Friday, August 14, 2015

Back to School 2015

Teachers are people too.  Life happens to teachers who are people too.  For the first summer in five years, I took the summer off.  I usually teach water safety during the summer months when I am not in school, but decided that this was the year I needed a break.

Six out of the previous nine months were spent caring for my mom who was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in October.  I barely crawled over the finish line at the end of the school year.  I was exhausted and needed time to re-group.  I envisioned reading 400 page novels on the beach, surf fishing as often as possible, swimming laps for exercise and running 5Ks on a regular basis.  I managed to squeeze in the running, but not much else this summer.

Right after graduation, my "swagger wagon" blew a gasket and my mechanic discovered a crack in the engine block.  After 18 years of driving the same vehicle, I had to purchase another car.  It was bittersweet to see her go, but there was nothing that could be done for her.  The "Big Red Whale" was laid to rest.

  Kia Forte - it was musical.  Had to have it.

If that weren't enough excitement for one summer, we experienced a rather significant house fire in early August.  My common areas have been taken down to the bare walls while repairs are being made to the house.  This will take months to finish.  All five of us escaped without injury, but my house suffered quite a bit of damage.  Trying to keep my mind on the positive aspects right now and figure out how we're going to function once school is back in session.  I am currently working out of the trunk of my new car....

Teachers report on Monday, August 17th.  The fire forced me out of my home and into my classroom.  I am ready for school to begin.  I've never been this far along before.  In the past few weeks, we've started a Spirit Bandana fundraiser, my classroom is set up, 200 copies of the FHS Chorus Handbook are waiting on the piano and chorus calendars are ready to go. I've met with Booster Board members and Student Officers to plan out the best year ever! I've got great people who are in place and ready to serve.  Bye-Bye Summer of 2015.  Bring on the 2015-16 school year!
Until next time...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Camp Textbook

Well, we are three weeks into Summer Vacation and two of the last three weeks have been spent at school helping my own kid finish his volunteer hours.  This is the first summer in the past 5 years that I haven't worked.  I was unable to find a job.  I decided to let it go.  God must have other plans for me.  Boy, did He ever.....

My son needed 62 more hours to reach the AICE program's requirement for the Bright Futures Scholarship Program.  I signed him up to volunteer at the hospital which required a TB test ($45), the purchase of a uniform (more money), my skill at sewing a patch on his red polo shirt, a trip to HR for a name badge, a HIPAA test (which he passed) and a tour of outpatient surgery, where he would be working for six weeks this summer.  All of this for 24 hours towards his goal.

I also signed him up to work at a sports camp at the local university.  That process required that he be finger-printed, have an FBI background check, we get an "Affidavit of Good Moral Character" notarized and make several trips to the university to drop off paperwork.  He also gave up his paying job for 2 days to train for this volunteer experience and get certified by the Red Cross in CPR and Basic First Aid.  He worked the first week of said camp only to discover that the hours he was putting in would not count because "the students paid a fee to participate in the camp."  Needless to say, I pulled him out and found another volunteer opportunity for him.

We finally landed at "Camp Textbook." My assistant principal said she needed help bar-coding books and would give him volunteer hours if he would assist.  We were getting 2000 new textbooks this summer that had to be bar-coded and moved to the Media Center from the front office.  Today was Day 6 of Camp Textbook.  What began as a bar-coding party turned into a "re-organize the book room, crate old books for pick-up, shelve bar-coded books for scanning, move empty boxes, fill empty boxes, walking, pushing, bending, full-body hurting" kind of party - definitely an Advil and ice pack kind of party.

There was so much to be done, I had to call in reinforcements.  As of today, the Drama teacher, my son, my niece, my cousin and myself have "enjoyed" Camp Textbook to the fullest.  We have sweated together as a family should.  (The Drama teacher felt sorry for us and has shown up every day to help.)  We are enjoying it so much, we will return again next week for more fun at Camp Textbook.

I told my son that he would have his hours by the end of this summer.  And, by sweat equity, he will!

Until next time...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Staycation

Cummer Museum and Gardens
Jacksonville, Florida

So I woke up this morning and opened the newspaper.  I spotted an article about the Whitfield Lovell "Deep River" exhibit at our local art museum.  Because of the shootings in Charleston, the museum was not charging an entry fee, so I asked my husband if he would like to join me.  He has been to the Cummer numerous times because he is a visual artist and an elementary art teacher.  At first, he declined.  Then agreed to go if we could extend our visit to include the Riverside Arts Market.  I had never been there, so I agreed.  I had read about the "Deep River" exhibit and wanted to see it.  He was rather cynical about the entire thing, but we went with an open mind and neither of us walked away disappointed.  

