Friday, September 23, 2011


I’ve learned several things from my first 2 weeks as a preschool music teacher.

1)      Be conscious of the clothes you wear.  Some things may be obvious to avoid, but others may not be so obvious.  Since I spend a majority of my day sitting on the floor it’s best to wear jeans (no skirts for me).

2)      There is a MAJOR difference between 12 months and 18 months, or 2 and 2 ½.  When you’re little 6 months makes a world of difference.

3)      Even the best behaved kids can get pretty out of control when you ask them to stomp around the room like a dinosaur.

4)      Passing the beanbag around a circle isn’t as easy as it sounds.

5)      Over plan, over plan, over plan – there’s nothing worse than going through all of the songs in 15 minutes when you have the class for 25 minutes.

6)      Always give a 1 year old something to hold…it’s best if they can have 2, one for each hand.
7)      Shakers are fun for all ages! 

8)      BE FLEXIBLE!  There may be a song that you’re really excited about and convinced that the kids will love, then when you play it for them they just sit there.

9)       When doing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” be aware of how many times the song asks you to touch your head, shoulders, knees and toes.  You may get more of a workout than you’re prepared for.

10)   Name tags are VERY important!  Sometimes you may not understand a child whose name is “Beckham” and may spend much of the class calling him “Bacon.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Work it, girl!

So Ella totally has this whole preschool thing down pat! It’s only been 6 days and she is already a pro. Last year every single morning on the drive to school I had to give Ella a pep-talk. It wasn’t that she didn’t like school, she loved it and every day when I picked her up she had a huge smile on her face. She even talked the whole way home about all that she had done that day. I think it was more that school was something new, she was only 3, and the kids in her class were very active…VERY. Last year she cried every single day when I dropped her off. Half the time I was pushing her into the class room. My “inside sources” told me that she was fine after 15 seconds, but that didn’t make drop off any easier.

This year I am the mother of a completely different child. Monday of last week she was a bit hesitant….first day of school jitters. Tuesday was better. By Thursday she was good to go. Friday she had a mini-meltdown because, as Ella put it, her class didn’t get to go to the “fancy” playground (AKA, the playground with a little house for her to play in). All in all, the week was great. Each morning she’d give me a hug and kiss, then turn and walk into the class with Mrs. Bull. No pep-talk. No tears.

Today something happened that I never thought I’d see. I was signing Ella into class and she just walked right into the room without saying goodbye. She didn’t even care that I was going to be leaving her for 4 whole hours! She trotted right into that room like she owned the place. I said to her, “Ella…you’d better get back here and give me a hug!” She came back and had a huge smile on her face, but once I got my hug she was off.

No one can believe how much she’s coming out of her shell. She’s actually talking to her teachers and responding when they ask her a question. She got to be the circle time leader last week, another day she was the line leader, and yesterday she was the caboose. Apparently today they were singing and dancing to a song and Ella took it upon herself to get in the middle of the circle and dance. I guess she needed space to truly express herself.

So, my baby is growing up. I love that she’s more confident and likes her class, but I don’t like that she’s so confident that she doesn’t need to give me a hug anymore.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm exhausted!

I’m exhausted! Working in a preschool is hard!

Before I delve too deep into my first 2 days of work, let me make sure everyone knows one very important piece of information…for the past 8 years I’ve worked in politics. I substitute taught at a Montessori Preschool for 2 weeks back in 2002, and I was a tutor in a 9th grade urban high school English class from 2000-2002, and I’ve kept the nursery at our church several times. However, none of these situations required me to plan organized activities. There were other people in charge and they just told me what to do.

Also of note, Ella is very low-maintenance when it comes to activities. She’s content doing puzzles or playing games, and she really plays pretty well by herself. The child could lie on the floor and color for hours without getting up. She doesn’t take a lot of planning and organized play to deal with.

Ok, so now to my first two days as the Music and Movement teacher…WOW…I was remarkably under-prepared. At the end of last year I went and observed the previous teacher, but I’ve come to discover that I should have observed for several weeks to make sure I had everything figured out. I spent days going over her notes with a fine tooth comb, and I talked to another teacher and asked her what she suggested…I was still very under-prepared.

The previous teachers notes had various songs written down, then she would say “obstacle course” or “tunnels, balance beam and trampoline.” Well, I had no idea what that all meant, so I just faked it. Yeah, that was my first mistake.

In a nutshell:

First, I didn’t plan enough songs for my one year old class. My 20 minute class was over in about 5 minutes. Mental note: plan twice as many songs as I think I’m going to need.

Second, a little kid who wasn’t feeling so hot threw up all over my classroom floor. Mental note: make sure I am fully stocked in Lysol spray, paper towels, latex gloves and Clorox wipes.

