Sunday September 6, 2015

Greetings!

As we are about to embark on the First Day of School, I thought I would begin by recapping my extraordinary summer vacation!  My husband Rick and I have adopted the motto, “Work Hard and Play Hard”, which, for us, means that we try to financially reward ourselves for the hours we spend at our respective jobs by spending quality time doing interesting things during Rick’s three-week  vacation time during the summer.

I started the summer by taking a week-long Level 1 World Music Drumming workshop in Middletown, PA.  Ever curious about this type of music-making, I was equally nervous about having never participated in an instrumental ensemble in my life!

If you are not familiar with the curriculum, there are seven ensembles in Level 1, each of which represent a combination of rhythm patterns played, predominantly on low, medium and high drums.  Add to that shakere, cowbell and gankogui and you’ve got yourself a whole bunch of fun!

By the end of the week, I was hooked!  So much so that I purchased 18 tubano drums and various add’l instruments for my choir and I plan on running  ensembles for my classes and workshops for my colleagues.  Here is a picture of my new “toys”! Tubano set

Back to the Summer Vacation.  Rick and I always feel so lucky because we have had experiences in travel and with friends that are very unique.  We’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower; we’ve slept in the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, (Yes, the bed is ice, the table is ice, the bar is ice, the chapel is ice, the movie theater is ice and yes….it’s cold!

Ice Hotelwe’ve taken a 12-night Baltic Cruise and spent two days exploring St. Petersburg, Russia and now we can add this summer’s adventures – a Trip to Churchill Canada on a six-night outing called “Belugas, Bears and Blooms”.  We saw beluga whales by the hundreds in the Hudson Bay;

DSCF0225 bears Bears Purple

I was about six feet away from this mama and her cubs – photographing from the back observation deck of a Tundra Buggy; we went for a dog-cart ride and, BONUS(!) saw the Northern Lights!  What a week!

And now, we’l l start another school year – #36/7 for me.  I had my A Cappella Choir retreat on Friday night and the group spent the evening doing icebreakers and bonding activities so we can all start the year on the same page.  They sang a little bit and have great potential.

I am going to attempt to create a Google webpage for school.  We currently use OnCourse, which is clunky at best.  We’ll see.

Here’s to a safe and happy start to 2015-2016!

Thanks for reading!

Barbara

Thursday June 18, 2015 – Graduation!

Today is the last day of the 2014-2015 school year. Graduation is 6:30p tonight – rain or shine. (and right now, it’s a bit spitty outside). My end of the year list includes:

  • Placing my “Early Bird” music order with University Music http://www.universitymusic.com/ with whom I have had a very successful 30+ year relationship. I have chosen repertoire for my Concert Choir and Chorale and have already distributed the repertoire in their first rehearsal last Monday to my A Cappella Choir, Voices of Ridge and Ridgemen.
  • Placing an order for tux shirts for the new tenors and basses of the A Cappella Choir.
  • Putting away well over 3000+ pieces of choral music.
  • Putting away Robes, stoles, dry-cleaned tuxes and gowns, cummerbunds, bow ties and suspenders.
  • Bringing home 50 white polo shirt to launder for next season.
  • Creating the attendance portion of my grade book for the A Cappella Choir.
  • Storing everything in my room in boxes over the summer – including dismantling my computers and printers.
  • Placing an order for Music Theory workbooks as I will have two sections of Theory next year – Fall and Spring. I use Benward Music in Theory and Practice
  • I have entered the spring concert repertoire in my EXCEL database which represents a complete listing, by year, of everything we have ever concertized in our Winter and Spring concerts.
  • I need to create QR codes for attendance for my three ensemble classes. They will go into the choir folders in the fall.
  • I have duplicated my lunch/study passes on card stock which permit my singers to come to my room from the cafeteria for daily Choir Sectionals.
  • I have replaced the dates on the classroom banner (created by VistaPrint) to reflect the concert dates for next school year. (See photo.)Banner
  • I will work on creating a new webpage in Google which will list all my handouts as attachments.
  • I need to create books for my accompanist.
  • I need to figure out how to repair three pairs of tux pants where the mechanism used to expand the waistband has broken. (I’ll probably sew Velcro onto the waistband as a quick fix!)
  • I have printed out clean uniform sign-out sheets for next year’s polo shirts, gowns, tux jackets and pants and robes & stoles.
  • I went through all my choral folders and replaced those that were beyond repair.
  • I will go through the “job description” pages that I have kept all year and update them with the notes I took. I found it to be a great help as I checked the monthly lists at the start and midway point of each month. I will post the complete 10-month job description here if you would like to model it for next year. I highly recommend it!

