I am alive!

Hey, check out this post on my new blog, Beg, Borrow and Steal!

Yes, it is true.  I have survived my first nine weeks teaching elementary school music.

Was it stressful?  Yes.

Did I cry almost every week because I was terrified each time I had to start a new lesson?  Yes.

Was I so exhausted I basically ate dinner and collapsed in bed every day after getting home from work?  Yes.

Did I absolutely love it?


Teaching music truly is a fantastic job, and on top of that, I am incredibly blessed to be at a school where the staff are some of the most supportive and helpful people I have ever met.  I haven’t felt ostracized, belittled or condescended to because of my “BT1” (1st Year Beginning Teacher) status, and all of my questions are met with clear and friendly answers, no matter how small or silly.  I cannot express how grateful I am to the teachers and staff who I work with, especially since I started school two weeks late (because it is  a year-round school, they began classes back at the end of July, but the principal set my hire date for after Alex and I got back from our honeymoon because she is amazing!).

Here are some pictures of what I have been doing to my room so far!  As I said before, I started late, so as of now I have only had one teacher work day, which is not really much at all.  Things as they are, I haven’t been able to decorate or arrange my room quite how I want to yet, but slowly I’m adjusting it and making it my own.  Students have commented on my constant re-arranging of things.  “Do you move that board every week, Mrs. Tigges?”  They ask, referring to the board with the lesson plans of each grade posted on it.  “Yep!”  I reply cheerfully because… pretty much… I do hahaha.  I keep trying new things to see what I like best (which is what being a first year teacher is all about, right?).


So, as of right now, I don’t have enough chairs for all my students. The gym teacher let me borrow these rubber floor dots though and I’ve found them quite useful! I assign each student a color and tell them as long as they sit on the right color they’re good, it doesn’t matter which one. Then, I’m free to rearrange them however I want for each class– like this one, who did some group activities.


I assigned each color a different job. The red dots were in charge of the markerboard, and no one else was allowed to write on it. The purple dots presented what their group wrote down. Etc, etc.


One of our group activities with the Orchestra– I divided students into pairs, and each pair had to write with a dry-erase marker on the “Orchestra Map” where they thought each family of the orchestra sat (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion). Then we looked on the Smartboard and used a corresponding app to discover if they were right or not. I have since laminated these “maps” so that I don’t have to use the slippery cover sheets anymore, thank goodness!


My mantra for this year: “We are a Music Making Team!” I am the music making coach, and my students are my music making athletes. As a team, we have to work together towards a common goal, even if we don’t like each other. It’s a tough concept for some kids… but I feel very strongly that one of my jobs as a music teacher is to show how to work with someone to make something, regardless of whether they’re your friend. Below are my 5 rhythm sticks positions– more on that later!


This is my take-a-break table. When students need to take a break, I send them there. It’s not always for behavior issues; sometimes I notice a student is distressed or seems overwhelmed by something and unable to participate. I want the take-a-break table to be more like a place to safely collect yourself. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to successfully accomplish this my first year though. Classroom discipline is so hard! I, like every first-year teacher before me, am struggling with it. I’ve recently rearranged things so that the table is not next to the book shelf. Still not sure if I like it or not. Speaking of books, though, anyone have any ideas for good elementary school music books?

I’m so excited to have my own classroom!  It’s really big too, which is fantastic for me.  I love having all the space, because I love to teach using movement, and my students have already been learning some dances.  In 2nd grade we did Alabama Gal (New England Dancing Masters), and in all grades except Kindergarten we’re learning a dance with the song Fatou Yo in order to learn about Rondo form.  Rondo is a form where the first theme, “Theme A,” comes back after every new theme.  For Fatou Yo, each theme has a different dance move we do.  Most students seem to have fun with it, and I think it helps when they can actually participate in the form of the music instead of just being told about it.

