"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Early morning Saturday thoughts...

Been thinking about all of those mature words---like responsibility, steadiness, deliberate optimism, dignity. 

Been thinking about how much it affects me for the good, when those words are a regular part of my day.   When they are words  I spend time thinking about and working towards.

Also been thinking about that other, utterly mature word: play.  

And that wonderful word: balance.

Doing lots of thinking.  Gonna work on some doing, today.


Daily Life

No number on this slice of daily life, because it's from my entire life.

I've been spending quite a bit of time with my (nearly-82-year-old) Mom lately....and remembering how wonderful it was, to grow up as her child.

  She's always had an amazing gift for putting things in a way that made us, as kids, practically salivate to do whatever she was suggesting.  Always seeing it sincerely, but from an angle that most adults don't see.   ("Oh, honey, I think you do such a beautiful job of making your room look inviting.  It's like magic, how you get it so neat and pretty even though it was just all messy all over the place with your toys.  You know what to do!"  etc)  

Any good thing I have when it comes to interacting with children  comes directly from my Mom....so the way she approaches life has had an impact, through me, to literally thousands of children ( I've been teaching a long time, and I teach several hundred children each year).

Makes for some musing about how many people we each have an effect upon, often without even knowing it.

Just sayin'.


Daily Life, 85

These snippets of conversation come not from elementary age students, but from the college students whom I passed while walking on campus this week....

"My Dad died when I was 12.  In theory, I guess I should've been told, but my Mom never told me..."

"Well, the purple shirt and green tie, that was enough--but the fact that he was also wearing white pants..."

Makes you wish you could hear the rest, doesn't it?


Living by the Rules

"What....rules are you unnecessarily living by?"

This intriguing question is posed by "Kim and Jason", creators/hosts of the blog "Kim and Jason escape adulthood: adultitis ends here".

Now, before you start even the faintest of thoughts that this blog is about living life as a responsibility-free person---it's not.  It's just a funny compendium of posts which question some of the things we do as adults, solely because we're "supposed to"....things which can get in the way of living life with gusto and enthusiasm.

I particularly liked the post "Rule #6: Thou Shall Not Eat Dessert First". (It's here.)

What does this have to do with education?  ----Everything.  Education for life: asking questions about the way we live, about why we do what we do, about how we can do it better.

Not just in the classroom, but everywhere.

From the blog:  "  ....   "Adultitis"   can trick you into missing out on the best parts of life and cause you to take yourself WAY too seriously. We believe that life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and that your life should be bursting with big dreams, oodles of passion, and an enthusiastic playfulness. We believe in curiosity, delighting in the little things, and a faith that knows things always work out for the best. We believe that a life that embraces a childlike spirit is a life that is less stressful and way more fun."  
(from  http://kimandjason.com/blog/about-kim-jason)
This was just the tonic I needed in this pre-Halloween week at an elementary school....perhaps it will be of interest to you, dear reader, as well.

Happy reading.


Daily Life, 84

In First Grade Music class today, doing vocal exploration work using a big poster of a decrepit house, complete with ragged black curtains and scary-ish pictures of the 'homeowners' standing at each window.
(Imagine the Adams Family, diluted to grammar school scariness levels...)

Me    Wow, you all sound just like the ghost.  I'm getting scared!

Kids   Really?  You're a scaredy-cat!

Me  Sometimes.

Kids  I'm afraid to sleep in the dark...I sleep with the hallway light on....I'm afraid of monsters under the bed...I think there are big alligators in my closet, hiding behind the blanket pile....I hear scary noises when I wake up in the middle of the night and have to run to my Mom and Dad's room....

Me    Hmmm.....what do you do,when you're scared?

Katie*     Well, I smile at the darkness.  If it thinks I'm not scared, it will probably go bother someone else.


*Katie is, of course, not this intrepid, wise young child's real name.


Learning Link, 89

Wow!  Interested in learning more about art?

I am---that's one of the (many) areas I wish I'd studied more while in college.

So imagine my delight at finding this site, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: many articles, with pictures (naturally), covering a wide variety of arts topics.

Interested?  Check it out, here.


Learning Link, 88

Seth Godin commented about change  in one of his recent blog posts. 

We're tackling this at the moment, in our Elementary school, working on creating a calmer, more respectful atmosphere in which to learn.

The interesting thing to me is that Godin's point--that some people resist change loudly, and some wait quietly to see what will happen--applies equally well to both adults and children.

No question about it, we all know: change is hard.

Refusing to change-- when conditions cry out for such action--seems to me to lead to situations that are even harder.

Read Godin's post here.


Daily Life, 83

All of my third, fourth and fifth grade students are in the process of writing pen pal letters back and forth from a small school in Zimbabwe to here.  (A friend is facilitating this process, at the other school.)
Here's a sample.....

Dear Anneta*,

How are you?  I am just fine.  Thank you for your letter, I liked hearing about your favorite food.
I have 6 cats, 2 dogs and a hamster.  The hamster's name is Petey. 

When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.  I also want to have a farm and to have 16 kids.

