Saturday, October 30, 2010


Yesterday was Halloween dress-up day.
I was Nathan Detroit (Guys and Dolls)
Mrs. D was Cruella Deville (101 Dalmations)
I was monitoring some students in in-school suspension and noticed that one of them was in there for the day because she does not participate in Halloween.  It reminds me that the school did not officially refer to Halloween for this spirit day, but instead (and in the theme of an anti-drug week) as "Say 'Boo!' to drugs day."  I need to find out if the full-time suspension monitor knows if that was a parental or student decision.  I'm not particularly inclined to rant about Halloween in schools — try to stifle your disappointment.

In GM, we watched "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (because we can).  I haven't seen this video in such a long time that I got to enjoy a new discovery of how amazing it is.  Off the top of my head, it's the only kid-oriented story on film that I can think of that doesn't teach the lesson, "If you believe really hard in something, it will happen."  Linus firmly believes in the Great Pumpkin and waits for it all night and it never comes.  So instead of another "Hey kids, magic stuff is real — keep at it" movie, this is a movie that seems to say, "Hey kids, it's ok if something that you really wish for doesn't arrive, life goes on anyway, and deeper beauty and meaning exists (in friendship and in nature)."  I love it.

Imagery like this makes me happy.

I ended the day by attending a specialized meeting with representatives from different teams (Mrs. D represents the arts here) and the principal and VP.  It was...boring!  Yet, also informative.  Enough of that, I have another day to talk about...

Today was a clerical day post-marking-period.  We finalized grades and began preparation for the next marking period (we fortunately get another day, Monday, for this as well).  I worked on creating seating charts based on IEP and medical information (vision and hearing, for example).  In looking at my rosters, I know I'm going to have my hands full.  There are many ADHD students in these classes and many with IEP's, too.

One class in particular is going to be the adventure of a lifetime.  Mrs. D and I have been warned THREE TIMES about this group of students, with phrases like, "this is the kind of class that could make someone run away screaming from education."  We met with a teacher who works with these students (though not all at once, is my understanding) to figure out who to avoid sitting next to whom.  He did help with this, and he also informed us (almost one by one) about the very low-performing faculties of these students and their behavioral...let's say "quirks."  He also said to us, and I quote directly, "This is honestly the lowest set of students that I've seen."  28/30 of these students have IEP's, by the way.  Fortunately, their learning support teacher will be with us during each class.  Mrs. D will be trying to let me be entirely in control of the class but will, when needed, be a valuable presence and extra set of eyes — perhaps also an enforcer if I don't cut it some day.  My expectations for this class will, and need to be, completely different than that of others; I'll be progressing in the curriculum at a dramatically slower pace.  Some of these students read at a 2nd grade level.  I get the impression that if I can make it through teaching this class, there is absolutely nothing pedagogical that would keep me from certification.

Please forgive my late-night lazy storytelling, but I need to wrap this up.  The last memorable event of the day was hearing about a situation in which some HS seniors were found to be expecting Mrs. D to drive them between two music events on a weekend without ever having asked her.  Furthermore, she had to drive them around today due to their poor planning.  SENIORS!  WAKE UP!

The Oldest Established (Guys and Dolls)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


so tired...will post tomorrow...clerical day...zzzzz...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


My favorite thing to do in the morning is resist responding to political ravings from a full-time and more-important-than-me co-worker.  Lucky me, I got to do that today.

I love my Theory kids, and they like me too.  Otherwise, they wouldn't yell (without hesitation), "Who talks like that?!?!" after hearing me say something like, "Some points of confusion were..."  When, in response, I told them that my peers also make fun of me for how I talk, they laughed uproariously at my decision to use the word "peer."  There is always some snickering when I use big/uncommon words (they learned "penultimate" today), but today was the most dramatic.  It was all very funny.

During the next marking period I will approach this GM composition idea from a different angle.  I played most of them today and had to BS my way through many that completely didn't follow the guidelines that I gave.

We had some visitors at the MS today; actors and authors from a recent movie about bullying.  The leading lady played a girl who was 13-16, but she is actually 21.  I heard that there was a pretty lady close to my age visiting (the boys were freaking out about her), so I went to visit her in the cafeteria.  She really looked 14 though, so I just felt too weird trying to strike up a conversation with her in school, and didn't.

