Friday, December 26, 2008

Private Lessons & Chopsticks

I will begin teaching voice as a secondary instrument with a piano school which has opened several schools. In terms of pay, it's not alot. On the other hand love music and will be doing something I love. They are looking to continue expanding. Who knows, someday I might work up to find myself running one of their schools. That's a few years off.

I will be taking over someone else's teaching in one location because it's too far for her to drive from where she goes to school. She was very popular with the kids. Crap. I have been through that before. But this time it's different because I will meet with them one-on-one.

I sang at two recitals at two of the schools so they could hear me and meet me. Everyone was very complimentary about my singing.

The funny thing is, most of the teachers are Korean! We all went out for Korean barbecue after the last recital. I have seen some of the side dishes before, but just kimchee really. I read somewhere you have to see something 20 times before you try it. I'll be seeing alot of this stuff. They were impressed that I know how to use chopsticks. One girl confessed she holds her chopsticks the wrong way, and another chimed in that she did too. But they can get away with it because they are natives. I can use chopsticks, but I wonder how well I will do when I really can't even play chopsticks since my shoulder injury. Some of the women were impressed that I used chopsticks to put my hair up. It's easy.

How did I find this job? They posted that they were looking for some instrumental teachers on Craigslist. I wrote and asked if they needed a voice teacher. It just goes to show that you never know what will happen.

UPDATE- well, that' was a bust.  I tried playing lessons with my left hand and that wasn't good enough.  Oh well.  Back to the drawing board.

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

The music lesson for the day:
the Smiths were a melodic pop band from the late 80s and early 90s who sang about unusual and miserable topics tunefully.

I was looking for a job and then I found a job and heaven knows I'm miserable now. In my life, why do I give valuable time to people who don't care if I live or die?

The Smiths said it best.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Students are Mean

I ran into one of my former students at the mall. Her face lit up and she gave me a hug. I was happy to see her, but what in the world could I say?

Gina: Miss D!! How are you?
MissD: Gina, it's so good to see you? How are you?
Gina: I'm good.
MissD: How is the new teacher? Eva said she was really mean and made her write standards.
Gina: That's because it's Eva and she doesn't like to do anything.
MissD: I remember.
Gina: She's good. I'm in two periods of choir this year. Can you believe it?
MissD: Yes. That's kind of funny though.
Gina: Well, I just have two real classes and then two periods of choir in between them.
MissD: That's exactly what I was doing in high school. Too funny.
Gina: Miss D, you should have come back. We were mean to you because we were hoping that our old teacher would come back. But then he didn't.
MissD: I'll bet I got the blame for the choir falling apart...
Gina: Well...yeah, they did... But it was us really. We were just used to him.
MissD: Are they starting to see that it wasn't just me?
Gina: Yeah. The guys that are in the choir don't sing. And it still doesn't sound like we did when Mr. Moore was there. It would have been better this year because then we would be used to you.
MissD: O, honey, I know. I wish I could have come back, but it didn't work out that way. I kind of told you guys that's how it was gonna be.
Gina: Well, I guess we just didn't believe it.
MissD: I know.
Gina: We have chairs now in the new room.
MissD: Wow, that's what I wanted for you guys too.
Gina: The new teacher took one look at what the band teacher had and went straight to the office and got chairs.
MissD: Good for her, and for you guys.
Gina: So what are you doing this year? Are you teaching somewhere?
MissD: Um, well, I'm looking into new things right now.
Gina: That means no. You should still teach, Miss D. You were good. It was us.
MissD: Thanks, Gina. That means alot to me.
Gina: Well, I have to go. Bye.
MissD: Bye.

We hugged.

I wondered how the news of me not teaching anywhere this year would go through the school. Gina was trouble when I had her last year, yet at the same time, she was dedicated and sometimes gave alot to the choir. I couldn't handle the pressure of teaching students whowanted their old teacher back that badly. Gina told me that the accompanist returned also. Meanwhile, I lost everything. I'm the biggest loser in the whole thing. I'm still not over it emotionally and certainly have taken a hit financially.

I'm debating if I should ever go to that mall again. I did get a glasses prescription filled there and am getting contacts, so it is hard to avoid that mall for the time being.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Booksmart, Lacks Common Sense

I found myself taking the Census test today.

I think its amusing that I would say "I found myself" when really I choose to get up, drive down the the EDD (Employment Development Department) to take the test.

In any case, the test itself was very easy for me. I finished first, turned in my work and then went to fill out the rest of my application. Not only had I left my resume in the car, I suddenly realized that I didn't have my social security card OR my driver's license. In fact, I probably would leave my brain at home if it weren't actually inside my head which is luckily, attached to my body. I had to go back home to get them so I could complete my application.

Funny, I don't remember being so forgetful.

One lady came out to where I was:
Lady: Wow, you finished fast.
MissD: It was easy...
Lady: Really? I thought some of the questions were like, I don't know...
MissD: ummm, except for the math. The math was kinda hard.
(It wasn't, actually)
Lady: I got a little bit stuck on some of the questions but not the math, that was easy.
MissD: Good for you. I never did well in math in high school.
(I didn't. It's easier now for some reason.)

I later found out that there were alot of people who didn't pass the test. I found myself making excuses for myself to not be any good. After all, I can be very forgetful.

Guy: I only got six right.
MissD: Well I sort of rushed through it. I'll bet I got alot wrong.
Guy: Six right!
MissD: You can always take it again. Don't give up!

Woman: Wow, you sure finished fast.
Savvy: Yeah, I've always been really book smart, but lacking in common sense sometimes. I guess it balances out.

You need 10 right to pass and possibly get hired, but 20 to get hired before 2008 ends. Suddenly I was wondering how I did. I mean, I knew I would pass, but would I score high enough to maybe get a slightly higher level job? How many Recessionistas am I competing against?

I was nervous as my test was scored...

I got 24 out of 28.

MissD: Should I take it again?
Census: That was one of the highest scores.
MissD: Well, I was interested in some of the lead positions since I have experience with surveys.
Census: Your score is high enough that they might offer you that right away.
MissD: Really? But should I take it again just to be sure?
Census: You're a perfectionist, aren't you?
MissD: A little. I sort of feel bad that I got any wrong at all. Maybe I went too fast. There was plenty of time to go back and check again and I didn't.
Census: Oh, you silly girl. Get out before I kick you out. You're fine!!
(She was a really cute, tiny Vietnamese lady, so it was even funnier.)
MissD: OK. Well, thank you so much.

So I did well on the test. But I tend to rush and make snap decisions. I need to slow down and look before I leap. I also need to go ahead and shine when I do something well.

And finally, working for the census may be a great way to transition out of teaching, if that's what I decide to actually do. The Census is temporary full-time work that won't return in 10 years. This will look outstanding on my resume whether I get out of teaching or start working for the National Park Service as a Park Ranger or something insane like that.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The "I ain't got no insurance" Blues

What's a girl to do when her insurance runs out? Get religion and start praying? Well, I do attend church. It's partly because I get paid to sing in the choir. Some guy called it "spirituality for hire". I call it singing for my supper.

Back to insurance...

Since church is a workplace, I am covered there by work comp.

If I get injured at home, maybe my parents homeowners insurance will cover me. I have no doubt that slipping on a pile of papers on the stairs constitutes negligence on the part of Mom and Dad. (God love them, but the house is a bit messy.)

If I get injured at school--either as a sub or with the after school program, I'm covered by work comp--even though the system completely sucks.

If I get into a car accident, I upped my insurance coverage to include a hefty amount of medical coverage. Let's hope that doesn't happen as my neck hasn't yet recovered from the last one.

I'm all covered--just so long as I don't step on a crack in the sidewalk and hurt myself--hey wait--then I could sue the city!

Where there's a will, there's a way!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bitter Teachers

If anyone has a right to be bitter right now, it's me. I accepted a part-time gig teaching music in an after school program. It's a huge step down in pay. I was asked to teach guitar, even though I have never done that, and I said yes.

Coordinator: MissD, this is the facilitating teacher.
MissD: Nice to meet you. Would you mind facilitating carrying this box for me? It's kind of heavy. (I do have that torn rotator cuff, after all.)
Facilitator: Sure, no problem.

I was stuck in the cafeteria with a bunch of other kids who were doing homework and talking while I was trying to teach. I was yelling. I had to ask several times for those children to be kept quiet.

What fun when I got to the school and made a mistake in front of the Facilitating Teacher.

Facil: You're doing it wrong.
MissD: I'm sorry?
Facil: You're doing it wrong. You're not telling them the right strings.
MissD: Excuse me, but may I speak to you privately?
Facil: Sure.
MissD: Do you mind if I make a mistake to not speak to me that way in front of the children?
Facil: Well you're doing it wrong. You can't teach them the wrong things.
MissD: I apologize that I reversed it, I've never taught guitar before.
Facil: So you don't have any guitar experience?
MissD: It's been awhile.
Facil: They promised you would be qualified. I should be teaching this class but the district wouldn't let me.
MissD: I'm sorry that they district wouldn't let you teach the class, but please don't take that out on me.

I then turned back to my little class while he stormed off to complain about me. Meanwhile I called my company. They later complained about me being flip by asking the man to carry something, didn't seem happy to meet anyone and the staff didn't like me. My next question...

Are you seriousss? So you want me to stop the world because YOU wanted to teach the guitar class? Teach it, then!! I had just driven 27 miles for 1/4 of the hourly pay I get as a certified teacher with no benefits and only teach 2 hours.

I get $30 dollars for 2 hours.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Being A Sub Sucks

I forgot how much it sucks to be a sub. I've only been on one assignment. OK, OK, part of the problem is that I got sick with, as I mentioned to a friend, Alot of symptoms.

I still feel like my head is floating about an inch outside of my skull, but that's a considerable improvement from floating about a yard above my head. Oh how it bobbled in the breeze when I tried to drive to the mall to pay my credit card off. Thank God that I didn't owe anything because

I haven't really made anything!!!! 1 freaking day of work.

Wow, I'm underwhelmed by all the money I'm NOT making. I believe I've joined the ranks of the gainfully underemployed. Bonus to me, I can get my student loans deferred.

On the side, I 've been searching for some extra stuff. And at least I don't come home from work overwhelmed and totally drained like I was when I was teaching choir last year. I suggested to that same friend that he hire me as his temp, since he really is too highly paid to be doing his own filing. They used to shoo me away from the files when I was a graduate assistant because they had undergraduates for that. I was getting paid only $13 an hour or something ridiculous like that. He makes oooodles more and certainly SHOULD have an assistant to do his filing and get his coffee. Plus he took me out to dinner and to see the improv.

Seriously, who subs anyway?
Let's see, my former Spanish teacher who just retired, kids who are waiting for an elementary teacher to die so that they can take over the 2nd grade class (seriously, it's that hard to get a job teaching elementary school), college students who want to be teachers.  And then there's me. I feel truly humbled to go back to it after having my own music classes last year and I wonder if education is really the right place for me.

Just like starting oooooover!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Being Misssss D (My alignersss make me lisssp)

I got clear braces (Like Invisalign but not Invisalign. My system is called Simpli5 because there are only 5 trays.)

Sure, it's great to know that my teeth are being straightened. I have alot of sympathy for my students that have braces. Though I told them if they didn't get to work, I would tell my former classmate who is now an orthodontist to make sure he tightened their braces really hard. I know first hand exactly how painful it is to try to eat when you just got your braces adjusted or, in my case, I just got a new set of trays.

They also make me lisp something fierce. Talk about detrimental to your career.

One of my classes started calling me Misssss D. Of course, I also started emphasizing the lisp so we could have some more fun. Then they started asking me questions that I had to answer with s words.

MissD: It's time for the quiz, so everyboyd ssssssshhhh. I'm very good at shhhh since I got my new alignersss.
Student: Missss, do you have a pencil?
MissD: Mmmhmmm. But I know what you want me to say.
Student: What's that?
MissD: Yessss, ssssweetie, here'ssss a penccccil. Now ssstart your sssciencccce tesssst.
Student: Wait! I thought it was a quiz.
MissD: Yesss, but tessst has an ssss. Now get to work.

Honestly, if you think it's funny too, you realize that kids are more open about what they think is funny or embarrassing. What a pressure cooker. I also reminded them that while it was/is funny, that they also need to remember to be respectful and get work done. Kids don't realize that their laughter can hurt so much. I view teasing as an initiaion tactic, not a sign of hatred.

Just the day before I called ssssome of my friendsss when the lisssp wasss really pronounccced becaussse I figured it was worth a few laughsss. So, I really am good natured and easily amused. I can see why they think it's funny because I was fairly amused by it. In fact, I was more amused than some of my friends.

Misss: Come on, don't you get a kick out of me?
Jeff: Sometimes.
Misss: Come on sssweetie! Give usss a sssmile! It's back to ssschool timesss. You're like Eeyore and I'm like Tigger.
Jeff: I never thought about it that way.
Misss: Yep. They're bouncy, trouncy, ppouncy, flouncy, fun fun fun fun fun!! The wonderful thing about Tiggers is IIIIIIIII'm the only one!!
Jeff: I don't remember those songs.
Misss: Eeyore is the the donkey. He didn't have a song I don't think. I'm going to add an s to your name. You are now Jeffsssy.
Jeffsssy: I need to get back to thinking about how I'm not sure going back to finish my PhD was really the right thing to do.
Misss: Sssssure, sssweet ssstuff. Don't think ssso hard, though. May I sssugesst Lexxxxapro?

I walk a fine line between cute and annoying. You can sort of see why I would find an eighth grade science class fun. (Ssscienssse classss!!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

They Miss Me!!!

Myspace has its positive points. One of my girls from last year decided to drop me a line. She doesn't like the new choir teacher. She said a few people including her miss me!! That made me feel special.

So maybe that means they miss my bell bottoms, too!!!

Of course I want the new choir teacher to be successful. But what she says the new teacher is doing probably won't help. My former student reported that she made the High School kids write standards--something that they do in Junior High!!

For those who don't know, writing standards is the 21st century very helpful equivalent to the 18th cenury practice of writing something 100 times. Aks Bart Simpson if it really works.

I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell.
I will not give the new choir teacher hell....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fingerprints Finally Clear

Yippee!! My fingerprints cleared and now I can go back to substititute teaching.

I'm trying to be thankful rather than bitter.

I just found out about a part time choral opportunity near me working with K-5 kids. It sounds like it could be really lovely. That combined with substitute teaching might be a great opportunity--a jumping off point into something better than what I had before. Perhaps I might be able to find a music job at a church.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Favorite Things

Cortisone shots in my shoulder and ankle
These are a few of my favorite things!!

My shoulder isn't getting any better. 1 year of conducting and piano lessons and my shoulder is still a national disaster area. I wonder if the President will visit me soon...

I got another cortisone shot in my should and I really did start singing to my doctor about cortisone shots are among my favorite things. I will be rewriting the whole song to chronicle my medical adventures this year.

This shot didn't hurt as badly as the other ones--a pleasant surprise after the doctor warning me that the cold spray only anesthetises the surface. But don't be fooled, it still hurt. In fact the bonus pain has extended into today. It's just that the last shot to my shoulder had me crying and shouting. The shot to my ankle added pounding on the wall 10 times in rapid succession so that the person in the room next door got quite a scare.

What really hurt is that he started talking about arthroscopic surgery to fix the tear in my rotator cuff. I was hoping not to have to do that, but let's face facts. It stilll hurts. It isn't healing as fast as it "should."

If I had the surgery, I wouldn't be able to work at all for awhile. Who ever heard of a substitute teacher who can't write on the board? Unless I practice really hard with my left. Then the kids would make fun of me for my awful writing. Is that English, Miss Diaz? It looks like Chinese!! I would laugh too. I could have one of the kids write on the board. They love that. But if I didn't work, my old school district would have to pay out disability--which I love. They deserve much more than that actually. But I still don't love the idea of having to have it. But there is such a long list of things that I can't do anymore.

I don't even touch the piano anymore. Typing hurts sometimes and that's my only outlet. I've switched everything possible to my left hand. I've been trying to bowl, play volleyball, fish left handed with often embarrassing results. I don't dance anymore--I used to dance all the time. Swing, salsa and tango are all out for me now because partner dances involve the guy spinning the lady with her right arm. I can't dance folklorico with the big skirts anymore because moving the skirt kills my right shoulder. Dance was my favorite excercise. I can't even do yoga anymore because I can't do the upper body things evenly. There will be no downward facing dog for me. I used to fence in college, this weekend I am going to learn how to fence left handed. I can't even go to the shooting range because my aim is so bad and it hurts my shoulder. I used to be a good shot.

And this appointment, I still found myself wanting to call the only other person I know who has a shoulder injury from music-related activities. It hurts that we can't seem to fix things between us. I saw him recently and didn't speak to him except a terse hello. I'm sure his shoulder still hurts too.

At least my doctor and the office got a nice laugh out of me singing. I'm quite the office drama queen. They love me because I entertain them.

Fingerprints Delayed

One of the great wonders of our modern world, Live Scan, has major issues too. For some reason, the little lady that does the fingerprints at one office always gives everyone a lecture about not caring for their hands. She tells everyone what handcream to go out and buy.

You have to take care of your hands if you're going to work in education these days.


Do you think that the police give lectures on this when they pick up a criminal?

Nay, friends, nay. They just just use a spray bottle filled with water to "moisturize" and then press really hard.

In fact, fingerprinting has always had a few issues. In the days of ink and paper, they didn't lecture anyone about using a quality moisturizer. My dad used to do fingerprinting for the Army and he prided himself on the art of the perfect fingerprinting card. It was the only art my dad ever did, so he should be proud. The art of good fingerprinting lies with the fingerprinter, not the fingerprintee.

