Saturday, September 27, 2008

I love musicians

It's my last night in Juneau and I've been here since Thursday night. I was here for a director's meeting. It was great. Last night I met everyone and we broke up into groups and listened to audition tapes. I went with two other directors to listen to low brass. They were strangely excited to have a tuba player. It was fun. I'm not sure that listening to a whole bunch of audition tapes was really that fun but it's always fun when you get 2 or more musicians together. After we were done with low brass, I went to go help with percussion tapes. That was definitely more painful to listen to than the low brass, but there were some good players. Once again it was amusing to hang out with a group of musicians. Finally at about 11 PM we were basically done and called it a night. I walked back to my hotel, since I'm not staying at the same hotel as everyone else. I think I finally got to bed at about 11:30. This morning we met again to put together music and such. That took longer than it probably should have but musicians run on their own time. We went to a brand new high school here in Juneau and did what we needed to do there. We got everything sorted out and parts copied and were finally done with that. We then went back to the hotel and discussed some of the upcoming events, updated the contact lists, and ate lunch. After the meeting we all took a break before meeting for dinner. Two of the other new teachers, myself, and one of the Juneau band directors went out and toured the area. Brian, one of the Juneau directors, took us in his truck to go see some sights. We went out to Mendenhall Glacier. It was really cool to see. We looked for bears and mountain goats. We saw several mountain goats, but sadly no bear. The glacier is amazing, maybe I think it's so cool because I've never seen one and I'm from Illinois. He then drove us around downtown and most of the areas in Juneau. It was really cool.
At about 6:30 PM we all met to go out for dinner. Can you imagine 13 music directors in one small space. Well if you can't then I'll try to describe it for you. It's pretty unique. Most people know that musicians are unique individuals. (I really hope that's not a surprise for anyone). If you get any amount of them together I can just about guarantee two things, there will be alcohol and it'll be fun, or at least amusing. So we all went out to a restaurant and sat at several table pushed together. There was alcohol had by many, I promise not me. It was John's birthday, he's the director in Sitka, I believe. There was plenty of good food and good, but at times strange, conversation. We also sang happy birthday to John, twice actually. Once on our own and once when the wait staff brought out a piece of cheesecake with a candle in it for him. There were some pretty nice harmonies, even when we weren't really trying. We finally all got back in the vehicles we came in and drove to our respective places. I rode with Brian and Josh, who teaches in Craig. That was such a funny ride. To start off we had parked in an area with a low clearance and Brian drives a truck. Then, because I haven't had a lot of seafood, Brian brought out some smoked Sockeye Salmon for me to try. I have to say it's some good stuff, it's currently sitting next to me as I type. It reminds me of some taste I've had before, but I can't quite place it. Then the three of us got on some strange discussion about canning and pickling corn. Now I've only ever made corn relish, that's as close to pickling corn as I've come. But this seemed to be a constant running gag, mostly by Josh. We did have some good conversation though. We dropped of Josh at the hotel that everyone but me was staying at and Brian was nice enough to give me a ride back to my hotel. He then asked me a question that I figured at somepoint would come up. Why in the world Metlakatla. I gave him my whole job search story explained how I got the job. We talked about some school things and I showed him a couple pictures of what my classroom looked like before my weeks of cleaning and a couple pictures of the island. He gave me some good advice and it'll be fun to get back together with all the directors in about a month for honors fest.
I now sit here and think about the fact that I'm getting up at about 4:45 AM so that I can finish getting everything ready and get to there airport for my 7 AM flight. It's been a nice weekend and I'm looking forward to the next meeting.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Monday

All I can really express is that's it's Monday. Today my kids were pretty great so what was going to go wrong in my life. My car has already been hit by a bus, so it can't be that. Wait maybe it's time to be frustrated with my administration. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
Today in a meeting with the jr/sr high principal I was told that I'm not going to the director's meeting for honors festival, which means none of the audition tapes get sent in for it. Nothing can be done about my schedule, because somewhere in the world it's fair that I have all the 7th graders on Friday and the other teacher I split that schedule with gets to have an extra prep period. Oh yes and pep band is going to play at all the home sporting events. I forsee pep band music at our christmas concert because that's all I might get taught. It's also resonable for high school band students, who already have lots of homework, to practice an hour every night. Somewhere in there I'm sure there was an everything I do is wrong. I should be calling parents on a weekly basis. I'm sure there's more but just typing it makes me annoyed again. However I can do anything I want with the program, as long as I don't spend any money. (Ok that might be a little bit of an over dramatization but the rest of it is pretty true) I'm very tempted to write a letter to the parents stating that the band won't travel anywhere this year and see how that blows up in my face and then just send the parents to him.
On the upside though, I fried chicken today. It was good. I went the the book club meeting, that was fun. I'm now going to go to bed so I can do it all over again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mid Quarter