Oh, right, this is a blog about pedagogy, not date-ology.  The real take-away from this is that all of the students were very distracted by the event, but there seems to be great potential for anti-bullying benefit from all that went on.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10/26 - Uh...which way is up?

The HS had a topsy-turvy schedule today, and Mrs. D was gone.  Due to this, I began at the MS and during the third class the sub went to the HS for Choir and Theory, and then I joined for the HS remediation period (Theory kids come back for this by default).

I'm trying this two-day lesson in GM for which the students compose a 5-measure melody.  I give them guidelines and specific notes to choose from for each measure, and this turned out to be very difficult.  Tomorrow I intend to play all of them, which shall be interesting.

All of the Theory quizzes are finished now.  Mr. High-and-Mighty (though he's been better lately) did extremely well and everyone else did extremely not well.  Going over it tomorrow will be tons of fun.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I am persistently trying to come up with ideas for how to establish a choral environment that would make students think it ridiculous to work on their homework during rehearsal.  Mrs. D is able to approach choir with the patience for this, and produces good results too, but I don't think I would be able to handle that.  This, of course, comes from a naïve pre-teacher.  Perhaps I'll discover that this is the kind of allowance necessary to balance the "you can't kick students out of choir" administrative approach with classroom discipline.  Also, if/when Mrs. D reads this, she'll be thinking, "Ha!  He isn't mean enough."  We'll see, I suppose.

I ended up with 3.5/5 (one was rather tardy) students in Theory today and gave the quiz anyway.  I began grading them and WOW — they bombed it.  I'm really glad that this happened though, because now I have a really good understanding of what they're missing.  I'll be turning this into one of those procedures where I mark their work, hand it back, go over it in class, and have them return it with corrections.  Scales, keys, and intervals are kind of a big deal.

I recall enjoying GM today, and we're finally done with the movie, but most of what I remember are things that frustrated me.  The first [and one non-frustrating] memory is that the bickering girls are friends again.  Loud friends.  Three cheers, eh?  The second is of the students who refuse to contribute; when asked a simple question like, "What was your favorite part of the musical?", they'll answer "Nothing.  I didn't like any of it," and I have to drag some sort of answer out of them.  The third memory flat-out pisses me off.  I spent the beginning of each class sternly lecturing about a terrible mess that all three classes left last week.  Scraps of paper, candy wrappers, and broken pieces from pencils were all over the floor!  Everyone seemed to get a healthy dose of guilt.  The third class was the most interested in this — they asked why it's bad since there are people who are supposed to clean the building each day.  Fine.  Great.  I answered and they understood (I think — they all had understanding looks) about the disrespect involved.  Oh...but then...after that class left...there was half of a broken pencil waiting for me on the floor.  REALLY, KID? REALLY?  I OUGHTA &$%#%^@$%# and *&^@!@&^#& your @$$!!!

Wait!  I'm not done!  After MS choir, I was back in our room (where Mrs. D had rehearsed with the boys) and there was a piece of gum, shoddily wrapped, ground into the floor!  Unbelievable!

On a brighter note, I ended the day by doing more singing than usual, as I was needed to add some substance to the anemic one-person-against-too-many-others bass section.  I don't get to sing as often as I would like, so I enjoyed this greatly.  There was, however, the proverbial dark lining to that silver cloud (wait...that's not quite right...oh, well); part way through the rehearsal about 8 members got up and left to go to a rehearsal for the musical.  Well, Mrs. D had only heard about this 30 minutes prior and...the details aren't worth it.  We wound up with 14/26 members (and no bass section after the one left) for most of the rehearsal.  Is "obligation" in their vocabulary?

Friday, October 22, 2010


I had to postpone a Theory quiz because of [expected] absences today.  I also played them a song that I thought they would like but they completely didn't.  Hm.

The MS was an adventure today.  It was Picture Day!  This meant that for one of our classes we didn't have even most of the students back until class was half over; a bummer when trying to finish a movie.  There was also some crazy girl drama that they tried to rope us into today.  Girl A and B are super bff's, but they've been bitter about each other lately.  Today, girl A told a teacher that boy A was saying very mean things about boy B.  Girl B reports that this boy was falsely accused and that girl A has "an attitude."  We'll be keeping an eye out to see who ends up in trouble for the alleged meanness.

