Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The first two days of school

Well the first day of school was attended by the K-6, 7th, and 9th graders. So the only full classes I had were two general music classes and the 7th grade music class. This wasn't too bad. A half an hour is a really long time though for general music when your resources are very limited. We managed though. I was feeling fine when I was up and moving but the as soon as I stopped, which was at the end of the day, I felt pretty exhausted. Unlike the rest of the teachers, except the PE teacher, I teach all the grade levels. My schedule is h.s. band, three classes of general music, prep, h.s. choir, lunch, 7th grade band, and eighth grade band. It makes for a full day. I was pretty tired.

Yesterday was day two. The only class that wasn't in full attendance was h.s. band. I'll have them all today. It'll be interesting. The day went a fairly smoothly. We'll see how today goes. It'll be my first day of having everyone.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The end of inservice week

Yesterday and today have been fun filled work days. Ok, not really fun filled but work days none the less. I've had meetings each day too. My room is basically finished. There are a few thing here and there but I'll get them sorted out. I have lesson plans to write this weekend (I guess tomorrow is the only day left of the weekend) and I'll get to school early on Monday to finish a few setup things. A custodian is coming in tomorrow to hang a dry erase board in my room. It's not a great board but it'll work for what I need to do with it. I spent a little time today trying to get things set up with my smart board. We'll see what I can do with it. I like technology but I'm not sure when I'll incorporate it. I'll make it all work.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Days 3 and 4 of inservice

Yesterday we had another all day workshop. It was more of similar things to what we had done the day before. It was very informative but I don't totally know how I'll use it. Once again they fed us lunch it was Italian. There was a great salad, it had a little of everything. It had tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, green peppers, snap peas, etc. We had lasagna, garlic bread, and for dessert cookies. After we got out of inservice in the afternoon we had more classroom time. I was at the high school to work on a few things.

Today the K-8 teachers had workshops and the 9-12 teachers had a work day, it'll be the same tomorrow. I had a workday. I did a little work on my room and then we had a meeting at the high school. We broke for lunch, which was on our own, then returned to have another meeting and then time in our rooms. I spent the afternoon with the drama teacher fixing stage lights. I also worked on my band and choir contracts and my curriculum. The Spanish teacher also found a filing cabinet that I could have and it turns out it used to be a music filing cabinet. It also has two drawers full of music in it. That's getting moved to my room. It'll be interesting to see what we have in there.
Today while working briefly in my room, I found copies of old purchase orders from 97-98 where there was general music items ordered. Lots of items ordered. Many of these items must be in a black hole because I can't find them. Hmmm.
I did approach my superintendent about my plight of re-inventing the wheel and we're going to work on a plan so that I don't have to try to do that all year. He wants me to get things planned for the start of the year and then we'll try to improve the situation. Have I mentioned how much I like my administration. I spoke with the high school principal today about the band program and he was very receptive of the idea of starting band in 6th grade. This obviously wouldn't happen this year. Now to eventually run the idea past the rest of the administration.

Now to make dinner and continue my curriculum writing efforts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 2 of inservice

It was a long day in the world of inservices. We were supposed to start at 8 AM but because of some travel things with our presenter, they moved it to 9 AM. This just meant I have about an hour in my room and I found more things to throw away. I'm really enjoying that. After some time there I went to the Elementary gym, it's really more of an all purpose room, for the activities of the day.
They have brought in an interesting speaker. The information is good and how he presents it is good. He reminds me of some of the speakers at workshops I've attended. My only downfall is that I have no idea how I will apply what we've been doing to my teaching. I think the material is great for general ed teachers who see their students at least three times a week. I'm just not afforded that luxury. The only students I see that often are the high school band and choir and the eighth grade band. There is no way that I can afford to spend the amount of suggested time out of rehearsal time on vocabulary instead of playing. I am in no way apposed to what we've been learning about I'm just having problems with the application in my situation. We were there from 9-12, were fed lunch, and back from 1-3:30. It's a long day in metal folding chairs, we do get a couple breaks and very often we are up and moving around but it's still long. Today we will be there from 8-12, be fed lunch, and 1-3:30. I think I may bring a pillow to sit on. Then Thursday and Friday, the K-8 teachers have two days of inservices while the 9-12 teachers have work days. I get work days. This is good because I think I'm re-inventing the wheel.
If you haven't caught up on the saga called the music curriculum, I'll fill you in. The only general music books left in my classroom are the 2002 edition of Making Music. I have at least one teacher book for each grade level K-6. I have a student edition for 1-6, and they don't make a student edition for kindergarten. I have the piano accompaniment book for k-3. I have resource books for K-3 (I think). Those last two I know I have the resource books for at least K-2, but I think I have them for K-3. I do not have any of the corresponding audio music that goes with, nor do I have any amount of audio music that is not on a record. I haven't gone through the records to see what is there and if it's usable. I need to find a way to convert the records over to a different format, MP3 would be ideal. I also just found out that there are more guitars over at the high school. Some of them need new strings but we could have a guitar class. I've never tried to re-invent the wheel nor do I really want to but I don't know what else to do so that I can have a productive and successful music class. Not to mention the K-2 classes I only see once a week for 30 minutes and 3-6 I see twice a week for 30 minutes. Like many K-12 jobs, there really needs to be a second music teacher just so that the students get more time in music. It used to be that way but I don't really know what happened. I will do the best that I can with what I have because that's what I can do and we can still have a great music program. It's going to be a lot of work, but most jobs are, and it'll be great.
Well it's off to another day of inservice and more writing curriculum.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 1 of Inservice

Well yesterday started our week of inservice. They fed us breakfast at nine o'clock and then we listened to the mayor, police chief, social services, and someone from the clinic talk to us. The we broke off, the certified staff met with their building principals and the classified met with the superintendent and the business manager. I think I'm th only one who has two building principals so it was sort of a coin toss to where I went. Sunday morning the high school principal had called me to see if I was ready to start and if I was getting settled. He also asked if I needed anything. Everyone here is very friendly and pretty helpful. I asked him about the building principal meeting and he told me to go with the elementary school and that I could just meet with him later. Works for me. After our meeting, we broke for lunch on our own. Yesterday and Thursday are the only days they are not providing lunch for us. After lunch the certified staff met with the superintendent and business manager. We received two packets of information, one was the negotiated agreement and the other was mostly policies but there were several forms to fill out and turn in. Then we were dismissed to our classrooms. Before going to my classroom, the new spanish teacher stopped me and asked me if I wanted the instruments out of her classroom at the high school. I had heard there were instruments over there but I didn't know where. I went over there to find 3 electric keyboards, a sousaphone, 3 guitars, a general music book from 1989, and three upright pianos. What a random assortment of things. None of the electric keyboards worked well or at all so we pitched those. The general music book was thrown out. So the sousaphone and guitars were taken back to my room. I have no idea what we're going to do with the pianos. One of them is falling apart so I think we can get rid of it along with the one in my classroom. The other two seem to be in decent shape but aren't in tune. I don't know what the school wants to do with them since we ordered a digital piano. Today I'll go find out. I got another surprise while at the high school. I had mail. There was a packet containing the information about the meeting in Juneau that I need to attend and about honor band and honor choir, including audition material. I also had two boxes. I got those back to my classroom and found that they contained my drum heads. Yay another thing to do.
I had a parent who works at the school stop me yesterday and ask if the kids were going to play instruments this year. I asked what grade. She has a pair of high schoolers and they're in the band. Well duh we're going to play instruments (that's not what I said to her). I told her that probably the first couple days we wouldn't play because I need to hand out instruments and things like that but after that we'd play pretty much every day. I guess last year they didn't play the whole time. I found this interesting. I don't know why you wouldn't play in band.
When I left school yesterday I brought home what I have in the general music department as far as teacher books. Those books are kinda heavy. I have been working on writing my curriculum since I don't have much there. I will probably try to use some of the Making Music books that I have but I'm going to have to come up with more to do since I don't have any of the music that goes with them and my classroom lacks audio music. I worked on some of that for a little while but didn't really get anything written down, partially because I still don't have my laptop. I was pretty tired at about 9 PM so I went to bed and was probably asleep by 9:30. I woke up at about 5:45 this morning.
On to day two of inservice.

Oh and I finally got most of my schedule. I don't have the elementary music finalized from the elementary principal but I know at least what block of time I see them. Basically it's band from 8-8:50, 8:55-10:40 elementary music, 10:45-11:35 Prep, 11:40-12:30 HS choir, then lunch, 1:15-2:05 7th grade band, and 2:10-3 8th grade band. I was told if I wanted to do stuff after school I could. I know that the drama teacher wants to do a musical in the spring and she approached me about working with her.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a week

Well, I'm at the end of week 4. I've been in working on my classroom for two weeks and it looks much better. There is still more to do but I'm taking the afternoon off, I deserve to have a little fun on a Saturday. I have my two storage rooms cleaned and organized. I threw away almost a dumpster full of old, unusable stuff. I still have a few more things to throw out but I'll do that later.
Thursday I went to Ketchikan so that I could talk to the people at the music store. They had been waiting to hear from me. We went through my list of things that I needed and they gave me prices so that I could go back to my superintendent with a purchase order. Needless to say I spent 4 hours there. I needed new drum heads, the current ones have been patched with scotch and masking tape. It's a little scary. I needed a repair kit, a drum key, and a price on digital pianos and new bass drums. The school has two upright pianos and neither one is in even OK shape. The one in my classroom is about 50 cents flat and there is about an octave that is half a step flatter than the rest of the piano and isn't resonating well. The piano over at the high school, which I haven't seen but have been told about, is falling apart, literally. So, being on an island in Alaska, it's hard to get a piano tuner so I pitched the idea of a digital piano. That idea was well received. I ordered one. Next in my instrument mess is two timpani, which both need new heads but will wait till next year, three drum sets but only two snare drums, an assortment of cymbals and toys, a set of vibes, the pipes to I think a marimba but there are no bars so it's getting pitched, and a 36 inch bass drum which also needs new heads. Every drum I have hasn't had new heads put on in quite some time judging by the appearance, and the lack of drum key. Getting large drum heads in Alaska is difficult, the shipping alone is generally more then the heads themselves. This is the case with the timpani and bass drum heads. Getting timpani heads isn't too bad but 36" bass drum heads is a problem. I explained that ordering the two heads that I needed for the bass drum would cost half the price of buying a new, smaller drum with better heads and a new cradle. I got to order the new bass drum. I left the office doing the happy dance. My instrument collection lacks any sort of double reed instruments but in the future I plan on trying to get some. My next problem is that there is a very bad dent on the tuba. Instead of the tubing being round is this section it is almost flat. It's going in for repair to try to make it playable, then maybe next year we'll get a new one. It's really great to have supportive administration. Now if only I could approach the subject of general music curriculum because we don't have a complete set of anything more current than 1978 or possibly 1981. I just have a hard time going in and saying 'hey, I need $6,000 for K-5 curriculum, and add another $1,000 if you want me to add the 6th grade stuff.'
I have no idea what I'm going to teach yet, but I plan on working all next week, when I'm not in inservice, on my first at least month of lesson plans. I have plenty of instruments to do really cool Orff lessons. I have tons for recorders including alto recorders. I think maybe in the future I'd like to order some tenor recorders and maybe some bass recorders and do a recorder choir. I have enough recorders that 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade could do recorders. I have 20 sets of bells, about 25 hand drums, 5 of each type of xylophone that is generally used in Orff arrangements, two or three full sets including chromatics of Boom whackers, amid all the other instruments you would find in a general music classroom. There is a lot of potential here.
While working on my room today, I met the counselor from the middle and high school. He's very nice and we talked for a little while. There are 25 high school students signed up for band, it's the most he's ever seen signed up. I'm excited. We'll see how instrumentation pans out and maybe I can get some people to pick up a second instrument. A lot of people are excited that I'm here and amazed at how organized the music building is so far. Just wait till I'm totally done.
I'm excited about school starting but I don't totally feel ready just because there is still so much more that I need to do.
I did finally get an answer about my certification. I had originally sent in my application for certification at the end of June. It was returned to me in mid July because I had forgotten to put my citizenship on the fingerprint cards. After having mailed that back to them, I found out that I needed to send them my test scores from the Basic Skills test. I called later to check to see if they had gotten everything, they couldn't give me any kind of answer. Great. Finally a few days ago I noticed on my online banking that one of the pending transactions was the fees for certification. I thought this was pretty good but still couldn't find out anything online or from the people there. Finally yesterday, my classroom phone rang and it was the secretary to the superintendent asking about my certification. She had just received a phone call from the head of the department of education stating they had received my test scores but didn't have an application. I explained what I had done and she suggested that I call the department head directly. I called there and explained my situation and told her about the pending transaction and she found where everything had been placed and apologized for the inconvenience and that everything should go through in a couple of days. That was really good news since school starts on the 25th.
It's been a fun roller coaster so far, we'll see how things go.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm so sick of cleaning

Well it's been way to long since I've written here but in my defense I've been so incredibly busy. Starting last Monday I began working on my classroom. Initially walking into my room it didn't look to bad but it was really warm, then I went farther. I found out that someone had turned the heat up in the bathrooms to 90 degrees and left the bathroom doors open. I corrected that problem and opened the doors to the outside and the only window that would open. I next decided to find what I had. My office and the two storage rooms were packed full of stuff and looked about like a tornado went through. It was obviously that there was no organization to the area. I started to pull things out of my office so that I could start the organization process. I did that for a couple hours and then decided to break for lunch. I went back to the administration office to tell them I was going but I'd be back, since they had let me into the building. The superintendent's secretary directed me to the person who was in control of the keys. If you could judge the amount of work you had to do off of the amount of keys that you possess for that job, it might be time to turn and run when you have more keys than administration does. To be specific, I was handed a lanyard with 12 keys, yes that's right I said 12. This would be the point that in cartoons the main character ran away. Ok, in my situation, I should have ran away when I saw my classroom, but I'm what my parents refer to as a fire eater. The term fire eater here means that you can send this person into a situation and not only will they survive it but thrive in it. I'm glad that there is so much faith in my ability.
The entire week, except Thursday, I spent all day in my classroom organizing. The only time I left was to go check my mail and go home and eat lunch. Afterwards I'd return to the mess. I found general music books from the 1970's, the 80's, the early 90's, the 2002 editions. Do we honestly need books that old? When I left Friday, I had cataloged all of the choral music and was figuring out a solution on how to file it. Either Tuesday or Wednesday I met the elementary principal. He's very nice. He gave me the tour of the elementary building.
Thursday was a town holiday. It was Founder's Day. Now I think I've mentioned it before but I'll reiterate it, nothing here gets going any too early. The parade started at noon and went through town. It was the shortest parade I've ever seen but there were the typical veterans, fire trucks, people in costumes, along with two different groups of native dancers. It was very awesome. Instead of throwing candy the only thing thrown were boxes of poppers. (The fireworks that you throw at the ground and they make a popping noise.) Speaking of fireworks, you buy way cooler fireworks here. Where the parade ended, also known as the ball park even though there is nothing resembling a ball park there, there were booths set up with crafts and different types of food. It was pretty neat. There was also some native dancing done. It was a big town party. In the evening they set off fireworks, they did this till probably after midnight. I fell asleep sometime during it. I truly can sleep through anything.
After a quiet weekend, I returned back to school to continue work on my classroom. Monday I filed the choral music. One project down, too many more to go. In the afternoon the junior high/high school principal stopped by. He's also nice. We'll see how much he like me after I turn in purchase orders. I don't actually have a budget because I cover the whole district so depending on what grade level I need things for is who's budget it comes out of. It would be nice to have a figure to work with instead of turning in purchase orders and hoping that I can get what I need. I did however get permission to get rid of the old textbooks. Yay!!!
After finishing the bulk of the choir music, since there are a few odds and ends like music that was in a box that was left unfiled from last year or earlier, I moved to the instrumental music. I spent today sorting it and filing it. I did not however catalog it. I figure that I need to continue making progress on my room for the next several day. If I get as much as I can organized, I can spend my evenings of inservice week working on curriculum. I have no idea what I'm going to do yet. The only thing I know about my schedule, since I can't get a straight answer about anything, is that I have k-2 for 30 minutes a week (so I see them once a week), 3rd-6th for 60 minutes a week (2 times a week for 30 minutes), 7th, 8th, and high school band, and high school choir. In there somewhere I have a 30 minute planning time and a 30 minute lunch. I'm interested to see how this is going to work. The elementary principal did say that I was probably the busiest person and that I'd basically given up before school, during school, and sometimes after school by accepting this job. Don't all music teachers give up their lives to an extent. Well at least I'll be busy.
Tomorrow is a new day and I have every intention on finishing a storage room and most of my office. Then I need to tackle the other storage room. I'm still waiting a two more filing cabinets so that I can get more organized. Did I mention that the school can't find my computer? I have a smart board, audio and visual equipment, and a printer but currently no computer. This would be another reason that I didn't feel too motivated to catalog all the band music. I'll get there. I need to finish finding out what general music instruments we have and figure out how we're going to store the percussion equipment. Among other things.
It's a big job but I have no doubt that I can tackle it.