Writing a Christmas song with 20 5th Graders

I had three of my classes write original Christmas songs for their 2012 Christmas production, two sections of 5th grade and my 8th grade. Honestly, looking back I am not totally sure how I got from point A to point B. We started brainstorming titles, then music, then we split into groups of dancers, singers, rappers, artists, musicians and through the craziness we had some original material music come out. I am going to share a few videos of them with you.

This is 5th Grade A performing  “Don’t get on that naughty list”

Favorite opening line in the rap.

“Don’t get on the naughty list while Christmas is coming, don’t wake up while the rain deers are running, cause openin’ presents is a mystery

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A whole new world, Adams High School and Northpointe Academy

I am a relationship person. I get it from my mom, who is rich in friendship, full of wisdom and and carries a wonderful glow when she enters into conversation about your life. So I have always valued my relationships since I was young with my family and friends to keep them healthy.

Before I got a job at Northpointe, I was a student teacher at Adams High School in Rochester with James Ferden (Director of Bands). Long story short, I loved my experience there. I learned so much from Mr. Ferden and became so close with the students. When my student teaching was done, I had felt like I had the best dinner ever. It was SO good! I still keep in very close contact with many of them and get to see them outside of school.

There have been about eight students from Adams that have even come down to help me in my classroom on their days off from school. I can’t tell you how honored it makes me feel to see that students at Adams don’t only have a heart for me but for my kids as well at NPA.

Three of my friends from Adams, Matt, Michelle and Zach in particular wanted to do something to help my school for the Holidays and started this huge push within the music program at Adams High School to support my school. I was invited to speak at their Christmas concert after they showed a video Matt Heim had made about my school. Since the concert my school has received Food, instruments, christmas presents, clothes, school supplies, and more! I am blown away, thank you so much!

Even your teachers have friends!

I am not bashful about bringing help into my classroom. My parents have been in to read to my little ones, Pastor Dan from Eastside vineyard, Heather, my friends from Adams High School, Artists from His House. I am so lucky! and It’s even cooler for the kids because it mixes things up.

One of my favorite things to do is have guest musicians in and totally talk them up to be huge superstars that have graced the finest stages and entertained multitudes of people. I keep it all factual! But I do try my best to make them sound like a big deal.

Two of my best friends came in to help me at school today; Sam franjione and Adam Alderton. Both Sam and Adam are professional performing artists. Sam is a gifted rapper and Adam is a fantastic guitar player.

It’s funny, today was honestly…crazy. But amongst rap battles, kindergarten guitar lessons, and the usual christmas swag from my 5th graders, Adam and Sam did a great job.

They also joined me for Brother to Brother; the after school mentoring program I do for 6th-8th grade boys. I will write about B2B later but basically we work out really hard and talk about how to be men of character. How to grow up strong. My kids were really blessed today to hear from Sam and Adam while they talked about leading a life of integrity and overcoming adversity. Thank you so much for coming in guys!

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Adam working his magic with Kindergarteners
Adam working his magic with Kindergarteners

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Sam talks with the B2B boys  about how they overcome Adversity
Sam talks with the B2B boys about how they overcome Adversity

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Friends, Paint, Hope

I love my friends.

When I was at CMU, I went to a church called His House. There are some Incredible artists at His House. A few of my friends from college came down to Northpointe this Friday to paint a mural in my school. But the cool thing was that they had kids paint over 50% of it! Wow, it turned out so cool!

The cool thing is that students are going to be able to look at it, take pride and ownership in the painting. I was so proud to have my friends there and they made the students feel so important. It is going to be so much fun to walk through that stairwell and think about  Jesse, Amber and Morgan hanging out with my favorite kids. I love my friends! IMG_1234 IMG_1230 IMG_1224 IMG_1250 IMG_1246 IMG_1209 IMG_1199 IMG_1188

Why I chose the Inner-City

How do you filter your decisions?

Many of us tend to see the world from different perspectives, our views of humanity, it’s problems and what is truly good and right. What you view as valuable and the way you look at the world are probably determined by your upbringing and community. These have influenced what you choose to do with your time and where you invest yourself. You have probably noticed things about people you look up to that you have integrated into the person you are and hope to become, I have. All of this together becomes the grid our choices pass through…

When it was time for me to decide where I wanted to teach, I had choices. I was blessed to have a few schools in various parts of Michigan that were interested in me and all of them seemed to be great opportunities. I still found myself turning them down. Turning these opportunities down came as  a surprise to some and not as much of a surprise to others that might have known my heart more. I wanted to teach where other teachers didn’t want to go.

After graduating from CMU last spring, I chose to work at at Northpointe Academy, a charter school in Highland Park, MI. Out of the 330 kids at Northpointe,  99% of the students are African American, 99% of them are on free or reduced lunch (that means many are hungry), 75% of the students come from single-parent homes (most of my students do not have dads).

This was not a glorified “I am the difference,” decision.

It was also not a “I hope they make a movie about me,” decision.

It just fit my heart, I guess. Passed through the filter.

I am just about to reach halfway through my first year teaching. In total honesty, teaching is hard. Teaching at this school is hard in a lot of ways. I have never felt so tired. Many of the lives of my students are reflected in houses surrounding my school; broken and abandoned. The kids are beautiful, funny, smart and worth it. I work with an all-star staff that really care about the students.

Lastly, I have the greatest support. My entire family, Heather, my Aunt Kim and Uncle Andrew, Dan and Kellie Kopp, the whole Eastside Vineyard church and my friends from Adam High school, have kept me full of encouragement and love.

I am looking forward to keeping you updated on the latest stories from being a music teacher at Northpointe. My hope is that this blog makes you smile and laugh. I hope stories I tell make you cry and feel broken.I hope it inspires you. I hope at the end of the day you feel closer to Jesus who sustains me and gives me Hope.

Joe

Check out a video I made for my students during our first semester: