Candid Over Coffee ~ 2.23.17

This morning I am drinking my coffee at an Einstein Brothers in Athens, Georgia. My students are down the street in rehearsals for All-State Chorus, and I am relishing the chance to sit down with some coffee without interruption. Life has been a little extra crazy lately, hence my lack of posts these last few weeks. My husband just got a new job (praise God!) and so our two younger children are going to daycare. This means all new responsibilities at night to prepare for the next day and new routines for our sweet little baby. Our oldest child started t-ball, which means more commitments to write in on our calendar. And then of course, just our daily schedule with three kids under the age of 5 is a little nuts. But everyone seems to be doing really well. We are healthy, we are joyful, and we are starting this new season of our lives with excitement.

At school, my choirs are rehearsing for our Large Group Performance Evaluation. We perform two pieces for a panel of three judges and receive feedback and scores. Then we sight read for another judge to again receive feedback and scores. Some days I leave work thinking how great our rehearsals were and how well we are doing. Other days, I leave wondering why it’s not coming together like I want it to. Teaching singing can be so challenging; I can’t tell my sopranos to just move this vocal cord to this place. That’s not how our voices work. It’s such an experimental process for the singer to find what works. It’s a lot of “try this” and “relax” and “don’t do that.” But I have a fantastic group of kids this year that are eager to learn and improve. Seriously, a teacher’s dream.

And this weekend I am with three of my students as they participate in All-State Chorus. They are having an amazing time, just as I did when I was a part of All-State as a student. I can’t help but remember my own experiences every time I come to this event. This event used to be held in Savannah, so it’s a little harder to be nostalgic in a completely different city, but when I sit in on rehearsals and listen to the concerts, I feel like it was just last year that I was performing with the All-State Chorus. And now, as a teacher, I have a whole new appreciation for my music teachers, for the time and resources they invested, and always with great enthusiasm. Those people have impacted my life in tremendous ways. There is no doubt I am who I am because of them. And even if I had not chosen a career in music education, I know that their impact would still be a lasting one. They nurtured a love and appreciation for music within me, but they also chose to love me as a person. I can’t tell you how often I hear from someone that they took piano lessons or a music class in which the teacher was “mean” or “so strict” and those people walked away from that experience with a bad taste in their mouth. Thankfully, I just can’t relate to that sentiment. My teachers have been truly wonderful. I will forever be grateful to them, and it reminds me of my responsibility of carrying on their legacies to my students now.

Do you have a music teacher that left their mark on your life? Good or bad? I would love to hear about it here, along with any crazy memories you have from their classes or being a part of ensembles.

Technology Ideas: Padlet

Over the last two weeks I have been doing my best to bring more technology in to my classroom. This is something that is greatly emphasized at my school, and yet I still struggle with it. It’s not that I’m opposed to technology in my classroom, it’s just that I feel that there are always problems that pop up. Sometimes I feel that we are trying to incorporate technology for the sake of incorporating technology instead of actually increasing our classroom’s efficiency or learning. There have been several instances in which I’ve tried to use the latest app or web-based activity to teach a new lesson, but after trying to help students recover passwords, gain wi-fi access, and giving out separate instructions to Apple users and Android users, well I feel that I’ve lost too much instructional time. My classes are much too large to purchase tablets for everyone and even the computer labs are too small for my groups. So many obstacles!

Still, I know that there are those brilliant teachers out there using technology with such ease, and their lesson plans always go smoothly and are loved by the students. Their students are engaged and productive. Maybe I can find my way to this dream world? I’ve decided to give it another shot. So this past month I decided to try out one new idea. My goal was to focus on one new techie idea that could enhance what I’m already doing with my students and then I could try to work through the hiccups as they came along. I decided to use Padlet in my classroom, an oldie but goodie. You can find it at Padlet.com and it’s free. It allows myself and students to post anything and everything on the screen in real time. I decided perhaps this could enhance my classroom listening exercises.

If you’re looking for something fairly simple to start with, this is a great one. I already have my students listen to recordings each week in our “Listening Fridays”. After we listen together, we have a class discussion over what we heard. This is one of my students’ favorite activities each week, but it’s impossible to take input from every single student in a class of 50. With Padlet, I found that I’m finally giving every student a voice.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Have your students go to padlet.com and create a user account. If using cell phones, there is a free app that you can use.
  2. Create a Padlet! You can customize it in so many ways. Then post questions on the Padlet wall that you want students to answer.
  3. Give a link to the students to get to the padlet you created. There are a number of ways you can do this. I had the most success with embedding my padlet to our class website (as hosted by the school), so since students already were accustomed to going to this site, they had no trouble finding the padlet. OR, you can easily create a QR code just by looking at the “Share” options on your padlet. The padlet app has a QR reader built in.

Begin your discussion! Have students click anywhere on the padlet to share their response. Their answers will immediately pop up on everyone’s padlet no matter what screen they are looking at. I love this for our listening activities because the students can begin discussing the topic while still listening in silence. Students are held accountable for their answers because their user name will show up with what they type, thus taking care of the class clown that is always looking for the chance to be inappropriate.

It took 3 or 4 days for me to work out the best process for using this program, but now that I have the bugs worked out, I’m making it a point to use it with the students every week. They seem to be enjoying it and now since it’s a regular part of our class, it fits in to our lessons seamlessly. Victory!

I would love to hear how you use this program or another techie gadget in your classroom. What are your favorites?