Speaking of Rondo…


All grades except Kindergarten have been focusing on Rondo form for the past three weeks. This is the “Rules Rondo” (You can print it out on this website!), which has 4 themes. Theme E was one that I had each class create. Every theme had it’s own special instrument and rhythm to play on that instrument. The students really loved it because they love to play instruments! Playing the “floor” meant we patted the rhythm on the floor, which students thought was cool too (even though honestly I made that up at the last minute because I didn’t have enough of one type of instrument to give to everyone at the time.  Yay improvisation!).


Here’s another Rondo I did with my classes at the end of this week because we just went on break so we had a half-day. It’s found in the 3rd grade Making Music textbook, and it’s a speech-piece in rondo form. I had students perform each form not only with speech but with boomwhackers coordinated to the color of the markers. Students love the boomwhackers!


My boomwhacker setup for Bananas and Cream. I actually ended up switching the little red ones and the purple ones so that when students rotated they wouldn’t have to play Theme A twice in a row (Theme A was both types of red, Theme B was green, and Theme C was purple).


Oh, and last but not least, the board that I keep moving around every week haha. It has music staffs on the other side, but unfortunately it’s pretty unstable so I’ve only been able to use one side of it (hence the “Do Not Touch” sign taped to the bottom). Hopefully this week during break one of the janitors might be able to help me fix this so I can roll it around safely during class!

If you have any suggestions for me about layout or lesson ideas, please let me know by commenting below!  I hope you like what I’ve shared and I can’t wait to post some more music-education related things in the future!  I’m working on a short post about classroom management that will probably go up later this week, and I also have to tell you about Eagles Center Stage, my first chorus!

I hope you have a fantastic week!

~Torrence Nightingale

Student Teaching: Top 5 Things Learned

300 hours, 50 days, and 12 full weeks later, I have completed my Student Teaching experience.

Woooo!!!  (This was the first image that came up when I Googled

Woooo!!! (This was the first image that came up when I Googled “celebration,” by the way.)

It’s time to celebrate!  Break out the brooms and dustpans and cardboard boxes!

“Wait, what?”

Haha, that’s right!  At the moment celebration has been put on hold so that I can pack up my apartment and say goodbye to campus life (*sniff-sniff*).  I’ve been cleaning for most of the day, but had to take a break to wait for my laundry to dry, so I figured I should update my small blue thing readers on how student teaching finished out for me.

It was amazing.  Of all the wonderful programs and classes I have been involved with at school these past four years, student teaching was by far the most rewarding and most valuable.  My top five things that I learned/improved on this semester:


  1. Flexibility.  In every meaning of the word.  I learned how to let things happen (like a fire drill, for instance) and take it in stride with the lesson as best I could.  I also learned how to change a lesson completely on the spot when I realized it wasn’t working- a disconcerting situation, but a very real one, and I’ll admit after I was prepared for it it got kind of fun.  I’m not typically one for thinking on my feet, but when I’m teaching, it’s like a constant puzzle trying to make sure my students are engaged and learning in the most efficient way possible.  I also learned that technology is fantastic when it’s fantastic, and annoying when it’s annoying, and that you can’t count on either one from day to day.  I learned to have a range of activities for all those different students– the ones who don’t enjoy singing or who can’t sing because of religious beliefs, the ones who like to hit things, the ones who are good at listening and the ones who are good at doing math.  Of course flexibility is preached day in and day out to education students, but you really can’t be taught that from a book or a lecture, and I feel that this experience has finally let me wet my feet a little in the vast ocean of adaptation.image
  2. Passion.  Phew!  I knew I loved music.  I also knew I loved children.  I even knew I loved teaching, long before I went to college.  But, I did not realize how passionately I loved those things until I started teaching my own classes.  It was overwhelming how much I cared about these students I had never seen before, and how badly I wanted them to understand that all I wanted was the best for them, that everything I did every day was with the end goal of helping them learn.  It can make things difficult because it makes it hard not to take it personally when students don’t want to participate, or misbehave.  But that, I discovered, really never had anything to do with me.  It goes right into my third thing…juggling-900x600
  3. Students have lives too.  Whaaatttt?  We often complain about students not realizing that teachers have lives and other things to do besides just giving a lesson every day, but sometimes I think that teachers forget that students have lives outside of school too.  Students have parents and siblings and extra curricular activities and challenges and sickness and pets… all these factors that affect their participation and their learning.  This is the true challenge of teaching in a public school.  There are so many students, all with their own individual needs, and the spectrum of needs is incredibly vast.  I learned this semester that before I jump to conclusions or dive into a lesson, I need to make sure I actually understand who my students are and where they are coming from.  Otherwise, I could end up fighting a losing battle trying to get them engaged in something in which they have no interest and see no value.