In the faculty room at lunch a couple days ago there was this disgusting smell coming from someone's lunch.  There was a teacher with sardines who was blamed for this — it was kind of funny.  Today, however, the woman who sits next to him divulged that it was actually her fish that created the smell, and she hid it away and let everyone blame the guy.  This story was very funny, so we had a riotous faculty lunch.

There have been some rampant computer issues.  This is not the post where I'll discuss the technology environment in detail, though.  In short, the computer I use needed to be re-imaged yesterday and now today something happened with the internet filter that is causing everyone to be blocked from sites they could previously access.  That was pretty annoying.

Crash Years - The New Pornographers

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I was so confused this morning...just before real rehearsal began in choir, a small mystery something flew into my side and I swatted it away.  Mrs. D then yelled toward the disruptive corner of the ensemble, "Did you just throw a stinkbug at Mr. Duval?"  The one who apparently did this looked genuinely surprised that it hit someone, because she apparently was aimlessly swatting it away from herself.  At this point, I didn't know what to think.  I already struggle to hold on to any respect in this room, and this troublemaker definitely has none.  She and her friend started laughing and making snide jokes that I couldn't hear while I kept looking at them with a "did you really just throw something at me?" look.  I was mentally mixed up with a conflict of annoyance, shock, patience, helplessness, and amusement.  I still don't know what to think.


The Thrill is Gone - B.B. King and Tracy Chapman

P.S. I just added yesterday's Theory song to the post.  It was an interesting one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Wow, today went smoothly!  In HS Choir I worked on preparing a piece for the future while Mrs. D taught and there weren't any serious moments of disruption.  I was observed during theory and that went quite well.  Then we watched Guys and Dolls three times (in a row — today's early dismissal rearranged the schedule), but the students were fairly cooperative.  After that we had a music faculty meeting that was mostly used as clerical work time, except for the occasional outburst of laughter from Mrs. D and I.  (We've recently created an epic inside joke that has us cracking up far too often.  It involves us doing impressions of Mr. T.)  Humor keeps us going, and I'm glad we find the same things funny.

Running Man - Hanson

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The principal made an appearance in HS Choir today and the girls who had been removed were not disruptive this morning.  They weren't exactly participating, but this was the best they've been.  We still have a couple more angles of approach to use (some of which come from administrative support, to be fair).

I have to reflect on a dilemma that this brings up.  How "academic" should choir be treated?  We were told yesterday that students "almost never" get removed from an academic class for non-academic reasons, and that since choir is a graded class, it is academic.  My initial reaction was, "Well, if this were a math class with 100+ students in it and a group was so disruptive that other students complained daily and time was regularly wasted, it would seem perfectly reasonable to remove them so that the class can progress."  I do still stand by that, but the opposing point is reasonable; we directors push to have choir treated as academic, so we shouldn't get any special privileges to remove students.

Well, choir isn't math.  Instead of thinking of courses purely as "academic" and "extra-curricular" (as this school seems to), wouldn't it be reasonable to approach academic courses differently depending on whether they are a core, elective, or ensemble?  Oh, and I was recently reminded of a beautiful "slippery slope" situation.  When choral directors manage to convince an administration that they are so special that no one ends up with any oversight, they can end up kicking students out of choir without ever having attempted rudimentary behavior-changing approaches (moving seats, office referral, calling parents), and instead doing so after having merely criticized the student a couple times.  I saw this happen once and don't like it.  Adaptations need to be made in order for unique goals (like those of musical ensembles) to be met.  Oversight must exist to prevent tyranny (if you knew/know the "slippery slope" directors I'm talking about, you'd call it tyranny, too).

Let's see...Guys and Dolls...

Dolls and Guys...

Duys and Golls...

Then MS choir.  I worked with the boys again today and had a great man-to-man talk with them.  We had a much better rehearsal.

Finished Symphony - Hybrid

Monday, October 18, 2010


What a day.