I am now looking forward to the World Drumming Class that I will take for one week in July. http://www.worldmusicdrumming.com/index.html and attending the NJ-ACDA Summer Conference to spend two days with headliner Ysaye Barnwell. http://www.njacdaevents.info/

It has been a wonderful year.

Thank you for reading and going along for the ride!

Happy Summer !

Barbara

Saturday June 6, 2015

My Spring Concert is Tuesday June 9th. I am so excited about this concert because all of the repertoire seems to fit each group like a well-tailored suit. We’ve had the music concert ready for a while now…it will be great to share it with family and friends. Come and join us if you’re in the neighborhood!

Spring 2015-JPEGThis is my concert flier. I’ve submitted a short article advertising the concert for the local paper which was printed on Thursday. This flier was published in our “Friday Folder” which has all-district distribution. This flier was placed in the PTO newsletter. This flier and a PDF of the same was emailed to every singer in the department to use as their FaceBook status, to Instagram; to get the word out to family and friends that they are singing on Tuesday night.

That’s a lot of work.

I have already rented my helium tank with which I will inflate 41 Green Mylar Graduation balloons for my seniors. I will tape the balloons to the railings of my choral risers for the night of the concert. I have collected one dollar from each of my grade 9/10 Chorale girls which will help defray the cost of the red carnations each senior will wear on their white shirt in the concert. I have ordered 25 long stemmed red-roses in ribboned presentation tubes/boxes which will be given to the 25 seniors as a 4-year Rose to celebrate and acknowledge their choice in placing Choir in their schedule for eight consecutive semesters.

These are the long-standing traditions of the Ridge High School Spring Choral program.

Today I am working on the repertoire for my A Cappella Choir for December. I will audition new members on Thursday the 11th. I hire three colleagues to serve as adjudicators and we use the same material as was learned and used daily as a warm-up in both ensembles for the NJ All-State Chorus auditions in April, including Tonal Memory.  This takes me out of the loop of judging and permits me to remain completely impartial to the selection process.

The list of acceptances will be posted on Friday the 12th.   I will hold their first rehearsal on Monday June 15th at 7p at which time they will receive their music for the December caroling season (11 SATB, 2 SSA, 2 TTBB) and a part CD (I still distribute an actual CD because it is easier for them to download their specific parts from that CD than to have them go to DropBox for their music, which, because there is less repertoire, I do in the Spring) from which they will learn/practice over the summer. (Whew! – Long sentence!)  Section Leaders will run sectionals in August. The expectation is that they will have thoroughly learned this music in summer study for the first rehearsal in September. I have been doing this for many, many years and while it is time consuming on this end, it is hugely rewarding in the fall.

I have changed up the Sibelius process just a bit thanks to the FABULOUS suggestion of Dr. Christopher Russell.

https://techinmusiced.wordpress.com/about/

Chris has been a huge help and resource for the last two years with tech and iPad issues and I finally had an opportunity on Friday to chat with him! He has suggested and I have invested in the app called NotateMe.  Notate Me has an in-app purchase called PhotoScore which allows you to take a picture of a score (iPhone 5 or later as you need the resolution provided by ios8), email it as an XML file and open in directly in Sibelius 7.5 – GENIUS!!!! I had previously scanned my enlarged and darkened photocopies with my HP All-in-One or asked my secretary friend to scan the same and send them to me as PDF files for importing but this new investment has been incredible to work with. It’s by no means perfect, but the scores come into Sibelius needing much less clean-up. I have put in about 4 hours today and am finished with five scores…unprecedented success in this process for me. I use these Sibelius recordings as learning tracks for the A Cappella Choir as well as their testing tracks (think Music-minus-One) in the fall. This technology is pretty nifty and for me, has been worth every penny I paid for it!

