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Showing posts from 2017

Word of the Year

I've been doing this word of the year thing for practically ever - like, *adjusts glasses and ironic t-shirt* since before it was the Thing to do. So I was thinking of a word for 2018, and the one that my brain and gut hit me with was "fortitude."

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What am I trying to tell myself about 2018? Courage in pain or adversity? Effing GRIT?

No, thanks. I had enough of that in 2017, thank you very much.

And come to think of it, the last few words have been so similar: Intrepid. Sovereign. Catalyst. It's like I'm trying to hold up my badass-osity like a shield. Protect me from the world, plucky personality! Keep away! I'm a Strong Female Character! I climb mountains and publish books and I don't need you.


Those are all true statements. I am those things. But maybe this year, the word to focus on should be softer. Should melt. Be snuggly. I wear this carapace and feel my squishy feelings inside. I don't hide from them, but maybe I hide the…

The Silence in My Mind is Deafening

Write until something comes out starts making sense just put the  words on the page
I'm enraged because I can't they won't come so reluctant like I used them for my gain pinned them down made them tame
Seeking fame, but I'm not -  the mere thought makes me shake shiver people proud and reading? I'd maybe rather die bleeding blood not ink
Never once did I think the words wouldn't come
Writer's block.
Want the book that stole all my words (for now)? Buy it at 

That time it was right to be wrong

Last night I had a discussion on Twitter which - as is often the case - led to some reflection.

Travel with me in my Way-Back Machine - we're going to college.

Specifically to my Philosophies of Music Education class (Which, spoiler, was the only music class I ever received a C in. More on that later.) - I'm sure, if you're a teacher you had a Philosophy of Ed class - I had to take that one too - so you know that the purpose of a class like this is to study different schools of thought on pedagogy and student learning to help you develop your own ideas of what teachers do.

As I'm sure you can imagine, I was a very opinionated student in this class. My instructor didn't much care for me and my ideas, and honestly, that feeling was mutual. He was of the thought that music instruction was a privilege and that the most talented students deserved the most attention. Now, before you clutch your pearls about this, I want you to know that among performance majors, this is …

Love in a Modern Classroom*

Earlier this year, I had a student "teachersplained" to me.

I'd spoken with the girl about inappropriate behavior, just like I would any other student, only the next morning, her classroom teacher came to me to tell me about the student's homelife and family, about how important it was for her to stay in school, and basically (though, I truly believe it was out of care for the student and because I was new to the school) to giver her a bit more leeway than I would others.

This conversation has bothered me ever since.

It bothered me in a professional way - "Don't tell me how to run my classroom."
It bothered me in a parental way - "I'd want my kid treated the same as everyone else."
It bothered me in a personal way - "Who are we to speak of families like this?"

Where I live, I don't encounter racism daily. I know it exists intellectually. I see it happening to people I interact with online and in the media, but around here, th…

I can't say #MeToo

The #MeToo hashtag hurts.

So many women around me have been harassed. So many women I respect and admire have been attacked. So many women I don't even know have shared harrowing stories, both of one-time events and daily occurrences. My heart hurts for these women and for our culture as a whole. My heart hurts for my son, who is little and learning confusing things - from us, about respect, and from others about degradation. My heart hurts for the good men I know who have either made mistakes, or not stopped their friends, or who were honestly oblivious to the scope of harassment going on around them.

As wrong as it is, it hurts me in another way too. And maybe you won't understand. You might judge. But I want to you to listen.

I can't say #MeToo.

I've never been a victim of someone's malicious sexual advances. No one has ever made me feel unsafe in this way. I've gone back over my formative years with curiosity - am I repressing something? Did I consider it n…

Hands on top...*

Everyone has a Thing in education they just can't abide.

I've worked with teachers who disagree with numbering students or allowing bathroom breaks outside of lunch and recess. There's the much maligned clip chart. I personally lose my stuffing when teachers keep students out of Music because they're missing work in class.

But there's something else that's creeping up right behind that as my number one classroom no-no.

Attention Getters.

You know, the Power Teaching "Class" - "Yes" or the sing-songy call and response, "One, two, three. Eyes on me!" - "One, two, eyes on you!" There's a million of them, as many as there are really great teachers who use them.