As a matter of fact, we were blown away by the flood of emotions we felt as we stood there, immersed in the Lovell exhibit.  Tears were streaming down our faces.  It was incredibly moving.  There were so many parts to the exhibit, but each part featured Lovell's haunting Conte crayon portraits of African Americans who fled from slavery to freedom by crossing the Tennessee River.  The exhibit used sculpture, video, drawing, sound and music to draw you into the experience.  I have never experienced anything like it.  I highly recommend it, especially if you a not a connoisseur of art.  This is art, but it is different and it will move you.  I promise!

If that weren't enough excitement for one morning, I found the most incredible vendor at the Riverside Arts Market.  This woman takes photographs of items all over town - each one representing one letter of the alphabet.  You get to be the artist and put them together to create whatever you wish.  I am a great fan of mosaic and was able to construct this visually engaging piece while standing under the Fuller Warren Bridge.  My husband is going to frame it for me as a "back-to-school" gift in August.  I am in love!!!!!!

I will hang this proudly in my classroom next year!
Soooooooooo excited!!!!!

Until next time...

Thursday, June 11, 2015


So.......we made it to the end of another school year and it has been both exhilarating and exhausting, invigorating and infuriating -- and it has finally come to an end.  To recap a few memorable events from the 2014-15 school year...

We received a bomb threat last fall and had to evacuate the building.  We sat in the stadium for over an hour while the bomb squad searched the building.  They found nothing.  In October, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and I became a caregiver once again.  There was scuttlebutt surrounding our football team's quarterback. One of our finest teachers died of a massive heart attack less than one week after retirement.  Another had a stroke and was forced into retirement before she was ready.  Others left mid-year, overwhelmed by their students or their schedule.  They simply walked out the door.  There were ups and downs this year, but nothing could have prepared me for the handwritten note that was left on my board on the final day of classes from one particular student.

This student is one of those kids who has so much potential, but has absolutely no idea how to channel his unbridled energy to reach that potential.  This is a kid who did everything in his power to provoke me, begging to be thrown out of my classroom on a regular basis by his poor choices and ill behavior.  This is a kid that responded to correction only when it was to his benefit to do so.  This is a kid whose parents love him dearly, but have absolutely no idea how to help him succeed in life.  This is a kid that is starved for attention and will do whatever it takes to make sure others notice him.  This is a kid I hope will graduate one day -- even though the odds are currently stacked against him. 

I learned early on in the year that this child would require "tough love" and I was not going to give up or give in to him.  I wrote referrals, I made phone calls home, I separated him from anyone who would become a distraction to him -- I rode him like a cowboy rides a bucking bronco the entire school year.  I would not let up.  I doled out consequences over and over again.  Consistency was the key.  I used every trick in my "bag of tricks" with this kid.  By mid-year, he was responding to correction appropriately.  The phone calls home subsided.  If I re-directed him, he complied.  Progress was being made, however, I looked forward to the end of the year when we would part ways and move on to other things.

I figured he would be so relieved to be rid of me that he would walk out the door at the final bell and never look back.  Maybe he was relieved, but he didn't leave without expressing his heart with a note he wrote in red on my board. 

I was overcome with emotion as I stood there staring at that board.  I began to cry.  I could not stop the tears.  I had a student officer meeting right after school.  When they came in, I was still crying.  I explained to them that this kid is the reason I wake up in the morning, get dressed and drive to school.  This kid is the kind of kid that brings meaning to my day (along with a lot of frustration).  I am certain that I have made an impact on this kid.  I desperately want this kid to succeed and I know that I haven't seen the last of him.  He will be back.  He proclaimed as he walked down the hallway that I was his favorite teacher and he wished me a happy summer.  Unbelievable.

There is a verse in the book of Philippians which reads, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  (Phil 4:8)

I did my best to search out the true, the noble, the right, the pure, the lovely and the admirable in this child for an entire school year.  My prayer is that the seeds I sowed in him for the past 180 days will one day mature and bear fruit in his life and this fruit will be "excellent and praiseworthy."

Until next time...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Miller and Me

I am fairly certain most folks have heard of the book entitled, "Marley and Me." Or if not, maybe you saw the movie.  That particular book had a rather sad ending; this particular story does not.

This is a story about "Miller and Me."  Our story began when Miller was 4-years old and singing in my children's choir at church.  Miller was a beautiful child, inside and out.  Miller loved to dance, but had not yet found her singing voice.  It was my job to help her find it and use it "for the glory of God" for as long as she was in my choir.  She stayed two years.  At the time, I was unaware that her mother was an elementary school principal.  All I knew was that Miller had a tough time sitting still and that she had severe food allergies. I related with this particular parent; my son had the same problem.

