Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One more step along the journey! - My return to my music blog

I am thrilled to announce that my dad is coming home on FRIDAY!

Thanksgiving Day 2012 - my dad, my mom, my brother and I 

When he gets home on Friday he will have spent 115 days in the hospital!

What an incredible, sometimes frightening and amazingly hopeful season it has been in the life of our family!

When my dad was admitted December 4  into MD Anderson,  he had no diagnosis and was fading fast.  He had been sick since the end of September with what we first thought was a viral bronchitis and what ultimately turned out to be angioplastic T-cell lymphoma.  He was so sick that he was placed on a ventilator almost immediately and before 24 hours had passed he was also on dialysis.  They ran all sorts of tests, threw every medicine at him that his body could hold in order to keep him alive long enough for a diagnosis and eventually placed a tracheotomy so that they could ease him off of the ventilator more slowly and safely.  By December 23rd he had his first day of full consciousness.

My dad at physical therapy on Saturday March 22, 2014
He continued to slowly and haltingly recover.  He was moved to a regular room just after Christmas and spent January working to get off of dialysis and eventually even had the tracheotomy removed and began to eat normal food.  Just as he was starting to walk with help, he had a major set back when he came down with a fast acting pneumonia. On February 9th he was readmitted back to the ICU where he once again had to be placed on a ventilator in order to give his body time to respond to medicine.  Things were uncertain for a VERY long time and then finally, after careful consideration and a vast improvement due to the ever faithful Sulfa drugs, he was finally taken off of the ventilator and allowed to once again begin the process of rebuilding.  

By last week, he had finally gained enough weight, strength and stamina that they allowed him to begin chemo.  They started his treatment as inpatient treatment since he was so very frail.

Last week, they moved him to the rehab section of the hospital so that he could go through rehab "boot camp".  Today he practiced getting in the car and getting out of the car and on Friday, he is coming home!!!

He starts his second round of chemo next week.  It will be followed by several months of continued physical therapy so that he can once again move with strength and freedom.  While the days to come will be difficult,  we are looking forward to his continued perseverance and his complete recovery.

Now that my family is growing accustomed to the demands and rhythms of life with cancer and it's challenging treatments I feel like I am finally in a position to begin blogging again.  I've really missed it as I find it a very useful way to reflect on the day.  Also, this has been an exciting year at my new school and even in the midst of the craziness of the last few months I've had so many wonderful teaching experiences that I've got plans to share with you as time permits.

Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for praying for my sweet dad!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just in case you were wondering

Although this crazy fall didn't provide very much time for me to blog, I really enjoy it and was seriously looking forward to the spring when I was certain I would have more time to devote to this project that I enjoy so much.

And then my dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma.

He has been actively seeking a diagnosis since late September and after several referrals to an oncologist and follow up appointments, he nearly died four times between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

He is currently doing SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better, but is still not strong enough to receive chemo as the chemo used to treat this form of lymphoma is so large that in his weakened state it would surely overwhelm him.  With no chemo his prognosis is grim at best.

Throughout these months we have literally seen miracles beyond what we could have asked for and have been carried through each day in the grace that the Lord has given us.

I've got to tell you that I am looking forward to the day when I can have room in my brain for more than just my dad and his health.  When that day arrives, I will happily return to blogging.

Please pray for my daddy.  He is the best man I know.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sing Along Series 1 - Jingle Bells

Who doesn't love a Holiday sing along!

Well if you've never done one before, they are great, but it's nice to have the words up so that everyone can see them....

Here is a FREE slideshow for the song Jingle Bells


I've included the words to 2 verses.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Patriotic costumes - the EASY way!

This year my 3rd graders are going to perform
Song and Dance Man: George M. Cohan by Jill and Michael Gallina.  I love having students perform this musical because it is both a patriotic and biographical piece. 
My students love the songs and the speaking parts lend themselves to easy memorization. 
This is also a great musical in terms of set design because the contents of an old attic are pretty easy to find, so you can use things that you have rather than things that have to be made. 
I'm a softie when it comes to "solo" parts and tend to use "featured" singers rather than solo singers.  I like to assign solo parts to 2-3 students to sing in a duet or trio which allows them to be more confident and collaborative, while rewarding them for their excellence. 
With that in mind we have some students who are going to have to wear "special" costumes. 
I love these vests because when made out of felt there are only two straight seams to sew!  That is hardly any sewing at all and if your name that is WONDERFUL news!  I ask the kids to wear jeans and long sleeve white shirts.  I provide a vest and a bow tie and hat.  EASY PEASY! 

this vest was made in felt and then covered in the shiny fabric.  I can't claim this one, my mom made it today....  She was smart enough to sew the fancy fabric onto the felt..... I'll admit that I would have tried tacky glue first....
This is my "Yankee Doodle Boy" vest.  He is going to wear this
vest with some knee length shiny shorts I found at Walmart on sale.