Do you like candy?  I like candy corn, sweeties, and Tootsie Rolls.  I'm either going to be a scientist or a princess ballerina for Halloween.

How about you?

your friend,


*Shana and Anneta are not, of course, these young writers' real names.


Daily Life, 82

Kindergarten  music class today...during which, btw, we did not mention dinosaurs in either conversation or songs....

Laney*   Ms. N, I have to tell you something really important.  Really, really important.

Me         OK.  What?

Laney*   Dinosaurs do NOT live in zoos.

Me         Oh?  Where do they live?

Laney*  In Heaven, silly!

*Laney is, of course, not this budding scientist's real name.


Learning Link, 37

Today's link is to a blog that my friend Paul just launched....filled with short, thoughtful essays on bringing ourselves fully awake to this amazing thing we all call 'life'.

....and how could you not want to read more, when the subheading is: 'because cynicism is exhausting'??

Check it out for yourself, here.


Daily Life, 81

We're working with our school community to help children become enthusiastic learners and  responsible citizens....to help them learn how to negotiate tough social situations with clarity and kindness towards each other and towards themselves.

(Tough social situations? In elementary school? ....oh, yes....think back to what it was really like, to be a grammar school age child....remember?)

The same principles and questions that we ask children could well be asked of ourselves---driving in early rush hour traffic,  waiting in line at the grocery store while someone fumbles with their checkbook and 25 coupons, applying our entire focus to our work each day....

What does it look like ....to be responsible? to do our work to our best ability--and then stretch for more? to act with kindness? with integrity?

What does it sound like.....to treat others as we'd like to be treated? to be honest and straightforward? to challenge what we see as wrong and actively support what we see as right?

The children aren't the only ones who benefit from remembering to ask themselves questions....


Learning Link, 36

Looking for Swing Music charts?

Here's a site that I've found helpful as a starting point....access to a select list of charts,  provided in any key you choose, for free.  Nice.

Check it out further, here.


Learning Link, 35

How to learn something new every day for the next 40 Days...

Over at the blog "Marc and Angel Hack Life", there's a great post: "Top 40 Useful Sites to Learn New things".

Have I gone to every one of the sites mentioned?  No way.  It hasn't been 40 days yet! 

Still, what I've seen thus far has been pretty useful.  Check it out for yourself, here.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 34

Today's link is to a talk by Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard's Change Leadership Group.

"Seven Skills Students Need for their future"....skills we all need, as lifelong learners...from critical thinking/problem solving to initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit, this is a lively and engaging talk--peppered with salient examples.

Great stuff.  Hear more, here.

See you tomorrow.



More books

..."What do people really want?.....Educating people is important but not enough--far too many of our most educated people are operating at quarter-speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing too little to the productive engine of modern civilization, still feeling like observers, like they haven't come close to living up to their potential....We need to encourage people to find their sweet spot.  Productivity explodes when people love what they do."  --Po Bronson, What Should I do with my life?

This is an interested book, packed with stories of people who've either switched professions or who've explored many different careers before finding their 'sweet spot': the work which calls forth all they have to give.   Stories of lawyers-turned-truckers, writers rejecting 'easy money',  people in business and athletes at work....Bronson combines clear interviews with thoughtful commentary.

Even if you, like me, are  already doing work that you utterly love, this is a worthwhile and absorbing book to read.

Great for a rainy weekend afternoon....

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 80

Just one small comment today....four of my student musicians at my new school told me yesterday that they now owned their own ukuleles, as a result of learning how to play ukes in my Music classes.

I was stunned....pleased, of course, but---it's kind of an amazing gift to receive, to know that others are sharing in the sheer joy of music-making--as a direct result of being in my class.

Right.  You're thinking, "Well, isn't that one of the reasons you're a teacher, to affect children's lives for the better?"

Yes.  But, well, you know---it actually happened.   Wow.  I'm grateful for that.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 79

Fourth Grade Music class today, talking about Halloween stories, sound effects, and scary songs...

Anna*    I love, love, love Halloween!
Kids       Me, too! Me, too!
Susanna*   Not me.
Anna*     How come?
Susanna*   I know myself too well.  I can't take any kind of scary anything.

Wow....imagine knowing yourself well enough---before you've even reached your double digits, too--to realize where your boundaries are.   Amazing.

See you tomorrow.


*Anna and Susanna are, of course, not these astute youngster's real names.


Learning Link, 33

Sound Effects

Julian Treasure has a great little 5 minute TED talk about sound affects us.....inside and out.

Find out more here.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 32

How to re-frame a habit of procrastinating

Now, don't get me wrong here:  I don't procrastinate about everthing.   Just about some things.

For years, that's been a source of confusion and frustration for me.  "Why am I not doing this, when I know it needs to be finished?"    "I wish I'd started this sooner..."

Well,  Jason Fitzpatrick has a good post on Lifehacker on just this topic.  He's reviewing Neil Fiore's groundbreaking book, The Now Habit--and adding to the conversation some pertinent comments of his own.

