Saturday, August 21, 2010


Now that we are starting school again this year.... rest becomes critical. Just the comparatively simple task of teacher inservice and room set up can over tax us when we've been "summering" all summer long.

I'm writing about this because I think the last time I was quite this tired was just after school let out in June..... and we don't start back until Monday.... I've got a day in a half to find my rest.... I wish I had two, but alas, I've spent the 1st half of today in my room....

The good news is that my room is ready.... bad news is that I am not.... so... rest is a must.... we'll see how successful I am at turning my brain off :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010


To me teaching and learning (or should it be learning and teaching?) feel like making a big pot of soup.


First the chef has to chop up the ingredients into bite sized pieces, but before that they must have knowledge about what kinds of ingredients work well together - It's just me, but I don't ever plan to chop up a strawberry and put it in my tortilla soup... a bisque -for sure! .... but not a soup.
Also, the wisest chefs pay attention to the guests at their table. I enjoy spicy ingredients myself, and as a result I have over spiced my soups on more than one occasion. I didn't think the soup was over spiced, but my guests did, so no one really enjoyed the soup and no one asked for seconds. I should have selected my recipe more thoughtfully.

Choice Ingredients
Wouldn't it be nice if soup ingredients could simply appear in our kitchens? Either the chef or the folks who want to eat must go to the store, or harvest the ingredients. Someone has to plant the vegetables, raise the animals, milk the cows and make the cheese that we like in our soup. Our control over the history of our ingredients is limited at best, but we should choose carefully and remember not to forget anything. Tortilla soup would simply not be tortilla soup without cilantro.... don't forget it. Also if you ever find that you have a blue ribbon heirloom homegrown tomato on our counter, don't you dare put it in a crummy old soup! Instead, enjoy it cut into quarters with a little salt and pepper just for it's own sake.

The actual cooking of a good soup has an art to it as well. There is an order, a layering of flavors that when added up create a party in your mouth. The building of the soup while the pot is on the stove involves a great deal of careful watching and monitoring to see how things are going at each stage.... if you turn away for one second in an attempt to multi-task, you'll scald everything and the whole pot can be ruined. All of your senses are involved in monitoring the progress of the soup.

Growling belly or turned up noses?
Eventually, everyone else will be able to test the quality of your cooking skills by the fragrance or stench wafting from the kitchen.


First the teacher has to chunk the information into manageable parts , but before that they must have knowledge of the whole and what aspects of learning naturally fit together. - As a music teacher I absolutely believe that anything can be learned through the use of music and in fact some people (more people than we think) need music in order to learn the way fish need water to breath..... having said this, trying to integrate everything for integrations sake is sometimes a circuitous route and a more direct approach would be more effective.
The wisest teachers pay attention to the students in their class. Teach the student, not the content! I enjoy listening to lectures - I'm serious! I really do.... I am an aural learner, who enjoys talking and fully appreciates the art of speech. Consequently, I have over talked my students on more than one occasion. Personally, my tongue was just getting warmed up to wagging, but my students had glazed over a while back.... so I lost them. I should have selected my method more thoughtfully.

Choice Ingredients

Wouldn't it be nice if our subject content could simply appear in our classrooms? Either the teacher or the folks who want to learn ( we call them scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, musicians, explorers) must either go somewhere to learn, or harvest the knowledge itself Someone had to develop the internet, decide that it might be important to know the function of a kidney or decide how Pi works. Our control over what must be taught and how much time we have to teach it is limited at best. An American literature class would just not be American Lit. without "To Kill a Mockingbird". Don't forget it! There are standards in each discipline that should not be watered down merely in attempt to get through all the material... Don't allow the significance of "To Kill A Mockingbird" to be boiled into broth just so that there is time to read "Twilight" . (But we want to see the movie......... "To Kill a Mockingbird" has a movie too)

The actual teaching of a lesson is art. There is a way to layer or scaffold the information in such a way that students and teachers are excited. Constantly being aware of student progress as they move from stage to stage is essential. If you turn away for one second in an attempt to multi-task, you'll miss a cue given by your students that would indicate either a lack of understanding or the need to progress. As teache
rs we often talk about how we wish we had active learners to teach who actively participate and actively listen.... what about being teachers who actively teach? Sometimes we become the passive ones in the classroom when we are distracted by so much "administrivia" that we let the "learning soup" in our classroom burn.

Growling belly or turned up noses?
Eventually, when our students produce evidence of what they are learning from us through a benchmark, a performance, a behavior, everyone else (parents, teachers, students, the community) will be able to test the quality of our teaching skills by the fragrance or stench wafting from our classroom.......

May your classroom be fragrant enough to fill the whole school
with the beauty of the learning happening within!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Be encouraged! - You are the key to student achievement!

If you are a music teacher like me, you spend much of your time justifying the value of your subject area to administrators, fellow teachers, the community at large, parents and students. Everyone knows, although they might not take the time to follow the research that music causes positive outcomes in student achievement. Yet despite our personal and researched knowledge we have a hard time pushing past the fact that although music is indeed worthwhile for it's own sake, it is also a critical component of any meaningful intervention.

The good news is that this is a NEW YEAR!

We have the chance to carefully examine each aspect of what we do in our limited time in music and really make each moment instructionally meaningful for every student.

This really is my favorite time of the year because as I plan I can spend my time imagining my classroom free of interruptions and discipline issues. I can reflect upon things that happened last year and make better more refined plans. By the grace of God, prayer, hard work and good attitude we can get a little better at teaching every year.

Here is a great video by PBS called music instinct that you can stream from netflix in it's entirety if you have it, or watch segments on the PBS website. This video is a great overview of neuroscience of music it features Yo Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin , and is narrated by Audra McDonald. It is inspiring and is worth sharing with all of your friends.

Ya'll have a great year