Monday, September 30, 2013

Go! Go! Go...Raiders?

I never thought I'd live to see the day that I'd cheer for the Oakland Raiders, but it happened. It's a one-time thing. I am now officially back to my Niner-rooting ways and that is that. But when you find yourself at a Raiders game, and you have to cheer for someone...

Yesterday, a group of my colleagues attended the Raiders/Redskins game and it was a blast. It was my first live NFL game, and a lot of fun (even if I do look like a tomato today, oops). We went full-bore, leaving at 7:30 in the morning so we could spend several hours tailgating in the parking lot. Raiders fans, it turns out, take their tailgating seriously. Ribs, oysters, you name it. We kept it a bit simpler, with steak and sausages, but we still had quite a feast.

I learned yesterday that Raiders fans are not the thugs of their reputation, just really passionate about their team (and hey, I've been known to scream some pretty mean things at my TV when my Niners get wronged) and good-natured about rivalries. Every time a Redskins shirt walked through the crowd, a chorus of "Raaaai-derrrrrs! Raaaaai-derrrrrs!" would go up, but it was always good-natured. The 'Skins fan would laugh and keep walking.

All in all, it was a really fun day, and I'm glad I went. I got to know a few colleagues better, experience a game in real time, and get out of the house for a day. Good stuff.

All set up and ready to go.


The stadium.

This guy was hilarious. There's a pic of me with him in my Instagram pics.

Some of our neighboring tailgaters. It's like a big party and everyone
is friends.

Our crew.

At my first glimpse of the field, I said out loud, "Oh, my God. This is so

RGIII, or Richard Griffin III, the Redskins QB.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Week in Instagram (Week #45)

This was Week 3 of subbing for the guitar teacher, meaning Week 3 of waking up at 5:00 every morning, Week 3 of 12-hour days, Week 3 get the idea.

And yet, I managed to get pics every day. I'm just that good.


Every semester, there is one Sunday afternoon choir
rehearsal. This was the week. The music is by Haydn.

On my way home, I stopped at Safeway and bought a ton of
fruit. Then I got accosted by the scouts. I'm a total sucker.

Lunch. There was cheese involved, too.

My favorite poster. I keep the book on my desk. Yes,
I teach high school. You're never too old for Suess.

Left them, swollen. Right thumb, normal. Looks about the
same today, though the burn is healing very well.

We finally got our new SCSO brochures, so I put one in my
planner, as I did last year. I'm in that picture!

With an observation on Tuesday, it quickly became Take
Your Lucky Rubber Ducky To Work Day. Cali Swimmy
helped me catch up on my emails.

Mom and Dad got back from Canada on Tuesday night.
They gave me this, thinking it was funny. I think it's TRUE.

One thing I enjoyed about the early starts was driving to
work while witnessing some stunning morning skies.

My PEST is at it again! Filled with dark chocolate.

I have a routine. Arrive to a pristine desk. Make a huge
mess. Get through huge mess. Leave a pristine desk at the
end of the day. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This was basically my dinner on Thursday. Don't worry,
I had my normal large breakfast and a big lunch.
Mom and I drooled over Colin Kaepernick during AND
after the game. He's just so handsome!!

The guitar class had a little party for the college student
who has been teaching them to play while the teacher has
been out. It was sweet how they wanted to thank him.

They even surprised him with a balloon drop. That door is
to my office, where they made him hide while they set this
up. : )

I put up more Keane in my office. Door to the right leads
into the band room. The desk ahead is the dance teacher's.
Mine is to the right.

Finally found a place for my world map made entirely of


"Hey, Mom! Today in choir, we started making a T-Bird out
of cardboard boxes and red wrapping paper!!"

We're doing "Fun, Fun, Fun" by the Beach boys, so we
have to have a T-Bird, right?! So Daddy can take it away.

I brought some favorite Halloween decorations back from
my storage unit recently.

And that's it. This next week will be chuck full of pics, because I'm going to my first NFL game tomorrow! Sadly, it's not the Niners, but the Raiders. A bunch of us from work are going to tailgate in the parking lot, then watch the game. It should be a great time.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Teacher Lady

Most of what I knew about myself at sixteen has long been filed away in the back drawers of my memory--the boys I liked, the books I read, the music I listened to, my favorite movies. But even then, in my youthful naivete, I knew, with quiet certainty, that I would make a good teacher.