I certainly don't want to disparage the teachers who rely on them. Teachers use what works for them, and we're all individuals, right? Well, yes. Of course. But my problem is the greater culture that they create.

Take for example, the classes that then vis…

Driveway Moment: The Post

I'm a committed NPR listener.

There's been, well, a lot of news lately,  and many things that I've been trying to reconcile in my head. I always feel like I can turn to the radio to help me understand and make sense of the world around me.

This morning on my drive to work, there was an interview regarding the Las Vegas shooting and gun control. It was with a conservative talk show personality out of Phoenix, Chris Buskirk, and the meat of his interview with host Rachel Martin was that conservatives and liberals are not even having the same conversation on this topic.

That stopped me cold. How true.

I live in one of the most conservative states in America, and I have friends and family who are as Republican as you can get. (Of course, I have friends and family who share my liberal views and others who have very nuanced opinions. There are Libertarians and Anarchists and folks of all stripes in my circles - forgive the digression, but I just have to put out there that there …
Columbine was an awakening.
I was a senior in high school. Nearly done. Ready for college and future, and suddenly, my peers were looking at friends of mine - people we'd all known forever, but who favored boots and trenchcoats, loud music and facial piercings as The Other. My friends cared. They'd never tell you because they were Teflon-bulletproof-fuckyou people, but they were hurt that people they'd Red Rovered with and been to the skating rink birthday parties of, suddenly moved to the other side of the hall and eyed their backpacks suspiciously.
The horrors ran together afterwords. I'll admit to being shocked but numbed to another school shooting, another active shooter, another lockdown.
Until Sandy Hook.
By then, I wasn't just a teacher, I was a mom. It was a deeper slice, because these weren't older children, children struggling at the brink of adulthood, these were the faces I see every day. Their ages and the circumstances made them so much more inno…

Happy to be Happy Again

I had the best first week of school.

This isn't hyperbole. I really believe I had the best first week of school I've had since my very first year when I really didn't know any better. And you know, maybe it's kind of the same thing - I'm in a new place. It's shiny and exciting. The kids and I don't know what to expect from each other yet. I haven't offended any staff members or parents yet.

But it's more than that too. I was trying to explain it to some friends who still teach where I used to, and I was doing a terrible job of it. I'd said it was "like the expectations are equally as high, but maybe more grade level appropriate?" and flapped around vaguely. The girls knitted their brows and nodded, clucking that they sort of knew what I meant. I tried telling my husband, who is also a teacher, that it had "more of that feeling of elementary school, you know, like how it feels when you're a student and you feel cared for and le…

(Insert logo here)

I'm an Idaho-sized Edulebrity, and I think I'm uncomfortable with it.

This week, I'm presenting at and attending a large conference. People are recognizing me from other state or regional conferences I've presented at. I've reached a thousand followers on Twitter. (which feels like an insane amount) This tweet happened:
I'm completely flummoxed. Not because I don't think I have great things to say - I mean, let's be honest, I'd totally follow me - but because I'm not *doing* anything to get noticed. Yes. I'm active on Twitter. Yes. I blog pretty consistently about things happening both in my classroom and my real, human life. Yes. I present at conferences in memorable ways with useful content.

But I'm not doing that because I want to get picked up by a publisher or (sweet Cheez-its, no) be considered a "Thought Leader." I'm not out hustling and promoting my brand.

Enter this morning's keynote. The author of BrandED, Eri…

This is a post about misconceptions.

We all have them about each other - about who we are as people, about what our jobs entail, what our families are like - sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. It seems that the more we are able to share those misconceptions with other people, and through that, gain support and acceptance for the skewed way we view each other, the less we care about correcting them.

I've talked before about how in Idaho, if you hold a K-8 All Subjects Certificate, you are legally "highly qualified" to teach all subjects in grades kindergarten through eight. Period. The end. Your college coursework is deemed enough to prepare you for any and all of those positions.

I can't even begin to cover the countless flaws I see in this system. But I can bring your attention to two specific specialty areas covered in that certificate that are not what they seem.



(You thought I was going to say Music, didn't you? Pshaw. That would be so obvious. Hang in here with me.)

I …


I tweeted earlier "I think my biggest fear is amnesia."

All joking aside (and obviously, all the replies were jokes) - forgetting is terrifying to me.

