it was one of the timers that had been sitting right next to me on the piano. I was a little did it get set without me noticing? My student had apparently set the timer when I was signing his name on the bathroom pass. How I didn't see it happening is a mystery to me, but not unusual, considering my past track record for picking up on my students' tricks.

By the end of the period, all three of the timers had been stolen back by the students somehow when I was moving about the classroom. Sigh.

So that is why I am on a mission to outwit them. They keep telling me that no matter what I come up with, they'll come up with something better. Is this really a war I want to engage in?

Either I do nothing, or do something so good that it cannot be matched.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A change will do you good!

It's amazing how altering one tiny thing about your teaching can give you a fresh outlook on life and help you find patience you didn't know you had.

Today, I decided to have all my choirs sit in one big circle around the room, rather than in rows. I don't know what it was about it, but I felt like we got more done. I became a more effective teacher because of the change and thus we were more productive as a class. I was much more patient and I was able to feel connected to each of my students as I stood in the middle and cued them from the center. I was able to be positive about everything they were doing well. The level of talking was perhaps just the same as always, but I felt so much more optimistic about life because of trying something new and different. I had a greater sense of energy and excitement.

A change is always refreshing to the kids as well, and it's kind of funny to see how it throws them off. I wrote down some of the comments I heard my students saying when they walked into the classroom and saw all the chairs arranged differently.

"Ooooh where do I sit?!"
"Woah, a circle!"
"Wait a second, that's not right..."
"Hey, the chairs are messed up, just so you guys know."

One thing I didn't count on regarding my new found energy and excitement over the seating arrangement was how utterly and completely exhausted I would be. Literally in the middle of fifth period I sat right down on the ground in the middle of the circle and stayed there for about five minutes to catch my breath. I'm not as young as I used to be! :-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You've heard about the baby blues...

...well, Dana and Jason are getting them in twos!!

For Dana's wedding, I made her a little photo album with blank pages in the back for pictures from her wedding, pictures from my future wedding, and pictures of each of us pregnant. The picture above is for one of the empty pages in the album!

Playing a game of baby memory...

Baby Melanie and her mommy.

I couldn't resist the tennis shoes. Honestly. Baby showers are a lot more fun than bridal showers I've decided.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Time's Up!

Beep beep beep beep! Beep beep beep beep!

"What the JUNK?! Why does the timer go off like that everyday?"

I have been saying the same phrase for the past three days during my 8th grade show choir. I have a timer I use when the kids are having trouble focusing. I'll start the timer and that's how long we have to stay after class. I don't use it with my eighth graders hardly at all, but I leave it around the piano or on my music stand. Oddly, my timer has been ringing every second period in the middle of class. I haven't been able to figure it out because the little timer doesn't seem to have an alarm function that would cause it to ring every day at the same time.

Is anyone seeing what I failed to realize for an embarrassingly long period of time?

Today, when the alarm went off and I had my typical shocked reaction, I saw some boys in my choir snickering. Of course.

I actually thought that was pretty funny. I shouldn't have encouraged them. After their first trick was so successful, they decided they were all going to use their bathroom passes one after the other so that the minute one boy left, another boy would get up and use his pass (which I have to sign before they can use). I gave them three passes at the beginning of the term and told them they couldn't leave the classroom without using one, but that if they had a pass, I couldn't say no. So, they thought they'd be cute and use my own words against me which happened to make me slightly irate. I finally got super mad at them. I was trying not to lose patience, but I did. In a raised tone of voice, I firmly said, "STOP!" My students replied, "But you said we could use it whenever we wanted..." I then used the line my principal told me she used once: "I'm not going to play your games."

I was so tough. I showed them who was boss. Sigh. Who am I trying to kid? I felt like the biggest jerk ever and just wanted to go hide in my office. I feel like they all hate me now and don't think I have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Work it!

Phil took some pictures of us when we were in Santa Barbara at Chase Palm Park. It was fun to sass it up for an hour!

Winding Up While Winding Down

The school year is winding down and it's time for teachers to cram everything in to the end of the year before the time slips through our fingers! This is a crazy final month for me as a choir teacher because I have auditions for next year's choirs, our final choir concert, and the Lagoon Jr. High choir festival all within a 30 day period. It's exciting, though. I learned while working at Present Time on Calle Real that it's MUCH better to have too much to do at work than to have nothing at all to do to occupy the time. I became the queen of making up jobs for myself during those summer days at the gift store. The greatest thing was when I'd show up to work the next day after having arranged all the display shelves only to find them rearranged all over again by whoever worked there after I did. Sigh. Anyway, I digress.

Today during my prep period, I was asked by the special education teacher to come watch her class while she took care of other business. She has the severely disabled students and it was a neat experience to get to read a book with them. I got excited when they could identify a hat or a dog on the pages. I naively had no idea what to assume about their levels of intelligence. They were so cute. One girl kept chastising her book when she couldn't get the pages turned: "Stupid book!" The special ed students come visit my 7th period music connections class each day to integrate with the other kids. Today, when they came, one of the girls from the class automatically became my best friend simply because I had been in her classroom interacting with her the period before. She gives her heart so freely. What would it be like if we gave our trust so easily to others? Would we be hurt more often or less?

My students are so great. I love them. Today during 7th period, I had them rotate to stations where they identified notes on the staff and wrote them down. They actually spent basically the whole period actively engaged in the activity. I absolutely had no idea what to do with myself. I was at a total loss! I really don't think that's ever happened to me before in my entire first year of teaching. They were helping each other and it seemed like most everyone was participating and learning together. That could have been my imagination, but I like to cherish the hope anyhow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

California Girls!

At the SLC airport, waiting to board.

Excited to be in Huntington Beach, California!

Attempted beach trip (above). Actual destination due to raging winds on the beach (below).


We finally made it on the beach!

...but it was still just a wee bit cold for the California babies. Melissa, on the other hand, was doing fine!

Our rental car Rita (above) and our friendship bracelets (below). Yes, we did in fact name our car and talk to her. We also, indeed, got friendship bracelets.

Bonfire in Santa Barbara!

A Scott Houston Special pancake breakfast!

My darling little sister as Maybelle in "Pirates of Penzance." I was so proud of her!!

The Dad Houston "Nickel Tour" through Santa Barbara took us to Hendry's beach...

To the Summerland Inn Cafe for breaakfast...

...and the Santa Barbara mission!

Dinner with Cha-Cha in Los Angeles

You can just barely see the "Hollywood" sign on the mountain behind us.

At "Mama Mia" at the Pantages theater.

Our new friend, Sean!

Heading back to the Long Beach Airport...

Writing down memories from the trip!

I wish every day was a California day!!