    Beg, borrow and steal.

    Beg, borrow and steal.

  4. STEAL ALL THE IDEAS.  My CT this semester was awesome, and I literally took pictures of her entire classroom, asked for copies of music, wrote down every little lesson idea and classroom management method she used, and asked her random questions about how she does everything.  Do I plan on copying her exactly word for word in my own classroom?  No.  I’m not her, and nothing I do will ever change that, and I’m ok with that.  However, I know this- you can’t be your best without trying out a lot of different ideas, and the best place to get good ideas to try is from people who are good at what you want to be good at.  Neil Gaiman said: “The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.”  I’ve learned this first hand this semester.  I tried copying my CT exactly on some things, and when I found it wasn’t working because, as I said, we’re different people, I let myself experiment with new ways and found areas of strength and weakness within my own personality.  That’s what Student Teaching is for.  That’s what life is for, really.  We get a good idea, pursue it, and then gladly adapt ourselves when we see what works and what doesn’t.

    Yes, the journey is more important than the destination.  But if you don't have a destination in mind, are you even on a journey at all?

    Yes, the journey is more important than the destination. But if you don’t have a destination in mind, are you even on a journey at all?

  5. Last but not least: Objectives first, then lesson plan.  I feel like one of those education textbooks.  We always like to think we’re more clever than a book, but I’m afraid I have to admit that those books were written by good teachers, and they knew more than me.  The temptation to create a lesson based on a cool activity or a specific song or dance or instrument you want to use is strong.  Incredibly strong.  You go on Pinterest and see a fantastic music idea and say, “Oo!  Let me use this somehow.  I’m sure I can fit it in.”  That doesn’t lead to good lessons.  In student teaching, my worst lessons were the ones where I focused on getting one activity in that I just wanted to do because it was fun.  My best ones were the ones I planned starting from the foundation up– the ones where I started with “What do my students need to learn from this lesson?”  You start with the what– the objective, the state standard, if you have them, and then you think about how you will know if they learned it.  What will my students be able to do if they’ve grasped this concept?  What changes will I see?  What will they be able to produce for me?  Then, once you have a clear idea of what you want and what it will look like, you analyze that and match it with activities.  You can’t put the cart before the horse.  Lesson’s flow so smoothly when you know what you’re aiming for, not just how to shoot.

As I move out of my apartment back home for the next 3 months (3 months till I get married aaahhhh!!!), I’m excited more than I am sad.  The only explanation for that (since I’m a very sentimental person and changes are hard for me) is that I feel well prepared.  Do I know what school I’m going to work at yet?  No, though I’ve given my resume to a lot of people already and had a couple phone calls.  Do I know how my first program is going to go?  No.  Do I know how I’m going to run an after school choir when I’m not a vocalist myself?  No.  But I know that I will be able to adjust and learn as I go.  I know that when I make mistakes, they don’t destroy me anymore, they just make me that much better the next time.  I know that after I graduate Saturday, I’ll be a qualified teacher.  Experienced and mistake-free?  Heck no!  But qualified.  And I’m so excited to start my music-teacher journey!


Sincerely yours,

Torrence Nightingale

I don’t pay attention in class.

lifetime wellness class

January 14, 2014

“irreversible damage”

he was damaged. irreversibly damaged.
he couldn’t go back
he couldn’t return
to search for his missing pieces.
but not destroyed,
he had to stumble on forward.
nothing could be reversed,
but perhaps repaired.
irreversibly damaged,
hopelessly broken?