SYW: Musicals, Memories, & Other Musings

Here is my take on Melanie’s Share Your World this week.

QUESTIONS

When you were a kid, did you eat the crusts on your sandwich or not?
Always, I love the crusts!

Are you a fan of musicals—why or why not?
Yes and no. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new musical out (What is Six?!). Some of the topics they take on are not necessarily good as musicals, but might make great plays or movies. (Believe it or not, I actually saw a production of Jane Eyre: The Musical. Not one of my favorites.) I prefer musicals that are written as musicals, not adaptations of books, like Jane Austen novels – a few of them have been made into musicals, and I didn’t like that at all. The songs can be a distraction.

When I’m watching a musical, I often get impatient when the characters break into song, because I want the story to continue. But some musicals are really great and a lot of fun. I enjoy some of the classics, like The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, or West Side Story. I also enjoy singing along to the familiar songs while listening to a CD. I have not seen Hamilton yet, mainly because I don’t want to pay $200 for a ticket, but also I’ve heard that it’s best to “preview” the songs, to have time to understand the lyrics. I probably wouldn’t do that, and as a result, I wouldn’t “get” the songs. But I’d still like to see it. However, I don’t rush out to see every single musical or remake of a musical. Really, I’m not sure politicians or historical figures are good subjects for musicals.

The thing is, I do really like opera, although some are more interesting than others. But in opera, they sing all the time and there are usually subtitles, even when it’s sung in English. I guess I see opera as a whole “experience” while going to a musical is like going to a play or a movie. But now, I’ve taken to watching operas from the Met on a movie screen. The seats are far more comfortable and the theatre is a short, easy drive in my car!

Is it difficult to do what you do? (for a living, hobby etc.).  If you’re retired, what you ‘did’ previously for a job can be substituted.
Yes, at least my second career – teaching – was very difficult. Some situations were easier for me than others. I didn’t really like or succeed at being a regular classroom teacher because there were too many things to remember, especially non-teaching things, like checking my email every morning and taking attendance. I really loved, and I think excelled at, being a resource teacher – that is, taking kids out of their classrooms and working with them in small groups. I think the kids liked it too. Being a bilingual teacher, sometimes the foreign-born kids were overwhelmed in the classroom with all their American peers, and my classroom was more culture-affirming and comfortable for them. For me, it was more relaxed, less rigid. My groups were usually 4-10 students, that I would have during literacy block – about an hour and a half per grade level. So I was their reading and language arts teacher, one with knowledge of their native language and culture and trained in teaching English as a Second Language. I was also a resource for classroom teachers who did not know how to teach English as a Second Language. I enjoyed the collaborative and reflective aspects of teaching.

But I really struggled being a classroom teacher. Classroom management, for a person with ADHD, can be very difficult. I was always misplacing things, so I didn’t have them when I needed them. Although I wrote detailed lesson plans, I didn’t always follow them as I should have. I spent hours every night preparing for my classes or grading papers. I would say I worked about 70 hours a week! (Which is worth a couple of summer months off, don’t you think so?)

My 4th grade students (2009) performing a Reader’s Theatre play for their peers

Besides the difficulties keeping up in the classroom, there were always school politics. If your principal was a jerk or didn’t like you, your school year could be hell. Some principals have favorites among the teachers, who then would form a little clique and act superior to other teachers. I even had one principal use my classroom aide to spy on me. Administrators are under a lot of pressure these days, due to their schools having to perform well on standardized tests. And of course, the special ed and bilingual students always were at a disadvantage taking those tests. The principals were also under scrutiny and beholden to superintendents and school boards. Not an easy task, and these days I wouldn’t want to go up against a school board! Some of the parents are crazy! Anyway, I tried to understand what principals were up against, but some principals were just terrible. A few were very good and sympathetic, and those teaching years were the best – at least I was less stressed.

It takes a certain type of person, one who is organized and doesn’t get flustered easily, to be a good teacher. I think I was good, as I said, with small groups, but not as a classroom teacher. And I’m sure it has gotten worse for teachers since I retired seven years ago, not better.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?  (Doesn’t have to be a rock concert either).

That’s a hard one! I’ve been to many great concerts, so it’s difficult to say which was the best. I do remember rock/popular music concerts better than classical concerts; I went to very few actual rock concerts. Classical concerts? There are too many to remember. The best popular music concerts were those at which I could hear the music and liked it, and where there were no disturbances like drunk people throwing up near me. I liked seeing Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, and some of the Celtic bands made me want to get up and dance!

GRATITUDE SECTION

Looking back over your life, what is one thing you’re grateful for?  One thing you really regret?
I’ll do the regret first – I regret not getting into a profession earlier or even preparing for one during my years ass an undergraduate in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, except that I really liked writing and drawing. The work I did for 20 plus years I put in the category of “a job” – not a profession. Teaching was the one profession I went into, when I was a lot older and more mature. I went to grad school and got my MA in teaching, and did further coursework to become a bilingual/ESL teacher. I wish I had done something like speech pathology – I never really understood what that was and if I had, I might have taken that path. Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge!

