Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Long-Awaited List

It's 9:30, my hair is down, my glasses are on, my earrings are out, and my eyes want to close. Why am I even venturing to post, you ask? Because I've started to post three times and lost it every time, and I'm a determined woman.

It was a chilly walk across the mall after my 8 pm class in Furman Hall-- fall is on his way. I do love South Carolina's Indian Summer, though. It's a slippers-and-hot chocolate kind of night, but since I'm not at home, and I have abandoned white sugar, I'm contenting myself with hot licorice tea, and socks-- one mine, and one Katie's. (long story) I'm crashing at her place tonight, since she has one roommate in France this term (so I get an actual bed!), and since I've got to get up uber-early tomorrow so I can get my workout in early, so she & I can get up to Seneca as early as possible (We're going to Seneca, SC, an hour away, where Katie is doing her teaching internship, as part of getting our required 20 hours of classroom observations in. It'll be fun going together. =D).

All right, to make it onto the "10 Best Love Songs Ever," the songs have to be all-around wonderful. Not too mushy, not overly idolatrous ;D, something musically appealing, and lyrics that sound somewhat more sincere and less jaded from use than a Hallmark card. Three rules (eheh I'll even alliterate I'm so tired):
1) Memorable lyrics; poetry, people!!...sincere sweetness said in an original, non-mindlessly-repetitive way
2) Melodic/Harmonic quality; none of this "alternate between two chords (and one line) for 3.5 minutes" crap
3) Minimally idolatrous message; nothin' sketchy, and as little displacement of God as possible ...which is why, much as it pains me, I don't think Chicago's "Inspiration" can make it...

[[drum roll, please!]] In no particular order, after compilation and communal consideration by committee and category (ok, ok I'll stop ;D), we have:
1. Springtime Indiana (Sandra McCracken)
Why? "Never been good with my thoughts/and even worse with my words/but you read like familiar poetry that I have never heard.../" and "you came in without notice, settled all around my heart/took up residence in the places that were vacant and dark..."
2) For My Love (Bethany Dillon)
Why? She captures the godly female heart's longings SO well throughout the entire song. Just take the chorus: "...let me know you'd fight/thousands, for my love/slip your hand in mine/ ask me to dance with you tonight/ just ask me/ for my love."
3) She's My Kind of Rain (Tim McGraw)
Why? Besides the fact that the music video shows him with his wife and children, the line "She's the sunset's shadow;/She's like Rembrant's light..."
4) Sweet Afton (Nickel Creek's version)
Why? The Celtic words catch so beautifully, but it's Chris Thile's melody-- lilting, tender, and a little haunting-- and Sean & Sara Watkins' harmonies that rank it here
5) Beautiful Soul (Jesse McCartney)
Why? Read a little of this refreshing break from shallow, lust-over-love pop: "I don't want another pretty face/ I don't want just anyone to hold/...I want you and your beautiful soul/ You're the one I wanna chase/ You're the one I wanna hold/...I want you and your beautiful soul."
6) If You're Not the One (Daniel Beddingfield)
Why? I was first taken in by the sheer sweetness in his voice, and impressed by his musical virtuosity (great falsetto). The lyrics are a cheesy enough to make you grin, and then he has to go and be ready to commit on top of that ;D: "If you're not the one/ why do I dream of you/ as my wife?"
7) All I Ask of You (music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, lyrics by Charles Strouse & Richard Stilgoe, sung by Sara Brightman & Steve Barton)
Why?'s from Phantom, for one. I love the irony, too: demanding everything, longing to give everything, and saying "that's all I ask." "Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime/ Say the word, and I will follow you/ Share each day with me, each night, each morning/ Anywhere you go, let me go too./ That's all I ask of you."
8) For the Longest Time (Billy Joel)
Why? The music is certainly quality. Then there's the famous "If you said goodbye to me tonight/ there would still be music left to write/ What else could I do?/ I'm so inspired by you/ That hasn't happened for the longest time." And you have to grin at the impudence of "I think you ought to know/ that I intend to hold you for the longest time!" At least he's letting her know... ;D

Also in the running are: Can't Hurry Love (first sung by The Supremes, lyrics & music by Doozer, Holland & Holland) , Front Porch Lookin' In, and I'm Already There (both by Lonestar), Better Than Wine (Derek Webb), Could Not Ask for More (Edwin McCain), You're Still the One (McGraw/Hill), That's When I Love You (Phil Vassar), Canaan Bound (Andrew Peterson), When You Say Nothing At All (Alison Krauss), Livin' On A Prayer (Bon Jovi), Everyday Love (Rascal Flatts), I Will Be Here (S. C. Chapman), Arise, My Love (Michael Card), Can You Feel? (Elton John), Tale as Old as Time (yes, the Disney), Alla Luce Del Sol (sung by Josh Groban), and Con Te Partiro (most recently sung by Sara Brightman & Andrea Bochelli, under the misleading English title 'Time to Say Goodbye.'). Ok...there you have our list-in-progress. Suggestions welcome, from any and all genres and eras. They just have to follow the rules! =D