Okay, enough blogging…gotta’ get back to my input.

Here’s to the end of another school year!

One more Friday!

Thanks for reading…

Barbara

Choral Collaboration – Wednesday April 29, 2015

I have a very fortunate teaching situation. I have Choir Sectionals every day of the week during lunch periods/study halls. Almost every member of my SATB Concert Choir (guys grades 9-12 and 11th & 12th grade girls) takes two 25-minute sectionals a week and my grade 9-10 SSAA Chorale meets for Sectionals on Wednesdays. With the exception of approx. 20 singers in both ensembles, everyone is also in a five-day ensemble class.

Couple this with an unusual ability to pace quickly, my choirs are pretty ready for their June 9th concert. But it is the end of April. What to do with another 6 weeks other than introduce new literature (which I am currently doing)?

My Chorale class will learn to transpose. We have been working with identifying the notes on a keyboard and have done worksheets on half and whole steps. I will introduce the intervals of major and minor seconds and thirds as well as octave markings (8va and 8vb) and then I will have them transpose the Star Spangled Banner from C major down to Ab major. My Chorale class is a strong group of young singers and they are going to be fierce as they move into their sophomore and junior years. I want them to have as many marketable tools as singers as I can give them.

My Concert Choir has been divided into 18 groups of 5 (or 6) and the groups are working on videoing their responses to the following:

REQUIRED VIDEO RESPONSES FROM EACH MEMBER OF THE GROUP – CHOOSE ANY THREE:

  1. Why did you join choir?
  2. How has choir/Mrs. Retzko helped build your confidence as a musician?
  3. How does Mrs. Retzko foster a sense of community within the choir?
  4. Briefly complete this statement: “A musician should be able to____________________
  5. How has being in choir contributed to your overall high school experience? Studies say the best students are in music/the arts.

REQUIRED RESPONSES FOR SENIORS ONLY:

  1. What will be your biggest “take away” from choir? (i.e. a skill, a memorable experience / be succinct in your response)
  2. What skills have you learned in choir and how do you see yourself applying these skills later in life?

These questions came from a new teacher in a neighboring town who came to observe our program. He asked my singers a few of these questions at the end of their respective rehearsals but time did not permit a full exploration of answers. I was intrigued by the students who did choose to respond. Hence, I created this project around those questions.

Each group has been asked to determine a medium by which they will present their 10-12 minute video. So far, they are proposing:

  1. A Red Carpet Interview
  2. The Ellen Show
  3. Therapy Group Session – Choirholics Anonymous
  4. A Gameshow
  5. A skit where we pretend to be on a bus heading to our high school reunion
  6. CSI – Choir
  7. A scavenger hunt
  8. An interview/parody

They have also been asked to provide written responses to the following:

REQUIRED TYPED RESPONSES FROM EACH MEMBER OF THE GROUP:

(12 Point Font 1.15 spacing – fully, detailed paragraphs, not bulleted answers)

  1. Complete the sentence…I didn’t expect to____________________from choir.
  2. State your current grade. How could you have made each year in choir better?
  3. Seniors/Juniors…What advice would you have given your first-year-choir-member-self?
  4. Sophomores/Freshman… What advice would you give the incoming class of ninth graders?
  5. What would you want RETZ to know that she didn’t know? I wish my teacher knew _______

They have a timeline for completion and I have decided to REWARD THEM on their rubric by giving them an “A” if the written responses were turned in well in advance of the May 1st deadline.” They will get a “B” for turning it in on time and a “C” once it becomes a day late.

I am THRILLED with the response to this! FOUR DAYS EARLY, I received dozens of papers…more appeared this morning! Rather than punish them by dropping grades, they are buying into the idea of being proactive and not procrastinating! (At least some of them are!) They are also asking me to “tell my other teachers about this”. So, I’m telling you!

