Saturday, July 27, 2019

Back to My Musical Roots

I still love teaching.

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me into her classroom to teach a mini-lesson about music, STEM, the physics of sound, etc. The audience was a group of rising 3rd graders. Of course, I said yes! We had a blast, and they were super engaged, so we ended up going much longer than originally anticipated. I wanted to share some of the more interactive activities we did below for my fellow musical friends - these could work well with any age, from preschool up through elementary school, or as a part of an accessible lesson for students with special needs.

Feel the Music

After playing and providing a little bit of an intro, talking about how the strings vibrate to make sound, I invited the students up to feel the vibrations while I played. Watching their faces was precious as they truly "felt" the music! Many of them also commented on how it tickled their hands :-).
*Note: This works best on cello or some larger bass instrument - I have also done it with trombone!

Learn a song!

The next step for these students was to learn a bit of a song! I used the Cabbage Song, one of my traditional beginning songs. The melody is four lines with a standard bass line, so after practicing with solfege hand symbols, I called four students over to the cello and assigned them each one line (4 notes - easy enough to memorize). They each practiced individually, and then we put it all together with me playing violin them playing the bass line, and the rest of the class doing hand symbols for the bass line!
*This, obviously, will only work with kids who are a bit older - it's probably too much for preschoolers to handle. I was a bit worried at first about taking care of the cello while it was on the ground, but they were super respectful and did great!

Play your own song!

The last interactive activity I did with the students was call them up, one at a time (if they wanted to play), and had them choose a song they wanted to try. The songs ranged anywhere from "Twinkle, Twinkle" to movie music from Moana! I taught them the very basics of how to hold the instrument (hand on the shoulder, hold the bow on the frog), and had them move the bow back and forth on one string while I did fingerings for them. This always results in a lot of laughter, because it is hard to keep the bow on one string and keep a good sound, so we get lots of *interesting* sounds! My fingering isn't always 100% accurate from this angle, either :-). Nevertheless, it is fun for the students to get the chance to "play" something that they want to play and also provides a great opportunity to talk about how hard work can pay off!


Of course, beyond these interactive moments, I played violin, talked about low and high (bigger and smaller instruments), demonstrated tuning (looser/tighter), etc. It was a great day with a great group of kiddos!

On a personal note, it was such a relief to realize that I can still go into a classroom and command the attention of a group of kids. That might sound silly, but now that I don't teach every day, I sometimes feel a little rusty! I never want to be too far removed from the day-to-day reality of teaching, and this was a great way for me to jump in with my favorite subject and just be with kids. I look forward to more opportunities like this over the course of the year! 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

#OneWord2019: COURAGE (Update)

At the beginning of 2019, as I have for the past several years, I chose my #oneword for the year: COURAGE. Being just a few months into a leadership role, it seemed appropriate for what I was working on and where I was at.


For Christmas, one of my friends gave me a bracelet. It became the symbol of my #oneword2019. If I had a big meeting or presentation that day, or if I knew I would be having a tough conversation, or if I would have to make a decision that would be hard, I would have that bracelet on. It reminded me to be courageous, but also of where my strength came from, and that there were people who believed in me and who were rooting for me. That encouragement meant the world to me, and I would often glance down or briefly touch the bracelet in the moments when I needed courage the most.

As the year has gone on, my confidence has grown, and I've found myself reaching for that bracelet less and less. I still love the bracelet and the reminder, but courage has become increasingly internalized. Although it might seem small and silly, this has been a tangible indication of my growth this year.

What have I learned?

Nothing profound, really. Just that some things are never easy. There will always be hard conversations to have. Nobody likes dealing with tough issues - not even the people who do it well. They simply have the courage to step into the arena and face them head-on.

I've also learned that, as a leader, some decisions are up to me. I can ask for advice and seek out input, but in the end, I'm the one who needs to step up and choose a direction. And sometimes it's actually more helpful when I do that, rather than leaving everybody wondering and wandering in ambiguity.