No one disagreed. I can recall my parents and their friends, and even teachers, nodding and smiling at me when they asked about future career plans. "Maybe I'll be a teacher," I'd tell them. Everyone thought it a perfect career path for me, I suppose because I liked babysitting, liked learning, did well in school. Maybe it was something about my personality.

When I arrived at Chico, terrified and uncertain about anything in my life (except my own homesickness), my major was Undeclared and my first order of business, after spending the first week wondering if I should have gone to a commuter school close to home, was to join the school's concert band. It was band, and my need to keep being a music nerd--a staple of my high school career--that helped me find my way. By the end of my freshman year, I had a path: I would get a degree in music, with an option in education. And so I did.

I danced into my teaching career full of starry-eyed optimism and visions of adoring students and accolades. It was particularly devastating, then, that first time an enraged parent screamed at me in my student teaching assignment (that's a fantastic story in and of itself; she was known in the school office for being a screamer, but I didn't know that when I was dealing with her in the middle of a field trip to downtown San Francisco, surrounded by middle school kids). The first time I wanted to cry in a classroom. The first time I felt like an absolute failure at communicating to a group of children.

Teaching is not for sissies.

My career has progressed in a zig-zag--never a straight line. I have known many teachers who got a job out of the credential program and stayed there, and had rather hoped, at first, that this would be me...but my path just wasn't meant to be typical, I suppose.

You could argue that I am not meant to be typical, really.

There was the part-time job I loved in Elverta...the one that meant I had to live at home. There was the Wild and Absolutely True adventure that started this blog--a year teaching in England. A year in Washington. Two years of utter failure in Antioch. Two years in Stockton, culminating with being laid off. Two years of unemployment, of being interviewed for jobs that 60 people applied for. Two years of "almost" and "not quite." Two years of wondering if it wasn't time to move on to something else.

But as I tried on different hats, nothing seemed to fit. Teaching fits. This was driven home to me when I got my "stepping stone" job last year, at Petite School. This was a crucial point in my career, because it got me out in the work force again. More than that, it reminded me that I am a teacher.

I am a teacher.

Absolutely, without a doubt, I can make music engaging and exciting and fun for kids. I can teach them the fundamentals, make them sing beautifully.

Every single teaching job I've ever taken--until my current one--I've taken the second it was offered, with a sense of urgency. "If I don't take this, I might not get another offer," I would tell myself--and this is possibly true. The recession was not kind to educators, particularly those in "disposable" specialist subjects.

I left the interview at GB feeling excited. "I could do this," I thought. Any qualms I had about teaching high school (which, after the debacle that was my two years in Antioch, I had vowed never to do again) started fading away as I started realizing one very important fact:

The Meg who failed in past jobs because she was too quick to try to please everyone else doesn't exist anymore. The Meg who lost 90 pounds and bulldozed her way into becoming a runner knows that anything is possible.

Still, I waited. I thought about it, gave it time to form in my brain. When the principal called me in early June to reiterate that they really wanted me for the job, I began leaning towards taking it. I asked him, point-blank, "If I get kids to join choir, will this job grow?" His response was immediate and emphatic. "Absolutely. We want this program to grow. Our school ought to have a thriving choral music program." I asked for the weekend to consider some things, as I was feeling proud of what I'd accomplished at Petite School, and reluctant to just up and leave right then and there. A meeting with the owner of Petite, however, reminded me of the cold, hard facts: I had no room to grow there. The school is just too small, and limited in what it can offer a music teacher.

So I called the high school back on Monday morning and accepted the position.

I haven't looked back.

Of course, I was nervous. But I haven't really questioned myself, and I suppose that is the most surprising part of the last five months. There's this confidence in me these days that wasn't present in the previous six teaching positions I took on--I know I can sing, I know I can help other people sing. I'm not afraid to do what needs to be done to make this job work for me. I'm not afraid to ask for help, to make the occasional mistake--and learn from it.

Today marked the end of my seventh week as the GB Choir Director. It has been a whirlwind--Wild and Absolutely True in every way--in every good way.

It's not a perfect school. Perfect schools don't exist. I quietly grumbled my way through a hopelessly boring staff meeting last week, and I know, as I continue there, I will have moments that make me want to scream. They just don't matter as much as the really great things about this job: the rapport  I've built with my students, the support I'm feeling from everyone there. Instead of being starry-eyed and hopeful, I'm being realistic and positive. I'm putting a lot of time and effort into doing this job, and it is paying off.