And, taken from an article that circled on FaceBook, their responses to the fifth question have been poignant and heartfelt.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/17/i-wish-my-teacher-knew-poignant-notes-from-students/

Were there only time to really converse with every kid that walks into my room. I understand that my job title is Choral Director and not ever Counselor or Therapist or Friend. They pay me to teach kids to sing. But, it is so critical to tapping into the emotions of each of them to generate the best experience we can in rehearsal. Sometimes a fine line, but always worth the investment.

So, if you need an end of the year activity, here’s one that is working for me.

I created my rubrics using https://www.forallrubrics.com/

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Barbara

You CAN teach an “old dog, new tricks” – March 26, 2015

It is the day after a three-day stretch of split-session PARCC testing.  I haven’t written in a while and much has happened in the interim.  Here are my thoughts.

CABARET 2015.  Because of PARCC testing, our preliminary schedule for administering the tests included sixteen delayed opening days in March and May.  This coincided with the time I have traditionally rehearsed our Broadway CABARET in our Concert Choir class.  We do nothing after school.  Everything is rehearsed in 42 minutes.  We come together for a Tech/Dress Rehearsal the night before from 5-9p.  When we run a delayed opening in our school, we run every period for 22 minutes.  I can’t choreograph six production numbers in 22 minute time blocks.  Knowing this on the first day of school, I announced that we probably would not have a CABARET this year.

As this would be year thirteen, that did not sit well with my Section Leaders and Officers.

Much discussion ensued and the suggestion was made to put it up early.  I sat down to sketch out the time it took to put up the show from March to May and determined that starting in December, with very strict deadlines, we could do it, in the exact same amount of time!  So, CABARET 2015 was performed for the public on Tuesday March 10th…two weeks after the musical and the week before the first set of PARCC testing dates.  I have attached the program to give you an idea of the numbers which were chosen from the Open Call auditions and the All-Cast numbers.  2015 Program-Act1-2

And, the outcome?  We were 185 seats away from a sell-out (we have a 1000 seat PAC) and we attribute the increase in ticket sales to the time of year.  (Previous CABARET’s were always the Thursday before Memorial Day in May, as we always have that Friday off as an in-service day).  The show was beautifully executed and enthusiastically received and my Concert Choir has bonded in a way I could not ever have predicted.  They have become closer as a class and as a performing ensemble.  An uptick from PARCC testing!

Knowing this and living through this new schedule, we will keep CABARET in March.  The project fills up those first two dreaded months of January and February and even though we were affected by snow delays and closures, everyone had practice tracks, music and YouTube videos of our choreography with which to practice.  It worked and it worked well.

CABARET is a terrific recruiting tool for my program.

Please email if you would like add’l information on what we do and how we do it.

Thanks for reading!

Barbara

January 31, 2015…A very valuable resource – no matter where you are on the Choral Education journey..

http://njacda.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Choral-Directors-Handbook-2014-03.pdf

When I served on the Board of Directors for NJ-ACDA, I was a contributor to a Choral Directors Handbook which can be found on the NJ-ACDA website.

Regardless of where you are on your teaching journey, it may be worth a few minutes to breeze through it and read the many contributions that brought the final compilation to life.  Always a good idea to review the basics…

Thanks for reading.

Barbara

Happy New Year! January 24, 2015

Happy New Year – 2015!

Greetings…and a Happy New Year to all, albeit a bit late.  We are nearly out of January and I feel like I was unable to catch a breath during the last three weeks of school.  The Christmas break was a long and relaxing one with overnights spent in NYC seeing shows (The Rockettes and It’s Only a Play with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick), five movies (Wild, Unbroken, Into the Woods, A Night at the Museum and A Theory of Everything) and attending a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education called Road Trip America where we, as a class, prepared Shrimp and Grits, Maine Lobster Rolls, Beignets, Philly Cheese Steaks, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Hushpuppies, five-way Chili, Fish Tacos and Gooey Butter Cake. (Yes, we rolled out of that class in need of a long NYC walk!)                                 The time away did not make for a rush back to work!