Mrs. D exploded during HS Choir today and threw out the excessively rude and disruptive girls. The rest of the class verged on applauding (we're glad they didn't). It doesn't end there though; Mrs. D received an e-mail from the administration saying that they don't want to permanently remove anyone from any class and that "perception is an issue." There's never been a reason to specify this until now, but these girls are all of the same ethnicity.  So, in short, all possible frustrations about unfair ethnicity-based treatment, classroom management disasters, apparent lack of administrative support, and loss of rehearsal time have boiled over.  I feel this saga has reached its climax, but that the "falling action" will be mostly a plateau.  Tomorrow, the girls will be back in choir and everyone else will be wondering why.  I can hardly wait.

In GM, the "American Musicals" unit takes a week to complete, so we started it today.  All three classes elected to watch "Guys and Dolls" over other options.  The third class even knew what the first two chose.  I really would've preferred some variety.

During rehearsal after school with the show choir, some I.T. people came to the choral room and said they needed it for the choir moved to the orchestral room.  That...doesn't quite make sense to me.  Also, while playing some sample music for them, the power went out briefly.

Friday, October 15, 2010


During our second GM class there was an announcement instructing the school to go into non-emergency lockdown so that drug-sniffing dogs could do a sweep of the halls/lockers.  Besides closing the door, most classes were able to proceed without changing their lesson.  We, on the other hand, had all of our guitars out in the hallway and were no longer able to retrieve them.  We ended up playing a few YouTube videos related to the one that we planned on playing for all of the classes (embedded below (and special thanks to the friend that showed it to me)) and then playing pictionary.

I worked with the boys of the MS chorus today and they made me angry.  I've been frustrated before, but today I got mad for the first time in these weeks of teaching.  I had a hell of a time keeping them focused, even though they understood and would proudly declare that they're "here to sing!"  These dozen boys were twice as difficult as my classes of 30 students.  I felt so confused, because I'm convinced that they wanted to sing and understood me when I asked them to focus, but focus just wouldn't last more than a moment.  During those moments they showed me some good sound, some sound that I would be happy to show others.  In the last 10 minutes we joined Mrs. D and the girls, and the minute amount of composure that they had went out the window.  These boys are ridiculous.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


We guided the GM students in using laptops to play music games from MusicTechTeacher.  I actually witnessed a lot more learning happening than I expected to, so I was happy.  They loved one game in which they could create a likeness of a face that would become a person that would be flung from a catapult in a barrel once they completed a number of music questions.  They made faces of me and Mrs. D.

At the end of the day Mrs. D and I were around just a few students and one of them asked, "Have you ever sat down to watch TV and forgotten to turn it on?"  I found that to be hilarious, yet also quite a possibility for this girl, which then made me sad.  I can't speak definitively on her potential, her interests, or her future (it would be shameful for me to figuratively box up a student in that way), but she does not seem to have the standard mental fortitude of a student her age.  I imagine most everyone knows of the young girls that pretend to be silly, frantic, and ditzy for attention — well, this girl isn't pretending.  In a similar way to the boy I talked about yesterday, I think she could accomplish the most if she had the opportunity to focus on just a few things in depth, instead of having to spread out her attention over an overwhelming number of subjects.  I think she gets lost in them.

Symphony No. 7 In A Major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto (Beethoven) - London Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today was "Wacky Day" at the HS.

I wore this.

I think I almost bored my Theory class to tears today while lecturing on intervals.  Oops.  There's just so much information to impart!

In GM, we put off a return to guitars for one more day by teaching a one-day lesson on program music and doing an exercise where students each write a story that suits the fourth movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, titled Marche au Supplice (March to the Scaffold).  We had time to hear some stories in class, but Mrs. D and I read all of them later.  They were...bizarre, hilarious, full of misspellings, erratic, nonsensical, creative, ludicrous, morbid, curious, weird, frantic, and often an insight into the mind of an author.

On a pedagogical note (relish the pun), this lead to a discussion we had about how our educational system is very restrictive to the minds of many children.  There are a myriad of routes through which comprehension of a subject can be reached, and teaching according to the multiple intelligences doesn't even come close to accommodating each individual's potential-fulfilling need.  An example: we have a student whose mind is simply bursting with ideas, thoughts, and energy, but he has to use most of his focus just to contain himself in a classroom.  He added to his story numerous unrelated illustrations, the most prominent of which reminded me of Francisco Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son (don't worry, no one was actually being eaten in this boy's drawing, it's mostly Saturn/Cronus' face that inspired my comparison).  Learning music in the best way we know how to teach it to 30 students at once does not reach him, even though we both suspect he could be a great musician if given the opportunity for it to be an outlet (which would likely help him achieve in other subjects, too).  He's not the only one, though, so Mrs. D, other music teachers, and I scurry to find something for everyone, but we just don't have the opportunity for more profound education.  Most unfortunately, I don't have a solution for this.

At the end of this month we'll receive a new set of GM classes with new students.  I'll probably be almost entirely responsible for them while I'm there.  I've decided to let my expectation of maturity slide a little bit and am thus humoring the idea of using an attention-getting gimmick with these new students; an LED that I could blink/shine when asking the class to return their attention to me.  I'm liking the idea, but want to see if my readers have any thoughts on it :)

Untitled 6 - Sigur Rós

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Mrs. D couldn't come to school today, so I was on my own (with a sub) again.  She warned me of this possibility last night and we thought up some things to do.

I intend to make much closer observation of how Mrs. D keeps the attention of the choir.  The idle chatter is no different than that of the 7th graders (in fact, today it was worse), but the effect is compounded by the large number of students.  I focused on projecting my voice better and being clear and deliberate in my statements and directions.  I was still asked once if I could speak louder, but louder required yelling.  I could get them all to be quiet when I asked, but it just wouldn't last once I returned my attention to the music.  I shouldn't have to yell throughout an entire rehearsal...right?

GM went well, except the second class conspired to create both the weirdest and the funniest moments of the day.  At the beginning of class a couple students had heard that someone related to someone is sick (in no grave way) and a student loudly asked if they could pray for him.  I said, "You can do whatever you want," and turned to continue class, but she persisted, "No, I mean can we all pray together?"  I responded with, "No, that would be inappropriate," and eventually ended with a lame fallback on education courses teaching me that it's inappropriate.  I'm a bit sad that I feel so afraid to make any statement regarding religion that I felt the need to use courses I've taken as an excuse for doing the right thing.  I want to be able to give a real response, and I shouldn't have to be afraid to explain why religious endorsements aren't appropriate in public schools, but I am.  There's nothing I can do now except dodge, dodge, dodge.

Fret not!  I still have to tell you about the best part of the day.  That class had students asking, "How do you whistle?"  So I actually took a few minutes at the end of class to try to teach them how to whistle.  That was great.

Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes

Friday, October 8, 2010


A friend of mine vented her frustration about some recent bullying news and asked me what my thoughts were.  I gave some consideration to my answer and think it is worth posting here...

Think of how many variables affect child behavior.  The number is effectively infinite.  I'm no expert, not even a veteran teacher, but in my experience so far I've learned that the best way to prevent bad behavior from recurring is to respond immediately and sternly.  The absolute best antidote to bullying is to help a perpetrator discover, ethically, why doing harm to others is bad.  I do not think that this can be done through inflicting physical pain, because even though it seems logical to think that it will teach them about the harm they've done to others, it instead further entrenches the idea that certain people are bigger and better than others.  They [usually] will only try harder.

I caution everyone to be careful where they direct their anger or place their blame.  Some schools do a great job.  Some, like the one in that article that even botched their record-keeping, do a terrible job.  Ultimately, our entire culture needs to break habits that encourage bullying, which can only be done by deeply implanting ethics of equality.

So if you are a reader of the news or our blogs that really wants to make a difference and try to prevent bullying in the future, the best thing you can do is act according to reasoned ethics.  Ask yourself why it's bad to hurt others for personal gain (with bullying, this gain is either attention, power, or a misguided sense of confidence), and come up with an answer.  If you are ever presented with the opportunity to help convince someone else that they've done something wrong, you will have an answer in your head.  This answer, I think, will be based on equality of people, their feelings, their rights, et cetera, so the next thing to do is always treat people as equals to you.  Yes, this is my derivation of the golden rule.  Make it happen, and you will play a part in changing our culture to stop rewarding excessively selfish attention- or power-seeking behavior.


Mrs. D and her family extended their weekend from 3 (we have Monday off) days to 4 and took today off for a short trip.  So I was on my own again today (with a sub).

