Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pick Joy

I'm just so tired. 
So on Monday I lamented about how my sweet, thoughtful, loving, funny, and semi-adorable Middle School Choir students had lost their ever loving minds! Y'all the struggle was so very real. So real I don't think that even the most mentally strong human beings on the planet could handle. 

Then came Tuesday. It was the same. I was like having two Mondays in a row, I'm not about that life. 

Then came Wednesday. Glorious, beautiful Wednesday. Everything just fell into place and my sweet little angels were back. I mean they are still Middle Schoolers, but you get the picture. 

My planner as a little box for some daily inspiration, the quote that day was super profound and awesome. Okay so actually this quote was really on the Thursday page, but it applied more to my Wednesday.

"Today, whatever may annoy, The word for me is Joy, just simple Joy." John Kendrick Bangs.

Y'all (please read this blog in my sweet Arkansas accent) this quote is the bomb! That perfectly describes our life as educators here in the crazy world of Middle School. 

Today, whatever may annoy.....spinners, slime, the dab, JuJu On That Beat, farting, body odor, being "roasted," and all that other crazy crap that Middle Schoolers do...I will pick Joy! 

I will pick Joy when my Men's Choir can't stand still while singing a beautiful ballad and my "basses" sound like lawnmowers because the refuse to sing up. 

I will pick Joy when my Seventh and Eight Grade Women's Choir love each other then hate each other then love each other again. 

I will pick Joy when my Sixth Grade Girl's Choir slides down to their pitches on "fruited plain" in America the Beautiful even though have literally gone over that darn phrase 75,000 times. 

I will pick Joy when my Show Choir's facials and energy level match that of the box of fish sticks I have in the freezer. 

Because I only have just a few more days with these kids. Some of them have been a part of my life for the past three years. I can't think an age group that I love more. Yes, their brains fall out, and they go a little nutty in the month of April. However these kids, my kids, they are my joy in a world full of annoyances. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Middle School Man

Me throughout the entire month of April. 
Holy Moly Spicy Gucamole...Middle School is rough. As I have had discussions with many different middle school teachers and staff, after Spring Break is a very difficult time in our lives. We love our students, we love them so very much. But oh my stars and garters...what has happened to their brains? Y'all I love my students and I really cannot put into words how much I love them, but oh good gravy. Cabin fever is real. The struggle is real. The cabin fever brought on by state testing struggle is real. If there is another Full Moon between now and the end of the school year, I very well just might lose what very little of my precious sanity I have left.

This has been one of the most interesting years in terms of funny, what it in the world are they thinking things that Middle School Kids have done.

The 2016-2017 School Year: the year of the dab, the bottle flip, the mannquin challenge, Andy's coming, the slime, and the spinners.

Teachers we have survived the snezzing dab, water bottles flying through the air, children freezing in time, yelling out Andy's coming and falling on the ground, the homemade slime craze (seriously a sixth grade girl at my school made 40 bucks selling slime), and the spinners that are supposed to help kids focus, but are now just distractions.

And we taught them stuff at the same time...or at least we tried too.

Stay strong, hold steady, don't die. We can do this!

Where else but Middle School will you find something so wonderful and so crazy at the same time? Middle School is the bomb. Now excuse me, I need to go bang my head against the wall.

Friday, April 14, 2017

100% Real

Sometimes people suck. Sometimes people say mean things. For the love, people say mean, hurtful, and harmful things. Sometimes they don’t mean it, and it just happens, but then sometimes they know exactly what they are saying and what they are doing. As educators, we develop a tough skin to all of the things said about us and said to us, but sometimes we just can’t have a tough skin about some things.

I love my job as a Vocal Music teacher. I love every part of it, and yes, some of it is hard to love, but I do. One of those hard to love areas is when I hear the one comment (in some form or another) every Elective and Fine Arts teacher hates hearing, “You aren’t a real teacher.” I can handle when I hear this from those outside of education, but when I hear it from other educators, I can’t even describe the hurt I feel. Just stop. Please for the love just stop.