An email arrived today, from my boss. He sat in on my class on Tuesday for my first formal observation of the year--the first observation in my school career in which the butterflies were at a minimum, and I simply thought to myself, "I've got this." When he walked into my room at the start of class, I smiled, greeted him, and then proceeded to ignore his presence for the next 85 minutes, because he's not there to chat with me, he's there to see me teach.

I've been anxiously awaiting this first feedback. I still have, in my files here at home, the terrible evaluations from my principal in Stockton, and in my mind, I still have the bruises from that experience. I felt my lesson went very well on Tuesday--it wasn't anything particularly special or out-of-the-ordinary, just a regular choir rehearsal with warm-ups, some solfege (I do that with my kids at least once a week), and some down-and-dirty rehearsing for our upcoming concert. My kids are great every day, but of course, the presence of the principal had them on their best behavior. Still, they were themselves--asking questions, making suggestions for the mash-up we're creating of Styx's "Come Sail Away" and "Sail" by Awolnation (yes, it's absolute madness, and yes, we love it). They giggled when I joked with them. They sang beautifully.

Still, until you hear back from that admin, it's so hard to know if that was all in your head, or if he thought it was terrible.

He sent me his immediate thoughts in a voice recording, recorded right after he left my room. (Hilariously, it took him a few days to get it to me because, oops! He sent it to the wrong teacher! We have the same last name.) He said, first and foremost, "It's obvious you and the students have a great deal of mutual respect for each other." In just under five minutes of recording, his only real concerns were not so much with my teaching, but with the behavior of one student in my class, as she seemed attentive, but sometimes a little unfocused. We chatted in person this afternoon and I told him she is quite troubled by things outside of school, and has great days, and "off" days. He told me I handled her very well, and put her name down for referral to a support group our counselors run for kids who need to talk.

I'm at this point where I feel...tentative...about telling people how much I'm loving my job right now. I'm optimistic enough to believe that maybe, just maybe, I've found my place, that job that I can grow in, stay in. I am absolutely (finally) living and working in the part of California where I want to be for a good long while. I know that running a choral program is something I can do, and can enjoy. Part of me wants to shout from the rooftops that THIS IS IT! I'm making this job my own!! It will be full-time!! I'm staying!! But there is that small, wounded part of me, left behind from the six jobs before, that quietly sits in one corner of my mind. It gets smaller every day, but it also serves to remind me that I must not take anything for granted, I must not stop working, and giving everything I can to this job, while not losing that crucial work-life balance.

I spent a full day at school today, subbing my last day in the guitar class, teaching my own class, getting a ton of stuff done in my office, running around as I do. A little after 3:00, I loaded up my backpack, dug my purse out of my desk drawer, and started shutting the place down for the weekend. Something compelled me to stop for a moment, and I stood in my office, looking out towards my choir room. I looked at everything I've done so far, and the work yet to do, and felt very, very satisfied.

As I turned out the lights and took out my car keys, I paused again and looked around. I said, out loud, "Don't you ever forget how very blessed you are."

Don't ever forget, Meg, that you are a teacher.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kicked Out

Yesterday, my choir student president asked me, with a big grin, if she could kick me out of the room for a few minutes, as there was important business to discuss regarding next week's concert that I could not hear. As it's traditional to give a director flowers at a concert sometimes, I'm figuring that's what it's about. Still, I had to laugh as I sat in the hallway next to the theater making hilarious small talk with another student who was assigned to babysit me.

I never thought I could love teaching high school this much...and I'm so happy I gave it a chance again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This End Up

Several weeks ago, one of the assistant principals at my school called me and asked if I'd help the admin out by covering a first period guitar class for three weeks. The regular teacher is out after having a knee replacement over the summer, and the sub who started the school year off could only be in there for 30 school days, because she doesn't have a music credential. As I have the appropriate credential, and the time, they hoped I would take it. And since I am a team player and not adverse to padding my savings account a little, I said, "Sure!"

I knew, going in, that it would be a crazy few weeks of long days, and I was right. It's not horrible--the class is being run by a college student who plays guitar far better than I do, and I get a bit of extra time to work on choir business. I then have a full 2nd period prep before my own class starts, and I've managed to get a lot done since I've been subbing.