In any case, there is some delay in getting my fingerprints approved.
Will my secret life of crime be unearthed?
A life so secret that I don't even know about it?

Tune in again soon for the continuing chronicle of a slightly bitter choir teacher returning to substitute teaching.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Part-Time and Overqualified Blues

I have been offered two interviews this week. But there are pros and cons to both.

Job 1 Part-time choir teacher
Hour long commute
only two days a week
Supplement by working as a substitute teacher.
Would not be able to take any long-term substitute teaching jobs.
No benefits

Job 2 Teaching Artist
30 hours a week
$30 per hour
Would have to move
Would have to pay rent
No benefits

See, they can cheat you if they make the job available to those without teaching credentials. Maybe I would be able to buy in on the health insurance.
My doctors would be very far away and I still have two open work comp injuries, and a car accident case that is also still unsettled.


I bet my dad rent for a year if Serena Williams won the US Open last Sunday. I won. That's a great motivation to stick around.

Of course, I think my consolation prize may have been the same arrangement.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Show Must Go On

I sang in my first jazz showcase. Some things went great, some not so great. It sort of bothers me that I paid an accompanist for his rehearsal time and he still made a mistake--a big one. And then I made a mistake based on some of those mistakes. I have learned that I have to remind the band of things we discussed even if I did had a rehearsal the day before. I am a perfectionist. I wanted everything to go off without a hitch. But it didn't happen that way. Instead, it was an imperfect document of where I am now, things I need to work on and things that went well. I've learned that I have to choose my songs even more wisely. I've learned that I have to be even more memorized. I've learned that for being a conductor, I have to learn how to stand up for myself in front of a jazz combo and take control of the music rather than let them hijack something into a direction I don't want to go.

A friend of mine made me feel really good about the mistakes I dealt with that evening.
Friend: You did really well, you have a great voice. How long have you been singing jazz?
MissD: Two months.
Friend: You're in a transition. You'll be fine. You just have to let go of that perfectionistic tendancy.
MissD: Yes, that's true. In classical music everything is regulated note for note, jazz is much freer. I just have to learn to roll with it if things don't go my way.

How does this apply to choir? Kids need to understand all of these things too. They need to realize that it takes more rehearsal than anyone thinks it takes. You have to know a song hot, cold, rainy, while a tsunami hits or while a tornado approaches. When you are a kid, you think you know everything. You think you know it, but you've only heard it. You think you know it, but you forget a few words. You think you know it, but you aren't always singing in tune. Finally you know it, but you must also be able to interpret. Choir is just as much of a learning experience as performing. What keeps songs fresh is that each day you must find within yourself yet a new way of singing it and new way of connecting with the text.

And lastly, I have to think about what I'm going to do with the rest of my time while I'm substitute teaching. Not only are these activities going to be music related, they will also need to be profit oriented. At least that's the hope!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thank You Letter

Dear School District,
I just wanted to write to you to thank you for wasting all of our time. Your 50% music position will most likely be a boon to someone much closer--say a student near there or a stay at home mom. That's why I called before driving 1.5 hours and 4 gallons of gas. An interview that would have been a waste of time, and me out, almost $40 just in gas. I'm really going to move that far for a 50% position for which I had to call you and ask the right questions upfront.

Is this a new position? Yes.
What's the pay that I would be getting half of? Half of whatever the flyer said.
Are there benefits? No.

Can you imagine moving an hour and a half for that BS? Yeah. Me either.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My blog description

What my blog description used to be:

Welcome to my class! I'm Miss D!!! I love music and can't imagine teaching anything else. I love and hate my job. It is sometimes rewarding, often painful, extremely stressful and sometimes gives you great joy.

What it is now:

I was a Choir Teacher last year with the most horrible job anyone could imagine. I started this blog to help me deal with it. This year I'm back at substitute teaching since I couldn't find another choir job. My COBRA insurance ran out. Heaven help me.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gun-totin' Teachers

I thought about getting a concealed weapon permit when my school was under lockdown after being threatened with a driveby. I asked an ex-boyfriend to take me to the shooting range because I was just plain scared. I'm definitely in favor of allowing people to carry a weapon--and this is protected by the Second Ammendment.

But at school? After discovering how hard it really was to load some of those handguns, I dropped my quest for a permit. I used to be a good shot before I had the torn rotator cuff problem (thanks to piano and conducting!) Plus I didn't think I would have a legal leg to stand on if a kid got ahold of my weapon.

After the tragedies of Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc. Carrying a weapon just might be wise. Maybe kids would have a little more respect for a gun-totin' teacher. A little fear might be nice. I'm imagine the possibility of kids actually sitting in their seats, ready to learn, not being so afraid of being mowed down or knifed by another student. Maybe I should become a part-time cop...

In any case, the pluses and minuses are for you to decide. One school district in Texas has already made their decision.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

MySpace Makes Me Sad Sometimes

One of my former students sent a friend request to me and I accepted it. I was glad I did because she apologised to me for having been so bad in my class. It made me feel better a little somehow--even though I ended up not returning to that school.

She sent an email asking if I was OK and if I was having a good summer. I was finally going to answer because I finally recovered from a depression and frequent migraines as I recovered from the job. I just couldn't answer. It must have meant the whole world to here, because I finally went to answer a few days ago, I realized she had "unfriended" me on MySpace. That means I can't write to her because she has her profile set to private. It's OK. I'll manage to get over it somehow. I'll have a whole new crop of students next year--or maybe I wont. I don't know yet.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Jobsearch prospects

Well, it's a bit slow in jobsearchland. I've decided that I can always go back to substitute teaching. I won't have insurance, but maybe I won't NEED insurance. I mean why would you need insurance when you aren' chronically ill from the massive amounts of stress that come with the first year of teaching anywhere.

I know how not to get injured again. I have a really great computer and I can install vocal parts into the computer and have that play for them again, just like a rehearsal tape.

I won't have kids gossiping about me and saying that I'm not qualified for the job. I don't know that I ever want to teach high school again. They thing they know everything. I'd rather work with the confusion that junior high kids go through. You can have more of a relationship with high school students, but so many other things are MORE difficult. The performance standard is higher, teens are going through a rebellious stage--unless they're the really good kids--the music is more difficult. Plus, with alot of high schools, they are expected to perform alot in the community. One is never paid what one's time is actually worth in order to complete the performances.

These are things that we music teacher have to think about that the rest of y'all don't. We may not have paperwork, but our song and dance doesn't end from the moment the first bell rings when we flip our internal switch on.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Missing Out

I relaxed on the job search this last week, and delayed getting applications in for 3 jobs in my area. One of the jobs was at a school where I wasn't selected for an interview. The girl who got the job and I compared notes about our positions and we felt that we would have been happier if we had switched positions--she was more interested in classical and had a stronger background in piano than I did. I was more interested in teaching pop and boradway because it's more fun for me, the students and the audience.

I shouldn't have relaxed this week of all weeks when no one is doing anything else. How dumb could I be? The jobs now seem to be closed--at least they aren't posted anymore. That was really dumb. But after my experience last year with things going so badly, I'm not even sure what I want to do. Do I even want to teach anymore?

Someone recommended working at the container store or even becoming a part-time Starbucks barrista while I substitute teach just to have benefits. There could be n opening midyear with someone who didn't fare as well as all had hoped in a new position. Going back to substitute teaching will show that I'm dedicated to teaching but I could probably make more money as a secretary. I feel like such a bohemian.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Job Search Surprises

Wouldn't you know it? There's an opening in an unexpected place. I met the choir teacher last year that got the job I wanted. After talking to her and hearing of her discontent with her position, it sounded like we should switch jobs. She had a more classical background and the kids were used to doing musicals and pop. I have a classical backgraound, but I also love--I mean really love--musicals and pop. It's perfectly legitimate to me to use pop songs to get kids interested in singing. Unfortunately, at my present job, they hated everything I was trying. They didn't realize how good they sounded singing songs from Grease because they thought they didn't sound as good as they used to. It's true, they didn't, but they still sounded good. If only they had given it a chance!! In any case, maybe we will end up switching jobs! Or not. It all remains to be seen. Last year I didn't even get an interview.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Better Things To Do

I am still being treated for my ankle, my shoulder and my neck. The healing is going very slowly. I really have better things to do than pray for migraines to go away, get a CT scan done of my ankle or pray they will approve more therapy for my shoulder. I have better things to do than be in pain. At least I'm not sick anymore, that's a small blessing. And with every pop I hear in my neck, snap in my ankle, and crunch in my shoulder, I hope I'm that much closer to relieving my present migraine and that much closer to being completely healed.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Prank Calls

I remember getting and making prank calls as a teen. It gets old really fast. I got a dumb prank call.

