September 15, 2012

Elementary, My Dear Andrew

My (Allison's) career as a band director began in elementary school with playing the triangle.  Out of all the kids in my elementary school music class, I was the one chosen to play the triangle while the other kids sang, because I, "had good rhythm"... Or so said my teacher.  What she probably meant was.... "Good Lord, she sucks at singing, give her the triangle".  Later in 4th grade I was given a special speaking part during the school musical.  I played an Jamaican kid, complete with face paint and all, my line was something to the effect of "Hey 'mon".  The fact that they went through so much trouble to paint my face with dark skin colored paint when we weren't lacking for dark skinned people in my 4th grade class additionally confirmed my suspicion that my elementary school music teacher was going to extreme measures to keep me from singing.  But I could DARN WELL play that triangle.
This is the real deal, folks.  Bask in the dorkitude.
 In 5th grade, students could join the "Band Club"...which was more or less a way to make the music teacher teach more stuff without actually having to pay her.  I joined and informed the teacher that I had great rhythm.  Didn't she remember my epic performance on the triangle in 2nd grade?!  I certainly did.... She smiled sweetly (and probably turned her back roll her eyes)....and promptly handed me a flute.  And the rest as they say, is history.  (Andrew's Note: Thank goodness she was given a flute!  Otherwise I wouldn't have met her that day in Band at Asbury when I migrated to the flute section to meet the people there.)

Elementary teachers don't really get enough credit for the dog and pony show that they perform everyday.  I subbed ONE TIME ONLY for an 2nd grade class.  Never again.  Bathroom time did me in, I ushered the boys into their bathroom only to find a squirt gun contest well underway.  Only the were no squirt guns and the water was much more yellow.  

A few years later I was hired for my first high school band directing job at a K-12 independent school... It was great....except they failed to mention the elementary component of the job. 

Principal: "We are so glad you are here Allison." 
Me:  "Yes sir!!  I am green and excited about expanding young band kids' minds!!!!!!"
Principal: "......right.  Anyway, my 1st grade daughter is also excited to be in your class."
Me:  "Oh!  I didn't know we offered band to 1st graders!"
Principal:  "Ha!  You have a sense if humor, I like that!" *walks away*
Me:  "Um...."

I learned a lot that year.  These are just a few kernels of that wisdom:
1.     1st graders can not just "hold it".  (Well....  They can.  As long as you let them go when their eyes start to water, you should be good.  As long as the bathroom's not far away from your room.)
2.    Just because you can duct tape a student to a chair, doesn't mean you should.  (UM YOU LEARNED THAT LAST YEAR AS A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER)
3.    You should always shave your arm pits.  If you forget, that really annoying 3rd grade girl will point this out....loudly.
4.    Heaven forbid you put the wrong color carpet square in the wrong spot.  All of hell WILL break loose.  Crying will commence.  You will question your choice of education as a profession.

Exhibit A:  Hmm... this is awkward and incriminating. 
Exhibit B:  Dang it!  I'm in this one!
After Skyping with various family members this past week, we realized that we might have not communicated very well what exactly Andrew would be doing this year for a job.  See, contrary to popular opinion, we did not just move to Saudi Arabia to work on our tans and eat shawarma.  Andrew was hired by Ras Tanura Elementary (GO DOLPHINS!) to be the music teacher for grades 1-4, and the Band Director for grade 5, a total of about 375 students.  There are 4 Aramco compounds, each has various middle and elementary schools, depending on the size of the compound.  Ours is small, so only one elementary and middle school on camp.  Which means that Andrew is now a minor celebrity on camp.  No, really.  (NO.......REALLY)  Everywhere we drive on camp in the golf cart, kids are jumping up and down, waving to him.  (Not kidding.  I teach nearly every child on camp below the age of 12).  We went out to lunch today and this little British girl who had to be only 3 1/2 feet high camp up, pulled on his sleeve, and whispered "I like the music room!!!"  Honestly she could have said.... "Your class sucks, Reds", and we would have ate it up..... Can't resist those British accents. 
This is the entrance to Ras Tanura Elementary... I know.. right?!

Awesomely diverse student population.  One of my favorite parts about this school!  
Aramco's commitment to a high quality education makes sense, they have to attract experienced engineers and oil workers, if there isn't a high quality school for a worker's children to attend, he might not work for the company.  During orientation, we learned that Aramco spends $47,000 per student per year on education.  It is of course free to the families living here, but dang!  Schools here run through the 9th grade, and then Aramco pays for your kids to go to any boarding school around the world. (We've pre-applied to Hogwarts.  Still waiting on the letter)  All teachers work company hours, 7-4 with a one hour lunch break to go home, eat out or run errands.  Student hours are a bit shorter, 7:45-3:00, and students can be picked up by the community coach buses (!!!!) in the morning, taken home at 11:30 AM and picked up again after lunch, and of course the afternoon bus home at 3:00 PM.  Many kids here ride bikes or walk to school because most of the neighborhoods are within walking distance.  It's so safe here that you see itty-bitty kids walking, biking or rollerblading to school, kindergartners included, and no adults around.  It is surreal living in a place where it is that safe of an environment for children.  (I think it has something to do with the fact that they dock your pay if you or anyone you're related to does anything dumb/unsafe... )  Which reminds me... my library books are due. 

If you are still reading at this point, you get a gold star.  I'm bored and I'm writing this thing.  I think I'll give the iPad over to Andrew, the newest celebrity on camp.

(I really did enjoy my first two weeks of anonymity before we started school.  Now that is in the distant past. In Houston I would see maybe 2-3 kids per year outside of school.  Now it is no less than 4 - 10 per day depending on how often I have to leave the house.  Crazy.  Anyway, elementary music teaching really is a completely different animal than anything else I've ever done. A friend on Facebook called it "putting on 6 shows a day" and she is RIGHT.  Whew.

Here are a few pictures of my new "home away from Grace"  :-)   

My Band Room (and the colorful kindergarten rug)

My Music Room.  Did I make any of those bulletin boards?  ....No.  No I did not.
Gees... all those composers judging you... creepy way to teach.   (I took one down because I had no idea who he was or what he composed.  He did not merit the wall..
Look at all the Orff Instruments!  That's not even all of them!)
A real practice room in the Band Room!  Not too shabby!

Seeing as how you can't just run an instrument to the shop, I have my own fully stocked workshop!  Get a load of that!  (I can see how this might look like a medieval torture station... it's not.  cough.) 

Must...hammer...........something.  (Allison's note:  I recommend all forms of drums.)     >:-O


  1. Allison, you need to take the ball from the girl in Julie & Julia and run with it! You are an amazing writer! I enjoyed hearing all about all those great details of your new life! Now, get your Ina Garten cookbook out, start a blog and cook your way through every recipe! (Unless you already have!) Andrew, enjoy your new celebrity status. I love having those little ones as they realize that you have a life outside of school! P.S. Do not climb any of those palm trees....nightmare this morning!

  2. Andrew...I'm so glad you're enjoying the world of elementary music! And how are you liking my "6 shows a day?" Broadway has nothing on us, right? And celebrity status isn't bad either :o) Really enjoying reading your blog, guys! Keep it going!