I made 4 of these out of felt and used fabric paint
to "embroider" the stars onto the vest.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

5 Teacher Attitudes that Foster a Great Elementary Choir Rehearsal

So rehearsal, whether it be choral or instrumental can make or break a group.  This is a post that I've had partially written since August and it seemed like a good time to finish it.  The funny thing is that as I've edited the post today, I've been reminded of what I want my choir rehearsal to look like EARLY tomorrow morning.  :)

Rehearsing an elementary ensemble, or any ensemble is it's own special brand of theater.  I think that a good rehearsal is a perfect balance between a collaborative student centered approach and a teacher centered "maestro" approach.  On one hand, you want everyone, even the most reluctant learner engaged, because that old adage IS true that "we" are only as strong as our weakest ensemble "link"....... And at the same time,  as the conductor and big boss musician, you want every member of your group right in the palm of your hand, at the edge of their seat, on the balls of their feet and right on the downbeat of your baton. Essentially rehearsal is as good as our ability to balance the needs of our students with the demands of the conductor

1.  ENERGY!  - I feel like I'm teaching (rehearsing) like a house a fire! I'm not acting crazy or anything, but I do my best to avoid down time, give quick instructions and to keep students moving toward the goal of mastery so that we can establish a beautiful sound..... Because we've got a lot to learn and are running short on time, the pacing is quite fast...... but not too fast.....

2. AWARENESS! - Sometimes you miss your mark and have to lead the students through the skill again..... It's better to stop a bad habit by replacing it with a good one than to leave it unaddressed and reinforce the bad habit by practicing repeatedly.  Also, as the one who can see everyone, be constantly aware of fatigue, boredom and focus.....  You can sing the same thing innumerable times if you change it up.  Keep expectations high and be their biggest cheerleader..... If they don't get it, don't lie and say they did, be honest and say, "that's not quite it, but keep working at it"..... If you expect your students to keep working, be ready with new strategies for each repeat.... .If memory work is your chore for the day.... they can sing to their shoes, to the ceiling, to their friends, anyone....  Also, don't be afraid to let them move..... I love performer etiquette too, but movement and play are normal and my students sing more sweetly when they get to do both, ESPECIALLY in rehearsal.  PLAY = LEARNING!   Any time I can get my notes learned in a playful way, I've noticed that my students sing more freely and sweetly.  If I don't have room to move, I work hard to be light hearted and funny.  A little well placed and wise humor can earn you several minutes of serious effort.  I especially love "playing" with hand singing as we do in ETM so that learning music with solfa becomes a puzzle type game rather than a chore.   Using hand signs and other motions offers students a visual reinforcement to the notes they are singing. 

3.  URGENCY!  - A sense of urgency, rather than impatience can give your students a touch of "giddy-up" that they may need.  I'm not rude about it, I've just learned that intensity counts.....warming up is essential, but once my students are working, I've learned not to let up, I use every minute. 

4. KNOWLEDGE!  - It is impossible to have intensity, awareness or urgency if I as the conductor don't know my music..... I've got to know it six ways to Sunday so that I can build it up, tear it down and build it back up again.... Without knowledge, there is no way that I can go in and correct minute mistakes...... Conductor!  KNOW THY MUSIC!!! 

5. CONVICTION!  -  When I rehearse I am a cheerleader.  I play a part of the most enthused and dedicated lover of whatever I am teaching.  We don't always have a choice about what we are presenting for the students to sing, but it's weird how a love of the song will improve the performance of even "hot crossed buns"  ..... on recorder...... IF you can convince those children that those flamin' and toasty buns are the best buns you've ever eaten in your LIFE!!!!!!!  Instead of plodding, you get spritely.... instead of rushed, you get stately, instead of black notes on a page, you get music......  Seriously, if the only stinking song you can think of to sing or play with your children is Wee Willie Winkie then We Willie Winkie better be your best pal and the coolest most fun song you have ever had in your life!!!!