But, return to work, I did.  Once back in the Choir Room, we started immediately preparing for our Concert Choir Broadway CABARET which is created, produced and performed by my 93-voice SATB Concert Choir during period 8.  The format of the all-student production is two acts – the opener and closer of each act involves everyone in the class (All Cast).  Students have chosen “guy” numbers and “girl” numbers (two each) and the remainder of the show is solos and small group numbers that were auditioned for class choice with rubric scoring (Open Call).  I do not choose anything.  I only monitor and sometimes veto choices.  (“No, you CAN NOT do the Cell Block Tango from Chicago!”)  Students are permitted to audition with one solo and one other number.  The music was due in to our accompanist during the second week of December and we rehearsed with each of the Open Call numbers on Monday January 5th – after school from 2:30 – 8:30p  (jumping right back in!!!).

During the entire second week of January we ran Open Call auditions in class.  We get through nine songs in a class period.  Students are asked (not required) to vote using the nine-column rubric below:

                                                                 Please score using whole numbers only.  No .5’s!
Pitch Breathing Dynamics Diction Style/Character Tone Quality Comfort on Stage Costuming Evidence of
Intonation Phrasing Volume Clarity Personality Vowels Stage Presence Preparation
Projection Poise/Confidence

We use the same number system as All-State scoring; 1-9.  If a student is performing, they must give me a 1-3 sentence description of their selection so that everyone in the class will understand the context of their song in the show or movie.  I put that info under their name, show/movie and song title on the rubric.  I create wireless lapel MIC assignments for them and our Sound guy.  Auditions are held in the PAC.  I averaged between 54-59 students voting every day.

I take the scores sheets from each day and enter them into an EXCEL spreadsheet for averaging.  At the close of the fifth day, I sort all the scores low to high and announce the top 21 scores as those chosen to appear in the actual performance.  Those who did not make the cut are then given priority in the smaller solos we have in the All Cast, Guys and Girls numbers.  The final audition for the class is the coveted CABARET solo – open to any girl in the class and programmed just before the Curtain Calls.  The diversity of song choices this year is great!  Once I have created the program I will attach it to a future blog.

Now that we are back in the Choir Room, we are learning the music for the all class numbers.  (I am also teaching this music in Choir Sectionals – excusing those students in Sectionals who are not in the Period 8 class).  Again, with suggestions shared by the students and through an on-line Google Doc multiple choice in-class vote, we will open Act One with WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER and close Act One with YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT.  We will  open Act Two with FOR GOOD and close with THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS which is also our All Cast Curtain Call.  The guy’s numbers are GREASED LIGHTNING and OFFICER KRUPKE (which we do every year).  The girl’s numbers are MAMA, I’M A BIG GIRL NOW and BELLA’S FINALS (with a few word changes).  Student Choreography will begin in class on Monday.

The set for CABARET is twenty-five 4×8 decks in three heights (8”, 16” and 24”).  They are set five-in-a-row and I have ten 4x8x24, ten 4x8x16 and five 4x8x8.  This all fits in my Choir Room so we are practicing on the decks right from the start.

CABARET has previously been scheduled for the Thursday before Memorial Day as we have a professional day that Friday and Memorial Day Monday off.  We previously learned most of the Spring Concert rep from January to mid-March when we would hold Open Call auditions and then run CABARET stuff in class until the end of May; bringing back the Spring rep immediately after for the Spring Concert on the second Tuesday of June.

Well, looking at the PARCC testing schedule at our high school changed that.  We will begin PARCC testing on March 16 with eight consecutive delayed opening days for testing – leaving us to teach in 21-25 minute time blocks per period.  Can’t create a choreographed show with a schedule like that.  Initially, I just thought I would bag the whole CABARET project, (IT’S A LOT OF WORK!!!) but my Section Leaders and Officers became admirably pro-active in choosing dates and recommending solutions – the best of which was to schedule it before PARCC testing began and to choose more familiar all-cast songs for quick learning and memorization.

