Thursday, May 2, 2013

Impatient Slumberer, and Long-Winded Insomniac

I like Sleep.  I don't know if I can carry off Bill Cosby's love of Sleep, but I like it.  We are good friends.  We see each other often.  Every night.  Tonight, Sleep came for awhile, but left after only a short while.

Chloe awoke with much fussing.  Exclaiming her unhappiness, when I arrived to see what was the matter, at ear shocking decibels.  I resolutely informed her that she needed to stop crying before I would administer any aid. Most successful aid comes in the presence of Mommy.  Finally we agreed that a quiet mode setting would be the best if she wanted to see Mommy, and we left thusly, tear soaked and snuffling.  Oh, that magic calm that arises with the presence of Mommy!  Would that I had such an effect.

With that I lay back down on my side of the bed and realized the bed was untenable.  I had been aware that I was tossing and turning, but now I realized nothing was right.  I beat a retreat to my chair and, after taking a half dose of a PM type pill, I tried to rest.  I tossed and turned in my chair if that is even possible.  Finally, I threw my hopes for rest and reunion with Sleep away.  I grabbed at the laptop.

I wandered over FaceBook, but soon realized others were having their relationship with Sleep renewed, while my own withered.  I decided to try to watch a TV show that I had seen parts of in the mid-1990s.  It was an artsy dark cartoon, not necessarily appropriate to young eyes, so the time was ripe, except that the site I wanted to watch it on force feeds five advertisements per five minutes of watching.  Then, after the second advertising cycle, the picture turned black and all I got was sound.  So I tried going back and forwards, only to be rewarded with another advertising cycle.  I finally gave up and decided to come here and blog.

There are several reasons for that.  More often than not, when I am tired, the words flow freely until that moment when my eyelids fall down and all consciousness slips away.  I often will start a post and wake up an hour later with my head shifted in a most undignified angle mouth wide agape.  I figure it's a sleep inducer.  Thus, here I am.

So, what's been going on with me?  That is a fine question.  I have been subbing for that music teacher.  I have been grading the papers and adding to lesson plans and trying to keep the lessons interesting AND educational.  those are not the same thing.  I was amazed at how entertained they were at the Sesame Street character I showed them the last couple days as he introduced the audience to the Conductor of the New York Philharmonic.  I don't know how much they retain AFTER class, but they seem to do alright when they are IN class.

I have been complimented by the teacher that comes in at the end of the day to no end.  She seems to appreciate what I do, which is remarkably welcome.  It, and the fact that the kids have actually learned something from this unit, is much better feedback than what I had last year from my "team."  It is so rewarding to play a short YouTube segment of an Orchestra playing and then hear the kids whisper to each other in excitement at their recognition of an instrument!  "That's a PICCOLO!"  Or "French Horn!"  It's great when they correct themselves.  When they SEE the size of a HARP!  "WOW!"  That kind of thing has been great.

Since the two music teachers got together and designed this unit around me, I hoped to find some kids with a bit of a change in how they draw.  I was a little bit disappointed at first.  Yeah, they seemed excited, but were they picking up the little nuggets of drawing info I was dropping?  Well, yeah, they were.  I keep trying to tell them that ANYONE can draw.  You just have to want it.  Like really bad.  I mention the cost to me.  I spent many an hour of class time drawing.  I often got into trouble for it.  My grades were not great.  I also point out that I am much better now than when I started teaching.  Largely because I practice every day.  I also note, mostly to myself, that I am MUCH more understanding when I see a kid doodling on their paper while I am lecturing than my teachers were.  My teachers did not seem to understand that I was INDEED listening very attentively while I drew.

A couple weeks ago I scribbled a picture using a simple Bic ballpoint.  I ended up creating a half-way decent picture of a saxophone player.  It is not perfect, but from a distance it looks like a saxophone player.

I use that to show that all you have to do is scribble to make art sometimes.  Of course, it helps if you can put the scribbles in the right place.  I have been telling them it is all about fooling the eye into thinking that those ink marks on the paper resemble something.  Fortunately it is phenomenally easy to to that.  Our minds and eyes are wired to recognize shapes and shades and colors, so you just have to know how to fool the eye.  Well, I held this up and asked them what it was.  Most would say "A man playing an instrument," which is a good answer, but then I confounded them with, "no, it's just scribbles."  Then I handed it around and was rewarded with oohs and ahhs and funny crinkled foreheads as they attempted to work out, in their minds, that there were two different images there.  One was just squiggly lines of ink on a piece of paper and yet, the other was right there overlaying it, and it was a man playing a saxophone.