I can assure you, what I do in my classroom is 100%. I went to and graduated from a real college. I earned a real degree. I teach at a real school. I teach in a real classroom. I teach real children. I am a real teacher. My classroom and my subject area might not look like your classroom and your subject area, but I do not teach at and in some magic fairyland. It is 100% real.

So many students I have had the opportunity to teach and love come to school not because they love going to math class; they come to school so they can sing, play an instrument, draw and create amazing masterpieces, act in plays, play sports, create computer codes, and learn a new language. For many students who feel they would never be successful in another area of their school career, they are successful in mine. They show up each day knowing no matter what happens in another class or any other circumstance, they can come to my classroom and be so successful. If that isn’t real, I don’t know what is….

This needs to stop. Teachers, we must stop shaming each other and check the egos at the door. It doesn’t help us and certainly doesn’t help our students. We are fighting uphill battles daily and fighting each other shouldn’t be one them. For the love, we need to get it together, before we end up biting ourselves in the butt. Legislatures, this applies to you too. I hope you understand how vital and important Electives, Fine Arts, Humanities, and Athletics are to students and to student engagement and success. However many schools due to the budget cuts that they have to deal with are having to cut and end these incredibly important programs.

So for the love, please pass a budget, and some form of budget reform would be awesome as well so these 100% real classes and real teachers can be protected!

Friday, March 31, 2017

This Is A Joke, Right?

Surely this is a joke, a bad dream, just one big old got ya!

No state government would have ever year after year defund core services such as education, health care, police, and fire. Surely this is a joke, there has to be a punch line somewhere.

Surely this is a joke, no state would ever have 868,000,000 fewer dollars to run their state with, that would never happen. Clearly, this is just one big joke, they are pulling our leg, right?

No. This is not a joke. This is real life, this is our reality. Our state has 868,000,000 MILLION dollars less than what it needs to run the state. That is less money for education, health and human services, public safety, foster care, state parks, and our highways. How many of those things on that list do you depend on? It doesn't seem like a joke right now, does it?

Luckily our state has laws in place from keeping it from going into debt which is great, but still how do we survive this? Let's face it we have to do more with less, which is something we have seemed to have gotten used too.

We are all losers in this game. However, there is an even bigger group of people that lose in this situation, the children of Oklahoma. It is their present and their future that is being robbed from them. How can people be okay with this? How can people lay their heads down at night and not be outraged? I'm outraged, I'm devasted, and I'm heartbroken. Did I mention I was outraged?

In November we had our chance to make lasting change. We had a choice to make. I tell my students all the time that choices have consequences. We are reaping our consequences. I will admit State Question 779, wasn't the best plan for teacher pay raises and for funding education, but it was the only plan on the table. That was voted down for a better plan, a better plan to be made by the legislatures. Guess who we voted back into the office? The same officials that ignored the revenue failures, that ignored properly funding education and other public services, that gave out tax cut after tax cut to oil, gas, and wind energy companies. Elections have consequences, we are living with ours.

School districts across the state are being faced with the impossible, gut-wrenching, painful task of trying to figure out what to cut and still serve students with 12% less of what they are supposed to have. Some of the things on the table: cutting transportation unless it is required by federal law. Cutting Fine Arts and Humanities, and Athletics. Going to four day weeks which many schools have already done. Reducing central level and building level administration positions.  Closing school sites and increasing class sizes. Furlough days: those are days where the district is closed, and no one gets paid.

Is this what kids deserve? Is that what is best for kids? For the love, if you answered yes to those to questions, meet me outside. No! This is not what is best for kids. Kids deserve going to school five days a week, they deserve access to Fine Arts and Humanities and Athletics, they deserve to have the adequate staffing in their buildings, they deserve to learn in the classroom that isn't overcrowded, and their teachers deserve to be paid accordingly.

But by all means...let's try to pass another voucher bill that takes away funding from our already underfunded schools. I don't know about you, but I don't know a school that is flushed with cash.