So, in addition to finishing marking period two on Wednesday this week and starting marking period 3 on Thursday (are you kidding me?), we are learning CABARET music in Concert Choir; my Chorale girls are filming five-minute commercial/recruiting videos to share with the eighth graders who will come to our Monday night rehearsal on the 26th; the A Cappella Choir has started Spring Competition rep and are also learning all of the Carmina Burana choruses to perform with the NJ Festival Orchestra at the end of May.  I just ordered the GUYS NITE OUT music, which is a recruiting program, now in its seventh year, which is accompanied by an outstanding elementary school choral director in our district who loves reconnecting with her kids in high school after having sent them off to the middle school from 5th grade.  We invite guys in grades 6-12, Dads, Grads and Grand-Dads, Uncles, Cousins, Neighbors…and over the past few years, we have averaged 65 guys on-stage for the Spring Concert!  There are five Monday night rehearsals which begin after Spring Break from 6-6:45p (right before my Monday night A Cappella rehearsal time).  I put the rep on-line with PDF’s and learning tracks so they can come ready to sing for the first rehearsal and my A Cappella guys learn the GNO music well in advance of the first rehearsal so there is a core of guys who already know the music for the first rehearsal.  It is great fun and it has produced the forty-three guys I currently have singing in the program!  (Thirty-eight who are in class every day!)

So, on this snowy Saturday, I still need to enter marking period 2 grades, finish a few Sibelius charts for my Men’s choir and choose some optional rep for eight singers who want to continue singing Madrigal music in the Spring.  Much like your world, there is always something left to do!

Hope your New Year is off to a strong start.

Thanks for reading!

Barbara

Wednesday December 17, 2014

REGION II CHORUS AUDITIONS – THE RESULTS!

On Friday October 10th, I wrote about the assignment I gave to every member of my department which was to sing the Region II Chorus audition for rubric grading. In addition to writing comments, I encourage many to audition by telling them that I “would love to help them polish their work” because “it would take very little to ready themselves for an actual audition”.

As a result, I had 24 students register to audition. I decided to pull a full-court press on helping them…they had to sing for me twice…one week apart prior to the audition day.

The first week, I was very detailed and forthright in suggesting things upon which to improve. The second week (audition week), I gave limited feedback one-on-one. Each of them was asked to sing some part of their audition in rehearsal as the class members sat down on the risers with their heads down and eyes closed (simulating a “blind” audition).  When/if they stumbled, I was able to coach them through recovery of all parts of their audition.

The results? 22 out of 24 were accepted into one of the two Region II Choruses… 11 in the Mixed Choir and 11 in the Women’s Choir! Another banner year for Ridge singers!

While one can say I have a strong talent pool here this year, I am convinced that these kids rise to the occasion because I have “spoken” to them through their assignment. It’s something I will continue to do every October.


O HOLY NIGHT

When I was in high school, the tradition at the end of the Christmas concert was the singing of Adolph Adams’ SAB version of O Holy Night where the third verse was performed as the coveted Senior Solo.

When I began teaching at Ridge High School, I established the same tradition and have carried it forward these thirty-plus years later. My twist, after the first few years, was to invite alumni up on the stage to sing as well.

Last night, our department shared its Winter Choral Concert with the community. The concert concluded with the alumni singing of O Holy Night with alumni invited onstage. I found myself suspended in time between my past and my present. I saw grads from all three decades of teaching, gathered on stage to sing together and create those moments that are beyond comprehension and so very difficult to describe. They took the stage by the dozens.  I was transported to memories of moments where I conducted each of them during their own tenure at Ridge. Mystical and magical for sure.

I hope your season has brought many memorable moments for you as well.

Thanks for reading..

Barbara

Monday December 1, 2014

RIDGE CHORALE SKIT PROJECT

My husband is my hero.

After a Thanksgiving weekend spent in Germany celebrating the half century birthday of a dear friend, I woke up this morning wondering what I was going to do with my period 9 Chorale girls.  They are so ready for our concert…beautifully ready…and I did not want to continue to sing their program over and over again for the next 12 days.