MissD: What's the name of the company?
Prank: khfioghagh
MissD: You're going to have to repeat that, you keep breaking up like wind is blowing.
Prank: flkgjg kigjago
MissD: I'm sorry?
Prank: you've won a trip to the Bahamas from Culver City Fat Farm lexapro
MissD: Lexapro is a drug for depression.
Prank: And also for weight loss.
MissD: Right. So, do you have a website for you business?
Prank: Yes, it's, I mean, dot net.
MissD: Oh I see, let me just look that up. You sound really young and a bit rude. I don't think I would enjoy doing business with you, but thanks for your call.

I hung up.

Prank: This is Ernesto from Culver City Fat Farm, can we have your address so we can send you some information.
MissD: No, you may not.
Prank: Why not? You are fat, are you not?
MissD: You're rude, are you not?

I hung up.

I called back and found a name on the message. They also sent me a text message which a business would never do. They called again a few hours later on a Saturday which a business would also never do. I called again. Then I recorded the sound of a toilet flushing for them on a phone.

I hope they get the hint. It's not really possible for them to trace the call back to me, but I have a name and if I hear from them one more time, I will file a police report. I wonder if it's also illegal to use a ficticious business's possible.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Junk In My Trunk

It's an embarrassing time of year for teachers. I filled my car up with all of my stuff from my classroom. Old music that I used stuffed in boxes, piano music, vocal music, lesson plans, overhead sheets for teaching piano, various knickknacks, schoolwork neatly tucked into folders for just in case throughout the year... I gave them their folders, but some didn't want their work. I thought it was sad, so I kept it all. I took things down from the walls... I took home the Bingo cards and equipment in the box that I had intended to use as a fundraiser. It didn't work out that way. I had such great ideas.

It all sounds so simple when i write about it, but this is a year's worth of stuff now packed in my car. When I was in college everything I owned somehow fit in my car. Now it's not so simple. Being a choir and piano teacher meant having books and books and tons of sheet music.

I couldn't bring myself to erase the sweet notes that the kids had written to me on the last day of school or the 08 on the back window. The junk is still in my trunk and in the back seat of my car. I know I need to clean it out, but somehow my energy slipped out from under me. I have been driving around for a week with it all.

Over the week I discovered a what used to be a bag of baby carrots that had been cooked in my car. It took me awhile to figure out what those brownish little stumps were. Prunes? I don't eat prunes. a vanilla candle melted in a bag in the back seat from the 100 degree heat. Hehe, oops. I think it's time.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's Summer!

I am still in recovery from the awful school year I dealt with. The real question is, whatever shall I do with all of my time??


1. Practice piano
2. Audition for game shows
3. Dye my hair
4. Have my nails done
5. Look for teaching jobs.
6. Take surfing lessons.
7. Go see Royal Crown Review. (
8. Date guys
9. Dump them for good reasons.
10. Sing in a jazz showcase.
11. Go to jazz jam sessions.
12. Work on a classical recital with my church choir director.
13. Look for a church choir directorship.
14. Shop
15. Go to a spa.
16. Diet--actually making my own meals!!
17. Work out at the gym.
18. Hang out with friends.
19. Clean out my closet.
20. Replace my bed with one I bought a few months ago but haven't set up.
21. Go to the beach.
22. Read.
23. Blog...

Wow!! I'm really busy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

MySpace is Great!

When I first got a friend request from Armine, I was really surprised. I wasn't sure what would be the end result of that. I was hesitant to accept her friend request, but decided to anyway. Then I got an email, which I was hesitant to open, but finally did today.

From: Armine
Date: Jun 21, 2008 5:52 PM

hey miss d.
it's armine.
the one you probably hate.
I think its really cooll that you have a myspace!
im sorry for being such a b-i-t-c-h to you.
i have been through so much this year and it made me be like that.

----------------- Reply Message -----------------

Hi Armine,

Thanks for writing to me to tell me that. It means alot to me. I like you. I felt really sad that we had problems because I know how much you like to sing.

Take care,
Miss D

Due to the response I received from the students I had last year--several friend requests since school ended, I wish I had let them know about my account a long time ago. It's a professional site through myspace music, so it doesn't have personal information like if I am single and all that lame stuff. It's only about the music.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I asked the principal at the high school for a letter of recommendation. I had no idea he would end up explaining every detail of what the old choir teacher did to make my job a living hell for me. Oh, he also said I was energetic, really knew my subject matter and had no doubt of my success at another job where I wasn't being actively sabotaged.

Ummm. Wow. I try to talk about it as little as possible.

I say things like:
It wasn't a fit.
The old teacher took them to China.
He was a hard act to follow.
No one was ready for a new choir teacher.
I wasn't really prepared to teach piano, though I adapted to the situation.
I want to work for just one school rather than two.
I prefer working with high school or junior high
(depending on the interview).

Funny, one of my issues all along has been this piano monkey on my back. Well, he didn't mention the piano class either. Everyone forgets about it.

8 Interview Red Flags

Just like in dating, one has to watch out for red flags when interviewing. Now looking back, I can see that I have seen several red flags in the interview process. I just wasn't experienced enough to catch on at the time.

It is totally possible to overcome them, in fact, I would rather follow the person who is accused of making a mess of things--just not if the old choir teacher is at the high school next door!!

1. Students on the interview committee:
The school may have had problems with teacher retention in the past due to students not liking them. Watch out. I was the student favorite pick at the interview and I still couldn't make it work. It may also indicate a weak administration that bends to the community's whims rather than standing firmly on what they think is right. A principal today said: you can't please all of the people all of the time. You'll drive yourself crazy. That's what I like to hear.

2. Past choir/music teacher not there:
Chances are the teacher left on bad terms--either they caused a ruckus or inherited a mess. This may not be true, but ask lots of questions. When I encountered this last year I got very vague answers. I didn't have the experience to put it together. It also means no one who really knows anything about music is there to help in the decision-making process.

3. Teacher left on bad terms:
such as for reasons other than marriage, promotion of spouse, or retirement. I hope my not being there for the interview in my ex-district will serve as a red flag to someone else. Find out where that teacher will be next year and if you will be able to have contact with them. Modeling your program after theirs in the beginning will help smooth the transition.

4. Former teacher will be at a neighboring high school after having an award-winning choir that toured internationally. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Danger! Sabotage is emminent. Students are known for visiting friends at other high schools when they can. The old teacher could telegraph that he wants to return. Rumors fly.

5. Rotating music teacher position:
You are interviewing to be the third choir/band teacher in 3 years. Trouble may be afoot. The problem may be the administration, the transition or the community.

6. Too many people interviewing you:
No one will know what to ask unless all have the same set of questions. You may not get a fair interview. This actually happened to me at one school where there was an impromptu panel of 7 people crowded into the Principal's office inventing questions off the top of their heads. No one had seen my resume. It was one of the worst interviews I've ever had. I felt like I had been hit by a bus.

7. Only one person interviewing you:
I have seen this happen more than once. The first time, I was passed from the district office to the principal who came in shorts and a headscarf from cleaning. I signed a contract and then regretted it. I had five preps in five different subjects. The second time was with a rather severe headmistress/nun of a Catholic school who seemed to hate me from the moment she saw me. No one else was there to balance out the interview. I left in tears. The interview also suffered from the following problem:

8. Unclear schedule:
I had an interview at a high school where I wasn't even sure what I was interviewing for. First we talked about choir. Then we talked about drama. Then suddenly we were talking about teaching dance. Wow. I was totally confused. I found out that stayed a mess until the choir teacher at another high school in the district got involved in helping them make a decision.

I've learned over time that they aren't just interviewing me, I'm interviewing them. I ask, ask, ask and ask then I listen, listen, listen to make sure I don't get in a bad situation ever again. This represents a huge growth for me since I used to have a singular thought: Get the job.

Again, it's possible to overcome some of these situations, just be aware of what you are getting into. Do you really want to work with people who don't know how to interview? Is it indicative of a mode of being? Is it a bad job? Sometimes a nightmare community for one person can really click with another person. Sometimes being the 3rd choir teacher in 3 years can serve you well since the last person didn't stay and the old teacher didn't come back. It's up to you. Just try to get as much information as you can.

Tears of Joy

This card one of my students made really touched my heart. I also think it's cute when they call me Mrs. instead of Miss.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Lost It

This morning I still had a headache. I won't come to school early ever again--it makes me irritable. It's outrageous that no one EVER is sure to mention that there will be an overlap in the schedule such that I will have junior high and high school kids together at the same time. I planned to tell one of my choirs that I'm not coming back. I don't want to tell the junior high kids yet, not until tomorrow. So I was stuck and panicked and angry that I get the shaft every time. I lost it with the office manager.

Then I lost it with a kid not much longer after. He had been goofing off on his skateboard INSIDE. He asked:
WHat would happen if I didn't take the final?
I would string up up by your toes like a kosher pig. But what would really happen is that you would get an F.

