Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dear Target Mom,

This week I experienced one of the most surreal experiences as an educator. This experience was not in my classroom, but in the school supply aisle in Target. As I was there getting some pencils and index cards, I overheard a woman ranting and raving over her child’s school supply list. What was she so upset about? That the school had a box of Kleenex as one of the required supplies. According to her, if it were something her child would not personally use, it shouldn’t be purchased by individual parents, but by the classroom teacher. I didn’t know this woman, but I politely introduced myself to her and explained to her why I, as a teacher, ask for Kleenex on my supply list. Her response: “Buy that s**t yourself and don’t use my hard earned money, you lefty communist teacher.” She walked away, and I walked away in tears.  Of course, like any other stressful situations, I figured out what to say after the fact.

Dear Target School Supply Mom,

My name is Meghan Loyd, and I am the school teacher you berated: “Buy that s**t yourself and don't use my hard money, you lefty communist teacher.” Engaging you in the school supply aisle wouldn’t have been the appropriate thing do, but I hope if you were to hear what I have to say, maybe it could change your mind. First all, I don’t know you or your financial situation; it is none of my business, but please don’t assume you know me and my financial situation. My money is hard earned too. I have rent, car payments, health care expenses, utilities, and fur babies to care for; yes, I buy some supplies for my classroom, but if I tried to buy all of my school supplies myself, it would provide a huge strain to my budget.

I understand times are hard, and many families are struggling. I’m sure if that is the case for your family, and you can’t afford some of the community supplies on your child’s list, if you talked to that teacher, they could work something out for you. However, taking into consideration your response toward me, that isn’t the case. Teachers across this state are being asked to do more with less. When we ask for a box of Kleenex on our supply list, it is not because we are too lazy to buy them ourselves; it is because we know if we did, we would be out of Kleenex by October.

I wish we lived in a place where education was of the highest value. I wish we as educators didn’t have to ask for supplies and all of our supplies just so happened to be provided for us. However, that is not the case, and we need your help sometimes. If it is too much, please talk to your child’s teacher directly; please don’t bad mouth all teachers in the aisle of a Target.

If you want to help, here is what you can do: don’t buy just one Kleenex box, buy two. Buy extra pens and pencils your child’s teacher can use for their whole class. Or, maybe you just purchase an extra supply set for a child in need. Those are things we need--what we don’t need are haters in the back-to-school aisle.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kodaly Level Two Wrap Up

Last summer I began my journey into the world of all things Zolton Kodály. Little did I know this training would not only challenge me as a musician and an educator but as a human being. I find myself each moment discovering more and more about this amazing man and educator, and each time my mind is blown away.

For those of you unfamiliar with Zoltan Kodály, here is just a brief little overview. Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer, philosopher, and nationalist. While he did not develop the method, his colleagues and students took his ideas and teachings and developed the Kodály method of music teaching. According to Kodály educator Susan Brumfield, “In reality, the teaching inspired by Kodaly may be more accurately described as an approach to music education, based on Kodály’s vision for the musical, intellectual, physical, and spiritual development of children. Kodály-inspired music education is known for its sequential development of skills, emphasis on music literacy and singing-based curriculum” (First, We Sing! Kodaly-Inspired Teaching 8).

When educators like myself want to achieve certification in the Kodály approach, there are three levels of training to complete. These levels offer educators intensive training in musicianship, methodology, conducting, and folk dancing. Yes, you read that correctly, folk dancing! Last summer I took my Level One training, and you can read all about that here: Level One Wrap Up. Level One was intense; Level Two was insane. But, a great insane.

To start off, let me tell you just a few moments that will go down in the Meghan Loyd, Hot Mess Express Hall of Fame. Trust me, this is a great Hall of Fame. I should sell tickets just for a viewing.

Hot Mess Express Number 1: The Books.
I ordered all of my needed materials for class three weeks before classes started. Well, for whatever unexplained reason, UPS will not deliver to my apartment complex. They will deliver to the Post Office, and then the Post Office will deliver to me. I did not know this--if I had, I would have ordered them five years in advance. The class was set to start, but I still did not have materials; luckily a wonderful friend of mine let me borrow her materials. My books arrived on Week Two, Day Three of my two-week course. However, the Postal Service delivered them to my apartment complex office that opens at 9 am and closes at 5 pm...I was in class from 8:30-5:00. I now have my books. The class was over, but I had the resources. When I called UPS, they told me if they could deliver to my apartment complex, they would have just placed them outside of my door. Thanks for the reassuring information of what you would do if you could have done something. Get your life together, UPS!

Hot Mess Express Number 2: The Dress.
One day I wanted to be fancy, and I wore a dress. That day there was a tornado warning and wind gusts that gave me more than one Marilyn Monroe moment. But perhaps the greatest moment came in folk dancing: when I decided to get fancy and do a little spin, my dress decided to do a little spin too and showed my instructor my pink polka dot undies.