Finally, I've learned that courage and honesty and vulnerability often go hand in hand. Being courageous means being real, even when I don't have it all together.

I look forward to continuing my year of courage!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Summer Gratitude

I've been on a blogging break due to a 2-week vacation with my family. It was awesome! But I'm not here just to write about my vacation. Getting away for two weeks, and then returning to my job, gave me an excellent chance to reflect on this past year. More coming in another post with more of a comprehensive reflection, but today, I want to write about my some things I'm grateful for.

I'm grateful that, when I returned to work on Monday, although I may have groaned a little bit getting out of bed when my alarm went off, I was genuinely happy to be there. I like what I do!

I'm grateful for the people I work with, who share a great bond & balance of working hard, having fun, not being afraid to challenge each other's thinking, and truly caring about each other.
*Side note: I'm reading Radical Candor right now, which has some good content for leaders/bosses/managers, and I see some of the concepts there coming out in my writing today!

I'm grateful that I feel valued as a person at work. And as a worker. But as a person first.

I'm grateful that I am in an environment where it's okay to disagree, to challenge, to debate, and to question. But then, there's a commitment to making a decision and supporting it.

I'm grateful that I'm in a position where, sometimes, I can really help and make people's lives easier and better or help them realize their vision & dreams!

Bitmoji ImageI'm also grateful that I'm in a position to have really hard conversations, and hopefully deliver them with grace and compassion and empathy. I'm grateful for my coworkers who I can turn to for advice & wisdom when I need to have one of these conversations.

But most of all, I'm just so grateful to be where I am. It seems crazy, how I ended up here - but I did, and it is exactly where I needed to be this year. I think back to when I accepted the job, how nervous I was, how unprepared I felt, and how unsure I was about the decision...but it has turned out to be amazing and I can't imagine my year any other way. Pretty amazing, right?


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Library Kid Adventures

Today, being 7/11, I obviously had to take a group of the kiddos I work with (relocated refugee students) to 7-Eleven for free Slurpees! Luckily, there is one just a mile away from where they live (although some might say I'm crazy for taking 9 kids, ages 6-18, in 90+ degree heat on a mile-long walk - some with scooters, some with bikes, some just walking - crossing several streets, including a highway). Every time I hang out with them, I leave full of thoughts and reflections. A few vignettes from the adventure...

Me: "Do you want to come with me to get a free Slurpee?"
Kids: "What's a Slurpee?"
Me: "Uh...kinda like a mix between a popsicle and juice? A soft popsicle in a cup?"
Kids: "Um...maybe..."
Me: "You get to choose your flavor."
Kids: "YES, LET'S GO!!!"

6th grader: "He [4th grader] doesn't realize that they [1st & 2nd graders] all follow him. If he does something stupid, they all go and do it too."
*So much truth, and such good insight from a 6th grader! Luckily, the "stupid thing" was riding a bike down a small hill and needing to walk it back up the stairs.*

Me: "Hey, buddy, wait for us at the traffic light!"
Him: *Gets there first and patiently waits*
Him: *As soon as we get there, takes off into the street, despite the red light and red walk signal.*
Me: *Quickly yelling and pulling him back*
Me: "Buddy, do you see that walk sign? The orange hand? That means we need to stop! When it is our turn to go, it will change into a white guy walking. Then we can go."
Him: "That sounds so racist."
Two things stick out to me here: I have written before about how easy it is to forget that there are some "simple" cultural things that these kiddos may not know. This time, I was guilty of it. I figured that because we had been to many lights before, he knew what a walk signal meant & how to use it. Turns out, he was just following the others! Secondly, it made me wonder how they perceive issues of race. Are there things that they feel that I don't know or think about? Or was it a response based on things they have heard in the past? We are all Asian-American, but being only half-Chinese and being born to parents who are more Americanized, I would guess that my experiences and perceptions are different than theirs.

In the end, we all left happy!