Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stupid Hummingbirds

Really SUPER awesome days to be a music teacher:

1st Grade: Jazz Unit, especially the day I teach about the blues using a song called "The Time Out Blues" and of course, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese jingle.

3rd Grade: Tie between the day we blow into sprinkler pipes as though they are brass instruments and the day we use combs and wax paper to learn about reeds.

4th Grade: The whole first quarter when we are learning the Armed Forces Medley with actions.

5th Grade: Theme and variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" using chimes.

6th Grade: When I teach a medley from Joseph...Dreamcoat and call it an oratorio.


2nd Grade: Stupid Hummingbird Day

Let me explain.

When I was little, I thought my Grandpa Casdorph hung the moon.  Truth be told, I'm still pretty sure it may have happened that way.  When I reflect on a childhood peppered with visits to and from Arizona, there are a few recurring memories that stand out in my mind.

1. The Dog-Eared Braids

A common Casdorph-girl hairstyle was two braided pigtails, looped back up to form dog ears on each side of our heads.  I imagine my mom must have found this style particularly good for 12 hours of travel, because I seemed to frequently sport it upon arrival in Arizona.  Grandpa would take one look at me, and then playfully threaten to hang me by those loops on a wall in the closet.

2. The Jump / Don't Jump

Grandpa would place his hands on the hips of any given grandchild and count to three.  On the third count, the trained grandchild knew to jump and, with grandpa's assistance, would jump several feet in the air.  Without fail, however, on my count of three, Grandpa would always hold me down.  Instead of a soaring jump, my turn generally resulted in feigned indignation and giggles.

3. Stupid Hummingbird Stories

These I remember occurring more frequently in Utah when Grandma and Grandpa would come for visits.  We three girls would gather on Grandpa's lap or near his feet to hear our favorite stories: Stupid Hummingbird Stories.  The formula was always the same.  Three girls headed off into the woods, generally despite some sort of warning from well-meaning adults.  Coincidentally, these girls were always named Andrea, Lisa, and Michelle, and they always got into interesting predicaments.

We loved hearing the stories unfold as each of our parallel characters participated in the dialogue and decision making.  In fact, it was only the dialogue and decisions that ever changed; the conflict remained constant: to find the source of the melody rising from somewhere in the woods.  (This would work so much better if you could hear me humming the tune of "Clementine."  Please insert your own humming here.  Hm hm hm hm.... Hm hm hm hm....)

Likewise, the resolutions were always predictable.  In the end, the three girls found a hummingbird, too stupid to know the words.  To this day, I cannot hear the song "Clementine" without fondly recalling that stupid hummingbird.

At NPA, there is a required list of songs that each grade level learns.  Many of the songs are several hundred years old and represent the musical history from many countries.  I teach standards like "Danny Boy," "Auld Lang Syne," and "The Yellow Rose of Texas."  Some of the songs correspond with lessons they are learning in history.  Others are chosen for having appropriate ranges and melodies for a particular grade.  In each case, I feel proud to be intentionally passing along this musical heritage.

When I teach "I Love the Mountains" to fourth grade or "Hey Ho" to third grade, I remember the long drives to Arizona or Utah during which my mom taught us the songs she'd been taught by her mom.  This history of music is one that can only be taught orally, and I get to excited to be the one that helps preserve this music for another 100 years!

But when I teach "Clementine," to the second grade each year, I get to pass on a totally different legacy.  I'm betting it's not the thing my Grandpa will hope to be remembered for, but as I've watched others pass on from this life, I have realized that we don't always get to choose our legacy.  I don't expect my grandpa to be going anywhere soon, but someday when I have to mourn the loss of an incredible man, I will be glad to know that a small piece of him lives on in something as silly as a stupid hummingbird story.

Plus, the kids LOVE it!  I wait in anticipation as they file in and take their seats.  I pull up a chair and quietly start, "Once upon a time."

There's usually a few giggles.  This isn't a normal day in music!

But as I continue on into an on-the-spot stupid hummingbird story, weaving students one-by-one into the story, giving them dialogue and pivotal decisions, silly moments and triumphs, the room falls silent.

It is the quietest 10 minutes of the entire school year.

This year's Arc de Triomphe was the part of the story that involved each student adding onto either the top or bottom of a student-stack as they tried to reach the top boughs of the tree.  As each student climbed, the others hugged the tree for dear life. All the while, the humming got louder!  (Insert humming again...)

And then as the last student finally reached the top, she was able to see the source of the sound: a stupid hummingbird who didn't know the words!

By this point, I've hummed the melody so many times that the students already know it, and we just add words.  (We want to be smarter than that hummingbird, right?!)

I've taught "Clementine" to two classes each year for four years.  That's about 200 students who've played a special part in their own Stupid Hummingbird story.

There are a lot of great moments as a music teacher at NPA.  But Stupid Hummingbird Day just cannot be topped.