Here’s Isaac!

Today, I’m writing a short post as a mom.

Our son Joshua (11-year-old) loved to draw ever since he was able to hold a pencil in his tiny hand. He was also a very early reader, just like his older sister. He spent many hours drawing or reading by himself. We were happy watching him act out scenes from favorite stories…

He is a fun, creative, and happy boy :-)

Today, my husband and I started a comic blog for Joshua. We’d love for you or your students to check out his comic, Instant Isaac. We have fallen in love with Isaac, a 12-year-old who is fun and innocent. We love seeing life through this quirky boy. I hope you will get a chance to take a look at the first post Instant Isaac 1 and share it with your students. If you’d like to know a bit more about Joshua, check out his ‘about me’ page where he wrote a short introduction about himself.

I’m grateful for school art teachers, Ms. Venueza, Mrs. Schmidt and Mr. Thomas who encourage our son to pursue his passion! And I owe a huge thanks to my friend, Doug Peterson, who suggested that we start a blog for Joshua. Thank you, Doug!

Here’s to a great journey for Joshua and Isaac. Tune in every Sunday evening for a new strip!

~Yoon

Speechless

I have so much to say, but I find myself speechless right now.

It’s hard to watch what Japan is going through right now after the earthquakes and tsunami. As I write, many in Japan are holding their breath about the nuclear reactors situation. I know we, Americans, are far away from the East, but one cannot help, but feel for people in Japan.

I invite you to read some posts:

  1. A post by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto (@barbsaka), an American teacher living and teaching in Japan. Her recent post, Aftershocks 2, is a sober read about what is happening in Japan. Her suggestions for foreigners who wish to help is really helpful.
  2. A Washington Post correspondent, Paul Bluestein wrote this personal post,  Why I’m Not Fleeing Japan on why he’s staying put in Japan.
  3. The last link I’m going to share is by Brad Johnston, a music teacher in Japan. He wrote a post titled, The Big Quake Music Lesson. Due to the earthquake, his school is on a week-long break and posted an interesting music lesson for his students (although they are not meeting face-to-face, many students are checking online for work). I took this lesson and while I discussed recent disaster in Japan with my students, I asked them to consider songs of hope and encouragement for people who are in Japan. Once I gather their links and messages, I will share them with Brad and Barbara.

My thoughts and prayers are with people in Japan!


Two Words

Untitled

These are the two words I use often, but seldom reflect about.

Thank you for the gift of music.
Thank you for times of rest.
Thank you for times of work.
Thank you for entrusting me to teach my students – every one of them.
Thank you for friends who can grieve with me in pain.
Thank you for allowing me to learn.
Thank you for times of failure.
Thank you for my family who don’t penalize me for these failures.
Thank you for the gift of laughter.
Thank you for the bounty fullness we can enjoy.
Thank you for our children who cause us to be better parents.
Thank you for freedom.
Thank you for allowing teachers to come together to think and make learning better.
Thank you for all of life.

Still Healing

Photo by Slagheap

Silently, students walk out of their classrooms, waiting for younger grades to file out. Many of them do not even know the significance of 9/11 that has changed the world nine years ago because they were not born yet. But even the youngest students walked in silence, feeling the weightiness of the reason why we were gathering around the flag pole.

We stood in silence, watching two students hoist the flag to the peak and then lowered to half-staff. This verse of America, the Beautiful came to mind:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

We remember.

May the healing never stop.

For the Love of It: Sing!

I can’t hear a thing right now.

I’m standing outside of a high school auditorium during the intermission of Project Philly concert. The foyer area is filled with vibrant noise of about 500 concert attendees – they have a great reason to be excited.

One of music teachers in my PLN, @thomasjwest, had tweeted out about this group and his involvement sometime during this summer. I remember reading about its history and reasons behind this group, I wanted to attend their annual concert.

A cappella singing is brutally hard, I have to be admit. There’s very little room to hide inconsistent intonation, messy harmonic changes, or colorless dynamic levels. But a cappella singing is also wonderfully powerful as it  brings everyone’s attention to the human voice and nothing else.

The five-year old Project Philly consisted of two performing groups, Project Pewter and Project Crimson. Each ensemble had uniquely different personalities and song sets. But they shared one prominent interest: SINGING.

I know, it sounds ridiculously obvious – or is it?

Other than in popular collegiate circles, it isn’t everyday that one sees a handful of young people get together to sing. This is how Project Philly got its start: 17 singers – 17 people who missed a cappella singing – got together, making their own song arrangements, running the rehearsals, and volunteering their houses (or their parents’ since many of them look like they are just out of high school!) for weekly rehearsals. Five years later, this group has grown into membership of 75.

WOW.

This got me thinking. Just like how my neighbor makes time to play in a community flag football team a few times a week, or like some ladies getting together to scrapbook monthly, these young people get together for the sheer love of singing. Songs are a part of who they are. Singing is who they are.

I briefly said hi to @thomasjwest and found out that most of these singers have sung in high schools or colleges and just missed singing so much. I am so glad that they had such great experiences in their youth that left them wanting more.