I did a little bit of work with the HS Choir.  I warmed them up with one exercise that Mrs. D uses and then one that my college director uses.  I used the vowel-shaping focus of the second one to transition into working with the choir on a unison melody in a song (with a focus on vowels).  I have to give credit to many members of the choir, they were focused and intent on hearing me and trying to learn, but there was also still a lot of trouble from that notorious group of girls I've spoken of before.  There was also an expected hurdle that it seems will take more time to overcome even with the students who want to do well; they're just not used to my style of directing (one which isn't at all solidified anyway).  Compared to Mrs. D, I'm rather dry and serious — intently focused on what I want to teach.  This was evident during that second warm-up activity; it required following some conducting while singing a new thing, so their sound was very timid and unsure.  The same sort of sound was all I could get during the song rehearsal too since my use of the piano is different than Mrs. D's.  I did also identify a hurdle for myself to overcome; I can't yet digest all of the actions, sounds, and attention of so many students at once, so it's really difficult to adapt my teaching because with so many students responding/acting in so many different ways.  I feel removed and alone.

Today was school colors day at the HS and hat day at the MS.  I wore a cool tie and a fedora.  Sorry, no picture.

I somehow managed to get to the same point in the movie at the end each of the 3 GM classes.  That will make Tuesday easy.

There was a tricky incident today.  Just as students were arriving for a GM class, a girl stormed out of the room and a [rather excitable] boy followed her in haste.  I did too, and the girl told me she was going to the office to report the boy for being a persistent pest (my words, not hers).  The boy just about threw a fit (and did throw his hat), so I took them both aside, got their stories (the boy keeps bugging the girl even when she asks him to stop), made the boy apologize and understand that the real apology is in not continuing that behavior, but I left it open for the girl to go to the office.  Fortunately, she chose not to after the apology.  I felt like I was teaching elementary kids how to resolve a problem, but I'm concluding that 7th grade is about when I get to tell them that I expect them to be able to come to their own resolutions, but when they still won't get it right every time.

Nacht und Träume (Franz Schubert) - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

10/7 - Meetings and Movies and Drills, Oh My!

We began watching a movie in GM that will take a couple of days.  Those who compete in international whistling competitions tend to be pretty weird people — weird people with an amazing skill.

During the last class, the fire alarm went off.  We went outside and found out that this was one of the monthly fire drills (they don't tell teachers when they'll be).  There was a hitch, though.  Some miscommunication occurred between the school and the fire department, so when the alarm was pulled, the department sent a truck.  Thanks to procedural rules, we had to wait for the department to check the building before we could return to class.  Smooth, eh?

We also attended this odd faculty meeting after school during which we were shown a demonstration of a not-Smart Board® smart board and a couple other things.  The demonstration revealed almost nothing but how cumbersome and time-wasting these boards can be.  There was also this ritual of giving carnations (dyed with a school color) to people who did something laudable recently, and Mrs. D took the opportunity to introduce me to everyone and give me a flower.  That was sweet.

Technology............can provide one with tools that make teaching more effective.  I recently was in a college class that had a presenter do a very good job of showing us examples of technology being used to accomplish an educational goal more effectively than the non-tech alternative.  However, these smart boards just don't yet do the trick.  Maybe for a subject or two in a lesson or two, but not as any sort of universal "now we can teach better" magic wand.  Fundamentally, it takes longer to demonstrate something on one of those boards than it does to use markers or chalk, thus nullifying their value.

Ti Na Na - Clifton Jenkins

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


The Theory class was extremely talkative this morning.  Mrs. D and I both participated and I decided to just let it go.  I didn't start discussing subject matter until there were 15 minutes left in class, but I still covered a couple of important things (and didn't play a listening selection).  I didn't mind.  Sometimes a class just needs to talk.

We calculated today that we're 5 days ahead of schedule in General Music.  This is partly because I'm present to continue units on days when Mrs. D isn't there, which would typically be days of little progress.  We planned some activities for those days, though.

Regarding classroom management, I'm starting to feel quite good about students understanding and meeting my expectations.  Mrs. D even complimented me today by saying something like, "You're getting mean!  I'm so proud!"  Which may sound bad, but really means that I'm more effective in making class continue without making the students hate me.  They really are a resilient bunch.  In an almost related note, I pulled a particularly difficult boy aside today and complimented him on his recent good behavior and genuine focus on learning.  I found out after class that just a minute after I did that, Mrs. D had done the same thing!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/5 - The Persistence of Memory

We allowed everyone in HS Choir to return to their original seats...the fussy group of girls got even worse, and Mrs. D is following up with the administration.  This is the first time in many years of teaching that she has had to take this approach.

