Caroling at the Capitol

The December flood has burst its dam—if I thought I needed to get Christmas music ready pre-Thanksgiving I am even more convinced of it now!
I remember how Mrs. Jennings would begin rehearsals for our church Christmas play before Halloween and now I think she was a smart lady. I started my fourth grade recorder unit mid-October—brilliant, as we are just now ironing the wrinkles out of Jingle Bells. We’ve got some super low performers and only a couple who are even ready to attempt We Three Kings. I was thinking by now we’d be ready for Joy to the World, but that’s almost laughable. I’m still hearing myself say the craziest things: TAKE IT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH. NOPE. NO. PUT IT IN YOUR LAP. IF IT ISN’T IN YOUR MOUTH IT WON’T MAKE A NOISE. WHY ARE YOU CRYING? YOU WERE “JUST” BREATHING THROUGH IT? I’M SORRY, THAT STILL COUNTS AS MAKING A NOISE. NO. NO. STOP CRYING. OK, YOU WANT A WORKSHEET PACKET? STOP CRYING. I HAVE ONE RIGHT OVER HERE. YES, THAT’S AN ACROSTIC POEM WITH EACH LETTER OF THE WORD, RECORDER. OH? YOU’D RATHER DO WHAT I ASK AND LISTEN TO YOUR TEACHER? FAIR ENOUGH.

Hashtag musicteacherproblems?

The best news it that yesterday I made it through my first legit as-a-teacher field trip, taking the entire 5th grade to sing on the steps of the Capitol. Yes, the Capitol. The one you get to spell with an “o” because it is the actual Building. What was I thinking when we signed up? Well, nothing, really, because I only got the invite second-hand. I didn’t realize we were the only non-parochial school. Therefore singing Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat was a little on the secular side of things. But probably not many of the public understood the words because we sang it in a round (keeping a tune and a steady beat is much to ask of 5th graders who haven’t sung in the past two to three years). And the weather was a cold sort of misty cloud where precipitation didn’t fall but gathered steadily on our heads and clothes.
The performance is available to watch here, around minute 7 and a half.

Next year—will there be a next year?—I will be better prepared. The good that comes from this experience is knowing it is possible to get kids to sing. Sure I looked like an idiot the first day but joke’s on them now. I am planning on each grade singing a song with the exception of the 4th grade recorders.

We’re trying to fit in plenty of activity to offset that unnatural feeling of the sun going down every afternoon around 4:30. I am in such a dark hallway at school—the across-the-hall teachers insist on preserving the holiday spirit so the lights are off to let strings of lights twinkle. I am heartily opposed but keep my mouth shut because it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I am suffering the no-windows blues which walls lined with ukuleles ought to remedy, but won’t fully.
So over the weekend we marched in the Christmas light parade, passing out leftover Halloween candy with a dozen fifth and sixth grade students trailing the junior high and high school band.

One evening we took in the “living windows” display and the kids clogged along with random strangers in the frozen yogurt shop window. Through that encounter we met some more bluegrass musicians, with whom we played music the following morning.

Is it like pulling teeth, getting my kids to do all these things? It feels like it. Mostly I don’t want to make them, but I am compelled to do it for all the opportunities offered. I keep thinking how all the stuff I wanted to do as a kid was so far out of reach, but now, for my own kids, it feels possible. Those magic ideas of meeting new friends and not being too shy to ask or try something new—coupled with the responsibility of teaching them to work hard and glorify God…Well, that and getting the heck out of the basement hallway for a few hours—this is why we keep trucking on.

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