Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Force of Change

While recently going through some old files, I came across my philosophy of education paper that I wrote for my Intro to Music Education class my sophomore year of college. I had it all it that paper, quotes from the Music Education giants Carl Orff, my man Zolton Kodáy, and Edwin Gordon, Arthur Holmes because I went to OBU and I thought that is what I was supposed to do, and all of the big words. I made an A on that paper, and I’m sure sophomore MegLo was thrilled by that grade, but semi-adult Meghan has to laugh. Do I still believe in every word I wrote? Yes. Do I think that my personal philosophy of Music Education has changed? Yes.

While the words of Orff, Gordon, and Kodály are important, but what I found is that my view and my role has the educator has changed. I had no idea at the age of 20 when I wrote that paper what I was going to encounter in the classroom. After five years in the classroom, I still think of myself as a baby teacher, and I have no clue what I’m doing. The reality is a finally found what works for me. My philosophy is simple; I don’t need the fancy words of Carl Orff, Edwin Gordon, or even Zolton Kodáy to determine how I view education. What I need is my words, my thoughts, because, after all, it is my story. My story, my journey to share with the world. My philosophy is deeply rooted in my why. Why do I teach? Because every child deserves the privilege to sing. My philosophy is simply this: Music Education should be a force for change in this world, and it is my job to bring about that change.

We live in a world that is driven by instant gratification. We want it done quickly, and we want results now. We stop to realize the beauty of the world. We stop to realize the beauty of sound, the beauty of silence. We lose that sense of wonder. We have to have a force of change to experience this beauty; it is my job to help my students discover that feeling again.

We live in a digital age, and while I love technology and what it has done for education, sometimes are just too dependent on it. Kids need to play without a screen, kids to experience and feel the music they are making. Kids need to know just exactly how powerful their voice can be. We will need a break from the screens sometimes. For some of my EdTech friends, please don’t take what I have to say to offensively, but sometimes our students are too tech driven. They need a break; they need to experience the world without their devices if only for an hour or two. Technology has its place in the choir, but choir and music are experiences. They need those experiences.

Music causes us to pause and reflect. It is my job to teach my students what to do with those pauses and what to do with those reflections.

What is your philosophy? Your journey? Your story?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Calling All First Year Teachers!!!

We can try to fight it, we can deny it, but we can’t change it. School is coming. Each year always brings new excitement, and of course, it always brings a whole new crop of professionals into this crazy profession.

First-year teachers, this is for you! Some of you are coming fresh out of college teacher preparation programs, and some of you are alternatively certified and leaving one profession and entering into another profession. Regardless of your path into the classroom, you are here now; buckle up it is about to get so good! First-year teachers keep me on my toes, and I am still a newbie teacher (or at least I think I am)! You are coming into your classrooms with fresh perspective, energy, and excitement. All of those are things veteran teachers are incredibly jealous of and wish they had. I love getting to know first-year teachers and developing friendships with you because you have something to teach me.

I remember my first year of teaching. I remember my successes and my failures, the times I laughed, the times I cried, and all of the crazy moments in between. There are so many things I wish I knew back then, and I want to share those with you.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

I went into my first year of teaching thinking I had finally arrived. I had my college degree and did my internship; I got this! I could not have been more wrong. My undergrad degree prepared me for a lot of things: how to plan a rehearsal, how to teach songs, how to conduct, and how to plan a concert. What they didn’t prepare me for: how to communicate with parents, how to run a parent-teacher conference, how to handle the student who just won’t do anything (in music education world you just think every kid will love music), how to manage an activity fund, or how to keep track of the nineteen million forms you have to keep in order. I thought I had it all under control; I was quickly reminded that was not the case, and I needed some help. There is nothing weak or wrong with asking for help; I still ask for help. Ask someone to read that email to a parent before you send it. Ask your administrator if they could sit in on a conference with you if you are worried about the parent. Ask someone to come in and watch you teach; take their feedback and put it into place. If you are struggling with a student, ask if anyone else is; don’t think it is just you. Chances are it isn’t. There are countless teachers on your site that want you to be successful. They know what they are doing, and they can help you. Use that help!

Remember You Are A Professional

You have worked so hard to get to this place in your career. You are a professional. Treat yourself as one, and always make sure you are respected as one as well. If you are in an email back and forth with a parent, stop--be the professional. You don’t need to engage in that conversation; send it on to your administrator and let them help you. Dress like a professional. Talk professionally. Make your students believe you have been doing this for years! Don’t argue with a student; those go nowhere, and you lose credibility with the rest of your students. They might be going through things you could never imagine.

Procedures Are Your Friends

I love procedures, and I have a procedure for everything in my classroom. There are procedures for coming into my room and leaving my room. There are procedures for passing out music, for passing in bell work, for sitting, for standing, and getting on and off risers. If it happens in my room, there is a procedure for it. I don’t just do procedures the first day of school and hope they get it. I spend the first three weeks of school hammering in those procedures. Of course, I sprinkle a little content in there too. After those three weeks, do I stop talking about procedures? Heck no! Every day is a reminder about procedures. To quote my friend Matt Fore, “Procedures get practiced 180 days. Otherwise, you get chaos.” Take the time needed to work on those procedures. It pays off, I promise!

Get To Know Your Students

This might sound like a no-brainer, but I thought I did a really good at knowing my students. But looking back on it, I think I could have done a better job. Just like I mentioned with procedures, spend those first couple weeks of school getting to know your students. Play games and do team building activities. Just as important, make sure they know a little bit about you, too!


Cherish your weekends. Take time to take care of you. Do fun things! It is all about time management, I set a deadline for myself: if it isn’t done by 4 pm, it can wait. Don’t overload yourself. You have a long career ahead of you! Brace and pace yourself!

Get on Twitter

Chances are you might already be on Twitter, but if not, this is your chance to grow yourself professionally. I love Twitter! This is the best professional development I have ever received! There are awesome educators out there, and you will learn and grow from them! If you need a list of some to start with, check my “Blogs to Read” page; they are the best! If you are a teacher in Oklahoma, take the time to make the Sunday night #oklaed Twitter chats a part of your life! We chat every Sunday, 8 PM CST. It is well worth your time and will help you so much.

You got this, teachers! Go out there and change the world!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stick Your Landings

If you are following me on Twitter, if you aren’t click here I promise I’m a fun kind of crazy, you have noticed that I’m borderline obsessed with the Olympics. Okay fine, I’m absolutely obsessed with the Olympics. As I’m currently writing this, I’m cheering on Team USA in Men’s Water Polo.

For the love, the Olympics are just my favorite time. I love the Summer Games, and I love the Winter Games. I’m also incredibly emotionally invested in the games. I cry. I cry a lot. I scream, I cheer, and I holler. I am deeply invested in TEAM USA. I don’t care if you judge me or think I am crazy. I will still jump off my couch and practice my gold medal winning gymnastics dismounts every single time.

Speaking of gymnastics dismounts, I want to talk about the queen. I’m not talking about Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, although they are queens in their own right. I’m talking about Kerri Strug, a member of the 1996 Magnificent Seven. One of my fondest memories of my childhood was watching the Team USA Women’s Gymnastics Team Finals. My parents let me stay up late and look at the event, of course, I had to do some begging. I loved those ladies. The gymnastics world had been dominated by the Romanian and Russian national teams and America finally had it’s shot. America was just points away from clenching Team Gold, but the unthinkable happened. Kerri Strug tore some ligaments in her ankle. Her vault score was the difference between where those ladies would stand on the medal podium. She was in searing pain. It was all over her face. She knew what she had to for her team to win. She vaulted. She vaulted for her life. SHE STUCK THE LANDING. FOR THE LOVE SHE STUCK THE LANDING!!!! If you don’t believe me, or you have forgotten about his amazing moment in American History watch this, and watch it now.

You might be thinking, Meghan what in the world does that have to do with education? Stay with me here; we are all Kerri Strug. Educators in Oklahoma have some torn ligaments in our ankles. The 2015-2016 school year was one that many would like to forget. We were met with body blows after body blows. We knew the budget shortfall and crisis would be bad, but we would have never imagined it being that bad. For many we are starting the 2016-2017 with less money, some with one less day of school a week and still the same expectations, some of us are having to absorb extra students into our classes because the teacher shortage is a real problem. But we still have to vault. Lean in close; this is good, we will stick the landing every single time.

We still stick the landing every time because our students need a champion. We still stick the landing every time because we are professionals, and we know the job we have at hand. We still stick the landing every time because we know the importance of that landing, and it is the difference between success and failures for our students. It is painful, and it is hard, but we do it anyways because we know that the result, in the end, is worth it.

So this upcoming school year, stick your landings. Raise your hands high on the dismount and enjoy every moment. Oh and GO TEAM USA!!!!