Finally a weekend! I started to write at the beginning of the month but keep getting derailed by weekend jaunts to knowledge bowl contests. I would be very boastful about our k-bowl conquests if I didn’t have the “let another praise you and not your own lips” verse imprinted on my heart. Let it be said that kids who read will one day rule as k-bowl royalty. We are coming into our own and it is pretty magical to watch.
We made it to Valentine’s Day and second and third graders square danced for parents and other admirers. I didn’t have time to get nervous before calling the program with a microphone in hand and 120 kids who can’t remember their left hand from the right. I definitely put a Sharpie dot on every student’s left hand before hitting the gymnasium. We started out with Arkansas Traveler and finished strong with Achy Breaky Heart.
This week I’ve been reading the book and singing the song Froggie Went a Courtin’ to my littlest students. I cut out some foam puppets and glued them to popsicle sticks. Someone was getting rid of a little wooden puppet stage and I am a sucker for puppets.
I have to laugh when I think about the conversations we have in class. I can’t even imagine what the kiddos go home and talk about. My own kids have said all sorts of stuff that had me bewildered when they came home and relayed teacher news.
After Froggie asks Miss Mousie to marry him she replies, without my Uncle Rat’s consent, I wouldn’t marry the President!
We paused and talked about “consent”—this is the funny part, though these days you get the feeling it’s on the Do Not Mention list or else you’ll make CNN headlines.
I went tangential (as I often do) and told them the story of Mr. S going to ask my dad, Mr. Roger, if he could marry me. There was baited breath in the music room—-what did he say?! Wide eyes blinked.
I paused for effect and then told them how my dad agreed and gave Mr. S his permission to marry me, just like Uncle Rat gave Froggie!
Super simple, right? These kids had never even heard of such a thing. It was hilariously cute and kinda sad, too. So many kids are starving for these sweet little conversations (and puppets, too. Even the older grades saw the puppet theater and begged me to do the puppet play for them).
I think many grownup people forget how much kids need to be treated and talked to like kids. A child needs a thousand stories, lots of repetition, simple explanations. At the music conference I attended last week, I was informed that Jingle Bells was now on the no-sing list, along with Pick a Bale o’ Cotton.
“I know we used to sing it, but know better, do better. Picking a bale of cotton is not a fun thing,” the workshop leader said. When I came home, I asked Gretel what she thought the song was about.
“It sounds like a fun jumpy song for kindergarten,” she said, and that was that.
If the “know better, do better” rule applied across the board, I’d more readily accept it. But for now I’d rather a thousand kids innocently sing a bouncy song about picking a bale of cotton than one kid watch Rihanna singing at the Super Bowl that “chains and whips excite me”—or whatever other trash she plans on dishing out.
It’s such a sad era, culture wars and all that. Too much emphasis on culture, as if it ought to define us, when culture is not, nor should it be, synonymous with tradition and things we hold sacred. Many folk tunes are filled with death, matching upbeat tunes to morose storytelling.
Froggie, the insensitive amphibious masochist, carries a sword and a pistol by his side, also not culturally appropriate these days. It’s so hard to make Miss Mousie, Uncle Rat, and everyone else happy, poor guy.
The music conference was still the best thing I’ve done all year. I learned more than I could have ever hoped—I wish I could’ve done it at the beginning of the school year. I met teachers who believed in me and instructors who encouraged me. It was like a power boost in Mario after he catches the star—I’ve got some energy and can super-focus my classes again.