Monday, June 5, 2017

FHS Hall of Honor 2017

Mrs. Jane Palmer
Mrs. Dee Dee Tamburrino

Today was a very special day.  I had the privilege of celebrating a master teacher and my mentor with our faculty.  Our lives have been very similar.  She was one of five sisters growing up; I was one of four.  She began her teaching career at the elementary level and moved up to high school, where she remained for fifteen years.  I did the same.  I taught for nine years at the elementary level and am now a high school chorus teacher.  She taught for 35 years; I'm hoping to reach 20!  (I'm a late bloomer!)
Jane G. Palmer, formerly the chorus teacher at Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School (where I am currently teaching) was inducted into our "Hall of Honor" today.  She will receive a plaque to take home and her name will be added to a plaque in our front office.  The PTSA has will also donate a brick in her name at the school.

Jane is a 35-year veteran of Duval County Public Schools.  She retired in June, 2013.  At Fletcher High School, she was the Performing Arts Department Chair, Teacher of the Year and a dedicated musician who instilled a love of choral music in thousands of students.  Her award-winning choirs performed in the Florida Vocal Association's Music Performance Assessments, annually at Disney's Candlelight Processional in EPCOT (Orlando, FL), at the White House in Washington, D.C. and at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2012.

I have known Jane for many years and it was an honor to celebrate her today.  Without her dedication and support, I would not be where I am today.  Thank you, Jane, for your for your friendship.  I congratulate and celebrate you today!!

Until next time...

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It's a Wrap!

At the end of every school year, I always take a step back and reflect on what has been and what is to come.  2016-17 has been one of the most challenging years of my teaching career.  Much of the difficulty stemmed from life experiences that had absolutely nothing to do with my teaching.  I found it difficult to separate the two, although I tried diligently to do so.  I need closure on this school year and I hope that writing about my experiences in this blog post will help me achieve this.

Two days before the school year began, my son shredded his ACL in a pick-up basketball game.  Today is June 3rd and he has not yet been discharged from the orthopedic doctor that took care of him.  This incident occurred on August 13th.  His treatment plan required 6 weeks of pre-habilitation to strengthen his quads prior to surgery,  a bone-to-bone graft to build a new ACL and months of physical therapy to regain the use of his leg.  He sees the surgeon on June 7 and we are hopeful that he will be given a clean bill of health at that time.

One month into the school year, my mother was told that her cancer had returned and that she had approximately 12 months left on the planet.  She opted to try alternative therapies this time.  She had already tried chemo-therapy and it made her deathly ill.  She is 82 years old.  If she was going out, she wanted to live the last few months of her life feeling healthy even if she wasn't.  We took her to a master herbalist who overhauled her diet and gave her a very strict food protocol.  We were told that cancer is a symptom of an unhealthy immune system and we were going to use food the way God intended - to nourish, strengthen and heal.  I am happy to report that she has confounded her oncologist and has astounded the rest of us over the past nine months.  Looking at my mother, you would never know she was ill.  She is looking forward to our annual family reunion in July.  We are grateful.

In January, my mother's baby sister passed away.  She had Alzheimer's disease.  Her passing was 10 years in the making.  In my opinion, this disease is far worse than cancer.  The patient slowly loses their mind and as the years pass, their decline affects them and everyone around them.  Our family is large and we are very close.  We will never be the same again.

From January through April, 2017, I suffered terribly from a bacterial infection.  This infection made me feel horrible.  I drug myself into work and did the best I could under the circumstances.  I was sent from doctor to doctor for treatment.  By the time I landed in the infectious disease doctor's office, I had been on multiple rounds of antibiotics, none of which were working to kill this thing.  Four weeks into my treatment plan, I took matters into my own hands and began to drink apple-cider vinegar daily to change the pH of my body so that this creature would die off.  I am a firm believer in alternative therapies when the practice of Western medicine doesn't provide the outcome we are seeking.  I am happy to report that I am fully recovered and was able to finish the school year without issue.  My students never knew.