We need a working budget, and we need revenue, and if you ask me I don't think to increase the taxes at car washes and increasing the taxes on tobacco products is going to get it done. Get down to business and get a plan together! The House Democrats have one in place, House Republicans get out from closed doors, get with your colleagues and make this happen. Just do what you were sent to office to do, serve the people of Oklahoma. You can serve the people by passing a budget that works and generates the revenue stream that we need. There are many that are on the frontline fighting this fight, and I say thank you. Thank you for standing up for our children and for us.

Those children that I am speaking of, they did nothing wrong. They didn't make the poor choices that have gotten us here, but unfortunately, they are carrying the heavy burden. Let me tell you about those kids, they are the kids that sat in my Choir Room with tears streaming down their faces as they sang "America the Beautiful." When I asked them why they were so upset, the response was overwhelming, because America isn't very beautiful right now, and we can't change it. My students are 12, 13, and 14 years old. Those answers are way beyond their years. We have to figure it out for them. They did nothing wrong, and they don't deserve what is happening.

Oklahoma legislature, you have a choice to make, please make the right one. Because this isn't a joke.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tick Tock

Tick tock goes the clock
And what now shall we play?
Tick tock goes the clock
Now summer's gone away.

Tick tock goes the clock
And what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day
That thou shall marry me

Tick tock goes the clock
And all the years they fly.
Tick tock goes the clock
You and I must die.

Tick tock goes the clock
We laughed at fate and mourned her
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Doctor

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock 
Even for the Doctor

You are creeped out yet?!? Nursery rhythms tend to do that sometimes. I will admit I'm glad my mother never read that nursery rhythm to me. I had my first encounter with this little rhythm on the British TV series Doctor Who. Because of copyright laws, I can't show you any Doctor Who clips. But seriously go watch it. The basic premise of Doctor Who is that the Doctor is a time and space traveling alien called a Time Lord. He travels the universe in search of adventure and tries to save everyone because he once couldn't save everyone. Plus there are beautiful people with British accents!! 

Tick tock goes the clock
April First is coming
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Legislature

April 1st the deadline mandated by state law for the Oklahoma Legislature to have a budget for common education in place. The problem is they have only met that deadline once. My friend and fellow #oklaed blogger explained this brilliantly on his blog View from the Edge, seriously go read it! 

Tick tock goes the clock
April First is coming
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Legislature

So what have these guys been doing with their time instead of working on a budget? Let's see: there was legislation the would put the Ten Commandments back on the Capitol despite the state voting against it in a State Question in November. They debated for two hours about a law related to bears. They tried to pass voucher legislation, and they spent some time on abortion bills that will be stuck down unconstitutional in a heartbeat. Well, ain't that special. Thank you goes the Democratic caucus that put forth a budget idea! Now, will it get approved? Will the Republicans have one? Will it get finalized by April 1st? 

Tick Tock goes the clock
You're running out of time
Tick tock goes the clock
Not that you cared anyways

Friday, March 24, 2017

What If?

I have made it no secret that this school year has been rough. Between the election, personal and professional struggles, and everything else in between things have been crazy. So many times in these crazy and busy situations I forget to focus on the emotional needs of my students because I am just so consumed with my own thoughts and process. I hate admitting that, I really do. This week my fellow #oklaed blogger and friend Rob Miller reworked one of my favorite posts of his and reshared it for us. I loved how he phrased it as "listening with our eyes" what is so funny is I tell my students that all the time, however, I say that in the context of listening to and learning to read music. How often to I forget to listen with eyes to the needs of my students.

This had me thinking about a piece that I wrote a year ago, oh this world could be full of love.

Kid President is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. I love watching his videos, I love having my students watch his videos, so basically I just love everything about him.

Yesterday this picture was posted on the Kid President Facebook Page.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. "What if every kid in the world knew they were loved?"

Talk about a heart check.

I know that right now I'm on teacher auto-pilot. It is April, and I'm stressed out. Testing is full swing, I have a concert coming up, a trip to Frontier City, NJHS induction, and all the other usual it is almost the end of school year. I know that we are all experiencing this craziness right now. Somehow I wonder if have forgotten that my students need to know that I love them. That I have become so wrapped up in the day to day things, that I have started to lose sight of why I got into this profession, to begin with. Because I love kids.

