Tag Archives: Music

Sunday Song for Peace

I’m on a peace kick around here. The August Blogger’s for Peace challenge is to connect peace to music. Like Kozo, reggae instantly popped into my head. While it could be because I recently returned from Hawaii as well, I think there is something more to it. Reggae is comforting. In fact, I recently heard it is the best music to use while you rock your baby to sleep, (the beats per minute are close to the human heartbeat, as well as the walking cadence of the mother).

“Three Little Birds” happens to be one of my favorites. Makes me smile, makes the whole world seem a little less scary, a little more peaceful:

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Saturday Song: Only Miss the Sun When it Starts to Snow…

Yes, two songs in a row, but you can kind of get the feel for the inside of my head right now. I’m deep in my book, deep in my thoughts, deep in the solitude of summer. Pleasurable melancholy, if there is such a thing.

Time to prepare for a small dinner party with friends, time to emerge from my inner world for just a little while.

What about you?

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I’ve Got my Ticket for the Long Way ‘Round

I held it together when I read them my goodbye letter with each of their names remembered, I did not cry when I hugged them goodbye, I kept the tears in when I sat in my empty classroom, desks and chairs stacked, our two years in time gone. I even smiled when teacher after teacher asked me if I was alright at our end-of-year barbecue. Apparently, I’m not the only one who dreads goodbyes.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, I felt antsy. I could not put my finger on it. There is always the anxiety of not wasting a single second, because this too shall pass, but that wasn’t quite it. I woke up at 7AM wide awake, worked on my book, surfed the internet, did yoga, cleaned the house, and went on a date with my husband to a fancy restaurant, a perfect start to six weeks of freedom. Time passed slowly as it does in the beginning of a long break, each day accelerates a little more.

When we got home and snuggled up for a British show akin to House Hunters International, my husband brought over his iPad and pressed play. As the words washed over me, I could not hold back anymore. The tears flowed down my cheeks, a few sobs escaped, and my poor husband looked back at me like he had no idea what he had done. A group of girls in my class surprised us one day with this song at morning meeting, complete with cups thumping in rhythm against the desks and the a capella beauty of child voices singing in unison.

The words of their song did not hit me then. But now, they’re right. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone, the way they talk, the way they walk, I’m going to miss them when they’re gone. I keep telling myself it will be easier next time, that I won’t bond as much as I did with these first kids I kept for two whole years. Some teachers tell me it gets easier, some tell me they cry every single time. Who knows where I will fall, all I know is I managed to love these kids an awful lot. I’m not going to dwell, but last night it felt good to let it all out.

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Being Who We Want Our Kids to Be

I’ve shown my students the pictures of the trash continent floating in the ocean. Whenever there is trash outside our classroom, I remind them we don’t want it to end up in the sea. Still, I often walk by trash at school, either disgusted at the prospect of touching it or too much in a hurry to stop and pick it up.

Yet I ask kids to pick up trash all the time.

Today the irony of this finally hit me. How can I expect kids to pick up trash that doesn’t belong to them if I don’t do it myself? I’m not too good to keep plastic out of the mouths of sea animals, no one should be. So, at the end of our jogathon today, instead of goading the kids to pick up all the plastic water cups forgotten around the track, I did it myself. For two laps, I collected all the plastic I saw and made a show of throwing it away. Soon I had helpers.

The kids saw me do it and showed enthusiasm to follow suit, versus the regular “if I have to” or “but it’s not mine” response when I just tell them to pick it up themselves. I was so enthused that soon I was carrying a bag and a long-distance trash grabber with two very eager helpers I didn’t even know tagging along and other kids scouring on their own around the track.

So simple, but so easy to forget. We can’t expect kids to do unpleasant tasks for the good of others if we don’t do the same ourselves.

While I may not have led by example until today, I have done my best to educate my class about the importance of respecting our planet. Recently on CNN Student News, my class learned about Living Lands and Waters, a nonprofit that cleans up waterways, and were in awe of the amount of trash pulled from the Mississippi River. Many students expressed their desire to help– they thought it sounded fun to see how much trash they could amass from waterways in Sacramento.

Likewise, they loved the story about this trash orchestra from Paraguay in a recent Scholastic News read aloud. When they discovered we could listen to the orchestra on YouTube, they were beyond delighted. Unsurprisingly, they clamored for the opportunity to create similar instruments.

All this is to say, there is a lot of hope for the future. Our children care about the planet, but they need to see adults lead the way.