I just wanted to scare him into working though I don't think I picked the best way. Imagine that, tell your teacher you don't want to take you final. Imagine me losing it with a kid like that. I would take the day off tomorrow if I could. I'm just going to take it easy, tell the chamber choir that they are on their own for next year. I told my girls that they were going to be the top choir next year. They were proud but sad. They all hugged me, the ones who were most against me at times hugged me the hardest. I'm sad and I cried in front of them. How much pressure can one person take?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Disaster Drill

We had an evacuation drill and well, let's just say it didn't go perfectly. There were 10 things that were addressed by the Principal at the junior high. I wonder though, if they couldn't have just told me where to go instead of posting it this way:

8. Choir students did not evacuate to the appropriate location, clarification about high school vs. middle school evacuation needs to occur through careful review of each site's plan.

I was thoroughly annoyed. So I sent an email her express myself:

The choir students were in the right place according to the map--of course I was assuming that our place was "Mr. M" by the containers. I didn't see "CHOIR" or "MISS D". The drill was originally supposed to be in the morning when I have HS students. I was given their information in a timely fashion and was ready for that plan. When plans change, it's important to give those of us who go between two campuses a little heads up--especially when someone is new. Also, I don't hear bells for either campus when I am in my room.


Communication problems ARE one of many of my issues with this job. I didn't hear back from her and I doubt they will remember this to tell the new teacher since everything was clearly MY fault.


One of the songs my little group of girls sang was Lollipop. The secretary told us she bought a lollipop for us to give to the Principal. It was cute.

After we sang and a counselor I hate rushed to cut us off after our set, I announced:

Before we wrap up, we have a retirement lollipop to present to Dr. P. It says Work Sucks.

Today I realized the IRONY of me presenting that to him. I think work here sucks too!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The More I Listen, part 2

Cali came to visit me after school and we started talking about things.

Cali: Miss D, I don't want you to feel bad anymore. You're a really awesome teacher. One of my best friends is over at his high school now and she says they all hate him.
MissD: Are you serious?
Cali: Yeah. I think it's because he was over here so long.
MissD: I guess what comes around goes around. That all makes me feel a little bit better about things.
Cali: You'll see, next year will be better.
MissD: Here's hoping.
Cali: My mom asked me who my favorite teacher was and she said she's going to get whoever my favorite teacher is a bottle of wine. Miss D, I'm going to get you a big ol' bottle of wine. You'll feel better after you drink that, that's for sure.
MissD: Let's go get lunch.
Cali: I think all they did to you this year was dumb. I was iffy at first, but I've really learned alot from you.

I don't tell her I'm not coming back. I can't. I know I'm going to have to soon but I keep putting it off.

Always Go to Job Fairs

That's the general rule if you are looking for a job. Apply online for jobs, yes, but also go to job fairs--it's the best way to market yourself in a large urban area.

It lets you know who the competition is. It makes you feel like you don't measure up...
We were all in a room together listening to other people interview. We knew if they were interested in us by if they tried to pass you to another person or thanked you for coming. They asked one lady to wait to talk to them more. She 20 years of experience teaching choir. I knew I didn't measure up to that. I've had 1 rather distressing, harrowing year. Hmmm, you wouldn't pick me either!! They thanked me for coming and told me to make sure I sent in my paperwork. Right. I was distressed.

But then again, why would they ask me to stay? My godawful year has shaken me to the core. It must show.

It's also a great way to find out the latest gossip...
I ended up talking to a guy who teaches at the same school as the other choir teacher. What he told me was very revealing:

H: They made his choir a dumping ground.
D: Last year he took his students on a major tour.
H: Well, that's not gonna happen with this group. They hate him because of where he used to be.
D: What about the piano classes?
H: He still has students for that.
D: He should have stayed where he was and spared us all alot of grief. I guess the grass is always greener until you have to mow the lawn.
That's so true.
D: How about you? Why are you looking for something new?
H: I'm only part time.
D: Just wondering..but do you remember having to be told what to do all the time when you were in high school? Cause I don't remember things being that way.
H: Me either. I thought I was the only one. I had this kid on my sound crew who just didn't show up for the show. I ended up doing it. He was totally unreliable. They told me if I drop him, he just gets a withdraw but if he drops, he gets withdraw fail.
D: That sucks. I just don't remember anybody being like that when I was a kid.
H: Too many distrations.
D: I don't know about that. When I was a kid we used the CB raidio before there was the internet. My brother and I met kids our age all the time. We had them come to our house and we snuck out the window to hang out with them. It was fun. I just think there have always been distractions.

It was an interesting conversation. Then they called him in to interview. We wished each other well, and that was that. I was glad I was too bored to just sit there.

Going Out in Style

Tonight was the retirement party for the principal at the high school. We always got along well and he feels sympathetic toward my situation. He agreed to write a letter of recommendation for me, though I already listed him as a reference and maybe that's good enough for now. In any case, I wanted to give him the gift of song. A lot of girls said they were coming, but then only 5 showed up. I sang one of the solos. A girl who wasn't even in my class sang another solo. I covered another solo, another girl's solo became even longer than it was originally. When I realized it was only going to be five of us, I told the girls, We're getting an authentic experience here. Those groups back then had one person on each part. We did well for such a small group. I dropped the alto part for most of the songs and we just sang two parts. I've learned to live with disappointment at this school.

The principal was very appreciative and introduced me to his family. He also gave me a hug. It meant a lot to him that we showed up and sang 50s music for his 50s party. That had been what I envisioned all along, but for my choir. It was supposed to be a fund raiser. I decided not to go with that idea when they told me I wouldn't be back next year. Maybe at the next school I go to things will be different.

Detention Slips

My ankle has been swollen since I stopped using the scooter, so I decided to take a ride on it. What could be the harm? I had to deliver 3 referrals to choir girls who wouldn't stop talking in class. One of them said, "What the F---", and later, "everyone else is "F-ing talking." I decided to ride the scooter to make my deliveries while wearing the boot.

It still gets a reaction from everyone. The Principal waved.
Go Miss D!
Who did you take that from MissD?
Having fun, Miss D?
Gas too expensive now?
Did you ride that to work this morning?

My last reaction was from the Ass. Principal who chewed me out not too long ago. He pointed incredulously. I didn't stop.

AssP: Didn't we talk about that?
MissD: Yeah, my ankle hurts. Besides, I didn't hurt myself riding this thing, I hurt myself WALKING.

I was way far away by then. What's he going to do? Fire me?

The More I Listen

The more I listen to my students, the more I learn about the behind the scenes drama that led to my apparent demise. For a short time we had a student who hailed from a school with an established choral program. I sat with Lisa talking after working with her on a song. I really miss giving private lessons.

Lisa: When Ruth was here, she said you weren't a very good teacher.
MissD: I was really sick when she was here, and have a pretty serious injury to my right arm so I was having a hard time.
Lisa: She said the teacher at her other school was way better.
MissD: I can see why she would think that. I'm friends with that teacher. He's been there for 20 years.
Lisa: How long have you been teaching?
MissD: This was my first year teaching choir.
Lisa: Oh, that explains alot.
MissD: It's hard to compare what he has over there to what is going on over here. 20 years building up his program compared to trying to take over what was going on here is totally not fair at all.
Lisa: Some of the other kids were getting together and saying that they wanted to give you a bad time just for fun.
MissD: Yes, and that's something else that the other choir teacher doesn't have. The sad thing is, they accomplished their goals and tore up the choir program in the process. Good job!
Lisa: Next year will be better. No one will remember Mr. M. You have some kids that really like to sing and now that you've been here, you can kick some of the others out.

Yes, Lisa, next year no one will remember Mr. M, and I will try hard to forget. I will be somewhere else. I promise not to forget you, though. You were one of my sweet things. I hope you make it through to graduation. I hope you get away from your mom who beats you. I hope you make it.

No Particular Place to Go

Seniors have no particular place to go right now. Some are ready to be gone, others really aren't. I had three boys who have been in my piano class all year stop by along with one of my choir girls and her best friend who she introduced to me as her girlfriend. I don't know if she's joking, but they were dressed like twins from their clothes and shoes to even their hair. I call those boys my peanut gallery in the front. They have been like my morning coffee. I was glad they stopped by. The room felt empty without them.

The boys helped some of the other students get ready for their piano finals. Meanwhile the choir girl declared that she knows how to hack into MySpace from school. She pimped my computer so that my background is a band I don't recognize but feel like I should. Another of my choir girls stopped by and asked me to write something deep and meaningful on a page since she couldn't afford a yearbook.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Goodbye to Sassy

The seniors checked out today. They came to classes and I signed their forms. Sassy passed. He barely passed, but he passed. I debated a long time as to whether or not I would pass him. I had the choir watch themselves. They don't listen to each other. They didn't sound very good half of the time. They sounded best on the pop stuff, not on anything classical. Certain words would go out of tune, but they wouldn't listen to me about pronunciation or how to improve things.

I had them watch the video of their final and write an evaluation. Sassy wrote about chamber choir: This is the crappiest choir to ever set foot on this school.

I called him into my office to talk. I've suspended him from my class about 6 days this semester, so he was very defensive.

MissD: I read what you wrote...
Sassy: Yeah, well it's true.
(I don't remember what he said, but I knew he was defensive.)
MissD: I didn't call you in here to discipline you.
Sassy: I'm not blaming you for the choir sounding bad. It's our fault too.
MissD: We didn't have the same people and we had to adapt to that. You guys sounded the best on the pop and musical stuff. I thought about your grades for a long time. Even though you messed up on the piano test, you had enough points to get a D in the class. And you know your part for choir. I've decided to pass you. Out of everyone, you break my heart the most.
(He looked at his shoes.) I know you have a good heart in there somewhere. I wish I had seen more of it. We both could have done without the battle. It didn't help either of us. (He studied his shoes even more intently.) I wish you good luck with everything in your life.

He left silently with his head low. I was in tears. I think I finally got through to him. Two of my choir girls let me know they planned to come back after getting donuts.
Alina: MissD, have you been crying? She gave me a hug.
Cali: We can get you a donut--chocolate covered. It'll make you feel better!
MissD: Aww thanks, but I learned something from the video, too. I really need to lose weight!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Better Luck Next Year

I've been playing Solitaire alot while I've been thinking alot about how to avoid what I ended up with this school year. I am definitely getting good at Solitaire, so at least that is good.

1. Ask more questions at the interview so I know what the position really is.
2. Make sure I know the situation with an accompanist.
3. Find out why the last teacher left. retirement, money, whatever. It all makes a difference in setting the tone.
4. Don't take a position with too many preps. I had 4 and no idea that I would be stuck with so much piano. Class piano is very difficult to teach.
5. Audition kids and kick out the ones that can't sing.
6. Kick out kids with low GPAs or you will never be able to take kids to performances off campus.
7. Classroom management is key. I really don't like it and I didn't think I would have the problems I did. I am investigating the concept of classroom meetings so that kids have a role in discipline problems. This will help them develop maturity and social responsibility and take the onus off me.

In some ways,I won't have to worry about the same things. This is an unusual community. I teach in.

I'm going to play more Solitaire.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Yearbooks and Discipline Issues

It seems like kids can't keep their hands off their yearbooks. I warned two kids to put away their yearbooks or I would take them away. They dropped them behind the risers. I was talking with the class about the concert being cancelled. They decided to announce it over the loudspeaker to the junior high kids. I was so frustrated. I didn't want to deal with it until Monday after my dad had come to tape them performing. One of the girls was lying across the risers reading her yearbook. I knew exactly what she was doing. I went around to get it.

She pulled the yearbook away from me and said:
Don't take this one, take that one.
MissD: Don't you DARE tell me what I can take and what I can't. I am your teacher.
She started to cry as if she hadn't done anything wrong.
MissD: I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings, but I warned you. And none of you should ever talk to your teachers or any adult that way whether you like them or not.

Land of the Lost Referrals

I was planning on talking to the Ass. Principal about all the referrals I had written to suspend kids from class. The kids were never seen. Today I suspended two more, I'll have to tell you about those kids. After another harrowing day, I got the following email:

>>> Assistant Principal 6/6/2008 2:08 PM >>>
You gave the following students referrals for non-participation, not singing, not standing where they should be, talking back. Please assign detention, and call parents.

a b c d e f


-----Inline Message Follows-----

I had a and b spend lunch with me in place of the referrals. The others I decided to suspend them from class, I thought they had been suspended from my class. But it appears 4 of them have been ditching ever since that day because I have not seen any of them.

They are:
c d e f

These students are all failing all of their classes and are very disruptive. I don't think this will be resolved with a simple detention and phone call home, that is why I chose to write referrals for them.

I wanted to add lots of expletives and ask him why the @#$%^&* I wasted my time writing that #$%^&* up??? @#$%^&* !@#$%&&&!!!!

But I'm a professional and a lady, so I blog about it.

Don't Quit, Miss D!!

I saw one of my students who has not been coming to class and pretended to look shocked. He's a good kid. He said he's been really depressed and has been having a hard time waking up.

MissD: You're alive.
Dean: Yes. Miss D, you're a cool teacher. I...well, I was gonna say something else. Some of the kids don't like you, but it's for really stupid reasons. And I think you're a cool teacher.
MissD: Like what?
Dean: I don't want to say. It's dumb.
MissD: You might as well tell me. I've actually heard all.
(I had just suspended Sassy from class today for calling me retarded.)
Dean: well, some of the kids don't like you because you don't play piano very well.
MissD: Yeah, I have a pretty serious injury, but I can still tell people how do do fingerings and coach them to make it better.
Dean: And some say you don't have a commanding enough personality.
(Hmmm...that's interesting, people always told me I was bossy.) And some don't like how you dress.
MissD: That's really funny about how I dress. Some of them think I wear black too much. Whatever.
Dean: Like I said, it's for dumb reasons.
Another student rolled out on a computer chair while we were talking.
MissD: It's because I'm following the Mr. M...
Dean: My only issue is that you could have spent more time with me practicing even though I never come to class.
MissD: I can only spend a short time with each person, besides, there's just no getting around pressing your own fingers to the keys to improve.
Mark: Miss D, you're not going to quit are you? You're really cool.
(He was one of the kids I observed for senior projects) And you have really pretty eyes. I just noticed that. (I winked at him.)
MissD: Thanks. I've heard there are teachers who quit halfway through the year.
Cali: One teacher called me a little bitch in front of the whole class and read my diary to everyone. I was so embarrassed.
MissD: Are you serious? I would never do that.
(Though I have called kids snotty for answering back.)
Cali: But then Mr. S came and he was really nice.
Mark: Well, next year will be better, and the year after that, no one will remember Mr. M at all. Don't quit Miss D.
MissD: I'll think about what you said.

Another kid I had really liked at first but then had to kick out of my class for singing about Hitler killing the jews and sexual harrassment (directed at ME!) was eavesdropping on the conversation.

They don't know it's already too late. It's so sad. Some of these kids are really sweet and they aren't even my students. Maybe if I had some of these students, I wouldn't be in the place where I am today. Cali is one of my students, though.

Getting an Ed-u-cai-ton

A Cleveland-area principal says he's embarrassed his students got proof of their "educaiton" on their high school diplomas.

MissD sez hahaha!!

read more digg story

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Teacher In Trouble for Riding A Scooter

I helpfully served on 8 panels for senior projects. Having a sprained ankle made it difficult to traverse the great divide to that teacher's classroom.

I, however, am sheer genius in action and decided to use my scooter. Yes, a scooter to get from my room to the other side of the campus. When you have a sprained ankle, it's alot of walking.  And that darn boot is heavy.

Students, staff and fellow teachers were all amused thinking I had confiscated it. No, it was mine. I was having fun with it until...

The Vice Principal called me over.

VP: A word, Miss D. He loomed over me angrily.
D: Sure...what can I help you with? I thought it was a student issue.
VP: A scooter, Miss D? You really need to THINK. He pointed at his head. I have a teacher who has been injured five times on campus. What possessed you to ride a scooter?
D: Um, well, I ride it really slow and I just wanted to save my ankle...
VP: Did a doctor order you to use a scooter?
D: Um, no, but...
VP: You could get seriously hurt and I don't want you getting hurt any more. I know, my daughter has one of those. You really need to THINK, Miss D.
He pointed at his head again.
D: Yes sir.

Oh, God. There were students watching that. I haven't felt like I was in trouble like that with anyone since I was in high school. I felt like I should serve a Saturday school. But wait, this is also the same VP who seems to lose my referrals. I can think of 5 in the past few days. Hmmm...who really needs to do some thinking? I can't help it that I ended up being the most injured teacher of the year.

I have a cool rating on I appreciate that. I left my own pretending I was a student:

Date E H C [E = Easiness H = Helpfulness C = Clarity]

2/01/08 2 4 4 this class is great but there is no control over the class never.

1/31/08 5 5 4

1/31/08 4 2 2 I think the class is interesting, but there is no control over the class. Its always noisy and the class never actually learns anything.

My comment:
6/04/08 5 5 5 All we have to do is sit there and practice. We get to help each other out so that we can play better. How hard is that? It's noisy because it's a music class and everyone is playing their keyboards.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It Was My Mom Texting Me

This is the second time I have confiscated Tina's cell phone during choir practice. She had a toothache and was texting on her phone. At first she said it was the oragel she was holding in her hand.

I said: How about what's in your pocket? MissD always knows.
She said: It was my mom.

I said: I don't care if it was God. You should not be using your cell phone during class. And God wouldn't be texting you because he knows you have class.

