Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's a marathon, not a sprint

Last Friday was a really rough day at school. The kids were out of sorts and nothing seemed to be going according to plan. I felt like writing a big fat F for Failure on more forehead. The end of last week left me questioning my ability to do this job well. I think all teachers have days and weeks like that.

Today, however, one of my students who has admitted to me that he pretty much despises reading, looked at our bulletin board where we put our favorite book quotes, noticed a quote from Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, and said to me, "Do you have this book in your library?" When I showed him the book, he immediately checked it out. What I loved about this encounter is despite this student's frequent admission to disliking books, he has not closed his mind to them completely. I see him entertaining the thought that he could love them again and I just pray that I don't mess this up for him.

Suddenly my memories of last week's ineptitude seem just a little bit more distant. I am reminded again why I'm here. Helping a student rediscover a love of reading. There's no better feeling.
Hero's Guide
A quote from a Christopher Healy book on our bulletin board intrigues a reluctant reader

Slice of Life is brought to you by Two Writing Teachers

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Celebrate dreams fulfilled

From the time I was born we had a piano in our house. It was a relic from when my sister took lessons for about a year, but as tends to happen with kids, she lost interest and the Baldwin spinet sat in our living room taking up space.

From the time I was old enough to talk, however, I showed a great desire to learn how to play this fascinating instrument with its white and black "teeth." Which is why, despite the fact that when my family moved from Michigan to Kentucky the year before I started first grade, we moved the piano with us. Otherwise, I'm sure it would have been sold.
First photo evidence of my desire to play the piano

My parents never actively sought out a piano teacher for me. Probably because they were waiting for the right time when they felt I was old and mature enough to begin learning. But as fortune would have it, a new family moved on our street and it just so happened that the mom was a piano teacher. So at nine years old, I finally began learning how to play the piano.

As much as I love the instrument, I have always been especially smitten with shiny black baby grand pianos in particular. The gloss and the curves hypnotize me. They always have. When my husband and I lived in Germany back in 2003, we even visited the Bösendorfer headquarters in Vienna, which are known for being the best pianos in the world. Just as it is the dream of every violinist to play a Stradivarius, so too is it the dream of a pianist to play a Bösendorfer. It was one of the most magical moments in my life when I had the opportunity play a few of those glorious instruments. But the minimum $90,000 price tag means that I will never get to own that particular brand of piano. Still, it was wonderful just to have the opportunity to try out a few.
025 - Beth playing a Bösey

042 - Beth plays a Bösey at the showroom

There was a time, however, in my storied history with the piano that I didn't want to play anymore. In fact, we're still on the back end of that time. I initially went to college thinking I would be a music teacher. I wish that thought had never crossed my mind. During most of my time learning to play the piano I had a wonderful, nurturing teacher who celebrated the individuality of all of her students rather than acted as a taskmaster who made all her students live up to some classical music ideal. Passion for music was more important to her than perfection. But when I arrived at college, my teachers -- one in particular -- represented the latter and squashed all the love and passion for music right out of my heart. I tried to hold onto it, but sitting at the piano was now painful for me rather than joyful.

When my husband and I were first married and living in Germany, he bought me a digital piano in an attempt to get me to try to find my way back again. But at that point, the wounds were still too new and too raw and I rarely played.

As the years have gone by, time has begun to heal my wounds and I recently entertained the thought that I want to fulfill that dream I had when I was little of one day owning a baby grand piano.

Yesterday I put down a deposit on this beauty:

I think I'm going to name her Tori. She's not a Bösendorfer, but she plays just like I want her to and has a lovely sound. I think think this is the start (and also the continuation) of a beautiful friendship.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayers

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Celebrating authors as mentors and changes of heart

I have a student who has declared in writing on several occasions that he hates reading. Like books make him want to cry, that's how much he hates it. On Friday in English we were talking about fragments and run-ons and how they're always vilified in grammar textbooks and made out to be this Bad Thing yet professional writers use them all the time. So we examined the first two chapters of Linda Urban's A Crooked Kind of Perfect and had a wonderful discussion about how Urban uses both fragments and run-ons effectively. Students really got what Urban was trying to do, creating rhythmic and musical language, whilst the main character, Zoe Elias, talked about her love of the piano. At the end of the discussion, the aforementioned student who hates books said in front of the whole class, "Do you have this book in your library?"

 *Cue heavenly angel choir*

It's amazing what can happen to students' opinions of reading and writing when we give them authentic texts to read, emulate, and discuss. 

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayers