Reflections on the 2013-2014 School Year

Good evening, Friends.

I sit here writing this post with 9 days left school (10 including the staff workday).  In those nine days, I have a bowling field trip, a pizza field trip, 4 Pre-Kindergarten performances, and 1 6th Grade Promotion Ceremony.  Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a busy two weeks.  Plus, I won symphony tickets at the Retiree Event (no, I’m not retiring, WAY too young) and that is on the evening of the teacher workday.

Even though the year is not quite wrapped up, I wanted to share some reflections on this past school year with you, my readers, fellow music teachers, and friends.

1.) This year closes my eighth year of teaching total and my third at LISD.  Since three years is the max I’ve EVER spent in a school district, next year will equal the longest I’ve ever stayed in one position.  Could it be that I finally found the perfect place to work?  Haha, no…..but I did find a place where the arts are appreciated (not to my liking for now but not on the chopping block either) and I can create the program I want. cara's classroom 2012 layout

The opportunity did arise for me to leave and apply for a job closer to my family but, upon examination of the “perks” and direction I want my career to take, I chose to stay where I am.  Whenever I get cranky or whiny, I remind myself that “I chose this.”  It is quite empowering.

2.) In the district before I came to LISD, I taught at two campuses.  One of those was bilingual.  I did not even know that one of the campuses was bilingual until AFTER I had already gotten the job.  It never came up in the interview process!

I don’t speak Spanish.  I took four (yes, four) semesters of Spanish in college and, my friends can attest, I am quite horrible at foreign language.  I have never struggled in school as much as I struggled in Spanish class.  It was embarrassing.  I was even a vocalist in college and sung in several foreign languages but I’ve always struggled with it.  Truth be told, I can barely use the English language correctly all the time.  I have a theory that I have a audio processing disorder because I can hear (volume-wise) what people are saying but I can’t always understand it.  In Spanish class, I could figure it out if I was able to read it but would fail miserably when the professor would try to converse with me.  There is an app called Duolingo that I’m using even now to work on my Spanish.

ANYWAY, this year’s language barrier got even wider and more diverse than working in that bilingual school.  We had two students come to us from Saudi Arabia!  Arabic is crazy different than English (I know!  Duh!).  Different alphabet, different symbols, different direction, It’s all different.  Plus, music education isn’t really a thing there so I had a 2nd grader and a 6th grader coming in knowing NOTHING.  I gave both of them a first grade assessment that I poorly translated into arabic and it was a mess.  Luckily, they are wonderful, hard-working kiddos and they have not let the language barrier be an issue.  The eldest student and I can even converse in English (we used to have to sit next to each other in silence while we typed in Google Translate on our iPads.)

After working through that language barrier, I feel I can do anything (Which is good since I work on a military installation where we get non-English speakers frequently)!

3.) I did it.  I finally opened my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

teachers pay teachers miscellaneous me cara

I have been working on this blog for four years and have been creating for my classroom for much longer.  It is wonderful to, not only have a place to share my creations with others that may find them helpful but, to make some extra money to fund my habit.  Plus, the community of teachers I’ve been introduced to is such a help.  I can go to them and bounce ideas off them and see what others are doing.  As the LONELY ONLY in the district, that community is cherished.

4.) My district has been under construction this entire year.  It technically started two years ago but nothing really happened until last year.  All students 2nd+ have been eating lunch in the high school cafeteria while PK-1st grade has been eating in an area called the Eagle’s Nest which is barely holds one grade level at a time.  We have no elementary gym at all this year.  Sometimes, the students can use the high school gym (when there are no classes or practices) and, weather permitting, students can walk next door to the youth center and use their gym.  Well, guess where the only two stages in the entire district were……..yep, the elementary cafeteria and the elementary gym.  Neither the high school gym nor the high school cafeteria have a stage.  They are building an auditorium but it will be several months before it is ready.


You know where I had my programs this year?  I didn’t.

Nope, not a single grade level program was to be had this year.  I went in with all these fancy plans in August and was completely shot down when reminded there was no stage.  It’s been weird to not do programs at but kind of refreshing too.  We were able to focus on curriculum all year long.  Of course, next year, the programs are coming back full force and I am big believer in performances (from an advocacy/community standpoint as well as an assessment).  It’s been a nice break though.

NOTE: yes, I have four pre-k performances next week but they are individual class performances which we do every year in a room called the eye-max (a little theatre that holds about 100 people max).

5.) This year was a year of change in my living situation.  I moved, which happens frequently when you’re single and looking for the best deal for your needs without planting roots.  The main thing is: I moved to a place I could have Coco.


Coco is my five year old black lab who I absolutely adore.  She is currently asleep near the foot of the bed while I type this.


She lived with my mother for two years because my apartment was too small and had a very strict pet policy.  My new place (well new 11 months ago) has a dog park, a doggie spa, walking paths, and lots of nature.  It has made a HUGE difference in my mental state to have her with me.  I was so lonely before.  I would go home and be alone (which for introvert Cara, isn’t a bad thing but not healthy in excess).  Now, I go home to a wagging tale waiting to play.  Some days I’m tired but I make the effort.

coco Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.38.06 PM

She LOVES to cuddle so I can still get my rest/quiet time in.  My family realized I haven’t come back “home” as frequently since she’s been living with me and, it’s true.  Having her with me makes all the difference in the world.


Looking Forward:

Next year is going to be a busy year.  Besides my responsibility of providing a quality music education to every student Pre-K through 6th Grade, I am adding back in musical performances for every grade level.  I’ve done that before, no big deal but, I’m keeping my store going (because I love it!) and adding other responsibilities to my plate.

This year, I ran the after-school news crew.  We did interviews and stories from around campus and submitted them to the morning news team to air on their morning news cast.  It is completely run by students with sponsor supervision/help.  Next year, I will be the sponsor supervisor.  I’ll choose a whole new batch of kids, teach them the ropes (after I learn them myself) and make sure they put on a good newscast…..every day……at 7am……every day……

I’m also doing the yearbook next year!  I think it will be fine.  I’ve never done a yearbook before but I have bought many a yearbook.  I know that’s not the same.

This summer (not really next year but oh well), I’m working as part of team to redesign the district and campus web pages.  That should be interesting and I’ll get some good experience working with the technology department.

Finally (and this is close to my heart), I HOPE to be presenting next year at a convention.  I put in my proposals and will hear back in late summer.  It’s been on my mind for a couple years now.  I did a PD last August for just my campus and it was successful.  I want to branch out.  I really have a passion for helping and teaching teachers.  I love working with the kids.  Of course I do!  But, being the weirdo that I am, I see things that others don’t/can’t and I love to share that.  I love to learn and experiment.  Even today, I’ve been sick and in bed the majority of the day but I hated just laying there so I watched a webinar on paperless classrooms, did a Duolingo lesson, and wrote this blog post.  Granted that’s not super difficult work but I am ill.

Anyway, if you’ve gotten this far, I applaud you for your patience.  🙂  This year has been great but I’m definitely ready to turn the page on this year and begin afresh.


I’m linking up at Making Moments Matter if you want to enjoy the reflections of fellow music teachers across the globe.

Thanks for reading!

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One thought on “Reflections on the 2013-2014 School Year

  1. These are some GREAT things to remember and celebrate. Let’s hope you have a fully functional school soon (though I am SO jealous that you didn’t have to do any programs this year!). Thanks for linking up!

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