Thursday, June 25, 2015

One Item that Means the World to Me

I'm teaming up once more with I Heart 3 Grade for her Weekly Summer Link Up again!  This week's topic is "One Item that Means the World to Me."  I started thinking about this blog post last week and came up blank.  I thought about it again over the weekend and drew another blank.  I've thought about it this week and still, I came up with nothing.

Here's the thing: there is only one thing on this earth that means the world to me and that's my son.  I came to motherhood in a most unconventional way.  I was 39, unmarried and without the finances to adopt.  I had recently taken a Financial Peace University class at my church which challenged me to evaluate my priorities.  At the time, I shopped freely, visited the salon often, had trendy clothes and accessories, and lots of tech toys.  I had to choose to continue that life, or sacrifice "things" in order to have the one thing I wanted more than anything in the world - a son or daughter!  So I stopped shopping and I started selling.   I kept what I needed and let everything else go.  Now, don't get any ideas - I still like nice things but I just didn't need so much of it.  I began to understand the difference between wanting and needing something.    In less that a year, I had the funds to adopt (partnered with a fundraiser I did) and two months later I was matched with a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

So here's the one thing that means the world to me.  This simple photo of me and my son as a baby.  It's a picture of love and God's grace in my life.  It sits on my mantle in a frame given to my by the judge that finalized his adoption.  "Things" come and go, but his love is constant and it's enough.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Shop Hop Giveaway

I've been on summer vacation for a little over a week, but school is still on my mind.  Not last year - I'm already thinking about next year!  I'm thinking about what units I'm going to teach, what lessons I'm going to tweak, what I want to do differently or better.  Are you the same?  If you're like me, you have a wish list a mile long on TPT.  So let me make it easier on you!  You can WIN one of two $50 gift cards for TPT?  Here's how!

Nineteen music sellers are coming together to offer you a great summer deal! Here's what you do:  Start here and grab the letter at the top of my page.  Write it down!  Click on each letter to go to the next store and along the way, "follow" each store to check out the amazing things everyone has to offer.  Then, once you have the codes, come back to my blog and enter the secret message.  (Shh - rumor has it the code has something to do with music history...)  The contest runs June 25-27 and winner will be announced on June 28.

While you're swinging through the stores, let me suggest my newest product!  I've just posted a Growing Bundle called Sing & Strum.  The unit is based on my experiences teaching ukulele in the elementary music classroom.  The bundle includes ukulele basics, chords, strumming patterns and over 50 folk songs!  It includes interactive white board charts and student song sheets too!  I'm so excited about this product!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dare to Dream

It's week two of the TPT Summer Challenge!  This week's theme is "Dare to Dream!"  Dreaming is my specialty!  Nothing about my life is conventional.  Growing up, I always thought I would marry and have kids.  Boy, was I wrong!  I spent much of my thirties with someone I thought I would marry.  When things didn't work out, I was alone with hopes of marriage and children dashed.  But where God guides, He provides.  At 38, I began praying and pursuing adoption as a single-parent.  Within in two months, I was matched with a beautiful baby boy.  Shortly after, I began praying and pursuing buying a home for us.  Within two months, I had the house of my dreams in the neighborhood of my dreams and at the price of my dreams.  Where God guides, He provides.

So four years later - what are my dreams and hopes for me and my son?  How will TPT help make that come to fruition?

 1)  I'm always dreaming, hoping and praying for a loving, Christian man to come into our lives.  I think in many ways, God has been revealing to me the kind of man He desires for me through my son.  TPT isn't going to make that dream come to fruition, but it is my number one dream and prayer. I believe that even at 43, God can provide me with a husband who will be a loving father to my son.

2)  In 2004, I purchased my first (and only) new car.  It was a beautiful white Jeep Liberty.  I have driven many a mile in that car - over 207K to be exact.  I need one more year from it (one more year of daycare & preschool), then I can look to purchase a "newish" car.  My dream is to buy a white Ford Escape.  Certainly, my earnings on TPT will help to offset the down payment and monthly payments!

3)  I long to take my son on a family vacation to Disney World.  I want to go while he's still young and it's still magical.  My personal goal is to take him for his 5th birthday (this May) but it will take a lot of saving (and selling) to make it happen.  It's a dream...