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Week 36: Dear Fourth Graders

I had a guest teacher on Monday so I could visit my mom in Mount Shasta without having to rush back and forth. One of the assignments I left was for students to write a letter to my incoming fourth graders. I asked the students to offer advice from their two years with me. To my delight, the notes were both thoughtful and funny.

Proper anger management and my weakness for laughter were reoccurring themes, even from some of my toughest students. This gave me hope that maybe I really have gotten through to them, even if it does not always feel like it. Just three weeks and two days left. It’s going to be hard to say good-bye.

This week we're finishing up our trifolds for our ROPES projects, a rite of passage before middle school. Activities ranged from fundraising for WEAVE to books on anger management. I have an amazing group of kids.

This week we’re finishing up our trifolds for our ROPES projects, a rite of passage before middle school. Activities ranged from fundraising for WEAVE to books on anger management. I have an amazing group of kids.

"Don't get mad in the morning and don't take it out on Mrs. Mackey."

From my dear fourth graders collection: “Don’t get mad in the morning and don’t take it out on Mrs. Mackey.”

"When you get her mad you just have to cheer her up." So true.

“When you get her mad you just have to cheer her up.” So true. One day I told them it was their job to cheer me up. Whenever I get in a funk, I try to make it into an opportunity to model healthy approaches to mood management.

"Don't get mad at her, just ask for a time out." (THEY LISTEN!)

“Don’t get mad at her, just ask for a time out.” (THEY LISTEN!)

"She'll let you laugh when she's laughing." My favorite line of all.

And, “She’ll let you laugh when she’s laughing.” My favorite line of all.

PS. One last disjointed note. Today we watched this 50 state song and the kids swayed and clapped and sang along. Youtube has made the world of teaching infinitely cooler than back in my day of Schoolhouse Rock… They loved it so much we had to watch it twice, and I have to admit, it’s pretty cool, regardless of how old you are… Made me realize how badly my students need an actual music program at our school.

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I want to scream & shout & let it all out…

Okay, so you know how I was loving my job last weekend?

Today, I’m exhausted. I feel like this week aged me an extra five years. The kids are antsy. Some are downright angry. A few have been rolling on the floor. STAR testing is next week. The hype is too much. Monday I am planning a day of relaxation. No test prep, just normal review/lessons with some mindfulness exercises thrown into the mix. I think if we play jeopardy or math baseball one more time they might revolt. Today they nearly did.

We performed a teacher cheer at our pep rally set to “Scream & Shout” this afternoon. Don’t worry, we took the profanity out and added in fun stuff about college. However, the real chorus will be stuck in my head all weekend.

I want to scream and shout and let it all out…

Fitting, really. I’m going to take some deep breaths and relax now. TGIF.

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I don’t wub dubstep.

“Mrs. M, would you like to listen to my favorite dubstep song?”

“I would wub to.”

“What?”

“I would wub to… wub, wub, wub.”

Loud, fake 11-year-old laughter from a kid who walks around saying “wub, wub, wub” all day for a reaction. You’d think he’d like my joke a little better. I’m officially part of a different generation, you know, the older generation that makes puns. Thankfully, I still get a few unexpected laughs here and there.

For those of you who know nothing about dubstep, there is a lot of wub, wub, wubbing going on, (try saying those words in a deep voice). In fact, the most intense dubstep sounds like a scary car going down the street blasting its music in the middle of the night. For me, it’s more reminiscent of a horror movie than something I would listen to for pleasure.

Still, when the same student asked, “So do you think I’m weird for liking it?”

I replied, “No, I listened to interesting music when I was a kid too.”

I did. Blood Hound Gang is case in point. The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire… However, dubstep is proof I’m getting old(er). It makes me feel like I’m about to have a migraine, (don’t tell my little sister, pretty sure she goes to dubstep concerts).

Funny thing, I picked a card in my yoga class this week about letting go of my past self. I gave this a lot of thought. All I could come up with is that my vision of myself as the shy kid is no longer relevant. I guess my distaste for dubstep just goes to show the no longer a kid thing is definitely true. I would have loved all the noise.

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Week 30: Mrs. M, do you think love sucks?

He used to hide under his desk when I would call on him, afraid to feel the eyes of his neighbors. It would take a few minutes to get a response. He would crawl out, head down, first whisper, mumble, then pause, then try again and again, protesting all the way. Finally, he would accept I was not giving up. We would wait for him. We were a classroom family, a safe place to speak. No opt out.