I'm reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, about a woman who wakes up from a fall and can't remember the last decade of her life. When she wakes, she feels like herself from 10 years ago, but around her, everything has changed. I've spent the first quarter of the book in fairly frantic tears, my chest tight. I don't want to forget. I NEVER want to forget what has happened to me - none of it. Good or bad. I can't imagine what it would be like to see a dear friend and not know them. To not be able to share a joke or a knowing look. In the story, the main character even forgets her children. She wakes up and is a stranger in her own life.

I feel like it hits close to home, not just because I am a visceral reader, (I have some of the worst book hangovers you can imagine.) but because someone near to me ha…


I guarantee that inside each of us is a kernel
A small, hard nugget
Of our true selves.
Not the self we put on for our friends
Or even when we look in the mirror.
A single grain of sand
Irritating our softest parts
We cover it
Secrete this life
Over top of it
Smoothing out the edges
Becoming luminous

We clamp our shells down
Unwilling to lose what we’ve
Worked to build
Over who we are deepest inside

A beach is made from sand
Smoothed by the ocean
Warmed by the sun
Sinking between our toes
And clinging to our skin
Each of those grains beautiful
Useful together
And more comfortable than
Walking on pearls.

One Last Time

I have nine days left with my kids.

I'm thrilled and petrified to be starting a new job at a new school in a new district in the fall. I have no doubt that it's what I need and that I am what they need. I would say that I have no regrets, but that would be a lie. A big one.

I'm going to miss my kids so much.

I've watched entire families grow up - siblings, cousins, and now, aunts and uncles. I haven't had students of students, but I'm sure I was getting close. Sure, a half hour once a week doesn't seem like enough time to really connect with kids - and truly, I don't connect with every kid - but half and hour once a week for five years adds up. Compound that with the kids who choose to do Special Chorus and are actors in the big 4th grade play. Mix in the fact that I have a heart for the kids that struggle in class but bloom in music. These are my kids.

And it's tough to know that I'm leaving them to help myself. It feels selfish. Un-teachery. I…

Strangers on a train

Since when is being stabbed in the neck
A "non-story"?
It's nonSENSE in the purest form
A complete and utter
Lack of sense
A senseless crime
And I think it's time
To inspect the sources
Aim to correct the forces
That let a man
Spewing hate and vitriol
Be in control
Exact flesh as a toll
And forever change the lives of
Strangers on a train

A View From the Audience

I'm pretty bad at actually *taking* a compliment.

As a music teacher, I'm complimented after each performance by smiling parents and families:
"You do such amazing things with the kids."
"This is the best performance I've ever seen."
"Thank you for everything you do with the kids. They love you."

Nearly always, I duck my head, mutter thanks, and say something about how it's all the kids. Not because I'm modest (because I'm really not) but because it felt like what you're supposed to say after a program. Some part of me knew it was genuine, but honestly, by the time the show was over, I was tired and wanted to clean up and go home and enjoy some silence. I needed time to process. Time to see past the mistakes, the things we'd worked on over and over but never quite nailed, to see the performance as a whole.

I'd never really seen a performance as a whole until last week.

My son's first grade program was Wednesday. I w…

THAT kid

My kid just spent the day in in-school suspension.

I mean, I guess it's called "the quiet room" but let's call that spade a spade, shall we? And while we're calling things as they are, my son is a bully. He's the mean kid. He's hurting others physically and with words. And I'm not whether he knows how what he's doing is wrong or whether he just doesn't care.

Either way.

I could make a list of things that could be reasons excuses: he's young for his class but huge for his age. He's a super silly kid who is also very imaginative. He's gifted. He's got terrible impulse control. He's an only child. He's bright enough to be experimenting with sarcasm. Maybe he's a bit of a misanthrope like his mother. In any case, he's apparently gone from "big clumsy puppy" to "bad, bad dog" rather quickly.

I have no idea how to handle this.

