Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Enough is Enough

It has taken me about two days to compose this post. It has brought out about twenty different emotions in me, from happy to angry to sad to down right ugly cry.

Welcome to being a secondary vocal music educator in Oklahoma where all of your district choir, all state choir, Circle the State with Song Children's festival, and children's all state chorus entries have to be turned in within the same time frame to four different people. Let's don't forget about the concert that is happening in three weeks, the auditions for district honor choir and for all state are looming, the children's all state CDs that need to be made, the purchase orders that need to be opened, the t-shirts that need to be ordered, the fundraiser that needs to be mailed off, and oh let's not forget about that whole teaching thing that needs to happen. During my first year of teaching I had a major meltdown around this time. All of the stress of the paperwork(which there should be an undergraduate class in paperwork) and it being my first year teaching, I lost it. Sitting in my office after school, ugly crying. I promised myself after that moment each year would be different. But....it never fails, the end of September meltdown. It came yesterday, along with all of the feelings with it. Each year, each ugly crying overwhelmed fit comes with the biggest scariest thought I have...I have failed and I'm not enough.

Failure is my biggest fear. They idea of failure and that it could happen has always motiviated me, but that own fear of failure has at many times caused way more stress than needed in my life. I have even written about my fear of failure

The What If Game

Surely I can't be the only educator that has this little meltdown. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that my enough is not enough. At the end of the day yesterday, I sat in my office in my classroom cried for a good fifteen minutes and then went home and cried for another thirty minutes. As I sat there on my couch sobbing into my mint chocolate chip ice cream, my thoughts were consumed with thoughts of failure and jumping to conclusions. I jump to conclusions like it is a high dive into a pool full of jello. What if that purchase order doesn't get opened? What if that entry didn't go through? What if I don't have a student make district honor choir? What if my all state CDs have one minor flaw and they get disqualified? What if? What if? What if?

Let's just take a look at all the things that mentioned. All of these things are important and all of the things are just a part of my job. Do any of those things have anything to do with teaching choral music? Okay maybe the honor choir is about teaching choral music. Because here is the thing, those things...they don't show that my enough is enough. So yesterday when I was sobbing into my mint chocolate chip ice cream was I thinking about how I got 29 middle school boys to cut off at the same time and not sing through a rest? That was no easy feat. Was I thinking about how the same group of 7th grade girls that last year as sixth graders that struggled with two part harmony successfully sang in the three part harmony? Was I thinking about how adorably polite and loving my sixth grade girls class is every single day? Was I thinking about how my Fine Arts class rocked their STOMP Projects? The things that I am judging my abilities and my enough as a teacher are in fact aspects of my job that truly are not related to my teaching, but are just the by product of being a secondary Vocal Music teacher. Then it hit me, my enough is more enough.

My Enough is Enough, Your Enough is Enough.

While yes, the paperwork side of my job is important, at the end of the day being the best educator, musician, leader, and person is what my students need and more importantly what they deserve. To put it simply, it was never about me anyways. At the end of the day it is always about the hundred and forty lives that I get to educate, enrich, and more importanlty love every day. My enough is more than enough for them.

So for the rest of this school year, when I'm tempted to have that little meltdown. When I'm tempted to believe that I'm not enough. When I'm tempted believe that I am not a good teacher. I need to remember my enough is enough and no matter what my kids making beautiful music and becoming good people is all that matter. So my friends whether you are a teacher, a student, or involved in another career just remember your enough is always enough.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Leadership and What Do They Do When I'm Not There

First of all I'm just so overwhelmed by the love and support for my little blogging project, to my #oklaed PLN thank you! Thank you for sharing in this vision and loving and supporting each other so well!

As much as we would never want to miss school, because let's be real preparing for the sub is more work than if we were actually at school that day. Most of the time that I have to be gone is for school activities but there are those times when I have the strep throat. I won't lie to you, there have been moments when my sub plans were just fluff and didn't really have any lasting impact for my students. So last year I made some changes to my sub plans and it is has really been a great thing. The chances of me ever having a certified music teacher in my classroom is a rare thing, and being willing to walk into a room full of middle schoolers is pretty daunting. Walking into a Vocal Music classroom full of middle schoolers is just down right crazy. Preparing easy to follow plans and preparing your students for that sub is so important. So whenever I have a sub, for those planned and unplanned times, I have the same lesson plan. So here is a nice little break down:

Have a binder that a sub can easily find. In that binder you need to have up to date rosters, seating charts, schedule for the day, what do in an emergency, important phone numbers (include a phone a friend/buddy teacher in case your children lose their minds), and the lesson plan. You also will need a small plastic tub that will hold all of your materials.

