Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Guaranteed Headache Day

That probably sounds like a disrespectful moniker for Veteran's Day, but I promise I mean it with incredible respect.

As a teacher at Navigator Pointe Academy, I look forward each year to the school's Veteran's Assembly.  This assembly is such a big deal that there is a circulating joke at our charter school which, according to the guidelines of our charter, doesn't celebrate any holidays.  We don't do Halloween or Valentine's parties, and our only school observation of Christmas is a last-day-before-winter-break service project.  But boy, oh boy, do we do Veteran's Day.  We write letters.  We do art.  We sing.  And we hold a huge assembly to which we invite the veteran friends and family members of our students.

This year, we had about 50 veterans in attendance, and plenty of songs, speeches, and art to honor them the NPA way.  But I had decided to try something new this year, and I taught the same patriotic medley to the entire elementary school.  I practiced with them in their individual classes, giving the mezzo soprano parts to the 3rd grade, the alto to the fourth grade, and the melody to the younger students.  The 5th grade students learned both alto and soprano to lend their more mature voices to the song.  At their performances 2 weeks ago, I had the chance to rehearse with the 1st and 2nd grades together and with the 3rd through 5th grade classes, but until today, I had not yet heard the whole of my 250-voice choir sing together.

Keep in mind that by this point in the assembly, I had already choked back tears at the sincere words of 8 young speakers and the return thanks of one veteran special guest.  So when I saw a sea of my students and heard their confident voices (and beautiful harmonies), there was little I could do to maintain composure.

And fighting back tears is for me, a guaranteed headache.  I should learn to bring some medicine to school on Veterans Day.

There are so many reasons I'm proud to be an NPA teacher, but if there's one day that brings the all to the surface, it's this guaranteed headache day.

The assembly ended with 16 minutes left of the school day, not enough for me to personally thank each of the 10 classes that contributed to my condition, so I decided to write a letter.  I frantically typed, quickly copied, and rushed the delivery of this letter to each classroom 1st through 5th grade.  And then I thought I'd put it here so if ever I doubt where I am or why, I can look back to today.

Dear NPA Students – 
I think most of you have heard me say that it is hard for music to give me the chills, because I get to hear you sing beautifully all the time.  I have also made many of you a promise that if you ever gave me the chills, I would stop right there in the middle of the song and show you.  
Well, it didn’t seem like a good idea to stop in the middle of the assembly, so I decided to write a letter instead to tell you all how amazing your song was.  I didn’t just get the chills – I had to stop singing because I was starting to cry!  Hearing over 250 students singing so respectfully about our country was really something amazing.  That alone was special enough to make me cry.  But then to hear the fourth grade and Mrs. Francom’s class singing such a beautiful alto part, to hear the 3rd grade students sing their special note at the end, to hear the 1st graders confidently singing “America, America,” and to hear Ms. Laudie’s class and the 2nd grade carrying the melody, I just have to say what a proud music teacher I am today.
Thank you for using your talents today as a way to honor our veterans.  I hope your singing was as special and powerful to each of them as it was to me.

Mrs. Fife

Yes, guaranteed headache.  And so worth it.