Wow.

November 15, 2016

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Soooo…it’s been quite a week. Anybody else make the mistake of taking their daughter voting last week? “Nevermind! Turns out the country is a lot more sexist that we thought.” Whew! Glad I’m not the only one who screwed that up.

My 9 year-old cried bewildered tears Wednesday. This was a very black and white issue for her, and she is a sensitive soul. Naturally, I felt like crap for having exposed her to needless sadness. I just really, really thought she would value being able to tell her kids that she was there, for this important day. She pushed the button. Yes, I’m that idealistic. Wednesday morning we explained that, though it seems like people liked the bully more than the smart girl, there are many other things going on, and she was safe. I wish every mom could have been able to say that, Wednesday morning.

Policy, anti-establishment sentiment, those damn emails – these were all cited as justifications to vote for Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the multitudes cared more about those justifications than about saying “NO” to racism, sexism and a whole host of other crap we shouldn’t allow out of basic human decency. The prevalence of that mindset was not something I could previously conceive of in my NPR-listening, blue state-living, white, middle-class, privileged bubble. I didn’t realize that so many people actually thought policy was more important than people. Holy crap, America.

Thinking as a parent, since this is a parenting blog (most of the time), I’m offering the following: No, Clinton was not an ideal candidate with an ideal track record. There are NONE OF THOSE. They don’t exist. Ok, maybe Justin Trudeau. #dreamy The problem is that in this election we have journeyed past politics. We are now disassembling basic morality for our children. Think about what we teach kids: You treat people the way you want to be treated. You take care of people. You welcome new friends. Your body is yours alone, it is a good thing, and it should be respected. How about the one preschool teachers keep on repeat, all day: “Keep your hands to yourself!” Dear Donald, “grabbing” means you are doing it wrong. 

Not to mention the tired old slogan, “Girls can do anything boys can do.” *sigh* Hang on, girls. Change comes slow, but it does come. Look at where we started.

Speaking of girls, as Clinton was on Wednesday: “And — and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” Forget the sadness that we have to state that at all. “Valuable” is my favorite word, here. I’m still more of a believer in the social commentary and symbolism of this election than in specifically electing Hillary Clinton – remember, I just wanted a girl to win, for once. I just thought this was immensely cool to hear. They knew, she knew, that little girls had serious stock in this election. And she asked them to hang on, too.

You know what else was cool? A friend of a friend of mine made a beautiful design of the above quote, and posted it on Facebook. I shared it, and the designer was kind enough to send me the high resolution version. I grabbed a frame, and this actually cheered my kid up. She moved a My Little Pony art project off the wall to make room for this! This was important stuff!!

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Thank you to Nataliemcguiredesign.com for this lovely print. You do good work, girl!

Moving forward, I’m choosing to be hopeful and expect the best from people, including President-Elect Trump and his future cabinet appointees. I’m going to repeat the closing of my previous post. I’m praying it’s still true, though now it refers to a different “someone”. We’ve done enough of tearing people down. It’s my fervent hope as a mom and teacher that tomorrow our nation will raise up someone who will makes it their job to raise up others.

Also, I’m posting a link to a wonderful article containing the names of non-profits. If you liked this post, chances are you will find one whose ideals you agree with. If you’re feeling powerless in the wake of last week, and looking for something to do to feel more empowered, donating to any of these amazing charities is a great way to feel like you, too, are valuable.

Click here for the list of charities. Thank you.

 

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Alice and Sexy Cheeseburger

October 17, 2016

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This ad just makes me sad. I can’t find it on Youtube, but ispot has it up here.  I’ll break it down for you. (Sorry about the play buttons in the middle up of the photos – I screen-capped the video.) Don’t mind me including my own voice-over.

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“OMG, aren’t we totes adorbs as Sexy Queen of Hearts, Sexy Mad Hatter and Sexy…Jenny, what are you, a Red Riding Hood/Wolf hybrid? Whatevs, we’re cute.”

 

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“OMG WHAT is that Alice chick wearing? She looks… Like she works… At the deli.”
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“OMG u guys we can NOT let her trick or treat with us, she is blowing our whole “Sexy Literary Character” vibe.”
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“OMG she’s transforming! Is that the new Bright Idea Illuminating Stick from NYX Cosmetics?”
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“OMG! That satin bustier = totes adorbs!”

