Thursday, June 09, 2005

Amy's School Concert

Yesterday I took the afternoon off to see Amy's end-of-school year concert. As I made my way into the school, my mind reflected upon the experiences I have had at the school building during the past year. As near as I can recall I have been in that school building for about 8 different events. Four of those occasions were for school meetings regarding Bryan's education plan. The other times have been for various official school functions: a Christmas concert, the Boys Maturation Program, Bryan's State Fair project and exhibit, and today's 4th grade year-end program.

I have to admit that the building gives me mixed emotions. We have had some hard times in that building, including a couple of which turned into a Battle Royale with the school administrators. The last IEP meeting was just last Friday, so it was still fresh on my mind. It kind of reminds me of "Gilligan's Island Syndrome" from which I suffered as a child.

Today's event was for Amy’s 4th grade program. We had hoped to have Grandma C. there, but she had to take Grandpa C. in for a Dr. Appointment at the same time.

Unfortunately, mama couldn't be there either, because we had Bryan in for some end of year Developmental Testing (The Woodcock-Johnson Test at our own expense: $500 out of our own pockets, - Ouch! ) So it was just me there to support Amy.

The kids sang a series of songs with a Utah history theme, plus played two songs on their recorders, which they have been practicing since January.

Here is the list of songs they sang:

- "The Indian Tribes of Utah". This song highlighted the names of all the Indian tribes from Utah.

- Song about Spanish Explorers. The search of a trail from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Monterrey, California. This was about the famous Dominguez-Escalate Expedition that took place in 1776.

- Song about Inter-Continental railroad completion on May 10, 1869. (When they were practicing this song, Amy took a picture of the driving of the Golden Spike to class to explain that her third great grandpa was there, and in the picture – somewhere.

-Song about Utah Statehood: "Utah: This is the Place!" A song written for the state centennial celebration in 1996.

They played two songs on their Recorders:

- First, a monotone recorder song – yes, all the notes were the same note for the entire duration of the song (which lasted for about 15 seconds). At first the parents didn’t know what to think – was that a song or just a warm-up? When it became apparent that this was indeed a song, an uneasy applause started. I overheard one parent say to a sibling in the crowd, “don’t laugh!”

- Second, another recorder song using only the left-hand, upper register notes (G, A, and B). This one at least had a melody. And the applause was genuine, rather than forced.

(I guess for the recorder songs, they had to keep the skill level down to the Lowest Common Denominator – too bad, because they have been practicing since January. I know that Amy can do a lot more on the recorder than that.)

- Song "Stand for Something!" A nice song about Utah Values. To do something good, and to stand up for the right. (It is interesting that a few years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley, of the LDS church released a book called “Standing for Something” which essentially says the same things as what the song was espousing.) It’s a good thing the ACLU wasn’t there!

- "We're not that different after all". This was the obligatory tribute to multi-culturalism, which tried to help everyone realize that regardless of race, creed or color, that we are all really pretty much the same after all.

The children had all of these songs committed to memory. I know they also learned a song that included all the county names in Utah as well, even though they didn't perform it in the concert.

Actually, by committing these songs to memory, and having sung them over and over again (and having learned them at a young age) the words to these songs will likely be accessible to the children's minds throughout most of their lives. I can still remember songs that were taught to me in elementary school. I would suspect that the parts of Utah History that they will remember best, will be the the ones that they learned through the music. It will be much easier to recall the things that were set to musc, over those they heard in a lecture, or even read in a book. The concert, then, not only gave the children a chance to perform in front of their parents, but it also will help them to remember much of what they have learned about Utah History. Good for the 4th grade teaching team!

At the end, Mr. T., Amy’s teacher expressed how much he had enjoyed working with the fourth grade team, and how much he will miss the children in his class. He got a little choked up in the process. You could tell that he had formed a real bond with the children, and that he would genuinely miss them. From our experience, Mr. T. is a great teacher. He is nice and polite with the kids, but firm in his discipline. He actually expects children to fulfill their assignments, and to behave in class! A kind of velvet steel type of guy. He has just completed his 27th year of teaching.

The good news is that Mr. T. will be teaching sixth grade next year, and he is projected to be Bryan’s teacher. If we decide to place Bryan in the public school, rather than homeschooling for next year, Mr. T. will finally be a great asset in the regular classroom – which up until now has been the missing link in Bryan’s education. We have never, as of yet, had a really good and effective regular classroom teacher for Bryan. The prosect of having Mr T. for Bryan's teacher is a source of hope for next year.

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