Third, I made the VERY incorrect assumption that if given free reign over a room with an obstacle course that the kids would take turns and be controlled. This worked great with the 2 year olds, but not so much for the older classes. Mental note: Any time given for free play can quickly get out of hand. Keep things controlled and organized.

Thank heavens for some wonderful teachers who helped me pull the day together without the kids fully realizing the extent of the chaos. My last class on Thursday was much more controlled…it could have been that it was because it was the oldest kids in the school, but I’ll choose to say it was because I had 4 classes before them to get prepared. Thursday night Ella was in bed by 8 pm and I was in bed by 8:30 pm. Today was MUCH better, and I have high hopes for next week. I'm starting to feel like I sort of know what's going on.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Family Business

Well, today I enter the family business…teaching. I come from a family of teachers…both parents, brother, sister-in-law, 3 aunts, 1 uncle, 1 cousin, and I’m sure there are several more out there that I’ve forgotten to mention. I’ve avoided it for as long as I could, but this year the family business is finally catching up to me. I am the new Music and Movement teacher at Ella’s preschool!

For those of you who are surprised…yes, I do have a music degree. No, I haven’t used it in a long time, but I’m excited to put it to good use. I will only be working 2 days a week, so I will still have plenty of time around the house, and since it’s at the same time Ella is in preschool, I won’t have to miss out on time with her. In fact, she’s very excited that I’m going to be working at her school.

I’ve spent last week at the school getting things ready. The first day I was completely overwhelmed and stressed out, but by Friday I felt like I had things pretty much under control. I just keep telling myself that the kids are all 4 and under, so they’re not going to care whether or not my voice is in shape…they just want to sing, dance and play instruments.

I have to pick on my parents a little bit. They have been so funny about this whole thing. For those of you who don’t know, my parents are both incredible musicians. My dad sang opera back in the day, has sung at more than one Governor’s Inauguration, and has sung the tenor lead for several musical productions with the Casper Symphony and around the state of Wyoming. He was a vocal music teacher for I don’t know how many years (and even tried to teach his daughter a thing or two). My mom also has a beautiful voice and can play anything on the piano. Needless to say, my parents are very musically gifted. That said, I’ll go out on a limb and say that neither of them has taught preschool music. So, in discussing my new job, there have been 2 questions asked that nearly sent me into a fit of laughter.

1) This came from my mom: Are you going to have an accompanist? Yeah, it’s called the CD player. The kids are ages 1 to 4…I don’t think an accompanist is needed.

2) This came from my dad: Have you had a chance to meet with the choir? Umm, I’m not sure I would call it a “choir.” Yes, we have children’s choirs at our church, but this is just a music class in the preschool. There’s no arranged music for them to learn…unless you count the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

I am really excited to start working with the kids and put my music back into practice. It was funny because my original plan was to just find random songs that they could sing along to…I’d stick the CD in the player, we’d sing, I’d put in a new song, we’d sing, etc. It was going to be that simple. Then, as my planning week progressed, my music background started rearing its ugly head. Suddenly I felt like I would be doing these kids a disservice if I didn’t at least TRY to teach them something about music. That was when everything spiraled out of control. I grabbed a calendar and started planning…each month has a theme and each week has a specific activity associated with that theme…WHO AM I AND WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? For example, later in the year we’re going to have a month associated with rhythm and learning how to keep a beat to the music (you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have this skill). One week we’ll use egg shakers, one week we’ll use drums, etc. Another month we will talk about different types of music…one week we’ll listen to jazz, another week we’ll listen to classical, etc. (I even have a week where we’ll listen to country music…what kind of Wyoming girl would I be if I didn’t include country music somehow). Yeah, maybe this is a bit over ambitious, but I feel like I owe it to my past music theory teachers to at least give it a shot. It’s not like I’m going to make them learn how to read a key signature, or learn the lines on a treble clef. If the first month is a complete disaster, then we’ll skip the themes and go back to keeping it simple.

There you have it. My first class is around 10:30 this morning so we’ll see how it goes. I just hope I don’t have a complete panic attack in front of the kids. They would stay away from music forever if that were to happen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Pictures

Pictures have been added to the August 2011 album and there's a new September 2011 album with Ella's first day of school pictures.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First day of school!

Today Ella started Pre-K…K, as in Kindergarten…Pre-Kindergarten…the last year before she starts the “big kid school.” Where has the time gone?

In case you don’t remember what happened last year, I was a complete mess. I cried the second we dropped her off, all the way to the parking lot and all the way home. I’m a crier…it’s my spiritual gift, and when it comes to Ella there are many times I just can’t hold back the tears.