Well it's hard to believe that it's mid quarter already. How time flies when you're having fun. I've realized that I haven't written on here as often as I should, so please excuse me for my busyness. I can't begin to describe how busy I've been. The best I can describe is that if I stop moving I feel like I'm going to fall asleep. So during the day I don't notice how exhausting my job is, but that moment I slow down, I can feel it.
This week I gave my high school band a couple concert band pieces. I pulled out First Suite in Eb by Holst and Sleigh Ride. I need to do some adapting because we don't have all of the instrumentation for Holst. They looked at me like I was a little crazy, because my expectations are high. They can play it though. I have lots of faith. The high school choir is going pretty well. We haven't been working on lots of music that we'll sing at Christmas, but I need to order music. 8th grade band is moving along well, but is a talkative group. 7th grade might drive me crazy but they are progressing fairly well. I need to make a lot of phone calls home because I have a couple kids failing. It's always fun to talk to parents.
General music has been fun. We played boomwhackers in several grade leves. If you don't know what those are, they're plastic tubes of different lengths that when hit produce a sound. It's an easy way to show high and low sounds, build a pentatonic scale, play ostinatos, or improvise melody. We used them in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. The kids really enjoy them. We've also gotten out percussion instruments and xylophones. It's been fun, but that's what music should be. We tend to be loud as well.
5th grade general music is playing alto recorders. They are having a ball. They only know 3 notes but I've had kids come to my room after school to see if they can take their recorders home. Luckily I had some music printed up. It's great to see how excited they are about it. It's even better when they get noisy in class and I stand there and tell them I'll wait till their quiet before I continue, and they use positive peer pressure to get the rest of the class to be quiet. It's awesome. They are so excited to be playing recorder. They know three notes.
6th grade is playing guitars and autoharp. They are also enjoying it. They know 3 chords, the simplified versions. It's quite exciting to them.
It's been a good week if you don't count what happened thursday that had nothing to do with school. I got a phone call during lunch from my mother asking where my insurance card was for my car. I called her back to ask what was going on. She said my car had been hit. Lots of thoughts went through my head so I asked her what happened. It turns out that the parking brake on one of the parked busses failed. This bus rolled backwards into a car pushing into my car which slid partially sideways 18 inches. This is really hard on a car's axle and transmission. Especially on a new car. I haven't even had my car for a year. Now I've seen a "runaway" bus. I've even chased one. It was a matter of time before something like this happened, but we all hoped it wouldn't. Well this isn't going to be a cheap venture for the school's insurance because one car is totalled and mine needs some serious work. Maybe I should've brought my car with me. Well hindsight is 20/20. It'll all work out.
Till something else exciting comes around, I should write some lesson plans since those need to be emailed in tomorrow morning.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A weekend away

It's currently 4:30 in the morning here in Craig, Alaska. I'm wide awake and not totally sure why. Maybe it's because I'm usually awake at 5, maybe it's because I was sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor in the high school library, who knows. Yesterday after lunch I, along with the volleyball and cross country teams, boarded the ferry to Ketchikan, then transferred ferries to go to Hollis. Total time on the ferry about 4 1/2 hours. Then we got in either a van or a bus and drove to Craig, which is 30 miles from the ferry stop. Why, you might ask, am I in Craig with two teams that I don't coach? I'm chaperoning. Cross country needed a female chaperone. I'm still not completely sure why I went but I'm not complaining, I got off the island for the weekend. Last night after arriving in Craig, the volleyball team had their first set of games. Each match was very close but the nighted ended 1-3. Today volleyball has another set of games and cross country has their match. Then tomorrow morning we get on the ferry, which I believe leaves at 8 AM, arrive in Ketchikan at about 11 AM, find something to do for 5 hours, and then board the 4:30 ferry to Metlakatla. After we get back at 6 PM, it's time to write lesson plans so that I can submit them for Monday. Did I mention that the school sent me on this trip, but there was a miscommunication so I didn't have a sub for my last two periods of the day. Oh well, it's over and done with now.
I'm convinced that Fridays are my worst day of the week. You would think that because it's almost the weekend I'd be glad to see the last school day of the week. It's sad but in the first three weeks of school, I've disliked Fridays the most. Fridays seem to be the day of more chaos and upset administration. I've even had the 'why am I doing this again?' days or the 'I'm here why?' feelings. I'm sure it'll pass. For the most part I really enjoy my job, there are just days. But it's like that in most jobs, everyone has days where they don't like their job. Mine just happen to be Fridays.
It is pretty here in Craig. The scenery is very nice. It's green and hilly. This island is bigger than the one I live on. I guess that was obvious when I mentioned that we had to drive 30 miles, Metlakatla doesn't have 30 miles of anything. I think the island that Metlakatla is on is 20 miles by 12 miles, this is much bigger. Ok, so if you went around most of the coast you could go 30 miles. It's interesting.
Well it's now 5 AM and I think I might try to find something else to do. Till next time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A lot too busy