When Miller turned 5, she began kindergarten at one of the top-notch elementary schools in Northeast Florida.  This was the same school where her mother was principal.  My baby was two years behind Miller in school, so when it was time for him to start kindergarten, I decided to look for work as a music teacher in the public school system.  I had been teaching music at a private pre-school and was hoping for a full-time job the following school year.  The headmaster at the K-8 school that was attached to this pre-school had interviewed me and wanted to hire me as their full-time music teacher.  My heart was very unsettled on the matter, so I could not commit to her offer.  It wasn't until several weeks later, that I discovered why....

The bass player on our church's worship team played at a wedding one Saturday night with the music teacher at an elementary school in Duval County.  He informed me that the current teacher's wife had been transferred and he would be moving at the end of the school year.  Not ever being one to waste time, I did an online search only to discover that the principal of this particular elementary school was Miller's mother.  And, so it began.  The story of "Miller and Me" and our musical journey together.

Her mother hired me part-time my first year with the understanding that as soon as she could, she would move me to full-time. This was at a time when music was being cut at the elementary level all across the district.  My mom and I spent two weeks over the summer in "my" classroom cleaning it up and getting it ready, although my paperwork had not yet been finalized.  I even showed up for work at the start of the school year - I worked two full weeks - and still had no idea if I actually had the job.  Towards the end of the second week of school, I was passing through the cafeteria during lunch to check on my own little kindergartener and the principal smiled at me from across the cafeteria and gave me a big "thumbs-up."  I knew at that moment, God had intervened and it was official.  I was an elementary music teacher at the best school in the system! And my kids got to go with me!!

I remained in that teaching position for the next nine years - the longest I had ever held a position in my entire life. I was Miller's music teacher until she moved on to Middle School.  Last year, Miller and I reconnected when I accepted a position as the Director of Choral Studies at my former high school.  She and I have spent the last two years together in chorus - I as her teacher, she as my student.  At our Spring Concert, it is tradition to celebrate our seniors.  There she little Miller....on the stage proclaiming to the world that she would be attending Clemson University in the fall and performing with the Tiger Dance Team.  That was a very proud moment for me.  Her mother stood at the edge of the stage with tears in her eyes thanking me for being such an incredible part of her daughter's life-journey. 

This time of year is always bittersweet for a teacher.  My seniors graduate and move on in their life-journey.  Some will come back and visit; others will not.  This particular student will forever be a part of my life and emblazoned on my heart.  So will her mother.

Miller, you now have permission to call me by my first name.  That is what grown-ups do.  Congratulations on graduating from high school and making the Tiger Dance Team!!  I am so proud of you!!  Wishing you the best, now and always.  Love you - Mrs. Tamburrino

Mrs. Tamburrino and Miller
Until next time...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Opening of the Beaches Parade 2015

90 degrees and sunny, with a decent breeze blowing (depending on which way you were facing).  I forgot to ask someone to take my picture while marching, so you get the preparatory pix.

Purple shoes.......check.
Workout gloves........check.

Warming up at Wells Fargo

We usually go first in the line-up, but they changed that this year.  We finally stepped-off at 2:15.  Thankful it didn't rain on our parade, although, it may have been refreshing at the 1-mile point.

Saw a couple of chorus kids and one keyboard kid on the parade route.  Always fun to see folks you know lined up along the street.  It's nice that they come out and cheer on the band.  After all, we are the "Pride of the Beaches."

I told the band director that this was the 69th year this parade had been held and I bet I was the first ever to march with a tambourine.  It is fitting.  My last name is Tamburrino!!

Until next time...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Recruiting for Chorus

Today, we made the mad-dash across Seagate Avenue to join the FHS Drum Line and Color Guard on their annual recruiting trip to our feeder school.  Although we were missing quite a few seniors because of Grad Bash, we decided to go anyway!

The chorus teacher at the middle school invited us over early to warm-up in the room where she was teaching a 6th grade chorus class.  We sang several vocalises for them and my Ladies Chamber Chorus sang "Cantate Domino."  We finished our time together by singing a medley of Disney songs from "Beauty and the Beast," "The Jungle Book" and "Mary Poppins."  The kids seemed to enjoy the experience and it was good for my students to step outside of our classroom and share their gift of song with others.

We then made our way to the gymnasium for an 8th grade assembly.  We sang, the Color Guard twirled and the Drum Line wrapped up the event for everyone.  At the conclusion of the program, two of my boys from the elementary school where I previously taught came flying off the bleachers and ran across the gym to give me a hug.  It was awesome!! I hadn't seen those boys in years and they were so excited to see me.  That made my day!!

This is the very room in which my choral conducting career began.....
(circa 1973)
Good times.....