 

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“OMG u guys, we r🔥!”

Yes, these are (very young) adults and not teenage girls. However, teens are going to see this ad and assume it’s for them. They just are. Just like when we started reading Seventeen magazine at 13. Or was I the only one sneaking peeks at that at the dentist’s office?

Yes, this is a commercial for a costume store. Of course they’re going to show homemade costumes in an unfavorable light. They want you to plunk down $40 for an Alice in Sluttyland outfit, not make it at home!

Yes, Sexy Witch, Sexy Cop, and Sexy Pirate are your results when Googling Women’s costumes. Actually, I Googled “top women’s costumes” and got Sexy Cleopatra, Sexy Oktoberfest Girl, and – no lie – Sexy Freddy Krueger.

But: I do not like this ad, Party City. Besides perpetuating the Sexy Halloween epidemic, it’s just mean. I want to hug poor Alice. She does not deserve ostracization just because of a half-assed outfit. Actually, let me rephrase that: She does not deserve ostracization JUST BECAUSE SHE DOES NOT HAVE HALF HER ASS HANGING OUT. This makes me sad. It also makes me really, really proud that my daughters are going as Hermione Granger and a werewolf.  However, the sexy costumes are here to stay. So, in the spirit of embracing modern Halloween…

Submitted for your approval: My favorite “Sexy Halloween Costumes That Didn’t Need to Be Sexified”.  I will take votes as to which one I should buy and wear while I walk my kids around in suburbia.

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“Sexy Deviled Eggs”

 

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‘Sexy Cheeseburger”

 

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“Sexy Dorothy Fish from Elmo’s World”

 

yoda
“Sexy Yoda”

 

olaf
“Sexy Olaf”

And, sorry, but you can’t un-see this one…

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“Sexy Donald Trump”

I’ll take your votes in the comments.

Also, if your kid is going as something you’re particularly proud of this year, share it here! 

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12 Things I Want My Daughters To Know

October 2, 2016

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  1. Your intelligence should be ever-expanded with quality books, education, and conversation. Don’t stop seeking them out.
  2. I really don’t care if you don’t take a jacket. You’re not going to die of exposure in New Jersey. Just don’t be the girl who doesn’t take a jacket and then whines about the cold. She’s annoying.
  3. Focus on what you want your life to look like, not your body. Your body is a freakin’ beautiful miracle. Go do cool things without worrying how you look.
  4. If you stop laughing about stuff I’m pretty sure you die of boredom. So there’s that.
  5. Four hours into a night out, you probably won’t care what shoes you wore. But, you will care if you can’t walk. Or dance. Choose the shoes carefully.
  6. You’re both smart girls, but kindness is your highest goal. I care much more that you would invite the loner kid to sit with you at lunch than I do about you getting into the “right” college.
  7. There is no “right” anything, while we’re on that subject – not clothes, friends, college, house, career, nadda. There is only what’s right for your situation. But, Mom and Dad get to help you with that situation, so NO, you’re not wearing that skirt.
  8. To quote the internet, “Life is too short for fake butter, cheese, or people”. Steer clear of all three. Actually Cheese Whiz definitely has its place…
  9. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to try it, and think long and hard before you quit. This does not apply to certain controlled substances.
  10. Make-up can be washed off. Haircuts will grow out. Tattoos are forever. Just saying.
  11. If someone does something that hurts you, try to understand them. It doesn’t make them right, but you’ll probably find that their actions aren’t about you in the first place.
  12. Your dad and I always, always love you.
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War on Thanksgiving?

November 24, 2015

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We have RULES in this family, dammit. There are certain expectations for all of us. We must uphold our values, no matter how societal pressures influence us. These restrictions are hard and fast and non-negotiable.

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I am exaggerating. A little. But a certain sisterly person of mine…she better watch.

You can do whatever you like in your own house, of course. And if I don’t like a store’s policy of putting out Christmas decor or playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, I don’t need to shop there. Oh wait, it’s Target and Walmart mostly, so yes, I do. But anyway. If it makes people happy, who am I to want them to delay their happiness?

However, I want to get up on my non-tinseled soapbox and explain why there is no Christmas music or decorations in my house before the turkey has had his due.

