Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Random Bits & Pieces

The new semester started three weeks ago, and I've hit the ground running. My weekly photo posts manage to show how busy my life can get (and fun; I definitely make time for fun and relaxation). What's been missing is the stories, the very reason I started this blog.

I often think at various points, "I should blog this," but by the time I get home, I forget, or I'm tired, or my attention is caught elsewhere. But I do have some little stories to tell, so here they are.


I am that teacher that doesn't mind playing the fool a little bit. Comic relief is important and I'd never dream of embarrassing a kid for the sake of lightening the mood in my classroom, so...I make fun of myself.

Take Monday. I was working with my baritone section--with seven boys, the largest baritone section I've had to date at this school--in my office, when one asked: "If this is such a great school, why does it feel so prison-like? The walls are made of stone. There's wire in the windows."

I smiled sadly and said, "Well, you know, it's not so much to keep you all in, as to keep the bad stuff out." He conceded the point, but maintained that it still felt like being in lock-up.

Eager to get my sectional rehearsal back on track, I said, "Well, then, let's sing. Singing sets us free..." The statement was enhanced with a wide sweeping motion of my arms and a cheesy smile. I was greeted, of course, by seven half-horrified, half-amused male teenage facial expressions. "Dare we laugh at her?" I could read in every face. "Or would that be rude?"

I stopped for a moment. Then, "Oh, good grief, that was really bad." A few snorts of laughter emerged and one boy said, "Yeah, Ms. Cooper. It was."

I'm a Poet and I Don't...Wait, What's the Word?

I am notorious in my choir for getting lyrics wrong all the time, even when they are right in front of my face. I will make up words, I will sing part of the second verse when it's supposed to be the first. It's almost embarrassing. My kids are used to it--I get a raised hand, and a polite, "Ms. Cooper, you said 'blah' and it's 'oomph'." I correct myself, and on we go.

Today, the word was through. I kept singing, true. A hand went up.

"I know!" I laughed. "It's 'true.' I said 'through.' You know how I am about words..." A few giggles emerged. "At least I rhymed. Through. True. Crew. Blue. Mountain Dew."

More laughter.

"I don't know why I do it."

One of my sopranos called out, "It's're multi-tasking!" And she's right. At any given moment, I'm playing one or two parts on the piano, singing along with any given section, conducting with one hand, listening for accuracy in my singers, and making mental notes of what I need to do next. I'm reading music, watching faces for vowel shapes...and words are simply the first thing to fail.

And yet, my kids accept this little quirk. (But make no mistake, it's hilarious to them.)

Downton Abbey

One of my senior girls is obsessed with Downton Abbey (she's the first to admit this). I happen to love the show, too, so we now have a Monday ritual. She walks in, and I immediately say, "I haven't watched it yet--no spoilers!" She responds with a huge smile and, "Oh. My. Gosh. You have to watch it soon, because...well, I won't give it away." By Tuesday, I've watched, and we'll spend a few minutes before the bell or after class having that crazy, wide-eyed, "I-can't-believe-they-did-that-to-this-character!!!" conversation common to Downton fans the world over.

We both agree that Thomas (the servant) is loathsome, but every once in a while, we have to feel sorry for him. We're both tired of Lady Edith being a punching bag for the writers. We agree that Lady Violet is about the best character ever on that show, and we're also both really angry at the actor Dan Stevens for leaving the show and getting Matthew killed off.

What is amazing about this school is that staff regularly have conversations like this with students. I know I'm not the only teacher who regularly has conversations with kids about a TV show, a movie, music, etc. (Obviously, I discuss music I love and hate on a regular's part of my job.)

Odd Couple

This year, I'm sharing an office with Lynn, the band teacher. She's been a really good friend to me since Day 1 at the Large Suburban High School, and while sharing with a marching band director can be a noisy prospect, I don't mind. I just make my phone calls when she's not teaching.

We are very much an Odd Couple, and perhaps that's why we work as office mates. My desk is organized to a point that borders on obsessive, while hers, just across from me, is piled high with stacks of...well, I don't know. Papers. Stuff. I don't look too closely. For someone who cannot function when my environment is a mess, I can completely tune out Lynn's desk and get a lot of work done--as long as my desk is clear. It's not always clear (see figure A), but it usually is. I hate leaving for the day with anything out of place.

Figure A: This is messy. 
I'm that slightly passive-aggressive person who sees a paper from Lynn's desk encroaching and silently leans across to flick it back to her side.

One of Lynn's Band Booster moms was in the office today, helping with some work. I'm on very friendly terms with her, and we joke at how atypical I am for a music teacher, being this much of a neat freak. As she worked, she said, "I wonder where Lynn has a ruler..." She looked around the surface of the desk, then, "Oh, I'm never going to find one. May I borrow a ruler?"

"Sure!" I said with a smile, reaching behind me almost without looking to the spot where my ruler is always kept when not in use. She laughed in delight, and said, "I knew you'd know right where to go!"

This is how I left it today. Chair tucked in. iPad charging.
Choir binder and copies of a worksheet for tomorrow neatly
laid out. Water bottle in its place next to the Brita pitcher.

And that's it...this week. Who knows what I'll have to say next week?

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