Mom-Sarah: Dude. you're in so much trouble. You're grounded for t…

Dear Teaching,

It's not you. It's me. For better or worse, we've both really changed since we've been together, and I don't know if we're as good of a fit as we used to be. I can remember when you made me so happy, and all I wanted to do was give back and give back. I wanted to be better for you. 
But lately, well, Teaching, you're a jerk Maybe you've been a jerk all along, manipulating me into giving you everything I've got, then asking for more. You've exploited my natural curiosity for your own gains. You know all my faults and just how to make them seem huge and insurmoutable. You make me feel bad about myself.
You, do, you know.
Teaching, you make me feel like I'll never be good enough for you. You keep changing the rules, changing the steps to this dance that I thought that we were good at together. Just when we're in sync and everything is going really well, it all falls apart again. I don't have two left feet, Teaching. I'm smart and c…

< rant >

You know what quote I hate most of all?
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. The most trouble I've ever been in with my principal got me told this long story about how these children in Africa found some fruit and they could either all go together to the fruit or one could go alone...
...or something because honestly I stopped listening since I had no clue what it had to do with me saying that I couldn't rearrange my schedule to fit in that one class since Monday was a holiday and a teacher missed prep time.


The moral of the story (I guess?) was essentially that phrase, and you know, I just don't see the world that way at all.

What's wrong with me going to scout out that fruit on my own and bringing some back? I can tell you where it is, if there was a lot of it, what dangers you find on the way. The quote naturally assumes the worst about people - that I'm going to hoard all the fruit (or whatever I find by going fast and a…
I have a Thing I want to say.

I've been writing it over and over again.

I edit it.

Seems shiny.

But I can't post it yet.

It's still not ready.

So I make another draft and edit that one too.

(Ooh. Shiny.)

But don't post it.

Because it's still not ready.

And I'm starting to think that maybe the post is ready,

But I'm not.

A Special Report on Specialists

Opinions wanted. What does everyone think the purpose is of specialists? Are specialist classes for exposure, deep level learning?+ — Kory Graham (@korytellers) March 17, 2017
I told Kory that my response would need to be typed, double-spaced 12-point Times, but this will do too. What's the purpose of specialists?


It's the truth and the truth hurts so, so much. — Sarah Windisch (@slwindisch) March 17, 2017 It's true. That's what created my job, and it's not me being jaded or burnt-out, it's me accepting reality. When being a specialist is awful, it's because you're treated like you're no more than a person who takes the class so you can make copies or pee or just have a moment because OMG they're so loud and inside recess and I just can't anymore...

I get it. Most specialists get it. It's fine. It's job security.

But the great part of being a specialist? Teaching something you're passionate about al…

This Plus This Equals That

Magma, Gojira's latest album has been on heavy rotation for me lately. It's a great album. You should listen to it, regardless of what sort of music you typically enjoy. On my way to work this morning, the line, "When you change yourself, you change the world" from the song Silvera dug itself into my brain. That idea wouldn't let go.
I thought about it all day. About change. How changing yourself and the betterment of the self is so glorified these days. I'm certainly not saying you should be stagnant. Good grief. No. Consider the Butterfly Effect, though. Or Newton's Third Law. Every action, every change, "good" or "bad" has a consequence also "good" or "bad." Change for change's sake seems to be a Thing right now, (Innovate! Iterate!) but I think it gets lost that we don't exist independently of each other. Not that you can worry constantly about the impact of your change on others, but it deserves your c…

Love is...

inspired by the #doodleaday prompt for 3/8/17 Draw love. Without hearts or using the color red.

No problem. Those aren't really things I associate with love so much anyway. Valentine's Day, yes, but love? Nah.

As I was thinking about this prompt, I realized that I am a person that "overuses" the word love. I'm always telling people that I love their ideas. Their funky socks. Their faces. I was wondering if that cheapens "love."

Then I realized that was probably the stupidest thought I'd ever had.
I tell people I love them and their ideas and thoughts and whatevers because I DO. Love for me isn't scarce. I don't need to ration it. I don't need to hoard it for myself. When other people are clever or creative or unabashedly themselves, it makes me outrageously happy, and I want them to know. I need to tell them that these little bits of awesome are noticed. Appreciated.

So that brings us to the doodle. It's a circle - no beginning, no e…

Apply Now for the MSGLA!

[Warning. Contains satire.]

Are you a principal, head teacher, or other school leader looking to gain new leadership ideas that can be implemented immediately? Do you miss the feeling of belonging to a group of people exactly like you? Has it been a long time since you've enjoyed the heady drama of the Middle School Atmosphere ™️️ ?

Fear not.

