Hipster In Vermont

I haven’t posted a blog entry in a long time because I realized that I enjoy telling people about my life in person more than I do typing about it and reading their comments!  I love sharing my experiences with friends and family, but I’ve had a few conversations that have been cut short because the other person says, “Oh, yeah, I read about it in your blog.”  Real life is so much better than a blog.

However, I am really happy about a lot of great things right now and I can’t help but share!  Plus, I won’t be home in Pennsylvania until Thanksgiving so I know by then I’ll have more to share with my long distance loved ones and this is just an update until I can share the full details of my sweet Vermont life.  🙂  So let’s get to it.

When I moved to Vermont, I thought that it would be a temporary thing to get some experience and to try something totally new for a year.  But the longer I live here, the less I want to leave.  I don’t want to be preemptive about it, but…I think I may have found my forever home.  I got incredibly lucky with my first job, where I live, and how the lifestyle of those around me suits me perfectly.

I’m about to finish week three of school year number two!  It’s flown by, and it’s been wonderful so far.  I liked last year immensely, but year two is a whole different level of enjoyment.  There is always more to improve upon and learn, but I feel so much more confident now.  I know the schools, the students, and the way things work at each school.  I am a better teacher and I teach things more effectively and efficiently.  I’ve reused some of my material from last year, and I teach it so much quicker the second time around!  Which means I can cram even more instruction into my 40 minute periods, which is awesome.  I’m also much quicker at planning than last year.  For almost 100% of the time, my home life is at home and my school life is at school.  My lesson plans no longer come with me everywhere!  I do spend some very long days at school, but once I leave the time is mine!

In addition, I just enjoy it more.  I still can’t believe I get paid to do this incredible position.  I know many music educators who struggle with difficult administration, lack of support from the community, and have to teach other things besides music.  I have not one but two amazing principals, communities that encourage and support the arts, and my job is made up entirely of musical instruction, plus recess duty twice a week and a weekly staff meeting.  And that’s it!  It’s not a perfect job (no classroom, no A/C during this incredibly warm September, travel between 2 schools) but I think it’s about as perfect as it gets.  I love having fun learning and growing alongside my students.

Here’s a bulletin board I created at one of my schools.

photo 1

Today was especially great.  At one of my schools I’ve been fortunate enough to start a band and chorus program.  Today was the first day of band lessons – the very first time many of them have ever played a wind or percussion instrument.  It is such a joy to be able to give these kids more music in their lives, and to see their enthusiasm for learning!  I was so proud of all the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders today.  Out of 31 kids in those grades, 19 of them have decided to join band.  For a starter band at a teeny tiny school I think that’s pretty amazing.  I only hope that I will be the best instructor I can be!  My other school also has 19 kids in band, which is a jump in growth from last year.

Chorus is becoming one of my favorite things to teach, which is one of the most surprising things to me.  I thought when I started this job that chorus would be the most difficult and my least favorite parts.  But it’s wonderful!  I certainly have learned so much in the past year about how to run an effective chorus, and I love that the kids are learning with me.  Today for example, day number two of this brand new ensemble, the kids are already singing in two part rounds reasonably well, and doing a three part partner song with motions!  And I can tell they’re having fun, even if they won’t admit it sometimes.  In addition to a musical production at each school, I hope to take students in band and chorus to perform in nursing homes and other community locations this year.

Over the past few months, I’ve really been embracing a minimalist kind of life.  I’ve simplified my wardrobe considerably in particular.  I have always worn bright colors and interesting articles of clothing, but now I mainly stick to basic black!  Instead, I spend much more time doing my hair and wearing funky jewelry.

photo 3

I absolutely love my growing black wardrobe.  I’ve worn the same 4 dresses to school since it started, and I plan on continuing this trend as long as possible.  Now, granted, I do work at 2 different schools so it appears that I am rotating my clothes every two weeks.   But I’m not!  I spend exactly zero minutes deciding what to wear now.  I’ve come to realize that it’s important to have fewer pieces of clothing that fit really well instead of a huge arsenal of fabric that never gets completely used.  As long as I’m neat and clean, no one truly cares what I wear anyways.  The kids only notice my cool necklaces!

Another minimalistic choice that I follow is the number of belongings I have.  I’ve never been one to have a lot of physical stuff, but now I am constantly looking for how I can live well on less.  I think this idea is partly from the fact that I live in 300 square feet and I just can’t fit too much stuff in my apartment!  I always have a growing bag of Goodwill things to drop off.  It’s so freeing knowing that I don’t need that much, and that I’m completely happy with so little.  And even though I’m actually moving soon, I’m very proud of my tiny space.

photo 2

This evening I got to participate in a very fun event.  Over the summer, I volunteered at Hildene, Abraham Lincoln’s son’s home here in Manchester.  I helped give house tours, harvesting veggies in the garden, and worked on the goat farm.  Tonight there was a fancy dinner recognizing all the volunteers.  The meal was entirely local, and it was wonderful to catch up with friends I made over the summer while working there.

photo 4

The volunteer coordinator at Hildene is a special person to me.  She has been such a positive influence in my life and has encouraged me in many ways.  When I initially met Paula, we had a great conversation about many things, including one of the towns where I work.  She mentioned her daughter and her family were thinking about moving to the area, and I told her all the great things I’ve experienced while working in the school in the past year.  So she passed along this information to her daughter, and they moved here!  I love that in some way, I may have helped sway a family’s decision to come to a wonderful community.

Paula’s granddaughter became a new kindergarten student at my school.  Paula told me tonight that when asked, her granddaughter said her favorite thing about school was music class!  It fills my heart with so much joy when I hear things like this.  More than musical concepts and standards, I want to create a nurturing, loving environment where kids can be free to express themselves in a creative way and view things in a more beautiful way because they have music in their lives.

At each table at the dinner tonight, there was a small bouquet of flowers in a glass jar created by a volunteer group of women who create bouquets for the Hildene house twice a week.  Whoever had a sticker on their chair got to keep the bouquet – it was me!  Not only are the flowers gorgeous, one of my favorite things is a glass jar.  I know, I know.  Go ahead, call me a hipster Vermonter.  I take it as a compliment.

photo 5