  • Because I love Christmas. I love it so very much, and I don’t want it to lose its meaning or specialness by stretching it out earlier and thinner.
  • I have an almost spiritual relationship with Christmas music (said the corniest dork in the world) and I don’t want to hate it because I hear it too much. Please. Occupational hazard: We music teachers start our Christmas concert rehearsals in September. Ugh.
  • It’s not “the most wonderful time of the year” if it’s like 1/4 of the calendar.
  • The pushing-it-earlier thing really seems to be mostly about consumerism. You can see this in the big controversy of whether stores should be open for Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving. I vote “no”, but with gratitude for anyone who is there for me to buy Tums or cooking supplies I forgot to get the day before. Love you. Hope you get off early. 
  • The giving part of Christmas isn’t emphasized in the earliness much, it seems. I’ve seen lots of ads for flat screens and toys, but not one Salvation Army bell ringer person yet. We have taken gift suggestions off the giving tree at work, though.
  • Remember the “War on Christmas”? I also embrace it as a cultural holiday that doesn’t need to have anything to do with religion, if you want to tar and feather me for that while we’re here. Shouldn’t we be outraged about a lack of (Christian, or whatever) gratitude?

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  • My BIG (hippie, buzz-kill, left-wing, Scrooge) reason: This is very “Ugly American” to me. We are sweeping under the rug the holiday in which we celebrate the cooperation with and gratitude towards the native people who made it possible for European settlers to, oh, I don’t know, not DIE, and the only holiday for pausing to recognize that we are SO. DAMN. LUCKY to be alive and well. We should push for more GIVING in the “Thanksgiving”, too. I’m working on that in my own home this year, slowly but surely, I swear.

All of that is some important S#*T!  That is not Christmas Part 1!! I go on little rants about this to my own children and they stare blankly and think I’m weird. 

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In your own home, you should do what you want. I will roll my eyes when I drive by your tree-filled window, and you can roll your eyes at this post. Whatevs. Nobody is over here telling me when to do stuff. Except the smoke alarms. The fire department is pretty keen on us checking those every time we celebrate Daylight Savings. 

Christmas is awesome. There are traditions and parties and special moments that are like yearly spiritual renewing in our busy lives. It’s a connection to our childhood and a stepping stone into the future as we build traditions with our kids that they will remember just as fondly.

But we owe it to the universe to emphasize the importance of truly counting our blessings first. That’s all.

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A Question for the Kids

August 27, 2015

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I am a teacher and a parent. The reason I don’t hate either of those jobs yet is because, to me, kids are awesome.  I like to ask them random questions. This time, I had my laptop out. I’ll have to make a habit of that. The question today:

“What would you do if all the adults disappeared?”

M: Wait. Everybody? She is dumbfounded.

E: Wait, does that mean my friend _____? She thinks her 10 year old friend is an adult.

Me: No. Besides eating all the candy in the world, after that, what would you guys do?

M: We would eat a lot more candy, and play video games. So would her father.

E: Do everything. (Spins on seat.)

M: Let’s just say I’d do whatever I wanted.

E: We would erase all our stuff on that. (Pointing to chore chart.)

M: I would invite a bunch of friends over and have a party. Lots of food. And go in the pool. All night. So would I.

Me: What would you do about food?

M: We would eat it? (Ba-dum-tsss.) Oh, I mean, we would go to the store.

Me: How would you get to the store, would you walk?

M: We could drive! I know how to drive!! Well no… but I could figure it out. Wait. Who’s gonna be running the store?

Me: I don’t know… who do you think?

M: Teenagers.

Me. Ok….

E: I want to drive the car!

Me: What would you do about your clothing?

E: We would wear it.

Me: You’re hilarious.

M: We would make our own?

Me: You know how to make your own clothes?

M: We would wash them. I know how to do the laundry! Note to self, in that case, she’s gonna start doing her own.

E: I want to be like Rarity. My Little Pony reference. She makes dresses.

M: Wait – so like, ALL the adults in the world disappeared? It would be only kids on the road! And no policemen… we could speed. That would be fun. Another note to self: Maybe time to limit MarioKart tournaments at home?  …nah.

E: What if they weren’t coming back?

Me: That’s what I’m saying. What would you guys do?