You too can advance your skills with the Middle School Girls Leadership Academy (or MSGLA for short). Our staff provides training in rumor spreading, power struggles, and advanced backhanded compliments. We can teach you to make your staff feel like valuable members of a team, and then, with a single word from you, turn on one another viciously. We have a course that instructs you in the best way to hold a grudge at no cost to yourself, and strength training for throwing staff members under the bus.

These skills and ideas have been tested for decades in the halls of middle schools and junior highs across the country, and now they are ready t…

On Art

Art needn't be challenging to change you.
Art doesn't even need to be Art.
When something speaks to you,  take heed
It will whisper of the world and your place therein
If only you choose to listen.


What a short time it takes To put on the brakes Reverse Chart a course that shakes Americans to their very Roots
And yet
We the People shout Call the leaders out Demand Have second thoughts about America and her Roots
There is no place for hate You shall not dictate Curse Threaten or obligate America's very Roots
Americans are strong And everyone belongs Rise up Sing the song We are America's Roots

The Story After the Tweet

And then, in the midst of dystopia, my Principal texts me this: — Sarah Windisch (@slwindisch) January 26, 2017
Moments after I posted that picture, I got another text from my principal. It said, "You do make a difference ::winky-kissy emoji::"

I know what she meant. I do. I know it's a kindness when it's very apparent that I'm unhappy and feel unappreciated. But here's the thing: not once in my career have I ever doubted that I make a difference in the lives of my students. In fact, I probably have an over-inflated sense of my importance to my students. I know I make a difference. I know they adore me. I know they look forward to seeing me for a myriad of reasons - few of them musical.

And I know that if I felt my job contribution was of even a quarter of the importance to the adults I work with, I wouldn't be feeling the way I am.

The place I'm at in my career has nothing to do with students in any way. I've said it b…

Along Comes a Spark

I'm an excitable human. It's true.
But I've maybe never been as professionally excited as I was today.

Today I had a student, now a senior in high school, come to job shadow me. She's going to college in the fall to study music ed, and for her senior project, she's required to spend 5 hours with a professional in her chosen field.

So, first, it was, "Can I spend 5 hours?" and then it was, "Can I spend a day?" and today it was, "I'm coming tomorrow too, and I have these two periods back to back that I could come in, and..."

That's crazy flattering, let's be super honest. But, this is someone who, after talking to her, doing the "interview questions" she had to fill out, is going to be amazing in the classroom. Not just because she has that need to teach music, but because she understands so much more than I expected an (almost) 18 year old to, and in such a deeper way.

She jumped right into teaching kids. She had …

Favorite Lessons: Movie Music

I love teaching about movie music. Kids ask the best questions and are so, so curious. And there's so much to learn about. So many tangents! — Sarah Windisch (@slwindisch) January 5, 2017
This morning, we started talking about movie music in 5th grade. This becomes a unit in my class and it turns out differently each time I do it. That's probably the best part of it really: seeing what interests a particular class and what they want to do with it. Sometimes, kids get really into Foley. Other classes want to compose. One time, I had a class do a puppet show with their own music and sound and we learned about editing.

On the third time through the first video I share with students, I was thinking about how great it would be as a writing prompt. Or for creating art. (When you do lessons 3-5 times in a row, and then again on another day 3-5 times in a row, you can get pretty creative with what else to do with a resource.) So here it is:

(Insert all the educational disclaimers here…

A Study in The Adventures of the Dissatisfied Consulting Music Specialist of the Baskervilles (or something like that...)

Here's a big shocker: I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan.
I mean the A.C. Doyle stories. Robert Downey Jr. and The Great Mouse Detective. Guys, there's even a Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode that's Sherlock themed, and it's great. 
And then there's Sherlock.
BBC Sherlock.
Naturally, since series 4 just started, I've been thinking about it more than usual and I came to a realization. I'm Sherlock-shooting-the-wall-bored with what I'm doing. Originally, I was just dissatisfied with the lack of respect I was feeling. I wanted to pack up my toys and take them to play with someone who would appreciate how awesome they were. But what I'm doing now is too small for me. I've become complacent. I need to find a new challenge because I've done all I can here.

In that particular scene (The Great Game, S1, E3), Sherlock is disappointed with the criminal class - they're so mundane. He needs a challenge, a criminal mastermind to equal his brilliance. …