What I Did Today

Wake up.  The light is earlier and earlier, helping me rise with it. 

Make a cup of coffee.  Wash some spinach and create a ten minute breakfast of a spinach and cheddar omelette, a piece of toasted walnut bread and a sip or two of grapejuice to wash down some extra vitamin B complex and cod liver oil.  Morning Popeye power.

Take the bike to work.  About 5 near misses with people who cut me off or drive the wrong way in the oncoming lane, someone stopping in the middle of a lane with no warning and no apparent reason. 

Homeroom: 14 energetic middle school students playing guitars and hand drums, some doing homework and getting measurements for an upcoming fashion show assembly.

Block One:  plan for the Piano Class, First grade and Band Class today.  Decide an appropriate piece for upper school students to transition to listening and musical thinking.  Today: Piazzolla's "Autumn" for piano trio.  Hopefully it loads correctly for listening.  Students are preparing for a performance in class on Tuesday morning.  Fourteen students now need to share 6 pianos.  Luckily about three are pursuing violin and guitar, freeing up a few keyboards.  First graders - the plan was to have them glue their wooden beads onto chopsticks for homemade rhythm sticks today.  I go down to their room to bring the new chopsticks, hopefully the right size this week, to their teaching assistant so she can check it before class.  Band Class can also listen to the Piazzolla.  Band Class will also prepare for their in-class performance on Tuesday.  Two students are working on a pop piece for vocal and piano; six are working up pieces for guitar; a quartet substituting clarinet for viola is working up a Mozart Quartet.  I go to the art room to ask to borrow white glue for first graders.  My colleague asks me if I can check over the frames in English for comics which will be published.  I start this but I do not have much time to give it.  Another colleague writes to me from abroad and asks for me to pick up a letter from the school to help her in her quest for her own next job.  I let myself read one news article - the NY Times story about four journalists who were kidnapped in Libya and lived to tell about it.  I forward it to my colleagues because it kind of puts things into perspective.  A colleague comes in to give me flyers for the talent show coming up next month.  My assistant and I also put together the beginnings of hand-made panpipes that the fifth graders will make on Monday.  It is only semi-successful as we need to make a few modifications for it to work well.  This is why we prepare in advance.  I am learning about fruit scented modeling clay.  It DOES harden over time.  A full day is in store.

Block Three:  Piano Class arrives, all ahead of the bell.  Students are generally not tardy to this block.  In fact they arrive and begin to practice long before the bell rings.  My classroom is filled up with bright, eager young minds.  They are all in uniform today.  Even the student with the least English skill is exuberantly practicing her language skills with me.  I guess she has forgiven me for disciplining her for not following the school rules last class.  The students quietly and carefully listen and write their thoughts and reflections about the music and begin to work on their pieces.  About half of them stay at their desks until pianos become available about 35 minutes later.  We talk about their pieces and about World History. I get around to most of the students while they are practicing to work on individual needs and development.  I have a conference with a Japanese teacher who has a field trip and will take one of the students out of the class after a while.

Lunch time.  Class is dismissed.  A boy forgets his lunch in the classroom.  A few moments later he appears again to retrieve it.  He never eats school lunch.  I guess I would not either if I lived in a five star hotel.  I go downstairs and into the cafeteria.  With some food on my tray I am waylaid by a staff member who is still planning a special event for tomorrow afternoon.  Apparently it has not been given enough planning and preparation to take into account students leaving on school buses and a home soccer game.  After about five minutes I glance down at the cold food remaining on my tray.  Not sure I will eat this after all.  In the faculty lunch area, teachers are complaining and discussing a rule our school has about not giving zeros but a score of 50 on the report card even if the student has a zero.  There is also an undercurrent of annoyance that a handfull of teachers have not recorded grades on time.  I walk outside and enjoy the sunshine for a while. I sit with a colleague for a few minutes on the outdoor stage and we talk about the fashion show and flea market on Friday.

First graders will be coming soon.  I set up the tables and put newspapers all over them to minimize glue damage.  Noisy fifth graders in the hallway - I step out to remind them of hallway behavior.  First graders coming in ... they are so excited to have a project to do!  Their classroom assistant, my assistant and I help the kids to make their beaded rhythm sticks which require a lot of glue. The kids carefully thread their beads on in alternating colors.  All kids are successful.  This is not the easiest task and first graders did very well, even following the directions to "try to keep the glue on the sticks."  We had some time for songs so we sang their favorite song-games: London Bridges (making a huge bridge with each student having a partner) and making a kind of dance out of it.  Next was Acka Backa Soda Cracker, which they love.  Then, "Reduce Re-Use Recycle" to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and last was "Love Me Tender."  The kids were so excited by the project I think they needed to expel more energy with the active songs. 

Not much time...Band is coming in.  Another full classroom including two boys who only come for this class as they are otherwise home-schooled.  Today we set up a bit differently after the listening as some art students need to use my adjoining room and its mirror.  We have 6 practice rooms, my classroom, the auditorium piano space and the drama room.  All were being utilised.  Wow I really need to use the restroom as I have not had a chance since my plan period.  Where is my assistant ... another colleague is out and about so I ask her to stay with my class for a few moments.  I am very grateful!  Back in the room I play violin for the Mozart Mirror Duet as the second player was enjoying piano playing for a few minutes before turning back to violin.  Next students work hard on a baroque Trio Sonata.  I check on our clarinetist and a tricky rhythm in one piece.  We talk about how to smooth out the notes.  I check on the vocalist and pianist and they are intently focused on their rehearsal, totally engrossed.  Good: there is no trace of smoke like last class.  Sometimes it works well to quietly indicate the rules to a student instead of making a public case of it.  I will hear the song later.  Time, time, time is rushing by.  I don't get to all of the guitar students in the class today.  The bell is ringing.

After school - I need to get to the post office but I also feel like responding to a discussion about the scoring using 50 on the report cards.  I am a little irritated with some teachers who were late in entering grades for report cards and I let everyone know it because these teachers inconvenience everyone else and seem to not be aware of that.  It is a part of our regular duties and I feel fed up with people not putting the effort out everyone else had to to get this done on time.  We have an early deadline for a simple reason - so that the administrative assistant has the time to proof and produce report cards before students take them home.  Another colleague comes by to hand me a letter that will go from his hands, through mine, to another friend who will send it to Malaysia to some mutual friends.  No time for the post office today. It closes at 4:30.  I swing by on my bike anyway but it is closed.

Home again finnegan jiggedy jig.  Very cold wind blowing today.  Not good for biking!  Whew.  Time for a strong cup of Earl Grey and a piece of dark chocolate cake.  Hehe one teacher takes my email rant about grades very personally - not my intent exactly - but interesting nonetheless.  I make a reply.  I turn on tv and listen to some rerun Funniest Home Video that still makes me laugh about pigs acting like people and people acting like pigs.  I am reheating some spaghetti. 

Time to actually put the effort into my colleague's request for checking the English for the comic frames.  I am tired but I am glad to help out on this. 

A friend texts me to say hi and how is my day ... again glad to have friends in this sometimes hostile environment.  I am about to take a long, hot shower and read in bed. 


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