Saturday, January 25, 2014

Confessions of a Crazy Music Teacher

Oh, the conference.  The time where I may be able to gain some invaluable tools and ideas for my classroom.  I may also be faced with realizing I’m in a completely inapplicable session and have to debate whether to face the embarrassment of walking out halfway through, amid the stares of the other attendees, presenter, and presider.  But most likely, I will be faced with the negative side of being an ambivert.  From what I’ve read (mostly in title of articles, I’m not gonna lie), ambiverts are supposed to get the best characteristics of both introverts and extroverts, but I’m pretty sure I got the worst.  Walking into the registration area, I was suddenly back in time, walking in on the first day of school in a new class, where everyone else seems to know one another, and I’m the outsider.

It’s dumb, and I know it’s probably just because of the way I’m awkward with people, but I’ve just always seemed so alone in the music education world.  I think it all started with my not-so-welcoming experience in undergrad music.  So many music educators I know are still friends with others from their undergrad program.  The conference is an opportunity for them to get together and catch up.  Hardly any of my friends in college were music people.  Dalton just felt uncomfortable to me during those years -- fifth grade all over again.  All the girls had already been in a choir together their freshman year, so they had bonded, keeping me out of the loop once I was in ensembles and classes with them.  Everyone seemed to know more than me about almost every facet of music, and there was SO much competition, which is not my thing when it comes to music.

Luckily, my masters program in music education made me appreciate Dalton SO much more, and I was able to meet many more people with whom I could better connect.  Still, it takes me YEARS hanging out with people before I really become comfortable with them.  This is where the worst sides of my ambivert(?) personality come in.  Like extroverts (I’m guessing...I’m really not an expert at all), I enjoy being in social situations.  Or, at least, I enjoy feeling comfortable in social situations.  I like hanging out  with people.  Sometimes when I’m by myself, I search out people with whom I can spend time because otherwise I feel lonely.  However, like introverts (still, guessing), I feel anxiety in social situations in which I am not extremely familiar with the other people.  As you can imagine, this makes things difficult for me.  I love having friends and having things to do outside of my home, but I also have no idea how to meet new people or, heaven forbid, actually become friends with them.  I really have no idea how I already have friends.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me.

This inconvenient dichotomy of my personality makes things like large-scale conferences in which hundreds (thousands?) of people in varying aspects of music education are milling about, socializing, learning things from one another, extremely uncomfortable for me.  I find myself trying to stay with people with whom I am somewhat familiar but not at all comfortable, but that just leads to wasted time and more feelings of inadequacy (can anyone say “middle school”?)  The second day of the conference this year, I decided to do what I should have done in the first place.  I chose the sessions I wanted to attend, avoided trying to plan out my schedule to have lunch with others, resigned myself to being happy eating alone, and, miraculously, had a wonderful time.  Without the pressure of trying to fit in, I was able to be more authentic, more like the real me.  As we all know, but we don’t always act upon, being ourselves is really the best thing we can do.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t still have very awkward moments in which I tried to greet people I knew, only to say something ridiculous or trail off into awkward silence.  (By the way, if you were with me at the conference and are reading this, and I happened to say something really awkward, it’s not you.  It’s me. :) )  And that doesn’t mean I actually made any new connections (because I found myself just not talking to people unless they made contact with me first).  However, I was able to learn things to bring back to the classroom with me, and I was able to feel more confident in my abilities and actually enjoy the experience.

I know there should be a take-away from this.  I should learn to just be myself, not worry about how to interact with others, and simply live.  I’ve been trying to tell myself these things for years.  I hope that I’ll finally be able to live up to these ideas.  It would make life SO much less uncomfortable.

Please share any awkward situations you’ve had.  Reading about the shared awkward will make us all feel a little better. :)

This awesome article slightly sums up some of my issues:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

frustration and mind-block :P

So I know that at one point in my life I was able to come up with creative ideas for lessons for my students, and I still get ideas once in a while, but I feel like I’m at a standstill.  I cannot get my mind to take the time to develop quality lessons.  I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been on break for so long that my mind isn’t ready to get back into gear or something else, but it’s really getting frustrating.

As I sit here in a coffee shop, having decided that it would be a more conducive work environment than my living room couch, all I can think of is the book sitting a foot away from me and how much I’d rather be reading it.  All I can do is continually switch between the tab of my lesson planning and my Facebook tab, which is absolutely useless.

