A look back…after five weeks…

Dear All:


I was pretty amazed this morning when I checked the calendar and realized this was the end of week five of distance education.  Like everything else with time, it is just so hard to fathom.  We’ve just heard NJ Gov. Murphy proclaim we are at it until May 15th.  I personally think we’re at it for the remainder of the school year.  How would we know it is “safe” (however that may be defined) to return?  Take the temp of all 1800 kids that enter the building?  Take their temp AGAIN at the start of every class?  Sanitize all touched surfaces between periods?  And how exactly would I socially distance my choir?  I have a pretty large teaching space, but I don’t think it warrants a 6-foot space between singers!

I am writing reflectively this morning because next week is SPRING BREAK! (Blessed relief!).  What have I learned?  While I pride myself on my organizational skills, I just can’t seem to organize my Dining-Room-Table-Office in a manner that flows.  There ain’t no flow here (Sorry Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Google him!).  I appreciate the school’s decision to create “A” and “B” days.  All my classes fall on “A” day.  Doesn’t matter.  My anxiety about all of it is hard to keep in check.

I have tried to put myself in the homes of many of my students.  Only children who refer to themselves as the “Lonely Only”; kids with much younger siblings – with everyone participating in Distance Learning; parents who have lost their jobs; one PC in a house with multiple users; it just seems to be a limitless number of combinations.  To try to change it up I’ve created In-House Scavenger Hunts, Show and Tell, PERFORM and EXPLORE projects and most recently a PHOTO ESSAY and BINGO (Everything but the BINGO on previous blogs).     I have created PADLET’s as a place for them to write.  I refer to them as my New York City apartment building when I see 30 of them on separate “floors” on my ZOOM screen.  They are tired of this.  I am tired of this.  It’s so hard to realize that we are in the middle of “history”- like the comparison to the 1918 Spanish Flu.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.  Holy Guacamole.

Our administration has, once again, asked us to scale back on content.  That’s a bit of a challenge with my Music Theory class – who are simply a dream to teach.  We do meet as a class at 9a on every “A” day…I prepare  PowerPoints as if I were teaching from my whiteboard and they review on separate PADLET’s as if they were in class with their whiteboards.  I’m making it work.  They tell me I am the only class that meets on ZOOM.  All their other classes have Office Hours and they get their work over Google Classroom.  Man, oh man.

Since the 16th of March, (missing only 2 days – one for rain and one for Easter!) – I have walked a 2-mile neighborhood route with colleagues, their kids and our husbands.  (a plus of being home!) It’s a lifeline.  We talk about everything – from the appropriate distance, of course.  As the ladies are all Choral Directors, we brainstorm.  We share.  I can do that with an extended choral texting group as well.  Don’t know how I could have done any of this without them.  I hope you’ve had similar daily support.

Before I close, let me tell you about the “lifetime purchase” ($14.95!) I recently made.  BingoBaker.com.  What fun!  I created a MUSIC THEORY review board and explained to the class that they would earn their box if they demonstrated an understanding of the term I called.  For example, if I called “major”, they could answer, C-E-G and get the box!  They received the URL in Google Classroom as an assignment.  You click on the board to “x” the box.  They raise their hand on the screen if multiple kids have the term and I go around and verify their answers.  It changed up the lesson and reviewed material at the same time.  I just created another with the names on the roster of all my girls in Chorale – adding their Spring Concert song titles and other concepts learned in class.  We’ll play BINGO on the “A” Friday  we return.

I don’t know.  I hope it breaks up their routine.  I know it’s helping mine.

Okay, enough writing.  Back to grading projects so I can ultimately finish episodes 4-5-6-7 of Tiger King.  (Don’t judge me…)

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stay safe.


Here’s to the kids…


Dear All:


I saw this on a treasured friend’s FaceBook post and decided it was worth re-sharing…

Here’s to the kids who were supposed to get their braces off after two long years, and now have to wait a few more months.

Here’s to the kids who couldn’t wait to get their driver’s license, and now they check daily to see when the DMV will open.