4)  Lastly, and most importantly, my dream is to save.  An adoption and a home has taken its toll on my savings and I'd like to be able to put some money back into my account.  A simple dream, but a big one to be sure!

It's your turn!  What do you dare to dream about for your own life?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Makeover Madness

Before this summer began, I had a list a mile long of TPT projects I wanted work on.  More than anything, I wanted to revamp a few of my oldest products.  I loved the content in them, but I cringed each time I sold one.  In those early days, I literally posted my lessons done in Word.  (Don't laugh!)  I was sharing what I had but hadn't found my style - my voice in the TPT world.

I belong to several TeachersPayTeachers groups on Facebook.  Earlier this week,  I saw the TPT Seller Challenge.  What perfect timing!  My first makeover was awarded to two products:  Halloween Songs and Activities and Fall & Thanksgiving Song and Activities.  The first thing I did was marry them into one product - Fall Songs and Activities for Little Ones.  By bundling them, it allowed me to create a comprehensive product complete with lesson plans, coloring sheets and interactive white board charts.  I love the way it turned out and I love that it matches the quality of the work I create now.

I'm working on Fall Worksheets for the Music Learning Theory Inspired Classroom set to complement this bundle.  I'm also working on a makeover of "I Like to Move It" and adding several new units for my Songs and Activities for Little Ones among other surprises!  

Oh - for those of you who have purchased either the Halloween product or the Fall & Thanksgiving product.  The new bundle is posted under both titles for the time being.  Download away!  The Fall & Thanksgiving product will become the new listing for the bundle, but I wanted to ensure that anyone who had purchased either product had ample opportunity to download it!  If you haven't purchased it, go do it now!  It's on sale through the end of the week for $5!  Click here:  Fall Songs and Activities for Little Ones

Thank you, as always, for your support!  Have a great, relaxing summer!  You deserve it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Small Goals

Friday was the last day of school.  I awoke Saturday feeling like it was a normal weekend.  Sunday, I realized that I didn't have to spend the afternoon writing lesson plans.  I woke up Monday morning and didn't have to rush out of the door.  By Tuesday morning, I could feel my entire body relaxing into the idea of summer.

With that said, I have some goals for myself this summer.  Summer is the perfect time to reflect and make some small changes that hopefully will become habits over time.  When my friend, Jennifer, from the Yellow Brick Road blogged about her Small Goals, I knew I wanted to share mine too.

1.  Eat cleaner
I am an eat-on-the-go-caffeine-junky.  I admit it.  I grab breakfast on the go.  I grab lunch on the go.  And although I enjoy cooking, by the time I get home, run my son to soccer or swimming, or the late-night meeting, home-cooked meals are the last thing on my mind.  So Saturday, I gave up Diet Coke.  Sunday, I cleaned out the pantry and filled the refrigerator with lots of fruits and vegetables.  I'm not going to lie, I miss the Diet Coke, but ice water is quenching my thirst.  As for the eating,  we're enjoying homemade guacamole, fresh honeydew and picked our own strawberries this morning.  I've got this!

2.  Read more
I used to be a voracious reader, then I became a momma.  Now I read children's books.  Lots and lots of children's books.  I really miss reading for pleasure.  I miss the smell of a book, getting lost in a story and reading for hours on end.  So during our weekly visits to the library, I am going to check out a book (or three) for me.  Have any great book suggestions for me?

3.  Connect more
The busier I get, the more disconnected I get.  I don't spend time with God.  My prayer life becomes emaciated and I miss the peace that comes with simply being with Him.  My last small goal is really my biggest.  And it's simply spending time with God in prayer.  I want to listen to His voice and know His will for my life.  Such a simple thing and yet so challenging when life gets in the way.

What are your small goals for this summer?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: My Teaching Quirk

Good morning friends!  I'm excited to team up with I Heart Grade 3 for her Weekly Summer Link Up.

This week's topic is My Teaching Quirk (which made me giggle).  I love that anyone would think teachers have only one!  

1)  Coffee
You can find me every morning with a cup of Starbucks in my hand.  If I was a Barbie, I would be "Starbucks Barbie" with a hand designed just for holding Venti cups.  I am sooooo not a morning person.  Curiously, I am up between 4:30-5:00 am every morning, but it takes me an enormous amount of time to "wake up."  It also takes an enormous amount of coffee to wake me up!  The stronger the better and Starbucks is my caffeine of choice.