Graduation Day was yesterday.  It has never been on the last day of class.  This created one of the most interesting dynamics I have ever experienced with logistics.  Schools dismiss early on the last day of class.  Buses are needed to deliver bands and choirs to graduation.  24 hours prior, I was trying to resolve our bus crisis with the carrier.  We had reserved buses weeks in advance.  39 drivers were out yesterday.  They did not have enough drivers to handle the regular routes and cover additional routes at the same time.  We consolidated our students from 3 buses to 2 which enabled the bus company to provide drivers and buses where needed.  Prior to the ceremony, I had to track down a backpack that was left on the bus that was needed for the ceremony, care for a singer that fainted on the risers just before we were to sing our senior song, and console my accompanist whose music blew off the piano when the air conditioner turned on during our performance.  She played the beginning of our piece and the end of our piece, but the middle was sung a cappella until she could re-group and finish with us.  My singers have been trained to keep singing no matter what.  They did.  I could not have been more proud of them.

On a positive note, my family celebrated three graduations in the past three weeks.  They were milestones on many fronts.  My eldest graduated from college, my youngest graduated from high school and my nephew graduated from high school yesterday while I was in "crisis management" mode at his ceremony.  I am hoping that his experience was very different from mine.  I am thankful my mom could be there to see her grandchildren reach these milestones.  And I am thankful God has blessed me with the ability to handle crisis with grace.

Next week brings two days of post-planning and the end of another school year.  It was a tough one, but I am a better person because of it.  I have been through the "Refiner's fire" and have come out unscathed.  I have no idea what tomorrow brings, but I am thankful for today.  It is now time to turn my attention to 2017-18.  A teacher's job is never done, just like a mother's.  I am both.

Until next time...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Teacher Appreciation 2016-17

The collection....

As I gaze across my classroom trying to decide where and how to begin my day, I see a memorial of sorts.  These are gifts my students have given me over the past several months.  

They include a framed photo of one of my senior girls in her Chorus T-Shirt.  She's been with me in chorus for the past four years and wanted to wear her t-shirt in her senior photo session. I was honored by this.  It is truly a gift.

Another is a white teddy bear with a Hershey bar and its companion book, "Why You're the Best Teacher Ever" completed in a student's handwriting.  It is a fill-in-the-blank book in which she did an amazing job reminding me of why I teach in the first place.  I was blessed to glimpse into this child's heart through her writing.

The next is a black and gray monkey with a heart in his hands.  This came from a student I have taught since elementary school.  He comes from a large family and has very little money.  Over the years, I have fed him, clothed him and covered his chorus participation fees.  I have done this with a cheerful heart and "as unto the least of these." He is such a blessing in my life.

Today, one of my 6'5" boys rode his skate board to Duncan Donuts to buy me coffee on his way to school.  The outside of the cup was completely covered in coffee from the sloshing which occurred on his way from the store to the school.  I didn't care.  This was such a thoughtful gesture on his part and I was touched by his kindness.

Yesterday, my principal came into my classroom to do my Formal Observation.  I had prepared my students for this and explained that "I only get one shot to prove myself as a teacher every year and I chose you to help me be my best.  Please be here, be on time, be in the moment and responsive to anything I ask while I'm teaching.  I am counting on you to support me in this."  The energy, the love, the support, the connection between singer and conductor was astounding.  They stepped up and made me shine!  There were lots of teachable moments.  I am forever grateful for their effort yesterday. 

Teaching is tough.  These "random acts of kindness" by our students are what get us through the day sometimes.  There are days when I am struggling in the classroom.  There are days I am questioning myself and wondering if it's time to hang up my "teacher hat."  I wear many of them and it is exhausting.  When I am really down, I read a "gratitude board" in my office filled with thank-you notes from students and colleagues.  On occasion, will scroll through my blog and be uplifted.  This is one of those days.

Until next time...