Well it's been far too long since I've written on here. I made it through the second and almost all of the third week of school. It's been a little bit of an uphill battle but I'm trudging on. I know that things will get better.
Last Friday was a rough day. The beginning of the day wasn't too bad, but as the day progressed it just got worse and worse. I have one student in my choir who gives me more problems then most of the rest of the students I have. She wasn't at school during the first week so I didn't have to deal with her. She makes my rehearsals difficult but most of the time I ignore her. After lunch I had the whole seventh grade class. I have no idea why. They were terrible. It was so awful. I really wasn't fond of my job at the moment, or when I went home. I have some attitude problems in some of my younger grades and I'm just learning to deal with those. I'm making it through.
This week while going through concert band music, I realized that any music I wanted to play (heck any of the music the school owned) would have to be arranged for the group I have right now. We just got a new student and she plays the flute. So now I have 1 flute, 6 clarinets (one of which plays bass), 3 alto saxes, 1 tenor sax, 1 bari sax, and 5 percussion. How's that for instrumentation. My 8th grade band has 2 flutes, 1 clarinet, 1 alto sax, 1 baritone, and 2 trombones. I got another trombone on wednesday, she transferred in from Scuba. Oh and in 7th grade I have 4 flutes, 7 clarinets, 2 alto saxes, 5 trumpets, and 2 percussion. Isn't life fun.
Today we had the school open house. So I was there from 6-7:30 PM for that. I met several parents. Some came in just to say hi, a few of them stayed a chatted a little while. It was very positive. I also got a little bit of my room reorganized. I think things will be good. I didn't have any upset or irrate parents, which is good. I even stayed late talking to a parent because she was concerned how her 7th grader was doing in band. We had a great chat. It'll be good year. I'm looking forward to doing more with my groups.
Things are different in a small town but sometimes in a good way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The first week

Well I made it through, not that there were any doubts that I would. The first week is over and I'm ready for the second, mostly. I teach in one week 14 classes of general music, h.s. band, h.s. choir, 7th grade band, and 8th grade band. It works out to 7 classes a day. My prep time is generally spent going between schools to check mail boxes, filling out purchase orders (it feels like I always need something right now it's neck straps), or trying to get a hold of people on the phone. So much for trying to get ahead. It all works though.
My first class of the day is high school band. I have about twenty students. The break down works out to be 1 trumpet, 4 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 3 alto saxes, 1 tenor sax, 1 bari sax, 6 percussionists, and several kids I haven't seen enough to figure out what they play. I also have several students who have never been in band but decided to do it this year. Fun. It's been interesting trying to pick out music when most of your ensemble is clarinets, saxes, and drums.
Next I usually see three classes of general music. It's interesting to say the least. I hear a lot of we never did that last year. Last year......(insert just about anything). Well hello wake up call. It is very evident to the students that this year will be very different. We spent some time last week going over rules, which we wrote as a class. It was a great exercise. I think in my general music class the third and 4th (and maybe 5th grade) will play recorders. I have tons of them. I want to get the 6th grade reading music because I'd like to give them the chance to play some band instruments after christmas. It's a lot of work to write your own curriculum but so far it's working, mostly.
High school choir is interesting but pretty fun. I have 8 students and only one of those is a guy. He doesn't match pitch really well but he is doing better. I ordered some samples of music since most of the music we own is pretty dated or it's sacred music. When that gets in we'll read through some of it and try to find music to work on. It's been interesting.
After lunch, I see seventh grade band. In 7th grade they are required to take band. Mandatory band is interesting to me but the kids seem to be ok with is, sort of. I'd like to get this changed and the high school principal would as well. The 7th grade band consists of 4 flutes (all guys for the record), 7 clarinets, 2 saxes, 4 trumpets, and 2 percussion. That isn't too bad. The behavior however leaves something to be desired but that just takes some work. They were miserable for the last music teacher but they'll find out soon enough that they better shape up. I handed out instruments on Friday but wouldn't let them take them home until after we went through a few things with them. So they'll get to take them home this week.
My last class of the day is 8th grade band. I have 6 students. The instrumentation is as follows: 2 flutes, 1 clarinet, 1 sax, 1 trombone, 1 baritone. It works for me. They are a good class.

The last thing to tell you about on this post (since I need to finish getting ready for work) is about saturday. Saturday I got a knock on my door about 1:30ish. It was two of my fellow teachers. They wanted to know if I was interesting in going for a walk. Sure. I went to go grab a pair of socks and when I returned to my living room it was announced that we were going to go to Yellow hill. Now Yellow hill is exactly what it sounds like, a yellow hill. The rocks are yellow. It's a bizarre sight in comparison to the rest of the scenery but very cool none the less. Well we walked out there, it's probably about a mile and a half from town, and then hiked up it. There is a great view from the top. I wish I had brought my camera. Next time I will so you can all see pictures. After awhile we hiked back down and walked back to town. Of course it started to rain when we were walking back. We decided to meet at 6:30 for dinner and a movie, (which was about an hour after we had gotten back to town). One person made the main dish, another a salad, and I brought dessert and the movie. We had a great time hanging out. It was a lot of fun. We'll probably do it again.

Well it's almost 7 and I need to eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and get things together to go to school.