(Just looking at the logo makes me thirsty!)

2) Greeting my Students at the Door
Warning!  Do not send your kids into my classroom.  Ever.  Please let me greet them at the door.  I LOVE greeting my students before music! I love seeing their smiling faces and welcoming them to my room.  I love getting to set the tone for the 40 minutes I get to spend with them.  There's something so personal about looking into the eyes of each of my kids and greeting them.  I don't like them filing through the door while I am attending to something else.  This is one of things I make my student teachers do too.  It's just good manners.

3) Fluorescent Lights
Fluorescent lights are the bane of my existence.  I passionately detest them but with good reason.  I've suffered from migraines for almost 30 years.  Bright light (even sunlight) can be a trigger for me.  So my lights are never fully on.  In fact, I only use a third of the lights in my room with a few lamps too.  I know some kids dislike it at first, but it becomes one of the ways I encourage a "state change" in the music room.  Sometimes my students come in so excited that the low lights help to calm their bodies and minds.  And it helps with students being able to see our Interactive White Board too.

(I'm getting a headache just looking at this photo!)

I hope you enjoyed reading about all of my quirks!  What is your number one teacher quirk?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The practice of being grateful

I am blessed beyond measure and I know it.

I get to do what I love everyday.  I get to sing and play and plant the seed of music in every child that walks into my classroom.  And for many, I get to watch that seed grow, bloom and mature over the course of five years.  I get to hear their first musical babbles as Kindergartners and listen to their soulful performances as fourth graders.   I get the privilege of watching them grow into loving, caring, intelligent, beautiful, creative, musical human beings!  And I was lucky enough to witness it all.

So as the year ends, I sit here on a Saturday night with much to do.  Weeks ago, I would have been here writing lesson plans.  Instead, tonight I am writing thank you cards.  Almost 50 in total - one to each and every child who wrote me a note or gave me gift at the end of the school year.  I could have quickly scribbled a thank you note that would get lost in the scurry of the last day.  Instead, I chose to do what I do every year.  I sit down and write each child a personal note and mail it to their homes.  I want them to know how grateful I am to be their teacher.  How much they mean to me and how thankful I am for their kind gestures - no matter the size.

I do it because their notes touch my heart and remind me each year why I do this job.  

This is a note I received from one of my fourth graders.  She was one of the children I taught in my Kindergarten music class and watched grow into an amazing, sweet young lady.  I am touched beyond words and will miss her more than she will ever know.  So I sit here and write into the wee hours hoping that my notes to them give them the same feeling - a feeling of being loved, appreciated, and grateful.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: An Accomplishment I am Proud Of

With a few days left in the school year and my eyes set on summer, this seems like the perfect time to reflect on something I'm proud of.  It's been a tough year, but there was one bright spot all year long and it's the accomplishment that I am most proud of: my elementary choir.

I've taught in my district for fifteen years.  Choir was part of the district curriculum and part of our school day.  For years, I had 4th-5th grade choirs with over 100 students.  About five years ago, our district moved from a K-5 model to a K-4/5-6 model and in doing so, eliminated choir.  I was heartbroken!  I love, love, love teaching elementary music, but there is something special about working with a group of children who really love singing and want to make music together.  For two years, we had no choir at our school and for two years, I felt the void of my choir.

A few years ago, I approached my principal about having another choir.  We would have to do things differently.  It would be comprised of 3rd and 4th graders and rehearsals would be before school.  I wasn't sure how many students would want to come to school an hour earlier than usual or how many students would even want to participate.  I worked from the premise that "if you build it, they will come."  And they did!  The first year, we had about 40 students join choir.  It was a small group, but a lovely group of students who loved singing.

We just finished our third year of choir at my school.  This year we had 74 students in our choir.  We performed in the community, at school assemblies, Covey leadership events, a Board of Education meeting and a Red Wings Game!

I can't imagine my life without this group of students.  They give back to me as much as I give to them.  I have witnessed such tremendous growth in their singing and musicianship!