I scared the Theory students a bit by making them sing (together).  That was fun.  I began teaching them intervals, and in the process realized how much information there is to know just about intervals, especially when ear training is included.

GM went fairly well.  I remembered one of the amusing moments from yesterday, which seemed to almost repeat itself a few times today:  The class was playing a chord progression along with me, and was doing so quite chaotically.  I was grinning during this (ok, it was really bad) and a student asked me why I was smiling.  I said, "Because I'm having fun!"  Well, I was, but only to keep myself from going mad with frustration.  Laughter followed.

Now to address the topic referenced in this post's title.  I forget things a lot, but that isn't any different than I always have been.  However, I've recently noticed something pretty cool; I'm remembering a lot of things!  That shouldn't be so exciting, I know, but consider the vast amount of information that is thrust upon a teacher — new names every day, music that you're asked to listen to, information sent from the administration, who is absent and why, who is having issues at home, who is about to have an athletic event, who just did, who forgot to turn something in, who isn't on their medication, who is supposed to be sitting where, who you've already had an in-the-hall respect lecture with, who your cooperating teacher has already had such a lecture with, etc., etc., etc...  So I'm absorbing much more material than I've previously needed to yet only forgetting the same amount that I used to; the forgetfulness has not increased proportionally (unless I'm forgetting something).  I'm proud to declare that I think I'm keeping up with the inundation of details that teachers must handle.  It keeps my mind in shape.

(A shout-out to Mrs. D — I think I'm going to have Cocoa Puffs for breakfast tomorrow......)

 (梦中人) Dreamlover (Dreams by The Cranberries) - Faye Wong

Monday, October 4, 2010


When asked to identify the benefits of choir (band and orchestra fit well into this, too), we directors list things like "teamwork, discipline, practice skills, setting and reaching goals, knowledge of one's physiology," and other such things that sound a lot like the benefits listed for sports.  We also, however, list things like "integration/coordination of different cognitive processes, knowledge of the academics of music theory (a mathematical and auditory discipline), learning skills," and other such things that sound a lot like the benefits of other academic or elective subjects.  With this in mind, I've been considering the difficulties in encouraging a school's culture to perceive choir as beneficial.  There seems to be a tendency for people to equate it either with an extracurricular team activity or with specialized electives, but it is uncommon for a culture to see it for what it is: a personally and intellectually educational experience that is rewarding and beneficial to anyone who allows themselves to be motivated.

I bring that up because of the range of students that make up HS choir.  There are those who love to sing, those who have nothing better to do, few of those who find more than one of the above benefits, and, the worst, those who think choir is social time.  This is frustrating.  There are, of course, a myriad of was to address this, and no two teachers do so in the same way.  I'll finish this topic by saying that I look forward to learning more about how the administrative and student bodies view choir.

I went way out on a limb in Theory and, in an attempt to take advantage of having so few students, had them apply their scale knowledge to playing scales on a piano.  This turned out to be very difficult for almost all of them.  I couldn't tell if it was just because the piano is intimidating or if there was a disconnect between the keyboard diagrams we've used, the scales that they know quite well, and the piano itself.

Affordable (ok, cheap) guitars don't stay in tune in a fluctuating environment.  This can be maddening.  Some other interesting stuff happened during GM classes today, but I can't remember what they were at the moment.

From A Window (Lenon/McCartney) - Graham Parker

Friday, October 1, 2010


Well, we got out the guitars again today...oops.

It wasn't actually a mistake, but it was sure a headache to have on a Friday.  I've been working this week to quell the chaos of the GM classes and have been succeeding.  This means that we ended the week by letting them sit wherever they want and play with things that make noise.  It went as well as it could, we even got some more make-up work done, and I'm just desperately hoping that things will be back to "more attentive than usual" after this guitar unit.

I was prepared at the end of the day to stay late and grade papers and work on some things but Mrs. D convinced me to "Go home!  It's Friday!  Grade them next week."  Thanks :)

Today was "Crazy Socks Day."

This was my spirited contribution.