This year things are going much smoother. For starters, I know several of the kids and parents in Ella’s class. Last year we didn’t know anyone. This year I know at least 5 kids, and I know that Savannah, Ella’s friend from preschool last year, is in her class, so at least she has a friend with her. Ella also knows what to expect from preschool. She knows that it helps her learn things (she loves learning new things) and that she gets to go to chapel and science and even music class.

All that said, there were no tears shed…from anyone. We talked to Ella and told her that I would be close by, and she took Mrs. Bull’s hand and walked right into the classroom. She didn’t even look back to wave goodbye. She’s such a big girl! Of course, as soon as I dropped Joe off at the train station I went back to the church and peeked in Ella’s class to make sure she was ok (which she was). Then I stayed near the church until noon when Metti arrived, just in case they needed me for anything.

Preschool got out at 2:00 and I was there to greet Ella’s sweet face right at the door! I told her in the morning that if she was a good girl and listened to Mrs. Bull and didn’t cry, then after school we would go to Target and she could pick out any DVD she wanted. She kept her end of the deal, so I did too. She’s now downstairs watching her new “Princess Stories” DVD.

I can’t believe how big Ella is getting. She’s so grown up! She told me all about her day including who the line leader was, who the caboose was, and who was the circle time helper. It’s so hard to let her go, but Joe and I both know that this is the best thing for her. Yes, I took pictures and I'll post them later tonight. She looked adorable with her new outfit, new hot pink glitter shoes (yes, she picked them out all by herself) and her big hot pink bow!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

No, we haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

Wow, a lot has happened in the 2 weeks I haven’t blogged. I know I have some faithful readers out there who are probably annoyed with me…sorry about that. We’ve had a lot going on.

For starters, we had a hurricane. We were VERY fortunate that we didn’t have any damage from the hurricane. Some branches from our tree in the back yard fell down, but other than that we were fine.

This week we have had an abundance of rain! More rain than I think I’ve ever seen in my life! It was coming down in sheets, and I spent my day checking the drain near our basement door, and walking around the edge of the basement making sure we didn’t have any leaks. Suddenly, in the midst of the downpour, I heard something click on. It is at this point in the night that I wanted to personally find the previous owners of our townhouse and thank them profusely for installing a sump pump in the basement. In the 3 years we have lived in this townhouse, this was the first time the sump pump has ever clicked on. I examined the hole where the pump is and discovered that even though the pump had clicked on, it wasn’t actually pumping water out. It was only a matter of time before the hole filled and our basement began to flood.

I did what any wife would do…I called Joe. Joe did what any husband would do…he called his friend, Casey, who knows WAY more about this than we do. Since Casey is an awesome friend, he went to Home Depot and bought us a new pump, then drove to our house (in the pouring rain and trying to avoid flooded streets) and installed the new pump. Immediately the water was pumped out and we were safe and sound. Thank heavens for great friends!

Unfortunately several of our friends and neighbors spent all day Friday cleaning up from the floods. Many basements were ruined. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I’ll take 2 feet of snow over rain any day!

We didn’t do anything too exciting for Labor Day. We decided to stay close to home and on Sunday afternoon headed to Casey’s house (and his wife and their 2 daughters) and had a camp out in their back yard. There was a lot of hype surrounding the camp out. All three girls were very excited to roast marshmallows and sleep outside in tents. Considering the Grubbs have a family of 4 and we have a family of 3, our tents were very large for what we actually needed. I think our tent is supposed to sleep 5 (maybe 6) and their tent is the Taj Mahal of tents and can probably sleep a whopping 10 people. Their tent even has a screen porch if you want to sit outside but don’t want to deal with the bugs. Seriously.

Anyway, we had a great time, but as it turned out Joe and Ella slept inside the air conditioned house, while I felt the need to prove my Wyoming roots and slept outside in the tent alone. It started to rain and I stood firm. I stayed outside all night and was completely fine. It was a fun adventure and Ella and Ginny are already planning on doing it again.

School starts on Monday, so we went to Ella’s Pre-K open house yesterday. She’s still attending the same preschool at our church, but this year she’s in the Pre-K program and is very excited. Joe and I are especially excited because Mrs. Bull is her teacher! We’ve known Mrs. Bull and her husband since before Ella was in the picture, and they’ve been some of our biggest supporters since Ella was born. We love them! In fact, we have lunch with them a lot after church on Sundays. We know several of the kids in Ella’s class, and the new kids seem very nice. I think all three of us are more confident this year. Ella is still Ella…she’s shy, but she was really excited to see the other kids on Friday, and since she already knows Mrs. Bull I’m hopeful that this year she’ll come out of her shell more. I have high hopes for this year and am looking forward to starting on Monday. Of course I’ll be a complete basket case when Monday morning rolls around, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.