My lesson plan is pretty simple, easy to follow, and keeps my students singing and making music! I also have a list of pre-appointed student leaders to lead all of the activities in the different categories. At the end of this post there is a link to my favorite Teachers Pay Teachers Store for Lindsey Jarvis. If you are a music educator and more importantly a Kodaly inspired music educator check out her stuff. It will change your life. I love and use almost all of her visual aids!

  • I leave a list of our favorite brain warm ups and movement games, I have about five on that list and the class will vote on two of them to do. 
  • After our brain warm ups and movement games, there is a list of ten of our favorite singing games. Just like with the activity before the class votes on five of them to do. 
  • Following the singing games, I have a list of six cannons and partner songs, the class votes for three of them to work on. 
  • After we work on cannons and partner songs, there is a small sight reading element. Right now my students are just working major scales and intervals. As the year progresses I will leave more difficult sight reading examples from our sight reading books and from some OSSAA Sight Reading contest released items. 
  • Once all of those things have been completed, my students divide themselves into small groups from random draw. Once they are in their groups, they vote for a group leader and the group leader will go to the sub tub and get out the game assigned to their group. In that tub I have tons of rhythmic reading games, melodic pattern games, and some Solfege help games. Students will play those games twice. 
  • If there is time, they can go back to the list of singing games and chose more games to play.

I love using this plan for many reasons. One it keeps my kiddos singing. Two it keeps my kiddos in a semi-normal routine. Finally, it passes on the responsibility to my students. More than anything it develops student leaders. 

Today, I had to use my sub plan, and I was at school! Today my catalog fundraiser was due and I had a massive amount of money that I needed to count and make sure I had the ducks in the row. So while I was sitting at a table in classroom counting money(which I hate), my student leaders taught class! It was great being able to test out this plan with my student leaders while I was there and not having them do this the first time with a sub. Plus it just really reinforced the proper behavior for class with me being there. I could redirect if needed. I told my students that when I have to be gone this is what they would do, and they loved it. If there was an area that they had some struggles with I could step in and help. But you know what I didn't have to step in. 

So here is my crazy hot mess confession, at one point I had tears in my eyes. To see and hear my students teach and lead their peers was just heart warming. What I loved was the most was that  I overheard them using so many of the phrases that I use all the time, "Check your posture" "Keep your vowels north and south and not east and west" "5 4 3 2 1" It was like watching 15 "little Meghans." Which we should be worried about if there really was 15 mini-Meghans. 

Developing student leaders is one of my favorite parts of my job, and one of the reasons why I wanted to co-sponsor National Junior Honor Society (that is a whole other story). Watching my students grow into leaders just gets me so excited. I see so much potential in them, and today I saw a future Vocal Music teacher in the making. Watching this young lady lead her class, was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, she is a natural. Her classmates were struggling and I thought that I was going to have to step in and help her out, However, she changed it. She broke it down and explained it to her classmates and they got it. By the way, this young lady is a sixth grader. She is eleven. Holy Moly Spicy Guacamole. 

So teachers, what do you do when a sub is in your room? What do you do prepare student leaders? I'm so curious and I want to know, you know so I can steal...errrr ummm. borrow your ideas. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Literacy and the Electives Teacher

So this might be a bit of a hot mess post, but let's be real my hot messness is just a part of who I am. When I started this blog it was just a way for me to tell my story. To tell the crazy things that just seem to happen to me and to tell them in the typical awkward Meghan fashion. While that is still true, this blog has because a great avenue for me to share my thoughts on teaching, which hello...it is my passion, my heart, and my slight obsession. What I love about education blogging is that it is connecting me with so many other educators. Below are links to some of my blogger/friends(even though I have never actually met them I'm sure we are besties for the resties). Check them out!!! There are so many more but these are a great place to start!

Blue Cereal Education
View From The Edge
Teaching From Here

Okay so let's get to the point here...during last night's #oklaed Twitter chat, which by the way if you are an Oklahoma educator and you are not on Twitter or if you are and you are not participating in our Sunday Twitter chat may I ask why? Okay now I'm really getting to the point...our chat was over literacy. I love literacy it is great, amazing, fabulous, wonderful...I can get on board with literacy. One of the questions was "How can classes like electives support reading and writing?" When I saw that this question was going to be asked, I would say that my excitement was much like that moment when I pull combination pizza rolls out of the oven. Which is pretty darn excited! I'm an incredibly passionate person about what I do and what I teach, so I was looking forward to sharing my thoughts. For the love I was super pumped.

First-electives teachers are real teachers. I can't even begin to describe how hurtful and harmful I find it when other educators say I'm not a real teacher, but I'm a glorified babysitter. I am a real educator. What I teach might not look like what you teach, but let me tell ya, what I teach is real. What I do on a daily basis is real. The kids that struggles in your Math or ELA class, is a rock star in mine. I teach choir, because when I was a middle school kid, I needed it. I have wanted to teach middle school choir since I was in middle school choir. Electives teachers are real teachers we work hard to ensure quality educational experiences for our students. Students need music, art, drama, computers, foreign languages, and PE not because they "raise test scores" but just because.

Second-we teach literacy. There are so many forms of literacy out there. Musical literacy, visual literacy, digital literacy, and so on and so on. I love what my man Zolton Kodaly says about music literacy. "We should read music the same way the an educated adult would read a book: in silence but imagining the sound." I tell my students all the time that in my class we read with our ears and listen with our eyes. The first time I tell them this, they look at me like I'm a crazy loon, well actually they look at me like that all the time. I'm not just building singers, I'm building musicians. My end goal is for my students to look at what is is musically written on the page and be able to hear the music in their heads. Is it easy...hahahahahahahahahahahahaha no. It takes a lot of work on my part and it takes a lot of time on my students part. But when they get it, it is so awesome! So yes I teach literacy.

Third-just let us teach and do our thing. Like I said, we are quality teachers doing quality work. We have projects and lessons that educate the whole child. To ask us to teach how to read non-fiction articles and essays is just wrong. Because to ask you to come and teach choir with no training would be crazy. We will be more than happy to support you and more than happy to encourage our students in your classes. I encourage my students to read and I have them journal at the end of our content units and they love it. Plus I'm a reader myself, I love reading and I love talking books with my little darlings.  Like I said before, we are teaching literacy.

My final thought is this: Let's stop teacher shaming each other and respect what we are doing.  Let's support, build up, and encourage each other. So we can ultimately reach our goal to reach students and to make them better readers, better math students, better historians, better scientists, and more importantly better people.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


One year. 52 weeks. 365 days. These numbers reflect the time that has passed since Dr. Kristen Stauffer Todd left this earth to her real "home." In the past 365 days I have watched an entire community, my tribe, my people that I have done life with through the thick and thin mourn her loss. I have been lucky to have had a legacy of educators pour into my education, but none is more prolific than the life of this amazing woman.

When I first came to Oklahoma Baptist University as a Freshman, I thought I knew it all. I was quick to find out that was not the case. I need someone to set me straight, someone that would offer me guidance, that someone was Dr. Todd. I find it funny that while I enjoyed a good cup of coffee just in the mornings, her influence over me quickly reached to coffee anytime of the day! I remember sitting in her class and remembering just how engaging her lessons where, how we were all a captive class. And for college students, more importantly college music majors captivity a group of the biggest walking talking ADHD advertisment was no easy feat! She was brilliant. And the beauty about her and about her teaching was that it simply was not about her, it was about the students that she was teaching. Dr. Todd taught us more than just Music and Art History. She taught us how to be better people. She knew that her successes with us would lead to successes in our own classrooms, our own churches, graduate classes, ensembles, opera companies, and so much more. She saw beyond the group of individuals sitting in front of her. She believed that we were all brilliant. She believed that I was brilliant. She told me every chance she could that I was brilliant. And there were days that just hearing those precious words made all the difference. When I was stressed or to a point that she knew that I was going to break, she would invite me for coffee, we would talk and then she would tell I was made for this and that I was brilliant.

The last time she and I had coffee was just a few days graduation. I was watching so many of my classmates talk about the jobs that they had just found out about or the grad schools they were going to, and I didn't have a clue. I had no job. I had no plan. I was freaked out. Dr.Todd told me something pretty amazing  "There is a group of students out there that need you more than you need them." This is why she was brilliant. Because she knew that there was a group of students out there that needed her more than she needed them. Brilliant.

KST, I hope that I have made you proud. I hope that you laugh when I ask a room full of middle school kids "questions, concerns, or traumas," I hope that my students get to experience a small of part of you through my teaching. I promise that I will make sure that they all know that they are brilliant. One year later, it still doesn't seem real or fair that you aren't here. But oh how I look forward to that coffee one glorious day. Thank you doesn't seem big enough.