Here’s to the kids who are wondering if there will be any sort of graduation ceremony culminating 13 years of school, or if they will get to attend freshman orientation over the summer at their selected college–or if there will even be a fall semester.

Here’s to the kids who are wondering if they will miss their first time as a camp counselor or employee at the Froyo stand or the internship they worked so hard to get.

Here’s to the kids who were hoping to get their first kiss at the prom.

Here’s to the kids who dreamed of going to States in track or baseball or show choir.

Here’s to the kids who wanted to put themselves out there and try something new this spring.

Here’s to the kids who worked hard all year to come back from an injury.

Here’s to the kids who found their tribe in the band or CHOIR or drama department and now feel lost without their people.

Here’s to the shy boy who was working up the courage to ask the new girl out for a movie. Here’s to the lonely girl who was just starting to make friends in her art class. 

Here’s to the kids who have studied all year for their AP’s and now sit anxiously wanting to get it over and done with.

Here’s to the kids who have worked hard all year to build up their GPA and now are unsure if their grades count.

And here’s to the kids who miss school because it was their safe place, where they were fed, where someone showed they were valued and loved.

Here’s to the kids whose lives are forever changed, forever branded with the mark of a virus that they do not fear but impacts them greatly.

We talk about big events like proms and graduations and college tours, but it’s not the big things they are missing. It’s the moments woven into these milestones, the imprints of these rites of passage.

We won’t know the long-term effect this will have on our kids for years, so let’s lift them up while we can.

Their grief is real, even if it seems small to us.

Their sadness is justified.

Their lives are changed.

May we remember their perspective is small and their feelings are big.

We can’t give you back the moments, the experience, the time, but we can acknowledge it hurts.

Here’s to the kids. ♥♥♥

I check in with my choirs via ZOOM.  Monday night at 7p.  The end of the week at 1p and 1:45.  They make it if they can.  After the general greeting, I place them all on mute and then unmute, one at a time, to check-in, to hear what they have been up to.  The Monday night group ends with an In-House Scavenger Hunt – broken into four teams – one point for each item they bring back to the screen…a slice of bread, a hammer, a frying pan, a piece of cheese, a newspaper – BONUS POINTS – a VHS tape…  I ask that they keep their ZOOM on so I can hear their chatter and laughter.  Once the points are tallied, I ask for “proof” by showing me their slice of bread (“Retz, I’ve already eaten it!), their hammer, their frying pan…  It’s silly but the laughter is refreshing and it creates a brief respite from whatever they are experiencing in their homes during this unprecedented time.

We have one week until Spring break – yes, later than most.  So the assignment for everyone in the department this coming week was to create a Photo Essay – An assignment I completed first; so that they would know my responses as well.  See below and use if you’d like.

I am still sharing practice tracks of music with my singers.  One more Spring Concert piece for two choirs in the unlikely event we are returning.  My request so far is that “we have to be ready at a moment’s notice IF we are permitted to return and perform”.  I think, at this point, they would settle for a parking lot performance.  Social distancing, of course.

Be well and stay safe and healthy.

As always, thanks for reading.


How about a Blog with no title…


butterflyMan, oh Man, oh Man.  Not in anyone’s wildest imagination could we have seen this one coming!  Wash Your Hands.  Social Distancing.  Distance Teaching.  Self Isolation.  This is all crazy talk, right?  Man, oh Man, oh Man.

This is now week three for me.  The first two weeks were “review”…don’t add instruction, just maintain your classes until further notice.  This Monday we were permitted to restart instruction and move our classes forward.  We’ve gone to an A/B schedule.  I teach all my classes on “A” Day.  I was so happy to teach my Music Theory class – they are simply a dream and it was just great seeing them on ZOOM – (which is such a life-saver here)!  My Chorale class is being co-managed by our student teacher.  My Concert Choir was set to share their DECADES show on the 19th.  My A Cappella Choir had tickets to see Ain’t to Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations this Saturday and had a trip to a Music in the Parks – Hershey trip planned for May.  Canceled and refunded.

As teachers, we watched the internet become FLOODED with a bazillion “great” ideas for distance teaching…of course, the biggest question circled around virtual choirs, with folks thinking that you just need to gather the kids on the screen and “POOF”, it’s a well-balanced, beautifully blended choral sound.   (It doesn’t happen quite that way…)

The last sentence of this article says it all…


Teachers feeling pressure in every single direction, especially if they became responsible for teaching their own children at home…or if they have older relatives who are now living alone…or if their spouses/partners have lost their jobs – that list goes on and on.  Everyone in a house now vying for PC/MAC use and hoping they have enough bandwidth to cover the new normal.  Crazy times.

Folks have taken to writing to try and put words to this mess.  With permission, I share these thoughts from two colleagues who have captured what many of us have been feeling so succinctly…This from Tom V.

So, I have been wanting to post what it is like teaching online for a while now. I wanted to tell you that music teachers have this and are doing great. However, let me tell you the truth. It sucks. Not because I can’t do it. I have been working 24/7 figuring it out. It sucks because the kids aren’t there in front of you. They aren’t taking chances, they aren’t singing wrong notes, so I can fix them, they aren’t telling me their problems, they aren’t telling me there hopes, they aren’t telling me that they will work harder, they aren’t asking to go to the bathroom, they aren’t sneaking on their cell phones, they aren’t engaged like I expect every day. Oh, I could go on and on. You might even think this is like a vacation for teachers. But, no, it is heart-wrenching. Every day it is trying to keep them engaged in an unknown world. I pride myself as a teacher who can keep it real every day. This is hard. I have to admit it. But all of the tried and true teachers are doing their best in a workplace that is unknown. Just thought you all should hear it.

And this, from Joe P.

It’s surreal. You wake up the same time everyday as always, follow the routine you’ve followed for decades, only to sit alone in a room with a laptop computer. The warmth of their smiles and the sound of their music is gone, replaced by the cold, blueish glow of a tablet or your iPhone. For those who have suggested that this may catch on, that when this is over, many will have come to the conclusion that online learning is the way to go, obviously have or had a different experience than mine.

Teachers schedule ZOOM or Google Hangout meetings and kids don’t show.  We know some don’t have PC’s at home.  We know some depended on school for lunch.  We know so much about all these kids because we were on the front lines of their health and well-being, not to mention their Choral Music Education.  And now we post assignments in Google Classroom because there needs to be a grade on a report card that will help finish the school year.  Crazy times.

So, as I have in the past, I’ll post some of what I have assigned and some of what I have done and if you can use it, please do.  The most fun I’ve had with the kids was this past Monday when my A Cappella Choir “met” at 7p on ZOOM and after we all caught up with one another, I scheduled and IN-HOUSE SCAVENGER HUNT.  4 slides – Simple Rules – Keep the ZOOM on and I heard giggles and laughter and kids being kids again – even if it only lasted about 20 minutes…

ACC Scavenger Hunt

I discovered Doreen Fryling’s blog and fashioned the next few weeks of assignments from it for my Concert Choir – thanking her a million times for this generosity.

Here is the link to her blog:


Here are two of the assignments I fashioned from her suggestions:

CONCERT CHOIR – EXPLORE-Reflective Assignment – Scheduled – Tuesday, April 7 – Due Tuesday, April 14

CONCERT CHOIR – PERFORM-Reflective Assignment – Scheduled – Monday, March 30 – Due Friday, April 3

And this appeared online pretty early on…


We’re all trying.  Exploring and sharing in a new frontier.  I told all my classes, early in the week, that I think we needed to think about all of this through the lens of the Five Stages of Grief since I felt as though we had all lost something of magnitude in our lives, however that was defined.  Today I received this in an email…which continues to define and redefine what we are feeling.  It’s a great read.


And we’ve got to be grateful for the humor – the memes – the photos and videos that folks are creating and posting and sharing to do their best to remain connected.  It’s affected everyone for sure.

So my friends, stay safe.  Wash your hands.  Keep your social distance.  Stay at home.  Drink wine.  Play board games.  Binge watch TV.  ZOOM with your family and friends.  Do what you can to flatten the curve ’cause We’re all in this together… (cue choreo and song).

As always, thanks for reading.