Hot Mess Express Number Three: The Glasses.
My dog ate my glasses. For real, it happened. In the middle of the night, said puppy got hold of my frames I need to function and chewed them to bits. So, I missed my morning musicianship class because I needed to get new frames and lenses.

While those moments will forever be in my mind when I think about Kodály Level Two, the moments of learning will always outshine the crazy. I finally understand modes, along with the tagline “What the Phrygian?” When I become a better musician, I become a better educator. I learned to “cut the crap” and that my students should be working harder than I am. I hand my students everything on a silver platter, and I now I realize the huge disservice I have done them. Do they know the concepts, or have they just leaned so heavily on the crutch I gave them that they make me think they know the concepts? I have a huge habit of singing while conducting, and I need to break that habit. I’m just giving my students one more place “to read” from; it is confusing for them. Are they following my mouth, or are they following my conducting gestures? At any rate, this only creates a crutch to their learning.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I write about community. I believe educators need community. My Kodály training has provided me with the greatest community I could have ever asked for, and for that I am thankful. These music educators are amazing to me. They have made me laugh till I cried and almost peed my pants, they embraced and accepted my quirky brand of crazy, they have inspired me, and they have empowered me. To my Kodály Ballers, thank you. You are my tribe, my people, and my heart. Growing and learning with you has been my greatest joy. My instructors are amazing. To Sandy Knudsen and Bev Aynan, I will never be able to repay you for your guidance, mentorship, and love. Perhaps the best way I can is through my teaching. I strive daily to make you proud! Kodály has given me another family of music educators, and I love that! We cannot do this incredibly important job alone. We need each other.

My biggest take away is this: we need music now more than ever before. Zolton Kodály once said, “We must look forward to a time when all people in all lands are brought together through singing, and when there is universal harmony.” When Kodaly was at the height of his career, and his beloved Hungary was reeling from the aftermath of World War I, he lived through World War II and watched his country fall behind the Iron Curtain. I can’t imagine he thought things could get any worse for his land and his people. He held onto hope and believed the world could be brought together through singing. We need music today. We need to sing. We need to sing loudly and together. We need to believe our song will bring peace. At the end of our Level Two concert, and at the end of many sessions meetings of Kodaly Educators across the nation, they close out the meetings with the song “Harmonia Mundi.” This 16th Century German Chorale arranged by Hungarian Lázló Vikár with English text by Sean Deibler leaves me in tears every time. There is something magical about community singing, and in today’s climate, these words need to be sung.

We gather here together with joyful hearts and minds.
To raise our voices ever, our distance souls to bind.
To remember in this moment of friendship, love, and joy.
That music made together can one day heal mankind.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Better Together

Over the past three weeks, I have found myself sitting down to write, and nothing happens. It is like my mind is just not communicating with my fingertips and keyboard. It has been frustrating. Or I have started to write, and then I have hated every single word I type, and I delete the whole thing.

I recently took my frustrations to Twitter. What I found was a community of educators wanting to hear what I had to say regardless of my fears and writing hang-ups. That has lead me to this idea I have said time and time again but have never articulated in writing: "We are better together." I have heard this statement countless times at my church, but I never really thought of it regarding education. The truth behind this statement is so far reaching.

In Our Classrooms:
We are better together in our classrooms when we partner with the families of our students to provide the best educational opportunities possible. In my classroom, my students and I are better together when we build a community of trust. We are better together when they know me, and I have taken the time to understand them.

In Our Buildings:
We are better together when we as educators collaborate to seek the best possible outcomes for all students in our buildings. When we work together to do what is best for students, we are taking into consideration not all students learn the same or work at the same pace, but we work together to find common ground and resources to make every single child successful. When we partner together with administration, support staff, and parents, we develop a positive culture and learning environment where all students feel safe to grow and to learn.

In Our Communities:
We are better together when we take what we are doing in school sites with our communities. When we do this, they can see what we are doing, and we invite them to be part of the educational process.

In Our Profession:
We are better together when we stand as one and advocate for the betterment of our students, our schools, and our state. Together we can join forces to do what we do best: educate others about the issues that matter to our profession. We can inform lawmakers and others of the importance of what we do and how the decisions they make affect us all.

We cannot go at this on our own. We need each other. We need each other for support, love, encouragement, guidance, a swift kick in the rear end, and accountability. As an elective teacher, I am the only choir teacher in my building, and it is so easy for me to end up in lonely island club. However, I need the help and support of others to be successful in my classroom and beyond.

We have uphill battles we are facing. We need each other. Lean in, listen to one another, and love each other fiercely. When we love each other fiercely then we cannot be afraid to call some out when they are doing harm to themselves or the community--but this also means we respect what they have to say.

We are better together, and when we are better together, our students will reap the benefits of the community we have sown together.