That Time I Biked 545 Miles

That Time I Biked 545 Miles

In June I participated in the AIDS Lifecycle (ALC), a 545 mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for AIDS/HIV research, care, and prevention. I am new to cycling as a sport and this was my first time doing the ride, which this year had 2200 participants and 700 support volunteers, all of whom raised over $15 million dollars.

What follows is not a play by play of my experience (check out my Facebook, Instagram or Strava feeds for that piece of the story) but rather an effort to gather in one place the things I learned.

Continue reading “That Time I Biked 545 Miles”

Lesson Planning

Lesson Planning

The quick and dirty? I love lesson planning. It brings some front loaded calm to the anticipated craziness of any given work week. And what teacher doesn’t appreciate some calm in whatever form they can get it?

Click on the links below for a look at the documents that guide our rehearsals at Amador Valley. Continue reading “Lesson Planning”

March Madness

March Madness

It’s the middle of the 3rd quarter.

(This is not about basketball) Continue reading “March Madness”

If I Could Turn Back Time…

If I Could Turn Back Time…

Thanks Cher. But IF I could turn back time as a teacher, would I?

Continue reading “If I Could Turn Back Time…”

One of those days…

Music was made. Skills were taught. There were setbacks. There were advances. Difficult conversations were had. Smiles and grimaces existed simultaneously.

And this was all before 9:00 am.  Continue reading “One of those days…”

Welcome Back, Real Quick Can I Have A Moment?

Welcome Back, Real Quick Can I Have A Moment?

Coming off summer hiatus…transition to teacher mode complete. 

My list of adulting last week: 

  • Finally remembered to pack a lunch. 
  • Actually ate lunch. 
  • Doubled coffee intake. 
  • Ironed a shirt. 
  • Woke up to an alarm. 
  • Slept through an alarm. 
  • Got a haircut. 
  • Took a vitamin. 
  • Didn’t eat breakfast. 
  • Next day, ate breakfast. 
  • Did lesson plans. 
  • Went to bed to late. 
  • Next day, went to bed very early. 
  • Drank water. 
  • Washed my hands more. 
  • Tucked in a shirt. 

Felt settled and back at home in the comfort of something I’ve known well for the length of time my students have been alive. The warm routine of the start. 
15th Amador Band camp done. 

Week 1, year 17 of teaching in the books. 

But I took some time this week to remember to really see my kids (we always call ’em “my kids” don’t we?)

Like look in their eyes-really see them-see them. 

Here’s what I saw:

  • Nerves
  • Excitement 
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • A family newly broken
  • A family newly formed 
  • New to school
  • New to city
  • New to country
  • Talent found
  • Friends left
  • Friends found
  • Questions
  • Answers
  • Hope

I have to remind myself that for each year my routine becomes more familiar and comfortable, that it is, nonetheless, brand new for the flock of teenagers that cross through the door to the band room. They only have one 1st day of high school. I’ve had 17. 
So I took some time this week to see them for who they were and where they were. It wasn’t easy in the busyness of the start. But it was worth it to find those moments to connect with them. Made my routine feel a little less routine. 

Here’s to some magic through the the crazy of this new year!

Welcome back. 

The Truth About Why I Stay

I’ve been asked recently “With all you’ve done in your career you must be ready to move on. So what’s next?”

It’s been freaking me out a little to see the number of people in my professional circles who have left their current positions in the last year. Like I’m wondering why I’m NOT leaving. 

Is it time?

Have I done all I can do at Amador? Have I reached my goals? Have I given what I have to give to these kids, to this community? Do I still belong in education? Could I be doing other things?

So it got me thinking about why I stay. Why I continue to be happy and content to find my best self in my best work with the best kids I could dream of. Also I love lists.

In a totally free flowing order about why I stay in teaching and why I’m staying at Amador for a 15th year…

  1. I find the challenges of reinventing our organization every few years endlessly interesting. My brain spins non-stop about the various things I want to improve instructionally, organizationally, and pedagogically. Institutional knowledge allows for the unique perspective over time of what sticks and what doesn’t. 
  2. I LOVE teaching 9th graders. A lot. Like if I could teach 9th grade band all day I might. They are earnest and responsive. They want so hard to please you by getting “it” right right away. They don’t understand how gravity works and have spatial awareness challenges that make even me look coordinated. They laugh at my jokes and trust the history I share and the legacy we are building. 
  3. I get to make amazing music with my kids. Every day. Real art. It’s not play time people. 
  4. The energy and effort I give on the podium comes back to me 5-fold when my students have a break through. And it happens daily. When a class discussion results in my mind being opened . When the students play a passage with beauty and control. When they support me in a moment of vulnerability. When they do something completely ridiculous and I laugh really really hard. 
  5. I like the rhythm and predictability of these 56 minute classes that each day are actually a new adventure. Like the clock and calendar are the framework and that doesn’t change much. But the mood, energy, and focus of 50+ teenagers will vary wildly day to day, hour to hour. And that is something I love (mostly.)
  6. Greeting my kids at the door as they enter. Saying good bye as they exit. Small connections that build our relationships one hello at a time. 
  7. Conducting pieces over again. I don’t repeat repertoire in the time that my students are in the band. But I’ve been teaching long enough that I have conducted some pieces multiple times. As I’ve changed and gotten older I approach familiar pieces with a different process. It’s quicker. More efficient. And I’m less afraid of playing SLOW. 
  8. Thank you notes and emails from kids and parents. To know you’ve made a difference. That your work hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated. When you’re told you’ve been like a father. When you’re told you’ve saved a life. 
  9. Trust. Trust built over time with students, parents, community. Amador is the place I’ve been the longest in my life. And I like that. I still feel 28. But I’m not. I was reminded of this when a 9th grader (see #2) asked me how long I’ve been at Amador and I was able to say while gasping for air “As long as you’ve been alive!”
  10. Leaving the band room at the end of a long day or long week and knowing it will be there to welcome me back with a familiar warmth and comfort that I’ve come to love. 
  11. Turning the lights off and walking across the darkness of the band room and knowing I won’t trip on a single thing because I’ve walked that walk thousands of times. 

I could list so many more. Maybe for another time? But staying is worth it. Maybe I needed to affirm for myself. Thanks for allowing some self-indulgence. 

I know that I’m right where I want to be doing the things I want to do with the people I’m meant to do it with. 

And while nothing is forever, I’m feeling good about the run we’re having, Amador and I.