You know, Christians should write the best love songs.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Looking Back on "Early Experience"

Looking back over my four weeks of Early Experience, trying to summarize it all into several neat “what I’ve learned” packages doesn’t come naturally. My experience was so varied—bulletin boards, instruction, a field trip downtown, faculty meetings, other meetings, play auditions, a lot of listening, watching, and note-taking, hugs from children, names on the board, setting out chairs and stacking them again, greeting the custodian and lunch in the teachers’ lounge—varied as teaching, I guess. But themes are there, and as I think about them, I realize I’ve already changed because of Early Experience and what I’ve learned through it.

I think the most important “lesson” I learned is to see the positive spin everything has. In teaching this is most obvious in the area of correction. I watched good teachers do this many times at Sue Cleveland, reinforcing what I’d heard at the Marcia Tate* workshop and read in Mendler’s book. Instead of telling a child or a class “Be quiet and be still!” I now hear myself saying things like “wow! Y’all have a lot of energy! That is great! I need you to put that energy into listening to me for the next few minutes. I think you’ll like what I have to say.” It takes a little more time, maybe, but it reminds them (and me!) of their dignity as human beings, and encourages the positive aspects of their behavior or idea (their energy) rather than merely shooting down the negative aspects (their inattention). What’s that old saying? “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Put another way, “it’s often more effective to affirm the right than to merely punish the wrong.” At the very least, I can avoid strictly negative, or accusing, words, even if I don’t have time to affirm the positive: “We use our feet for walking!” instead of “Don’t’ run!” I want kindness and mercy to be my default position: assuming the best, and ready to forgive the worst.

Related to that commitment to positivity is the second resolution I have made: I am committed to enjoying what I do. The past 3 years, I have been plagued by a lack of confidence in my abilities as a musician, and this has hampered my own enjoyment of my art, and has made me quite fearful at the thought of teaching it. I was looking forward to Early Experience because I hoped it would be the key to me looking forward to teaching instead of dreading it. I learned that confidence and joy are, if not the same thing, then very closely related, so if I can have one, I can have the other. When I got up in front of a class, if I was determined to like them and to try and present the material in a fun way (no matter what their behavior was like), not only did I enjoy it, but they responded much better to me. Robin and I joked after particularly trying classes or days about how “the only person you can control in this classroom is yourself,” and that’s really true, but it’s empowering, not discouraging. I can determine to enjoy teaching and music quite apart from anyone else’s reaction to it (even my own—but that’s another topic. See 1 Cor. 4:1-4), and in that enjoyment, I also find confidence to teach it. I may not be the best singer or the best teacher, but I sure can try to have fun with what I have—and to get my students in on that joy.

Lastly, I learned a good deal about teaching.
I’ve been amazed at how much “little kids” can learn! Now I realize that that’s their “job,” after all—what they were made to do and do well at this point in their lives. How much, quickly, or well they learn, however, can be quite affected by how they’re taught. The best teaching comes through “stories.” Marcia Tate spoke of “narratives” and “chunking” (grouping materially logically into information clusters). A simple way to sum those techniques up would be to “find and tell the story in it,” be it in music theory, biology, history, or grammar. Stories make sense. They have beginnings, middles, and ends. A lot of times they have repetition. Anytime a lesson is logical, has important bits repeated, and has a rhythm to it, the chances of it sticking in a student’s brain are much higher. And stories are so much less boring than lectures! ☺ Another strategy, somewhat related, is how much children learn through games. My first week in Robin’s classroom, I was amazed at how much the children were learning and practicing through simple echo games: monkey see, monkey do. I think the reason these teaching strategies work well is that they capitalize on what children (and so all of us) naturally do: listen to stories and play games. has Early Experience left me richer? (Rich people make better teachers, because they have more to offer.) I'm taking at least three jewels with me: a view first for positives rather than for negatives... a determined commitment to enjoying what I will do...and (I hope) a teaching style that seeks to lead children as they most naturally would walk (story-telling, logic, and games). Maybe this'll even help me relate to you grown-ups better, too. ☺

*Dr. Marcia Tate is a teacher and noted speaker, and I got to attend one of her Teacher Workshops my first week as a Student Teacher!! Her best-known book is Workbooks Don't Grow Dendrites, and her catch-phrase is "the brain-compatible classroom" or "brain-compatible teaching." She's great!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sustained by More Than Licorice

...if you thought that looked like the makings of an interesting title...

so did I.

I had a whole, nice, long, thought-out, re-vised post...which completely disappeared when I left my computer. Gone forever. I will try to re-create it...but I can't tonight.

I haven't forgotten, though, even if it's taken me a little longer than I'd hoped! Aren't you glad God ALWAYS keeps HIS promises, all the way!??