I am grateful for many things, but the most important one is my family. Although my siblings and I bickered sometimes, in the most important things we supported each other. We never fought over money or our inheritance as some families do. No one tried to take more than was due to them. When I was in my first marriage, and especially when I separated from my ex-husband, my family really supported and helped me with their love and understanding. They have been so welcoming to my stepdaughter and her husband, integrating them into the family as full members, not adjuncts. My stepdaughter, who was an only child, suddenly gained a whole lot of cousins, aunts and uncles! She really appreciates that and knows a lot more about what’s going on with my nieces and nephews than I do!

I have been very lucky to have the family I do!

A family gathering in my #2 sister’s dining room

SYW: Speak Up or Shut Up, Luck, and Rocks

A new week has arrived and along with it, a new set of questions from Melanie on Share Your World. QUESTIONS:

Do you feel you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?
I like to ask questions. I am very inquisitive and I often go in search of information for answers. If I didn’t ask questions, what would I know? Questioning is vital to gain knowledge. This is why little children ask so many questions, Why this and why that? They have little knowledge and to get more, they have to ask why, although sometimes the adults don’t have answers.

That said, there are certain situations in which I do stop asking questions. If a very annoying person is chatting me up, for example, on an airplane or a bus, and I don’t want to talk to that person, I say what is polite and then turn away. Or when a meeting goes really long, and everyone is fidgeting because they want to get out of there, but I still have a question, I most likely bite my tongue and settle for what I know, with the thought of finding out the answer to my unasked question later or elsewhere.

Asking questions occasionally gets me into trouble; in fact, I lost a teaching job at least partly due to asking a question that my boss (the new principal of the school) didn’t like, because she thought it made her look bad.. She harbored a resentment toward me the entire school year and found fault with me even when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. She ended up not rehiring me and I wasn’t tenured. But I really did want to know the answer to my question and never really got one.

When did you fail to speak up when you feel you should have?
There was one incident that I still regret not having spoken up – or perhaps if I had realized sooner to put two and two together. I went to a party at a former coworker’s house one summer. When I got there, I was happy to see several of my former coworkers from the school I had loved teaching at, including the principal who I really liked because she had always been supportive of me. I had lost my job in that school district, because they reconfigured the schools into “grade level centers” and by moving people around, they could dispense with nine teachers. I was one of them because after three years, I wasn’t yet tenured. In Illinois teachers don’t get tenure until the end of their fourth year. I was telling the principal about my new job and how happy I was there, even though the pay was extremely low – I’d had to take a program assistant job, because I couldn’t find a teaching position except for substitute teaching, which I was tired of. The principal asked me several times if I was sure I really liked it where I was working, and I kept saying yes.

A short while later, I ran into the other ESL teacher I had worked with at that school and found out she had just retired. I didn’t make any connection at the time and it wasn’t until a day or so later that my dense mind figured it out! The principal had been trying to find out if I would be interested in going back to my former position, but I didn’t realize that at the time. She wanted me to replace the retiring teacher because they really needed a Spanish-speaking ESL teacher, which they lost when I was cut from the district. They had replaced me with another ESL teacher from another school in the district who was tenured.

I realized I should have said something – although I liked the program assistant job, the pay was so low that Dale and I were having trouble keeping a positive balance in our checking account, and if I could have gotten a teaching job in my former district, where I was really happy, I would have taken it. I thought about calling that principal and asking her if the job was still available, but I didn’t. I had convinced myself by that time that in spite of the low pay, I was glad not to have the responsibility of a teaching job. I could go home after work and not have to do more work at home to prepare for the next day or grade papers. I valued that additional leisure time. Even so, I know I would have taken that ESL position back if it had been offered to me and worked for several more years instead of retiring at age 63, when I acquired an inheritance after my mother died.

When was the last time you felt lucky?
A few days ago! Maybe “lucky” isn’t the right word. People have no control over what family circumstances they will be born into. I happened to be lucky to be born into a psychologically and financially stable family. The reason I felt lucky a few days ago is that, when hearing the news of the pandemic, of people who have lost their jobs and depend on the stimulus checks for their financial support right now, for people who have no money, I thought about how lucky I am – a retired, 68-year-old married white woman with a good husband and a wonderful home in a senior community (which most people would be hard pressed to afford). This community provides us with a lot of support during the pandemic and our monthly fee pays for maintenance, snow shoveling, etc. We’ve gotten ahead of others in getting the Covid vaccine, we have a housekeeper who comes once a week, and we don’t have to cook because our meals are delivered to us. We have a beautiful campus where we can walk and see our neighbors (when the weather is good), so we don’t feel so isolated. I thank God every day for my good fortune.

What is a boulder?
It is a large rock. When people talk about avalanches, they usually call the rocks that hurtle down the side of a mountain boulders. Boulder is also a city in Colorado, home of the University of Colorado.

Image result for main campus university of colorado

GRATITUDE SECTION (as always optional)

Feel free to share your gratitude with everyone!  See the answer about feeling lucky above. I am grateful for all I have. While people in Texas are suffering from lack of electricity and water during a freak storm, I am watching their distress on TV in my comfortable home. I am warm and don’t lack for anything. The employees of our community take good care of us.

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