There are a few things you should know about my group.  I donate my time for our rehearsals and performances.  I teach for free.  I know some people might scoff at that but the reality is we do what we love regardless of compensation.  I love working with these children and I donate my time willingly.

We are not an "audition" group.  I do not turn away any student.  I truly believe that every child can sing and any child who wants to sing should have an opportunity to be part of our choir.  End of discussion.

We're a "flipped choir" too - meaning we don't do traditional.  We don't sing traditional choir literature and perform as such.  We modeled our choir much like PS 22.  We sing music we love and much of it is pop music.   It can be a challenge at times to find songs with a positive message and clean lyrics, but it is possible!  The other thing that makes us stand out is that we never stand still.  If we feel it, we move to it!

This group is the heart and soul of my school and one of my proudest accomplishments!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Five Favorite Pins of June

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It's May 4th and there are 5 1/2 days left of school.  The crazy thing about being a teacher is that although this year has yet to come to a close, I am already thinking about next year.  What could I do better?  What could I do differently?  What lessons do I tweak?  And this is why I love the idea of Aileen Miracle's Five Favorite Pins of June.  It helps me to reflect on the year ending and the school year to come, via Pinterest!

#1 - A little inspiration...
Teaching is a profession under constant scrutiny.  The changes come fast and furious and we adapt while trying to give our best to our students, our families and our communities.  There have been many times in recent years that I question why I still teach.  And this pin says it all.  I do it not for the money, not for the summer vacation (I know, what summer vacation?).   I do it because I was gifted with a passion to help children see their potential through music.  It is what I was born to do.  And every time I feel worn, tired, on the verge of tears - I look at this and am reminded that God created me to do this and I am blessed.

#2 - The favorite listening lesson of the year goes to...
I stumbled across a Carnival of the Animals app for iPads this year, but didn't give it too much thought.  As the unit neared, I remembered the app and began exploring it and fell in LOVE with it.  My students love the mix of animation and live orchestra.  They get to hear and see musicians perform on their instruments while watching some very cute, clever animation.  What's even better is that many of the excerpts are on YouTube - no iPad required!

#3 - Respecting the needs of all my students
I am the mother of a four-year old boy and I am discovering something: my child needs to move.  And I don't mean he needs to wiggle every once in a while.  He needs to jump, fly, climb, twist and fall.  And sometimes, he needs time to transition - cool down - center himself before moving on to another activity.  This has made me reflect upon my teaching practice and the way I teach the boys in my classroom.  How many times have my students come to my room needing physical movement after a long morning sitting?  How many times has a student come to my room upset about something that happened on the playground, at home, or in the classroom?  I've been researching and thinking about strategies to address all the needs of my students.  I love the idea incorporating a calm corner for students who simply need a moment to transition and ready themselves mentally and physically for learning.

#4 - Developing the child musician
I have two goals for my students.  Two things that my students cannot leave my classroom without being able to do: 1) think music and 2) sing in their head voice.  I can share countless stories from parents about how they never learned to sing.  My students are mine for five years (ok, most of my students).  There is no way they should leave my program with learning how to sing in their head voice.  But the reality is, in spite of every technique I try, sometimes you have a student who doesn't get there.  One of the best props I've ever used to help my students who can't match pitch is what classroom teachers call "whisper phones."  They're used in reading lessons all the time but they're fabulous tools for emergent singers to get feedback about their voice too!  And better yet, it's just two pieces of PVC pipe attached together.  I have a classroom set because you can't just give one out.  All my students want to hear themselves, but it provides great feedback for those students who aren't matching pitch or singing in a head voice yet.

#5 - The Bane of my existence: Bulletin Boards
I love everything about teaching - except one thing: bulletin boards.  Ugh.  It's not my thing.  I need inspiration.  I need cute.  I need to plan them months in advance.  (And ideally, I need someone else to create them for me!)  But the reality is that I have to do bulletin boards and I have to do them myself.  As a Leader in Me Lighthouse School, we choose a school-wide theme each year and our boards have to reflect that theme.  Next year's theme is a nautical theme, so I've already been searching for my bulletin board for next year.  I love the idea of "Diving into Music!"  So cute!

Thanks for reading through my Five Favorite Pins of June!  Do you have a favorite pin for your classroom?  Let me know!