Later I was rewarded when I asked what a particular drawing I had just made was.  One smart lad, who had been particularly engaged in my drawing that I had showed the week before, said, "Squiggles!"  I turned and smiled upon him.  Made me happy.  Also, I have noticed that some of the kids have improved their artwork considerably.  Of course, there are still those who would rather talk and I end up with some horrifying stick figures with extra limbs and what appear to be organs hanging in obscure places, but over all, I have seen a promising change.  One of the teachers said that my presence and my drawings seem to have sparked some creativity with her students.  I don't know if I can be held to blame for that, but it's nice to hear.  And, on more than one occasion, I have been complimented on the drawings that I have on the board for music.

I started the Unit by being rather heavy handed in how to draw and have ended with letting them figure it out for themselves.  My instruction to look for the shapes and then my step-by-step creation of a drawing seems to have stuck with a few.  I see some really good drawings.  On the other hand, I would have never guessed that you could somehow pervert a drawing of a French Horn to look like a revolver, a Bassoon to look like a bazooka, and a Trumpet to look like a particularly wicked looking assault rifle.  Turns out you can with sufficient patience and lack of attention to detail.

I have continually worried that my lack of background in music would not allow me to successfully teach music in a long term role, however, I was wrong.  I believe I have done admirably.  Google is a good friend of mine, too.  On a side note, it is fascinating that the ability to use a search engine is not innate.  I have noticed over the years, that having a large vocabulary can help when you look for inofrmation on the internet.  Being able to call up synonyms and similar subjects has often been the difference between a successful lesson and a lesson filled with misbehavior.  I continually amaze that other teacher with the little gold nuggets I find on YouTube that pertain to class.  She does not seem to be nearly as computer literate as others, which is not a bad thing, because I continually learn from her.

When the kids get all fidgety she simply has them stand and do an activity while repeating the words she is trying to impress upon them.  For instance she will tell them to touch their toes and then say, "Rhythm." or whatever happens to be the word.  Then she will repeat that by having them do the same thing except reaching high in the air, or she will have them stand on one leg and do the same.  It gets them concentrating on something else and also allows a bit of muscle memory to work it's charms.  She is a brilliant teacher.  I think we complement each other in our teaching styles.

She told me the other day that I should not sell myself short.  I guess I do that.  Publicly, in front of the kids, I am Mr. Awesome, but quietly, in the back of the room, I'm the guy who professes to know very little and does his best to get through the day.  She told me to man-up, basically.  That even though I don't play an instrument, the fact that i pay attention to it, enjoy it, and listen to it, is enough.  She even complimented me on how I draw them.  Some of the instruments she has not given much thought to, but, in drawing them, I have.  Like the tubing of a trumpet.  I never thought about trumpets until I tried drawing one.  I never imagined that there were so many tubes in the darned thing.  Likewise goes for the Tuba.  And that damned Bassoon.  Wow!  Woodwinds I thought would be hard, but that is where the fooling the eye really comes in handy.

Oh, hell.  It's 2 Am and I am still awake and have not faded off to sleep once.  Dammit!

Next we begin styles. I am looking forward to seeing how that works out.  Again, my YouTube and Google techniques may come in handy.  The teacher should be back after next week.  I'll be both happy and sad to go.

We were going to look at a camper this week, but the dealership never called and I'm not sure they will.  Apparently they are quite happy without our business.  A shame, too, since it sounded like something we'd want.

I am still daydreaming about camping, so we will definitely pursue some ends, I just don't know where or when.

I got a chance to call my Boss for the summer and it sounded to me like he will have work again this summer...which will keep me from behind the counter at the local 7/11.  Which is fine by me.  I need to work off a little of this gut that has grown on me.

Speaking of growing.  Our gardens have been growing most happily!  I planted Gutter Gardens this year.  And the Spinach is not about 2 inches tall!  Last weekend, while we did a number of things, the thing I think will last the logest is the raised gardens.  I can wait to get soil and get them planted.  This should be a great gardening year.  I doubt I will ever match my grandfathers' green thumbs, but I will certainly give it a shot.  hare are some bleeding hearts in the dawn sun.
  And I am still not tired.  I will, nevertheless, try again.  Good night!

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