How great would the world be if every kid knew they were loved? What about the child that is hungry? What about the child that is abused? What about the child that is abandoned? What about the child that looks like they have the picture perfect life but the picture isn't what it seems? What about the child that is homeless? What about the child with no family? If they knew they were loved, what could they do to change the world?

Kids are fighters, and they are resilient. However, they get stressed out and hurt just like we do. Educators they come to us not only to learn but also to be loved. Right now kids across the country are taking High Stakes Tests. Tests that in no way can ever give the real picture of what a child can do or who that child is. Teachers, you have done what you can to get them ready, you have taught them and gave them your best, but right now they need love. They need to know that you love them. You love them beyond measure. That their enough is more than sufficient. That is the knowledge that they need.

To put this simply, I believe that if every kid in the world knew they were loved, the world would be full of love. So much love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Loved People, Heal People

When I first started writing on For the Love, the original focus was never education advocacy and policy, it just kind of turned out that way. I don't regret ever making the shift to that simply because I saw a need and I felt that I had a unique voice that could be added to the mix of already amazingly talented #oklaed bloggers.

My original intent of starting this blog was to tell my story, my journey in how I built relationships with others. I have always felt that my strength was building people up and making them feel loved. This is something that has been on my heart for weeks and something that someone out there in the world needs. 

Hurt People, Hurt People

I don't know how many times I have read that phrase, have had someone say it to me, or I have even said it myself. There are hurting people around us all the time. I would even venture to say that as educators, we might have more hurting people around us than most. I know that sitting on my choral risers are kids that are in pain, and carry deep hurt. They lash out, they misbehave, some of them retreat within themselves, and others just put on a smile and continue with their day. I can't even begin to understand what some of those kids go through on the daily. My job as an educator is not only to teach them notes and rhythms on a page, the right tone, and vowel shaping but to show them how they can heal their hurt with those things. 

Hurting people sometimes don't even know that they are hurting. Hurting people sometimes aren't aware that they are hurting others. Let me tell ya, loving a hurting person is so damn hard. Why? Because one of two things happen, that person will accept your love and begin to heal themselves and relationships around them, or what is sometimes the most common, they will continue to hurt you, others, and themselves and at that point, you just have to walk away. 

Loved People, Love People

I love people, or at least I try to love all people. I have been very open, honest, raw, and transparent on For the Love over the past three months. This has not been easy. Sharing my soul, with others has been hard. I have been hurt a lot, by hurting people. I won't go into details because that is when gossip starts and more damage happens, but I have spent hours in tears. I have spent days questioning everything that I believe. I have had moments that I thought about walking away from this blog because I was being hurt by it. Hurt people, hurt people, but oh friends may we never lose sight of the fact that loved people, love people. I would even venture to say that loved people, heal people. 

Loved People, Heal People

I could be so easy to continue in a cycle of hurt. That if you have been hurt to continue to hurt others. But what lessons do we learn in that, how do we heal brokenness if we continue to hurt and cause harm to others. The answer is we can't. The easy road to take would be for me to harbor feelings of ill will and hate towards those that hurt, and I will admit that there have been times in the past few months that I have wished ill will on those that hurt me. However, I made a choice to take the more difficult path. Forgiveness and moving on. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you want and need that person in your everyday life, in many cases it means moving on with your life so you can continue to love others. Sometimes and especially with students when we love them, when we accept them for the glorious, beautiful mess that they are, we heal them. We heal the hurt, and they are no longer hurt people, but they are healed people that then become loved people. It is beautiful when it happens. We break that cycle of hurt that is running rampant in our society today.

But then sometimes, we have to walk away. Those times are the hardest and scariest. Those are the times that we just don't know how we move forward. This weekend I made the decision to love those that have hurt me, hurt my family, hurt my friends, and even hurt my students, but I decieded that forgiving them also meant walking away. I could have choosen to continue to hate, but I choose to love instead. For the love, wouldn't it be great if everyone could do the same?