M: Miss you. Awwwwww.

E: I would never get to see you!

M: It would pretty cool to get to do whatever you want though.

E: Mommy can we have candy?

So, what would the kids in your life say?

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Advice, Gosh Darn It

April 22, 2015

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Last week at an indoor water park, I lost the giant black mumu very stylish cover-up that I had just purchased. I put the cover-up down on a railing, went to do something with my younger kid, came back, and it was GONE. *horror*. My flip flops were still there. This was not acceptable. I was now essentially walking around naked, as far as the self-conscious chick in my head was concerned. I will find you, and I will kill you, mumu thief.  I can act like I’m all cool and comfortable, but no matter what witty banter (ha) is coming out of my mouth at a pool-related gathering, my brain is going “Don’t look at my thighs. Don’t look at my arms. AHHHHH stop looking at meeeeeee!” *die*

My husband tells me that I have the worst self-esteem he’s ever seen. And not just about body image. The funny part is that most people think I’m pretty confident. (No, friend. No. It’s all in how you fake it.) Wait that sounded wrong…

Crap. Do you still like me?

**********

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I would advise my girls to love and value themselves, no matter what.

Cheeeeeezzzzy. But really: If you’ve got that down, you’ve got a lot. And you wouldn’t have to go out the next day and replace a giant black mumu.

Kids are not born comparing their bodies to perfection and finding them ugly. While I would like my kids to pull up their pants because nobody wants to see their impression of a plumber, I don’t want them thinking their body shouldn’t be seen in the daylight. I want them to enjoy the pool.  I shouldn’t feel that way either. Girls, you’re all kinds of beautiful.

It goes beyond body image, too. If a kid that my daughter approaches at the playground walks away from her, I want her to know that it’s not because there’s something wrong with her; he just didn’t want to play right then. He probably just doesn’t want to play Mario-meets-My Little Pony-meets-Monster High. And neither do I. Girls, you are good to be around and people like you.

If somebody doesn’t text them back or return their call or pick up their Facetime chat (or God knows what technology is being used by the time I consent to buying them a phone) I want them to understand that it probably isn’t because they’re not important enough to that person. That person is probably busy right now, and wrapped up in their own stuff, unrelated to how much they like them. Girls, you’re enough, and you’re valued.

I want to advise them to take a defeat as a challenge to work harder and a rejection as a sign, not that they weren’t worthy, but that there is something better out there. It’s not that you’re ugly, fat, dumb, boring, unimportant, un-valued, or whatever else that negative biotch in your head tells you. Girls, if you wake up every day being able to tell yourself that the world is a better place because you’re in it, then you won’t need anybody’s attention or affirmation, and that is freedom. Girls, I’ll let you know when Mommy gets there. It’s something we’re all working on. 

There is a lot of “BAD” that can happen to a kid, as he or she grows. But a kid who has a healthy amount of self-worth will hopefully duck and weave when those poor choices come at them swinging. Personally I think I did ok, if I say so myself, and I was (am) a secret self-doubter, always.

So if I had to pick one piece of advice to give my children, that would be it.

Yes, this is basically Stuart Smalley. What? That was a very good era for SNL…

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If you could give your kids one piece of advice, what would it be? No really, I’m curious, and I bet it’s pretty cool advice. Some smart people read this blog…

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$%@# my students say about cardiomyopathy

February 28, 2015

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So I’ve had the surprisingly enjoyable task of  explaining the whole “Where Was Mrs. D” thing to my students. I basically told them 5 things:

1.  I was really sick and I didn’t know it. Always tell your parents and go to the doctor when you feel like you can’t breathe right.

2. My heart doesn’t pump very well right now. (My phrase for this is “wussy heart syndrome”. They eat that up.)  It might get better and it might not, but either way there’s no reason to think I won’t be ok. I am tough.

3. I have to take medicines that  will hopefully help my heart get stronger. But, they make me very tired sometimes, and dizzy. If anyone ever faints, we do NOT touch them. We find the nearest adult to help. This is not likely to happen to me at all, so relax.

