Fever Pitch, post Christmas Sing-Along

Winter chased us right home from school on Wednesday and we settled right in to our long winter’s nap. The cold was bitter and the wind howled around our stone farmhouse. We snuggled on the couch and read books and watched movies and ate yummy food and baked tiny things (and scraped their tiny tops off upon removal) in the new Easy Bake oven. Just the right kind of Christmas.

I don’t know what I’d have done if I had to get up that last Thursday morning and face another half day of school.
Now, tell me what other job does a person hold that feels so doggone perilous? My Christmas spirit was at a fever pitch (upon research, “fever pitch” is sometimes defined as “a degree of abnormal excitement that usually develops rapidly among a number of people and sometimes leads to impulsive violence.” Um, accurate.)

Sewed these little characters for hours and I’m sure they’re probably under the sofa by now, gathering dust.

The irony is that I’m a person who can get on happily for days, weeks! Without any background noise. I love music, but I adore silence. I would be a great truck driver or artist. I enjoy reading legal documents and weird research papers. But here I am playing and singing Christmas music for eight hours straight, trying not to lose my marbles as I try to explain why students cannot play jumbie jams or blow constantly through their recorders every single time they come into my music room. Every time I get xylophones or bells out, my head rings for the next two hours. The car ride home from school MUST BE SILENT or I will flip my ever-loving lid.

The students delivered their Christmas Sing-Along Wednesday before the end of school (you can watch it here). Joe tells me that from his audience viewpoint, parents were pleased, so I am pleased. I realize there are professionals who do bigger and better and more all the time, but then I remember they are professionals. I am happy to remind myself that I am not. I’m also happy to remind the school I am not a professional, for which they pish and posh me.
Later, when I was talking with Joe about it and he was husbandly-proud of me, I started feeling angry. Not angry for giving me a compliment, but because my goal wasn’t to fake being an amazing music teacher—it was to expose the lack of music education the school was offering and inspire the administration to not settle for less-than-qualified staff.

I tried to explain to him how students deserve way more than my silly scarf-dances-choreographed-to-Raffi material. This is because I was looking into elementary district choir and realizing how advanced the two-part, foreign language sheet music is in comparison to my silly listen-to-the-Muppets-recording-and-try-to-replicate.
It’s ridiculous how advanced some of my students could be by now but since we are a country school where the administration doesn’t put a high value on music education, many will never get to experience that level of accomplishment. Of course, who are you going to hire to do this job for $32k?
Somebody’s mom, that’s who. Let’s call it provisional and let the constituents know in a calm, off-the-cuff email that we have a handful of “not highly qualified” staff at our school. Never have I been more insulted and flattered at the same time. I’m in high demand.

This is definitely why the job is good for me and the two weeks off for holiday break is bad…I start to think and my thinking gets me fired up.

I wish I could teach a choir, but it’s kind of like wishing I could paint a mural on the barn or weld my own yard ornaments. I’d need the tools, training, and practice. And maybe some talent in that particular area. And also some rhythm, music-wise (I am getting a little better in this area but not great).

That is a long-winded whine, but it helps me to write it out and hopefully keep positive. There is a lot I can do, it just is more in the drama department (if I have the courage to figure out the auditorium and lights, camera, action). I have my sights set on May and I can’t wait to try and get a couple Spring plays together. I need to focus less on the academics and more on the creative side…I guess I just need to be who I am and not be who I’m not.
Plus the kids love it when I bring in dried arrangements of milkweed and explain how the pods burst open and seeds fly away. They love it when we make masks or projects or do Christmas carol mad-libs or figure out a hand clap rhythm to Peer Gynt. They love playing my lame Charades on the auditorium stage. They love me, and we have good discussions about non-music things that are, hopefully, working on their character. Music teaching is just the genre of learning.

Oh, Honey Creek! I have loved being home, walking the woods, breathing the air, pretending cattails are magic wands—when it wasn’t bitter cold. The Midwest is richer, weather-wise, than where we lived out west. There is a seriousness to it. You must heed its warnings or heatstroke or frostbite will claim souls. In Colorado we laughed as we dug the cars out of four feet of snow. We stripped down to t-shirts and mud boots and sweated in the snowy sunshine.
I miss it, but I am much at home here.

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