Lucky me, they all decided not to sing.
A student: We don't like what you said. It was stupid. What if it's an emergency?
I said: Then you would be allowed to use your cell phone.
Student: How do we know if we don't check?
I said: You shouldn't check, but if there is an emergency here, then you would be allowed to use it. Also, if you don't feel well enough to be in class, Tina, then you should let me know and the nurse needs to know so that you can be released.
Student: We don't like what you said. It was stupid.
I said: I apologize if I offended you. I was emphasizing that it doesn't matter who it is. There are proper chanels to go through and the office should know what is going on.

I also pulled Tina aside to explain this to her again. As an adult I have classes during which I do not use my cell phone because it is rude to do so. When I asked if she understood, she nodded yes.

Perhaps I will take the time tomorrow to explain what constitutes an emergency situation at school that would allow the use of cell phones, but from my understanding, an emergency is a campuswide event like Columbine, VA Tech, 9/11, lockdown, flood, fire or campus closure.

The real problem came after school when the one of the Secretary 1 was being honored for classified employee of the year. She locked everything up before she left and a retired lady is subbing for because she knows how things run. She doesn't have a key. The Secretary 2 is out taking care of her son who needed surgery on a broken foot. The result, the phone was locked up. The parent was irate.

I don't pay for my daughter to have a cell phone for it to be locked up all night. I'm going to the district office to complain. Teachers shouldn't say those things.

Whatever. Bring it. I'll be filing a rebuttal. When I told a friend on the custodial staff what happened he said, Amen. God wouldn't be texting you in the middle of class.

The Elusive Happy Place

I woke up feeling tired and angry this morning. Tired because I didn't sleep enough. Just plain angry over EVERYTHING. I have friends and have heard of teachers who have all kinds of methods to make it through the day. Valium, pot, whatever. I was thinking of taking some dexedrine that I have left over from another time, but it's old and I'm not sure how it would impact me at the end of the day. It's slightly addictive and there is a crash when you come off of it. But it would make me happy.

I decided to up the dose of the antidepressant I have been taking. It helped a little, but I was still unhappy. I still cried after school. In front of a student when she said I looked stressed. I cried because some of the kids asked the accompanist to sign their yearbooks, but not me. One kid asked me, though.

I took a nap after school for 2 hours.

Shopping to Find the Happy Place

When the principal came by to let me know the concert was cancelled, I was devastated and in tears.

Gina: Wow, MissD, you look upset. I know why and I feel really bad for you.
I didn't address the why, but she had told me before that she had heard a rumor that I wasn't coming back. She probably thinks I was fired at that moment. She doesn't know how complicated it all really is.
Gina: MissD, you should go shopping, it will make you feel better.

MissD: Gina, I did go shopping last night and you're right, it did help.
Gina: I told you! She smiled.
Gina: You should have seen MissD on Friday. She was buying these blue high heels. My mom was like,wow, I would trip in those.
MissD: I actually returned those because they didn't match my dress.
Gina: But your dress is blue you said.
MissD: But not the right shade.
Gina: I think MissD was going to wear them for a date.
MissD: Yes, that's right. I walked on tip toes like I was modeling on a catwalk.
Bernie: Go MissD!!

I haven't quite found the Happy Place, but shopping was a really nice distraction.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Concert Cancelled

The principal from the high school came to me to tell me something important. I thought it would be about something else...

HSPrincipal: MissD, I've decided to cancel the concert.
MissD: But 2nd period is doing so well.
HSPrincipal: I don't want them to do anything that would embarrass you, and I'm concerned that they will. So, cancelling the concert.

I should have protested.
But the junior high is sounding really good!
But I was just assigning solos today!

I don't know what brilliant principal would visit you in the middle of a choir rehearsing to let you know that he had decided to cancel the concert, but that's what he did.

The end result was me sitting in my office staring at the wall, crying, listening to my accompanist finish warmups and start a song.

I tried to go out there, and face my choir to rehearse them anyway. I couldn't. I turned around and went back to my office to repeat what I had just been doing. My accompanist came to ask me what she should do. Piano. I answered.

I had hoped that they would pull together for this concert, but maybe something is amiss. Something has been all year.

Accomp: They shouldn't have come in the middle of your class.
MissD: Yeah, well, it's basically been like this all year with them doing stuff last minute like this. Telling me about concerts at the last minute, etc. I wish the next person the best of luck.

I wonder if the accompanist wants the job after all she has seen. She often tells me she is a better teacher, has years of experience and a teachign credential. She makes me feel bad, but could she have really done better? Could she do better next year? I wonder.

Monday, June 2, 2008

From Post Secret

I love Post Secret!!!

I can totally see why...and I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way even though I'm not taking Valium. Maybe I should... It might help.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tell Me Something Good

I went shopping to return some shoes and ended up shopping for more shoes. I ran into one of my students.

Miss D! I heard my name called from across the shoe department. One of my students, Gina, sat in a chair with her legs crossed. She is delicate like a cat. Her mom was trying on shoes. I love shoes.

My daughter really likes you. She thinks you're funny. She was just telling me how much fun choir practice was today.

Wow. It was so great to hear the good when there has been so much bad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nasty Little Rumors

One student came to me and said, Miss D, I heard they fired you and that they are going to find a real piano teacher for next year.

MissD: Really? Is that what you heard? I've done really well at teaching you guys piano. Where did you hear that?

I have done well at that. I wasn't exactly fired it's just that, well...I was offered the opportunity to resign.

That's not the only rumor though. The other rumor is worse in some ways.

Gossip: I heard something from a reliable source about this job.
MissD: What did you hear?
Gossip: You can't tell anyone. The person told me not to tell you.
MissD: Sure, whatever. Who would I tell?
Gossip: I heard they're going to hire the old teacher back.
MissD: Really? Are you serious?
Gossip: Yeah, and she's friends with people in the district office.
MissD: If that's true, I could have done without being here at all. I mean, seriously, why did I even come.
Gossip: It has to be for some reason. I mean, you've got to be a stronger person for what you've been through. Have faith.

It's hard to have faith that a supreme being of any kind would put anyone through so much. I'm going to check up on what he said. It won't be hard to find out if it's true.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Advice in the Teachers Lounge

I had a short conversation with teachers in the lounge about all the stuff that has been going on. I've tried a variety of instructional strategies and I guess I suck.

MissD: If I had known half of what I know now about my job, I never would have taken the job.
MrsL: If you don't stop running through all of this, you're going to drive yourself crazy.
MissD: I'm already crazy.
MrsL: Well, there's good crazy and crazy crazy.
MissD: It's just been so tough.
MrsL: What have you learned in all of this?
MissD: I guess to ask more questions in the interview.
MrsL: Just tell them that you want to make sure that you're a fit for each other.
MissD: All I could think last time around was GET THE JOB.
Cool: You could always shrug and say budget cuts. It's not completely honest, but hey...
MissD: I guess. Or I could be honest about everything. What drama!
Cool: They aren't going to want to hear all of that.
MrsL: Your best option is to make sure you ask enough questions and say you want to make sure you're a good fit.
MissD: You'd think they would have asked me some more questions.
MrsL: When it comes to the hiring process, it's a joke. They don't know anything about the arts. It's up to you.
MissD: You're right, you're right. I know you're right.

Maybe I should look into real estate when the market starts picking up. I like architecture. I'm into looking at houses. I'm good at sales.

Tough Cookies

I have a student who has been suffering from a severe case of apathy in one of my choir classes. She hasn't sung a note in a least a month. I gave out a letter reminding them about the concert.

Keisha: What if my parents don't care?
MissD: That's really sad.
Keisha: They usually just throw this stuff away in the trash.
MissD: Really? Well, then it's a letter for you.
Keisha: What if I don't care?
MissD: Tough cookies. You're still responsible.

I walked away. What can you do as a teacher when some students won't be taught?

That Nigerian guy told us that one time it rained so hard he didn't know how he would get to school--it meant that he would be either swimming in puddles or dragging himself through mud for two miles to get to school. His teacher showed up that day and carried him. He WANTED to go to school. He wanted to go so much that he would have dragged his crumpled body over two miles of puddles and mud to get to school.

You can lead horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Some students are more like mules. You can neither lead them to water or make them drink.

Falling Apart

My chamber singers don't seem to care if I fail them. In fact, they seemed to love the idea if it means defying me. They don't wnat to perform because they think they sound terrible. The thing is, they do sound pretty bad because they won't let me teach them. They won't try the things that I ask them to do. I can't let them perform the way they sound now. My chamber class is mostly seniors and they've been ditching alot.

It's really sad. It made me cry today because maybe I'm just a bad teacher. However a guy I used to date was a music teacher for awhile. He is a brilliant musician with an amazing voice. He said his problem was that he just couldn't tell the kids what to do. He does well for himself today. So I could have a perfectly happy life not teaching.