4. I have to wear a special undershirt that has little circle things in it to check how my heart beats, day and night. It’s connected by a wire to this box I’m wearing like a purse. If my heart stops pumping right (“wusses out”), the special shirt will zap me with electricity so my heart will work again. The black box might ‘ding’ sometimes when the shirt isn’t working right. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

5. This is not something that is likely to happen to you, or anybody else you love.

This has been a nice time to sit down and just talk to my 500+ kiddos. Their concern has been real and their questions and responses have been a little too real.

But hey, if you can’t laugh at cardiomyopathy, what can you laugh at, right?

So these are questions and responses I have gotten from my 5 – 11 year old students when I explain the above list to them. I started writing them down to share, because I love these little nutjobs.  My responses are italicized.

“Will your heart tell you when it’s fixed?” No, they will take pictures again, but that would be cool.

“Do they let you keep the pictures?” I doubt it but if it’s good I’ll frame it.

“My grandpop had a heart attack because he ate too much red food. Did you do that?” You mean did I eat too much red meat? No, I –  “No! Meat is brown.”

“Did it hurt when you died?” Um…No. I’m good.

“Will it hurt if it zaps you?” No. I would have probably fainted by then. “But it will zap us if we’re touching you?” Possibly, but you’re not going to touch me or anyone who has fainted, you just get an adult. “Will it reach out and like lightening, and zap us?” NO. You’re picturing Return of the Jedi.

“Can you use the box to save somebody else’s life? Like the school’s one? [Defibrillator]” Yes, I’m going to be the new super hero, Defibrillator Woman. Zap zap. Just kidding. But cool question.

“What are you gonna do if you can’t go swimming in the summer!?!?!?!” I will most likely be done wearing this, one way or another, by summer. Hopefully. Otherwise, I will cry.

“Um…it [the box] blinked red. Are you OK?” That just means it’s on. I’m good.

“What would happen if ALL the adults in the school fainted at the same time?” I’d say we would leave (extremely unlikely, quiet student) in charge.

“So, like, you can’t take it off? Are you not gonna shower?! For months?!!” Um… I take it off to shower. EW.

“What happens if you faint in the shower with the shirt thing off?” Well this is getting personal. It’s not likely that I’ll faint at all. But I guess then it would turn into taking a bath.

“What happens if you faint when you’re going to the bathroom?” Well that would be bad, but wouldn’t I have worse problems, at the time?

“What happens if you drop it [the monitor box] in the toilet?” Thanks, now I’m going to worry about that, too.

BUT the winner is:

“Did you know that the hospital is where they take babies out of your tush?” Yes. Yes I did.

 

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The Arts as an Antidote to Testing

February 25, 2015

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If it’s quiet in here, I’m doing it wrong.

I am sitting on the chilly windowsill with my legs dangling, kicking the bookcase below. The sound in my room is such that my clunky boots can’t be heard hitting the shelves right below me. Another teacher walks in – she may have knocked, who knows – and her eyes go wide. To be fair, the scene looks a bit chaotic if you’re used to seeing children at desks with books. I enjoy her facial expression, she puts some paper or another on my desk, and mouths to me “How do you not go crazy with all this noise?”

I clown pantomime that I can’t hear her.

Every few minutes one of the kids motions to me to come across the room and hear his group play something they just thought up. I remind them to make sure it’s written down in some way. Every few minutes a quieter kid looks up surreptitiously and scans the room to see where I am, just to make sure I’m not upset about all this sound. Then they go back to their playing. I swear several of them have the smirk of a 10 year old who thinks he’s getting away with something.

Because they are. Like I said, they’re at school, and they’re playing. 

****

Character Ed. is not dead.

While driving to school last Thursday, I decided that I am guilty of expecting too much of my students academically, because of residual idealism left over from my well-meaning but ridiculous Elementary Music Education classes. Worse, I’ve been expecting too little of them in the way of character.

Yes, my oldest students should know the difference between various types of keyboard percussion, the theory behind pitch and acoustics, and be able to read and write basic rhythmic and melodic notation.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, they should be able to play these instruments in a way that does no damage and respects others’ right to hear themselves think. They should regulate their own progress on a task and keep their time limit in mind. They should collaborate with a partner without much conflict. They should listen attentively and show respect when other people play for them. They should help clean up and store the instruments in a way that maintains order in the room and allows every student to use them for years to come. In short, there are many opportunities in a music room – or band room, or art room, or gym –  for kids to play, and practice how to not be a little jerk

****

Opting out of control.