I am in great need of some divine intervention in the idea and motivation department.  I should be motivated enough, seeing as how I’ve had two and a half weeks off of planning (more if you count the days where I didn’t really need lessons because of other school activities).  The break must have done the opposite of what it should have, though.  Having the opportunity to teach my second graders music three times a week really is a blessing.  Think of how much I can teach kids when I see them two hours and twenty minutes a week as a opposed to the thirty of last year!  However, it has led to a very quick expenditure of all previously-taught lessons, and now I’m in serious need of some new ideas.  Ay, I can only hope that inspiration hits me incredibly soon!

Bucket List (or How I Want to Hug a Manatee)

I know I may seem a little young to be creating a bucket list, but these are things I would really, seriously like to accomplish before I go up to the spirit in the sky.  Not thinking about them until I’m too achy and forgetful to go through with any of them doesn’t sound like the smartest idea at this point.  So here goes!
  1. I want to write a children’s book.  I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to illustrate it myself, and I have no idea what the story is at this point, but it would be amazing if I could get a book published.  I’ve wanted to do this ever since I was a child.
  2. I want to go to Ireland.  Both my husband and I are really interested in visiting this part of Europe, so I’m hoping it’s a real possibility someday.
  3. I want to travel down the west coast.  I want to see Seattle, Portland the redwoods, the beautiful Northern California shoreline, San Francisco, and so much more.
  4. I want to have children and try to not perpetuate societal stereotypes while raising them.  I know that they will face these stereotypes in media and at school, and probably even around my own family and friends, but wouldn’t it be amazing if we were able to raise children who didn’t fall prey to the pressures put on them by societal norms?
  5. I want to be in a production of Urinetown: The Musical.  It’s one of my favorites, and it would be so fun to be a part of it.
  6. I want to sing in a choir again.  I really miss being part of an ensemble, and I know there are opportunities out there for me to participate.  I’ve just been too busy or lazy.
  7. I want to actually finish making afghans and blankets.  I know this is a silly one, but I’ve never actually been able to make myself finish crocheting an afghan or baby blanket.  Hopefully this one can be accomplished in the next year or two. :P
  8. I want to go on a tour of Europe.  This may go with the Ireland one, but I really would like to see England, Spain, Italy, and France (despite Dave’s aversion to all things French :) ).
  9. I want to travel to Hawaii.  I never used to want to go to Hawaii.  I’m not really a tropical-island kind of girl.  I am much more likely to turn into a shining lobster than a golden-tan beach babe.  However, I have seen such beautiful views in Hawaii now (and I hate to say it, but some of this desire has come from the movies 50 First Dates and Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and I’d really like to experience it firsthand some day.
  10. I want to see a manatee in the wild.  Manatees are one of my favorite animals, and I’d really, really like to see one.  If I could safely swim with one, even better. ;)
  11. I want to swim with dolphins (in a safe, controlled environment).  Definitely not one for danger...  :)
  12. I want to come up with more goals in life.  I am not an adventurous girl, at least in the reckless sense.  I definitely don’t like things that pose a great risk of bodily harm, so you won’t see “sky-diving” or “bungee-jumping” added.  However, I really would like to have more things I really want to do on this list.  It was difficult to think of just this many.  I don’t know if that’s because I’m scared of new things or because I don’t want to disappoint myself if I don’t accomplish them, but I’ve got to get over it and start getting more motivation in my life.

Here’s to great years ahead!  And a picture for the road.  Are you serious right now?!

And this video!!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why Frozen might be one of the Best Princess Movies Disney's Ever Made

**Be warned.  Spoilers abound.**

I recently watched Disney’s new animated movie Frozen.  I saw it twice, actually, both because I loved it so much and because I wanted my mom to be able to see it, and my stepfather surely wouldn’t be into it.  For those who haven’t seen it, this blog will spoil the ending.  If you don’t plan on seeing it, or don't care, here’s the breakdown:

The story is about two young princesses living in a Norway-esque kingdom with their parents.  One of the sisters (Elsa, the grown-up version voiced by the amazing Idina Menzel) was born with a magical gift: she can summon ice and snow at will.  Unfortunately, it’s a somewhat dangerous power, and she accidentally injures her sister.  An adorable troll helps heal the younger (non-magical) sister, Anna, but also takes away the girl’s memory of her sister’s unique gift.  He also warns that people’s fear of her power could be her downfall.  Elsa is therefore hidden away from Anna and the rest of the kingdom for her own safety and the safety of others.  Cue a sweet growing-up-alone montage (who knew Kristen Bell could sing?) and in true Disney fashion, tears for the parents who die when their ship is overturned while on a voyage.  Eventually Elsa must become queen, and then, of course, chaos ensues.