Maybe I should be a performer or a writer--or both. Teaching is really difficult these days. I heard a motivational speaker from Nigeria who is a wheelchair Olympian. But he used to drag himself--literally--drag himself on his hands and knees across dirt roads for 2 miles each way to get to school. Imagine that! And I can't even get kids to sing. One girl wouldn't walk 1 mile to sing at a performance. WALK! It makes me wonder if it is really me that is the problem. I have a hard time imagining any of these kids having that much determination. I wish that guy would come talk to my classes.

The problem is that I like teaching when it's working. I like helping kids learn. I love to sing. I love to teach singing. I've even liked teaching piano. I only don't like it when kids give up. Maybe I will conference with them tomorrow and see what they say.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

10 Things I Hate About You

A letter to the Former Choir Teacher

1. I hate you for taking a full time choir position and dismantling it to teach piano so you didn’t have to perform as much.

2. I hate you for taking all of your piano music. You left me in a panic right before school started. I had to go through a lot of hoops to get books.

3. I hate you for taking keyboards with you. I’m sure they were yours and all, but I didn’t have enough to start the year.

4. I hate you for using parents and children as messengers to the school and the district to try to get your job back.

5. I hate you for writing letters to the newspaper to make all your woes public.

6. I hate you for messing with kids’ minds by posting your salary on the wall in your office and telling them that you were leaving for money. They feel abandoned.

7. I hate you because the mess you left made it impossible for me to make things work.

8. I hate you because the kids all decided they couldn’t sing when you left. I didn’t have the choir program I heard about.

9. I hate you because the community was still on your side. Nothing I did was good enough.

10. I hate you because the accompanist you had for years retired when you left. I’ve ended up with a rotator cuff tear from all the practice I had to do to keep up.

11. I hate you for not leaving a list of performances or community contacts. The district told me you said you would. (oops, I hate you more than I thought!)

I hate because you’re so manipulative and just plain hateful. This whole year has been unfair to me. I’m a good teacher and didn’t have a chance to let that show because of all you did. I’m sorry you didn’t get everything you wanted and that you ended up not being as happy as you thought you would be, but did you have to tear my life apart in the process? Or did you forget that there might be a real human being at the other end of your war with the district? I’m just starting out in my career, hoping to make a difference in kids’ lives. Just like you, I wanted to work near where I grew up. Did you stop and think that you might really be hurting someone like me? I hate you because it’s so obvious you didn’t! (Is that 13?)

I think you’re too selfish to care. I’ve kept my mouth shut and tried to be polite, but I really, really hate you. And you can have your job back if you can get it. I don’t think the district will hire you back because you’ve put people there through a lot of grief. They hate you too.

Hatefully Yours,
Miss D

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Student Incident

By law, we must make faculty aware of any student that attempts an assualt or battery on a teacher. ----------------- has been suspended, and will be put up for an expulsion hearing for a battery on a teacher.

If you have any questions please let me know.

I think I have that kid's brother. DANG!! Glad it wasn't me, but it shouldn't be ANYBODY!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Revenge of the Gum Chewers

This morning I was about to open my car door when I realized that there was a blob of pink gum inside the door handle. Wow. Someone must have put it there yesterday. It was hard by now. I wouldn't have stuck my finger in it though becuase I never use that part ofthe handle. In some ways, it's a little bit amusing.

I make kids throw out their gum in my class. I don't want to deal with what happens--gum stuck everywhere. I also want them to realize that they have to use their mouths to sing--and you can't do that very well while you're smacking gum.

I always think of the streets and subway platforms of New York littered with hundred year old gum. It makes the concret sticky, bumpy and black. It's gross.

Sometimes I wish I could do what they did in the 1950s--make kids put it on their nose and wear it for the rest of class. That would be cool.

Instead, I told them if I caught them chewing gum at the concert, their grade would drop by one letter.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cortisone Shot

I went to the doctor today to look at the MRI. The bright white spots are the ones that show where there is a problem. there is definitely a tear of some kind in one of the my rotator cuff muscles. I've been hurting for so long that I didn't know what to do when he told me that he was going to ask for more physical therapy through work comp. Work comp takes forever and there is no guarantee that it will even be approved. Great!
I need something now.
Doc: Well, we'll see what happens with the PT, did it help?
D: Yes, but I have three weeks left of school, then I can rest. I hurt now. They were going to give me a cortisone shot two months ago, but then they referred me to you instead because they thought something was wrong.
Doc: Well, if you don't get approved, we'll do it then.
D: Can't we do it now?
Doc: Well, if you really want a shot, I guess we can give it to you.
D: Thanks. I think it will really help.

It hurt sooooo much!! It still hurts. The needle was sooooo long. But it actually has started helping.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wits End

It's no secret that it's hard to replace a choir teacher that was there for 10 years, even if they weren't very popular. But the teacher I replaced was very popular... and that makes it way worse.

Today's classes were really awful. I decided to talk to the pricipal because I was at the point of tears. The position I have now isn't the position I was sold and things have been going on a downhill slide. My accompanist is, quite frankly, a major source of discouragement to me. She said, I can tell you right now, if I were the teacher, they wouldn't be acting like this. Well, that's interesting, she's perfectly capapble of writing a referral or disciplining the kids and they still act the same way in front of her.

I told the pricipal at the high school that the way things are going right now, I don't think that we will be able to have a concert. I have no support from the community. Every time I have called home people tell me there wasn't a problem until I came along. If i can suspend kids from class and get to the ones that really do want to work, we might still be able to have a concert. But quite frankly, the counselors have torn this program to shreds by putting kids in the class that don't want it for the sake of numbers. Why would you give me kids that don't want to sing and don't want to be there and then blame me that it's not going well? I tried to kick kids out, but I wasn't allowed to. Now I've got them saying they have their quinceanera or other family opbligations or work and they won't be there. I need major support to make this concert happen, but its not fair to me to have to put on crap in front of the community. I'm a good teacher, but I haven't had a chance to let that show.

Then I found out what that other teacher had really done. He had slowly dismantled the full time choir program to the point where he was mainly teaching piano so that he wouldn't have so many performances. I wasnt' ready to teach piano. I've done it, but it's been so hard. He wrote nasty letters saying he was forced out of his job that were published in community newspapers. He burned every bridge there was to burn. He wanted more money--more of a stipend than anyone else plus a salary increase. He let the superintendent of schools have it. He took all of his piano music with him. He didn't leave me a list of community contacts or upcoming concerts. He's used parents and students as messengers to let the administration know that he wanted his job back in November. Most people don't do these kinds of things when they leave a job.

I've been keeping it all in and trying to stay out of trouble as much as possible. But I've been getting all of the blame. I've had to sit through bad reviews that sent me home crying and wondering if I should even continue teaching. Everyone else is going to be fine. The principal is retiring, the community will move on, the school will still be there next year, the Board of Education will still be there.

I'm the one who has been hit the hardest. I'mthe one who had gone home crying after bad reviews. I'm the one with a torn rotator cuff. I'm the one who has to look for a new job next year and I have nothing I can show for that. I'm the one wondering if I should even teach anymore.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Creepy Kid

I had to throw one of my students out because his behavior was out of control. I suspended him from class three times. I also gave him "chances" by letting him wait outside until he calmed down. This kid has serious problems with anger.

The thing he did that was the weirdest and most disturbing before I kicked him out was that he found out what my address and phone number were and then asked me what they were in front of the whole class. He wanted to to throw me off.

I called a parent meeting because of all the other things he was doing--singing out of tune on purpose, making up his own melodies at innappropriate times, annoying his classmates by singing while he played piano when he wasn't supposed to. I knew he was trouble on the first day he had my class. He called another girl a bitch coming up from the sewer or something like that. Like I said, serious problems.

After a parent meeting, him spitting on my car and additional antics, I finally got a schedule change. Usually by the time I have to have a parent meeting, the kid should be pulled out of the class.

For some odd reason he showed up at my door.
Kid: Hi Miss D.
D: Hello.
Kid: I just came by to say hi.
D: Whatever for?
Kid: Nothing in particular. I just wanted to say hi.

I watched him leave. I have run into as I walk through the office. I don't even look at him. There's something bizarre about that kid. I told the counselor and the union rep that he dropped by my class. He's not supposed to do that. If he stops by again, I'm calling security.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Preventing Shoulder Injuries--A Robot For Conductors

I can totally use one of these ASIMO robots. I don't know if my students will respond all that well to it, but it's worth a shot. It turns out that I have a torn rotator cuff from all my conducting and playing piano. I had an MRI just last week. Next week the doctor will let me know if he thinks I should have surgery.

All I know is that I feel like I have sacrificed alot for this job. I wish I had kept looking instead of taking the first job offer I got. If I hadn't had to practice piano so much for teaching my piano classes, maybe I wouldn't be in such bad shape.

What Honda doesn't realize is that orchestras know how to compensate for bad conductors. They've been doing it for hundreds of years! The real test is whether or not a bunch of teenaged kids can follow it, not a bunch of professional musicians.

In any case, where do I get one?

read the original CNN article | digg story