I really enjoyed the concert. The ensembles made good connection with the audience and the music. A few  arrangements were just too difficult for the group and their sound suffered because of it. But these are quickly forgotten by other songs that captivated us with beautiful balance of sounds – sounds that made us wish we were singing with them. The concert was about good music, good singing, and sharing a passion for building communities through music. One of my favorite song arrangements was Michale Jackson’s Rock with You. Great job, @tomjwest for a fun arrangement! Project Pewter sounded really good!

Music teacher in me couldn’t help, but think about the teachers/directors who instilled a love of singing in these singers. Whoever it was from their elementary, middle, or high schools, has helped them to find their passion. Gave me a lot to think about.

Check out their site. If you’re a local to Philly, come out to their concert next year. Project Philly connects well with its community by raising funds for arts scholarship and partnering with Philabundance (local food bank). After hearing them and learning about them, you just might end up singing with them.

I want to thank Philly Project for its passion and love for music and for their willingness to share it with us.

Wouldn’t it be great for my students to grow up and take up a hobby like this?

~ Yoon

You might also be interested to read:

Tom West’s blog entry: The A Capella Project Philadelphia: A Love Story

Reflection of Gratefulness

(I wrote this post as a guest blogger for The Inspired Classroom, June 19, 2010.)

I want to first thank Elizabeth for inviting me to share a little bit of my thoughts here. I am so fortunate to have people like her in my network to learn from.

I am on day #4 of my summer vacation. It’s very early – my body is still in school mode. I am enjoying the quietness of the morning and the time to think about my year.
I just finished the 10th year of teaching and it has been the most rewarding year.
I have learned the most.

It all started with working with a new teaching partner. Some adjectives that come to mind that describe him are energetic, passionate, funny, and creative. We worked together every single day, seeing each other teach, being sharpened by one another. It was amazing to watch the joy of music making grow in our school because I had a partner who passionately loved seeing children make music. I had been missing this kind of collaboration for past 5 years. I really appreciate Mr. B.

Thanks to our school’s push on tech integration, I was able to join a committee of teachers from other independent schools to learn about technology in the classroom. One of the best learning experiences happened through Twitter, yes, the micro-blogging social media platform. Through Twitter, I was able to be a part of Professional Learning Network (PLN). Following people, or having people follow me was just strange at first. I was not sure what Twitter was supposed to do for me. So my start was slow. But reading some of the tweets, I knew I had to find my way to be a part of this network: the tweets I’m talking about were of great resources, blog posts, and articles that I would not have come across easily. So my first tweets were questions. I asked questions to Twitter handles I did not know. These handles turned out to be a group of great educators and people who genuinely love sharing their knowledge and resources with tens of thousands of people. Through their generosities of time and knowledge, I learned to network. I learned to use very useful web 2.0 tools with my students. More importantly, I learned that I do live in a big world, but thanks to technology, I get to be in touch with it daily. I enjoy learning from them! I am looking forward to this summer and learning much from my PLN. To this date, I have enjoyed collaborating with teachers from many countries, working on projects online. They have shown me how great learning takes place in this community.

Excited to introduce cool apps and tools I learned from my PLN, I eagerly thought of ways to integrate them into my lessons. During this journey, though, I learned something special: that these tools really served my students and highlighted their strengths. There were many times I was struck by my students’ poignant thoughts as I read their blog posts, responses or listened to VoiceThreads. I am so proud! My students brought their imagination and heart into their projects. Many of the students have also expressed how they liked having the freedom to choose how they were going to use the tool in a project. Many of them experimented in different ways to use the tool and assessed for themselves what worked best. Projects like song-writing or storytelling (slideshow, movies, or book-making) reflected my students’ personalities, their hard work and creativity. Here are some examples:
Movie UP: Discussing life-issues presented in the movie, a study of theme and variations (sound track) and naming a classical piece used in a scene (click to enlarge):


UP Discussion on VoiceThread

UP Discussion using VoiceThread

Students’ reflection and my comment after watching Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir (a YouTube video) on their blogs:

What I learned by using these tools is that blogging or using VoiceThread for discussions provides additional thinking time for students. In a traditional classroom setting, I can throw out a question and expect the usual participating students to answer. In these particular platforms, however, students showed that they took time to reflect and responded thoughtfully. I am very thankful for many great discussions, listening and reflecting time my students and I had this year.

Our year wasn’t all-tech all year around! We sang a lot (I am a choir teacher), played guitars, played games through songs students are learning (fun belongs in the classroom), and discussed our role as responsible stewards of our planet. I am particularly proud of my 3rd graders who co-wrote an original song, Go Green! for our school’s Earth week. I was blown away by the way they brainstormed ideas for us to live by. While they sang, the 5th graders used their homemade vegetable/recycled item instruments. Students were proud of their work. So was I!

Now, I find my heart full of gratefulness. I am learning that when I create a breathable, fun, purposeful learning space, students’ learning experiences exceed my expectation. Learning and teaching isn’t easy. But I am grateful for people and resources that are available to me. The more I learn, I feel like I don’t know much!

I guess I better go and learn some more. :-) I can’t wait for next school year!