Sunday, December 22, 2013

If you just Believe

Christmastime is here.  This year has been one of incredible joy and but also terrible pain, and I think many of us are pretty happy that we will soon be stepping into a fresh new one in a few days.

A surprising, heartbreaking loss in our family has caused a muting of the joy generally surrounding this time of year.  Getting my husband to have any excitement for the coming holidays has been quite difficult.  First step, tree.  Putting up the tree is never a good time.  No matter how long we’ve had it, we still can never figure out how the cords are supposed to be connected...not to mention the clutter that is almost always present in our living room which needs to be annually cleared in order to fit our festive decor.  Needless to say, the evening of “putting up the tree” was not one that increased our holiday spirit.  However, a week later, we finally got the chance to decorate.

For the past few years, we’ve each chosen a new ornament to place on the tree which shows our personalities, mostly pop icons which we remember fondly from our childhoods (or adult childhood, as in my love of the minions and Dave’s perpetual love of Star Wars).  This year, neither of us could find an ornament that we really loved.  We had almost given up when I remembered the greatest thing that had happened this year: our marriage.  My Secret Santa at work had given me a silver wedding cake ornament with the year and “Our First Christmas Together,” and we still had our somewhat unusual wedding cake toppers.  I decided to combine them into a sort of homemade ornament to commemorate the absolutely best thing to happen this year.  As soon as it was on the tree, we knew it was the right choice.  The addition of a beautiful tree uniquely “us” has definitely helped in getting us both more excited for the next couple of weeks.

The combination of this picture with this caption was my husband’s idea, as were Yoda and Vader on either side. :)

Another thing that really helped my heart warm to the season was hearing my choir sing “Believe” from Polar Express.  Hearing their lovely voices sing such a moving song was amazing.  I wanted to show the kids how happy I was that they had dedicated so much time to making music, so I decorated ornaments with their names on them and “Comet Choir 2013” to help them remember their time in the choir.  I also wrote them a letter telling them how happy I was with their work this year.  The kids were so incredibly excited when they found the gift bags on their chairs, and their responses to the ornaments were priceless.  I was so happy that kids could be so enthusiastic about such a simple gift when all some children seem to want these days are iPods and PSPs.

These next few days are going to be so different from previous years in many ways.  However, I am confident that we will still be able to share the love of our families and maybe even feel a little of the magic of which so many of us lose sight as the pressures of adult life weigh us down.  Merry Christmas, all!  “Christmas day is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp.” ~ Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

These are Girl Scouts, obviously not my students.  And they may have gone a bit overboard with the attempt at harmony.  However, I find it more pleasing than Josh Groban's version...don't judge me. :)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If Music be the Food of Love

I was eleven years old when the choir came and sang for the fifth graders at my school.  I remember them singing “Cruella DeVille” and “Secret Agent Man” and thinking, “They’re so cool!”  (teehee...)  We were given the chance to sign up for sixth grade choir that year, and I jumped at the chance (as long as my bestie would do it with complete independence allowed in fifth grade).

The next fall, I was absolutely terrified the first day of school because I was positive that I would go to choir and be forced to sing by myself in front of everyone.  I begged my teacher to let me change my elective.  How lucky I am that she stuck to her guns and convinced me to go to choir that day.

My middle school choir years helped me gain a little more confidence in my abilities, although the director was not entirely inspiring, and our choir overall was very sad.  Still, I felt like part of a group (though a sadly tiny one by the end of eighth grade) and planned to continue singing in high school.

How happy I was when I met with the new choir director for the high school, and he seemed to think I might have some talent.  Having someone tell me that my voice had potential boosted my confidence tenfold.  Until then, I was very self-conscious about the odd quality of my voice and never felt truly comfortable performing alone.

More than anything, however, being in choir allowed me to have a wonderful mentor in my director, peers whose talent I truly admired, and a sort of family.  All of these things inspired me to share my love of music with a younger generation.  What better way than to become a teacher of music?

Over the past few years, my faith in my ability to teach and especially in my ability to inspire (to which, I would guess, most teachers strive) has been shaken.  Like many, I went into teaching with great ideas of what might be, thinking I’d turn every poor child to the proper course, inspire them to learn for learning’s sake, to love singing and making music as much as I.  Fooled I was by the inspirational leader movies that have been made throughout the years (Dangerous Minds, anyone?), despite knowing that movies were not real.  For the past few years, my job has changed annually.  Each year, less of my time could be devoted to music and more to Spanish language.  Though I love Spanish, I can honestly say that it is much easier to inspire someone with music than with foreign language.  By the end of my sixth year as a teacher, I was burnt-out and seriously reconsidering my choice to enter the field of education.

As luck would have it, someone decided that it was no longer necessary to have elementary Spanish, and so this year, I have been reinstated as a mostly-music teacher and have even been able to start up my elementary choir again.

I cannot tell you how amazingly happy the change has made me.  I am finally seeing that although I cannot change the lives of all of the children who pass through my doors, I can inspire at least a few of them to carry on the love of singing and being part of a choir.

It has been a bumpy road.  Three of my girls decided that they didn’t want to commit, and four of my boys unfortunately had to be removed from the group because of behavior issues.  However, I now get to spend thirty-five minutes three times a week making music with an incredibly talented, sweet, dedicated group of kids.  One girl in particular I have had as a student since she was just a tiny kindergartener.  She has always had incredible stage fright.  When I asked her personally if she would be joining the choir this year, though, I think she realized that I cared about her and wanted her to be part of our group.  How surprised I was when she was one of the fourteen students who actually auditioned for a solo.  Not only did she audition (after much coaxing), but it ends up that she has an amazing voice, if only she can get over her timid nature.  Tears filled my eyes as I thought of her and of her fellow choir members as high school singers, loving their choir as I had mine.

In truth, singing is one of a few things that make me truly happy.  If I can pass that love of music on to just one of my three hundred and fifty students each year, I feel I have succeeded.  If I can give that joy to one student, then she may be able to share it with another, and that will be worth all of the struggle that comes with this often thankless job.  "If music be the food of love, play on." ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

So I originally posted the above video thinking it was another.  Oops!  Below is the video I really was trying to include...  Enjoy both? :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Start this baby up

A couple friends of mine just challenged me to start blogging, so I've decided to go for it.  I don't really have time at the moment to write the post I'd like to (tonight is Christmas tree night!), but I thought I'd post this little bit to show them that I accepted their challenge.  My life at this moment can be summed up like this:
  1. Quite enjoying my job again (yay!)
  2. Feeling bad for some people really close to me who've been having awful experiences this year
  3. Loving being married to my husband (of almost-five months ;) )
  4. Not believing that Christmas is in a week and a half
  5. Absolutely hating the icy weather of the past week
Hopefully soon I'll be able to write a real post.  Until then, stay safe!