Now he raises his hand, speaks clearly, participates. Still, I remember those first weeks, months, maybe even that first entire year, so when I see his hand, I almost always stop and let him speak. This week we dissected pop songs to make generalizations about life and determine themes. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” had them singing in unison as they took notes on their whiteboards, ready to defend their generalizations about life from the song.

A debate broke out, was she generalizing that love was bad? We decided songs fell into two camps, either love was grand or it sucked. I used that dreadful suck word for effect. Generally it is not allowed in our classroom, but artistic expression prevailed and it was the word that fit best. One quiet hand in the back row emerged, the boy who finally had a voice.

I nodded, he began timidly. “Mrs. M, do you think love sucks?”

A shy smile spread across his face. He earnestly wanted to know what I thought.

I paused, not sure what to tell him.

“No, I’m married, I think love is great, but I’m sure if I were ever divorced, I may think differently for awhile. I think it just depends on your life experiences.”

He looked a little relieved. I wanted to know what he thought, so I asked.

“I think love sucks.”

My heart twisted a bit, uncertain what experiences brought him to that opinion, the innocence of fifth grade love or something much, much deeper. Still I could not help but feel pride in his voice, his comfort of expression in front of us. It has been a long journey for him, for us, since that first day of fourth grade.

Week 30 is fifth grade 3/4 done. Three weeks until star testing. Two days of Doug Lemov training in Oakland, my heart remembering another life in the bay with Gregory Alan Isakov’s “San Francisco” playing from my car stereo. Inspiration from a room full of 200 educators all dead-set on closing the achievement gap for low-income kids. Role-playing and practice, practice, practice of the smallest teaching techniques, as I fought my own desire to crawl under the table and hide. The deep need to get back to my students, to perfect my practice, to help all students find their voice.

Last night as I drove past my old work on my way to meet a friend, I thought about how much my life has changed in the nearly three years since I quit. A friend from that job resigned yesterday, her excited email pushed my thoughts even further into that past life. It’s almost like a ghost of me still sits up in that shiny building, making a bit more money, but chained to a desk. I could see myself on the crosswalk headed home to our tiny Berkeley apartment. A piece of me is still there. I smiled though, as I drove by– excited by my two days of training, the person I have become since then, stronger and with a much louder voice.

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Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programing

Good news, I’m done blogging about dogs. I realized I was a little obsessed there for a moment. Just imagine what I’ll be like when I have children. Save yourselves.

To make amends, I offer you my favorite song of the week. Here’s the challenge. Go about your business with the song playing in the background but stop every time you hear the words Barbra Streisand and have a mini dance party. If that doesn’t make your Monday happier, I’m not really sure what will. And, chances are, you won’t be able to control yourself and will have to keep dancing.

You’re welcome.

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Saturday Song: The Soundtrack to My Life

Do you ever have a moment where a song plays that fits exactly with the soundtrack to your life?

Last weekend, we piled into the car and drove to Grass Valley and Nevada City, about an hour outside Sacramento. Both towns are charming, Gold Rush era relics, just high enough in the mountains for pine trees to punctuate the skyline, the air to feel a little crisper.

When I was a little girl, we’d visit Nevada City at Christmastime, the decorated storefronts and snowy walkways a world away from Sacramento. Maybe that’s why an afternoon spent walking through the shops and eating with my family feels so familiar, so comforting.

In one store, this song played and I had to know what it was because it fit the mood and moment so perfectly. Nostalgia, love, life.

Ready for our mini road trip

Ready for our mini road trip

Grass Valley, CA

Grass Valley, CA

Pretty sister.

Pretty sister and late winter sunlight.

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All I Really Need…

Is a song in my heart,

Food in my belly,

And love in my family.

Turns out the song I’ve been absent-mindedly singing around the kitchen for years is really a Raffi classic. Did not realize this until it was stuck in my head this morning and I googled it. In case you didn’t know, Raffi is famous for other such gems as “Baby Beluga” and “Banana Phone.”

I’ve decided this is my February Bloggers for Peace challenge: getting this sweetly annoying jingle stuck in everyone’s head. Just try and be angry when you’re singing this all day, (you’re welcome and I’m sorry simultaneously). Warning, clicking play may result in singing this song for the next three decades (or longer), but at least it has a good message, (as opposed to other childhood favorites like “The Song that Never Ends”).

Enjoy!

 

 

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