So we know we fail as teachers the moment we get into the habit of doing a lesson the same way just because that’s the way we’ve always done it. If your tried-and-true lesson is working, every child is engaged, the curriculum is covered completely, and every need of every child in your classroom is met – then wake the Hell up because you’re dreaming.

I teach a modified Orff (basically, xylophones) unit every winter, mainly because it’s fun and a less-boring thing to come back to after Christmas break. We learn songs, talk about the pentatonic (5-note) scale, and do lots of echoing of the teacher and each other. I look forward to these classes. However, I’m pretty psychotic about you playing my instruments the right way. Don’t break it, and get the best sound. Watch it. We play together. Show me bicycle grip. Do we pick up the mallets when we rotate???! (Confession: As a college freshman, what I wanted to be when I grew up was a high school band director. I may have some marching band issues to resolve.) I hate to admit it, but there is definitely a right and wrong way to do stuff, in my xylophone lessons.

In light of the increasing structure in children’s lives, I’m attempting to take a small step in the opposite direction.  One 5th grade class happens to be ahead of the other sections, because of my recent health fun and absence from school. So, I’m throwing out the structured Orff lessons and letting them loose. To sum it up, they’re getting free play time with anything they want in the Music room, the end goal being to compose some kind of music and write it down in some way. I’m giving them whatever instruments I have, a couple guidelines that are mostly about safety and stuff-music-teachers-say, and 40 minutes. Yes, the curriculum objectives are now completely changed from what is written in my lesson plans, in doing this. Ask me if I care. 

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Music is a more loosey-goosey subject, to begin with. There are protocols in other subject areas, pre-written lesson plans for everything. There is a curriculum, and we will test the daylights out of them on it, yearly. Twice a year, actually. Thank you, PARCC. It’s all nicely planned and controlled. However, because of the above-mentioned health fun, I am reminded lately that CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION.

*****

The arts as an antidote to testing.

During those 40 minutes I get a little glance from several kids that says “wait, you’re really ok with this?”  several times.  It’s not that big a deal, but they’re uneasy with it.  We have set out to do something with instruments before; play the rhythms, demonstrate this understanding or that, compositions with prescribed forms.  I still get looks from other teachers who wander in then, too. It’s still loud.

This time the class could write/do/play whatever. Some of them added lyrics or flourish-y dance moves, because they’re freakin’ adorable. Week 2 of this will include some kind of standard notation, because blah blah blah, curriculum. Also, these kids are very sharp and can bridge the gap between iconic and symbolic notation like they’re jumping over a puddle. I gave them no rules about notation – whatever, as long as they could look at it next week and still play it, it was cool. This is not revolutionary, just busy, musical chaos that totally looked like I was doing nothing in the way of teaching. However, the kids are responsible for their own progress. They knew that they have the privilege of playing these instruments so they only play them correctly. They were self-regulating, and writing some very cool little songs. I was pretty impressed with what happened when I let go.

This was my favorite so far:

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Also, a shout-out for my two manly men, M&M, who think they have invented music notation for jocks: “Basket-ball” is a short-short-long, or eighth-eighth-quarter pattern, “Football” is long-long is probably going to be half notes, all on bucket drums.

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And they sounded pretty good, too.

This thing where we give kids stuff to play with and say “go” is the basis the wonderful curriculum in my 5 year old’s Pre-K class. Somewhere after that it gets tossed. Because their lives now include lessons in how to take tests, that playtime really needs found again.  A child’s work is play.

I love this:

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In our attempt to be taken seriously as an area of academics, have we taken the play out of playing music?  We have our own standardized testing and huge curriculum binders, too. But the arts, and the tragically disappearing recess and Gym class, are sometimes all our kids have left in the way of play at school.

 So, for my part, here’s what I’m going to do about all this: My goal, in light of the ever-increasing need to structure and test, is going to be to make sure there is more actual PLAYING in my class.  When you walk in (sign in at the office first), you may think they’ve taken over and I’m tied to a chair somewhere. Don’t worry, they know there’s a filing cabinet of worksheets they could be doing instead. That usually keeps them in line. Wa ha ha. 

I’m looking forward to this. And, probably, to going deaf before my time. Because holy crap are they loud.

 

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