The main story itself is not uncommon for Disney, and in fact is “inspired” by the Snow Queen stories of Hans Christian Andersen.  Like most Disney takes on these old stories, however, it is vastly different from the original.

Still, there were so many reasons why this movie was a step forward for Disney and for princess stories in general.
  1. Anna is bold, clumsy, and a lover of chocolate.  She’s not the stereotypical “perfect princess” that one might expect.  Snow White and Aurora, for example (though Aurora is one of my favorites) were delicate, genteel, and prone to attracting small woodland creatures.  Anna just might trip over one on accident if she got excited enough.
  2. Elsa might be seen as the “evil queen” by some characters in the movie, but the real villains are actually men.  This may come as a shock, but think about the villains in earlier animated Disney movies: Sleeping Beauty had Maleficent, Snow White had the Evil Queen, The Little Mermaid had Ursula, Cinderella had the Evil Stepmother, and 101 Dalmatians had Cruella DeVille (yeah, I know, not a princess movie).  Sure, there were male villains thrown in, as well, but some of the most iconic villains in Disney animated history are evil women.  I loved that the women in this movie were not working against one another.  Why do women have to hate one another in so many movies?
  3. The men are not the saviors.  In so many of the other films, despite including some great character traits on the main female characters’ parts, and despite the fact that many of the movies are named after the female characters, men end up saving the day.  Yes, Anna has some assistance from male friends (oh, Olaf, you silly snowman), but in the end, it is her unconditional love for her sister which saves both their lives, not romantic love.
  4. This movie teaches about what love really means.  Sure, Anna gets extremely excited when finally exposed to life outside the castle walls.  Early on, she makes a silly choice in deciding to marry a man she’s just met, but this is all meant to poke fun at the ridiculous nature of romances in some of the other stories (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella).  I love that the dialogue makes a point to stress just how ridiculous it is for someone to think they can marry someone after one meeting.  Olaf has a wonderful monologue telling Anna that loving someone means putting their needs above your own, and then he does so himself when he almost melts because he’s so close to the fire keeping her warm.  As he says, “Some people are worth melting for.”
  5. It’s really a musical, and the music is great.  The creators embraced choral singing as well as solo work, and almost all of the music is quite awesome.  The voice actors were great singers as well as actors with backgrounds in musical theatre, which I think is a must.  I know I am biased on this point, but it is refreshing to see a true emphasis on the music in a film.
I still cannot get over how wonderful it was that Anna saved herself in this story.  The creators could just as easily have had Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) save the day.  How empowering for young girls to be able to see a conflict resolved by sisterly love rather than an often hollow romantic love.  I can only hope that the next princess movie, which I have heard should be coming out in a few years, will step even further into the realm of empowerment for girls.  I hope, also, that boys and men can appreciate the strength of the characters in this movie and see that girls can be heroes, too.  I am curious, in fact.  How do children respond to this story?  I’m a child at heart, as is my wonderful husband, so we attend these movies despite the fact that we do not yet have children of our own.  I hope that the frequent singing in the film does not keep some children from enjoying and learning from it.  Please share any experiences you’ve had with both girls and boys’ responses to this movie, as well as your own.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I would definitely suggest seeing it even still, despite the spoilers above.  And remember, “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.”

If you’d like to read more, check out the following article.  After writing this blog entry, I encountered a much more artfully written piece which shared many of my thoughts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Back to Awkward: Five Reasons You Should Just Give Up Trying to be Productive and Read Your Book

  1. When the garbage truck hasn’t come in two weeks, and so it is necessary to boisterously swing your garbage bag up into the dumpster, and you happen to be holding another garbage bag in the other hand, as well as your dog’s leash, and just as you’ve gained enough momentum, the plastic drawstring breaks, you will fall over into the snow.
  2. When you are yelling at your dog to leave the kitchen as you sauté onions for your scrambled eggs, you will knock over the bowl of perfectly seasoned eggs, sending half of them streaming over the newly-cleaned counter.
  3. When you add an extra egg to your already-beaten eggs and then begin to add seasonings to make them perfect once again, you will use the wrong opening in the garlic powder and dump about two tablespoons of the good stuff into the egg bowl.
  4. When you take a shower, you will reach for your loofa, only to have it unravel in your hands, creating an incredibly not-useful scarf version of itself.
  5. The book is addictive, and apparently nothing else can go right, so there you go. :)