I can’t believe it’s Sunday already. What happened?! That was the fastest week in history. We had an amazing break, but for right now, I’m just going to focus on the last day of school before break.
Friday the 13th started out inauspiciously (surprise surprise). We were informed about an hour before school let out that Honey’s third grade teacher was resigning over an investigation into anomalies in her classroom’s standardized test results from last year. The investigation has been going on since October, with her teacher on leave since the beginning of January. It’s been messy, emotional and confusing for everyone.†
When you buy a house, it’s location, location, location. When you get married, it’s communication, communication, communication. And when your kids start school – well, it’s both, really. The past few months have demonstrated this quite neatly for us. I won’t burden you with all the details, but I can tell you that if a classroom full of parents with well developed “send all” email abilities gets wind of a favorite teacher being placed on administrative leave over the holiday break, all hell will break loose. And if there is no clear communication from the school before the term resumes, you might be amazed at what the children know once they get together again. (Like the student who knew that their teacher had been arrested for letting them chew gum while they took tests.)
The communication from the school board is sensitive in an situation like this, and I am respectful of the privacy issues involved, but this local drama really demonstrated that if you don’t control the story, your image takes a hit. Just ask any movie star or professional athlete. I think you have to provide clear, regular communication, or people will be inclined to suspect you are Up To Something. Our administration missed an opportunity for some major damage control by simply not communicating early, often and clearly with the parents in this case.
I’m not going to dwell on the bad stuff in this scenario, although there’s plenty of it. I am going to tell what happened after I got the email about Honey’s teacher resigning. I went in for the last hour of her day on Friday because one of the other parents had arranged for a San Francisco Opera Guild member to come into the class and conduct this interactive class called “Sing a Story.” The opera she introduced them to was the Magic Flute, and it was a fantastic class.
She started out by going over the rules (she’d clearly done this a zillion times). She told them she would have two types of questions during the program; arm up (she raised her hand to show an individual answer) and arms out (she spread her arms wide to indicate a collective answer). She ran a couple of test questions by them so they could practice, and there’s where the fun began.†
She asked an Arm Up question. “What instruments can you find in an orchestra?” Pointed to a student. “Violin!” Yes! Next? “Horns?” Yes! Next? “Ok – oboe, timpani, bass, cello, viola, harpsichord…” – this kid was a walking DK series book on the orchestra. The opera lady just blinked at him and said, “Ok! Great!”
Next up were the Arms Open practice questions. “What day is it?” The kids blasted back, “Valentine’s Day!” “Friday!” “It’s not Valentine’s Day, that’s not until tomorrow…” “The thirteenth!” “I know but we’re celebrating it today…” “The last day before vacation!” She just laughed and called them off. “Ok ok, let’s try something simpler…….. †What’s your teacher’s name?”
All of the parents in the back drew in their breaths, and then I had to laugh to myself. Poor woman – how could she have known this was the single room in the district where that was a seriously loaded question?! The kids just went off, and she looked truly bewildered.
After that, she told the story of The Magic Flute. Do you know it? It’s very long and very complicated. Mozart, that trickster, decided it would be hilarious to give everybody the same name on top of his usual convoluted story line. Even the opera lady got her Tamino and Pamina mixed up in the telling, and Pamina and Papageno were more than a little confusing as well. When she reached the end, we all sighed in relief, and one of the students in the class asked an Arm Up question. “What happened to Papagena?” The opera lady had been trying to streamline things a bit and left out one of the characters, so she did a little fancy dancing to explain why. BUSTED.†
The program was terrific, though – she had costumes and taught the kids small bits of the music and they all acted the story out together. She’d pull different kids up to be the main characters in various major scenes, and she’d play small selections of the music as they went along. There’s a highly dramatic moment when Tamino and Pamina are so overcome that all they can do is sing each other’s names, but it was difficult to appreciate the beauty of the moment due to the giggling of the mortified actors. Mostly, though, they were enthusiastic and engaged.†
I don’t have many photos without all the kids in them, but I did want to show this one cool effect – four kids were given sleeves with these cloth flames and they made two arches for their classmates to pass through for the Tamino’s trial by fire. It was such a simple yet successful effect.
When it was over, everyone gathered their things and headed out to vacation. As we shuffled out into pelting rain (and even sleet that day), I couldn’t help but think that the trials of silence, fire and water were oddly symbolic and appropriate for this class.
Well that’s all for now folks. It’s Oscar night and if you’ve been listening, they’ve been playing the “wrap it up already!” music at me for some time. I just have to say thank you to my mother and father for always encouraging me. And my sister and brother for leading by example…hppfh! Oh! I’m so sorry – I’m not really laughing – I’m just overcome with emotion – and to my wonderful husband for his brilliance and for keeping me grounded – and my two beautiful children who alw…….