Think you're just being lazy when you procrastinate?  Fiore, a psychologist, has other ways of viewing the habit.  He also has some helpful ideas for changing your ways, if you're so inclined.

It looks great to me....interested in knowing more?  Check out Fitzpatrick's Lifehacker post here.

hmmm....perhaps, after we go get a cup of coffee or something.

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 78 and Learning Link, 32

Thinking this morning about time, space and quiet.

Crucial to our well-being--even more crucial to being able to think clearly and to learn.

And yet...and yet, our school days are crammed past full, squeezed into small classroom spaces with one teeny opportunity at recess, to be out under the expansive sky....and of all things, school is not quiet.

Relatively quiet, yes.  Not deeply quiet.   Not the kind of quiet that extends long enough to allow for long periods of  what Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls 'flow'---and musicians call 'the groove' or 'the pocket': utter focus on the creative activity at hand.  (Read more about Csikzentmihaly's work here.)

Just sayin'.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 31

Simple ways to become a leader....

...with or without the title.

Trent Hamm, over at The Simple Dollar blog,  has some good ideas for how to start (or continue) becoming a linchpin....a leader. 

  I agree with most of his points except for his comment about dealing with negative talk about others: he says, " My tactic is to usually be quiet when people are being disparaged, but speak up quite a bit when the conversation is more positive".    

I don't agree.  For me,  being quiet implies agreement with what's being said.  Instead, I'd rather either say,  "That's how you see this, but it's not the way that I do"  and/or directly offer a counter-balancing viewpoint, preferably with concrete examples for support.

That said, everything else he had to say was pretty helpful.   Check out the entire article here.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 30

How to play the uke in 5 minutes

Well.  Perhaps that should read: how to start playing the uke in 5 minutes.

In any case,  Ukulele Underground has many great features on its site, not the least of which is this 'crash course'  tutorial--there really is enough information there to get you started.

And of course, playing the uke is so much fun that once you're started....well, who knows where you'll go?

Interested?  Check out the site, and the tutorial, here.


Learning Link, 29

Eat Your Crayons

OK, so it's no secret that many educators deal with stressful situations and 'stressed-out' kids each day.

The designers over at Imprint  have an unusual solution: coloring for grownups.  From edible crayons to 'pouring colored lights' (you'll have to watch the video clip at the end to see that particular piece of utter coolness)  to coloring books for the elderly,  they've got a new take on one of the delights of childhood: expressing our creative selves with color (and crayons!).  Take in the fun, here.

Check out another post on the same site for a pretty fascinating history of the color wheel.  (Thanks to my friend Paul from Dudecraft for referencing this article on his eponymous blog.)  Those two color history posts are here.

Some fascinating reading to fit this color-saturated season....see you later--I'm off to go color.



Learning Link, 28

How to get more  from a practice session

An interesting post over at Lifehacker about combining passive listening (i.e., headphones)  with practice time.   Applicable to music sessions and other learning experiences.   Worth a try!

Want more info?  Check it out here.

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 27

How to make things happen

Have you ever heard of  'mirror neurons'?   Apparently, they're part of the explanation for why it can sometimes be satisfying  to read about doing something---so satisfying, in fact, that our motivation to actually do the activity is reduced.

Hmm....interesting concept,  explored further here.    (---and a post from The Simple Dollar  exploring how this plays out in daily life, here.)

See you tomorrow.



Learning Link, 26

How to help kids love to read and to write

Mem Fox cares deeply about people reading aloud to children (see post from Saturday, 10/2/10, for more info) as a way of fostering the love of reading.

  826 National cares deeply about helping children to discover the joys of reading and writing, through 1:1 tutoring in an 8-city network of non-profit learning centers.  It's an amazing and vibrant organization--one which yields results.  

We (in the public school system) could learn much from the philosophy and methods of 826 National...and perhaps even be inspired to teach, as they inspire kids to read and to write.

Interested to know more about this great organization?  I learned about it from Paul Overton, over at
Dudecraft.   ( His site is featuring a direct link to 826 National as well as an in-depth post about the organization.)   Great stuff all around!

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 77

Thinking, this morning, about dreaming.

Busy school days---packed with transitions and the myriad details inherent to a smooth operating system when there are hundreds of people involved--understandably busy, but not conducive to providing space and time for children to dream.

Busy afterschool hours, too: music lessons and team practice and dance rehearsals and tutoring and chores and and and......

Just wondering where, in all of that noise,  a child could find even a small expanse of quiet space to dream....and wondering what the impact will be, later in life.

Not criticizing, just wondering....

See you tomorrow.




Check this one out...

Straight-forward, clear talk about teaching kids to read through immersing them in the direct 1:1 joy of stories, read aloud:  Reading Magic, by Mem Fox.

Funny, how often language acquisition and literacy skills mirror the same processes in music...

See you tomorrow.



Daily Life, 76

Wondering, today, how teaching song lyrics could possibly be confused with helping students to gain fluency and enlarge skill sets in developing literacy skills in the primary grades.

Particularly when so many other options exist within each learning discipline.

Just sayin'.

OK, that's my rant for the month. 

See you tomorrow.