That said, I have also had a lot of 12-hour days. Oy.

I look forward to making my own position full-time in the next couple of years (and I'm hoping it will be at lseat 67% next year--it's 33% now), mostly so I can phase out of teaching private music lessons. As much as I like my private students, it is exhausting to run a choir program by day, keep up with my fitness, and then teach lesson three nights a week. I'm managing, but I'm also tired.

Minor complaints aside, I'm actually really enjoying myself. The choir job is fantastic. Our first concert is next week and the kids are at that almost-ready-but-thank-goodness-we-have-a-week-to-iron-out-the-wrinkles point in the game. It's going to be a fun show, and I know they are excited to perform it.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, and while I'm definitely exhausted, and passing out every night when I go to bed, I'm also feeling very satisfied. I've found a great work-life balance, so I don't feel like my work is infringing on my weekends, or my relaxing time. I get at least a couple of hours most evenings to decompress at home. Last week I met my friend Sarah at Chevy's for a margarita and some chips and salsa. I have upcoming plans to spend some time with Summer in Wine Country (this has become an annual thing for us, and we love Wine Country in Autumn!). This weekend, I'm going to a Raiders game (yeah, you read that right) with a small group of colleagues. I've never been to an NFL game, so I'm excited, even though my blood runs scarlet and gold. As for the start to the 49ers''s only the third week, and that's all I have to say about that.

Still, I'll be glad for this subbing gig to end on Friday. My workouts have suffered a little bit for lack of time, and also lack of energy. It's hard to muster the energy for a good run when I feel a slight cold coming on and have a 2nd-degree burn on my thumb (healing nicely, still noticeably swollen, though) and am still sort of groggy from being out late for a Sac Choral rehearsal.

Speaking of SCSO, we're a few weeks into our 18th season (my 3rd) and I love being back. While the music for our first concert isn't as exciting to me as a few other concerts have been, I enjoy the community I belong to there, and the process of putting a concert together with such a fine organization. It's hugely rewarding to continue growing as a singer, and to take what I learn there back to my classroom. The best advice I ever received in my degree program was to have a musical activity that is just for me--not part of my job. Very, very true.

Next week will bring a madness all its own, as I prepare for my first concert and all that comes with it. I'm sure we'll all be jittery with excitement and nerves and fun. I get such a kick out of my kids; they really love choir.

So that's my life. Busy, busy, busy, but worth every hectic minute. I'd write more but I have to go teach more piano lessons, then head to a Choir Booster meeting, then come home and, you know, sleep. Sleep is good. ; )

My life is still Wild and Absolutely True. Count on it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Week in Instagram (Week #44)

Another busy week of teaching, subbing, taking selfies, and whining about Bob the Blob.


Started Sunday with more dripping blood. Bob could bleed
like you wouldn't believe.

Rooted for the Niners, but alas, they fell to the Seahawks.

Bob on Sunday.

Mom's flowers.

Almost-ripe tomato.


Not entirely sure what to do with the chess set left in my

Manageable mess. That paper on the left? That's my To Do
List for the week. You thought I was joking when I said it's
typed, outline format?

Great feeling, getting two biggies done early. Better feeling:
the pre-eval meeting with my boss went very well.

A little light reading for the choir teacher.

Singing Runner: I used the school track on Tuesday.

Shadow of a choir teacher.

Our school is so big, they have to use ride-on mowers.

Wednesday Morning Selfie. I bought the denim jacket a
few weeks ago and "discovered" it in the coat closet this
week. It's LOVE.

Picked these while out watering Mom's garden.

Full moon in the morning. Subbing for 1st period Guitar
means leaving the house no later than 6:45.

Lunch for the teacher who forgot to bring one.

Polka dots and denim. Worn with a white dress. I was CUTE
on Thursday.

Full moon over GBHS.

I took two of my male singers to this event at Sac State.
It was really great and I was so proud to be there as a director.

Bad lighting means blurry pics, but that's one of my singers
in the middle, doing a very nice "ah" vowel. I taught him that!

My other singer who went, caught looking down.

Finally, finally, seeing a dermatologist about Bob.

Back in the car, celebrating Bob's removal.

Caturday with Millie and Bella.

Left thumb, right thumb. The left is still swollen today,
but not in as much pain as last night when the numbness
wore off. Looking forward to healing and moving on!!