What to do…what to do…

I needed an idea for an in-class week long project.  I know!  We’ll create skits in each section…but what shall the topic be?  Something relevant would be the holidays or Christmas but I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be representative of the diversity in the class.

I walked into the kitchen to prepare my lunch and shared what I had so far with my husband, Rick.  In a New York minute he said, “Frozen”…the title should be “Frozen:_____________________”!

O.M.G!

All I needed was the idea and I ran with it.

I have attached the instructions I distributed to the class and THEY LOVED IT!  I have a split section of SI’s, SII’s and a split in the alto section so there are 5 groups.  So far their titles are

FROZEN: The journey Home

FROZEN: Princesses with Icy Hearts

FROZEN: Thawed

FROZEN: Let’s Break the Ice

FROZEN: I’m still…still…STILL…waiting!

And of course, the moral of each story…LET IT GO!

This will be such a fun week in class…watching them create for their presentations on Friday.  They are also charged with creating three rubric statements for grading.

Feel free to use it if you’d like!

Let the creativity begin!

Have a great week!

Barbara

Wednesday November 12, 2014

So today we said goodbye to marking period one and hello to marking period 2. Grades are now turned in for the eighteen class sections I have. Thoughts are now turning to polishing repertoire for all ensembles for December performances. Kids are still recruiting their friends into choir and I am taking every one of them.  I spend spare minutes during the day recording voice parts on cellphones so these newbies can catch up with the friends who recruited them.

I’ve announced to my Concert Choir that we WILL have a CABARET 2015…not in May, but in March…right after our Spring Musical and just before PARCC testing begins. Trying to create or establish any classroom momentum from March 16th to graduation will be a huge challenge. We will have eight delayed openings from March 16-25th. (Testing in Grades 9 and 10 English/language arts and All students in Algebra I or Algebra II;  Grade 11 English/language arts or all students in Geometry)

None of us are certain what the schedule will look like for teaching. When we run a delay for testing, the students who are being tested come to school at 7:35a and the rest of the school arrives for 10:35a…then we run 21-22 minutes periods 1 through 9 until 2:25p.

School will be closed on April 3rd for Good Friday. Our Spring Break, weather permitting, is April 13-17. PARCC testing will resume on April 21-27th with five delayed openings. (Grades 9 and 10 English/language arts; All students in Algebra I or Algebra II; Grade 11 English/language arts or all students in Geometry)

May 4-15 are AP exams. May 15th is the Senior Prom. Bio testing will give us two add’l delayed openings on May 26 & 27th. Physics Day, which wipes out all physics classes (ten busses??) to test the velocity of roller coasters at Great Adventure, is June 2nd. The Spring Choral Concert is June 9th. Graduation is June 18th. It won’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, my A Cappella Choir Honors has submitted their video testing to Edmodo for marking period 2 grades. My Concert Choir now has deadlines to meet in choosing all cast numbers for their March CABARET. My Chorale girls are minutes away from being performance ready so they are working on the basics I would normally start in January. After a review of the notes of the treble and bass clefs, accidentals and ledger lines (last week), their assignment today was to write out the parts they sing from two of their scores and identify the names of the notes…practical application of the notes they took last week. Everybody’s busy.

In the meantime, I cert 2have successfully completed the 40-hours of online study for the full 100-hour ESL certification!   I have met with Josue, a junior from Honduras, who has been assigned to me (by my request) for tutoring. He has limited English and he is testing my far-away and somewhat limited high school Spanish. I am enjoying the diversity of preparing for his after school tutoring session. It’s been fun!

Keep calm shirtAt the end of the school day today one of the two singers I had who participated in the All-National NAfME Honor Choir in Nashville presented me with a “thank-you” gift…(see photo). I love it!!! I think I will frame it and place it over the clock in my room for all to see…what a thoughtful gift!.

I hope you are all doing well in your corner of the world.

Thanks for reading!

Barbara