When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window

One of my favorite musicals of all time is "The Sound of Music".

I never tire of watching it with my students and teaching the lessons it offers us the teach.
I've watched more times than I can count.  I know every line.  I've done the Salzburg "Sound of Music" tours.  I'm a fanatic.

One of the lines from the show is "When the Lord closes a door, he opens a window."

This week, I had what I thought was a dark moment that turned into something filled with light.

Each year, I take all four of my middle school singers who are part of my 300+ middle school choral groups to the GMEA Large Group Performance Evaluation in March.  

Since 2002 when I began teaching in Georgia, the event has been divided as follows:
2 days for middle school/2 days for high school.

This worked well for my groups because I was always able to take 2 groups on the first day and 2 groups on the second day, and it allowed time for them to have lunch off campus which they always enjoy.

The schedule for 2017 was sent on Monday...about 6 weeks before the event.  In the email that included the schedule, it said, "Some of you will have to deal with bus issues because we can't schedule everyone between 9-1 PM."  

Ding Ding Ding!  

The details aren't that important except to say this...For this event, the district pays for buses for our event!  YAY!

The only problem is that if you haven't returned to your school by 2 PM, you have to stay until 5:30 PM or after because the district bus drivers have to "run their regular routes" before they can pick your students up.

My last group sings at 2 PM and will finish their sight singing no earlier than 2:30 PM.


Side note...Somehow, the district manages to find drivers to go to those footballs and baseball games when the football/basketball players and cheerleaders are released in the middle of my class at 3 PM in order to board the bus.

Does that sound bitter?  :-)

Alas, I digress.   ...Can't fight that battle right now...Not a great use of energy.
Gotta tend to my students who need a great choral music experience supported by awesome, dedicated adjudicators and passionate organizers who are doing the best they can.

So, my brain starting spinning.

I researched charter buses.

$1200?!  To take them 6 miles across town one way?!

That's an expensive Uber.

I was on the horns of a dilemma.

Option 1:  I could cancel the event for two of my groups for whom I'd already paid out of the chorus budget (about $500).  

Option 2:  I could let the 140 students out of my 310 stay for four hours after they sing with nothing to do and wait for the "free" bus which would return them to school followed by parent pick up.

Option 3:  I could find a solution that will leave them with a more positive memorable experience and practice some problem solving.

So, I dug around.

I've heard about it for years, but I decided to look into Donor's Choose.

It looked easy enough.  

2 hours later, I'd created a profile and a project.  


Part of the rules is that there is a 2 month window.

My event is March 20.  The date I filled out the application was February 7. 

I wrote the project up anyway.

Fortunately, they have an option where you can share your project with your parents via email before it is officially approved by the organization.  

It's tax deductible, and I don't need to collect or touch money?


Each year, I create an email list of my parents, so I have a database that includes over 300 parents whose children I teach.  

I popped the email out to my parent list on Tuesday night at 8 PM.

Less than 12 hours later, I had reached the goal.  

By 18 hours later, I had the goal plus $600.

The window opened and with that open window came a rush of gratitude.  The community of parents showed me that they appreciated the work we do, and they did it quickly.  It's humbling and motivating.

I always strive to give my best to the students, but this reminded me again how important it is for me to bring my best.  

So, while the unannounced calendar change was stressful, I learned about this awesome new tool that has far more potential than I've yet explored to benefit the students who sit in front of me every day.

Check out my blog!

1 comment

  1. Good, informative column, as always, Dale. Besides the unfair--but typical--allocation of buses, this reminds me of another problem related to Professional Development. How many of us have regular PD devoted to our subject, like "regular" teachers do? How about PD specifically devoted to choir topics? Shouldn't we have regular, specialized PD where we can learn about things like Donor's Choose from other music educators? How many of us are allowed to read ChoralNet or In the Middle with Mr. D during PD sessions?

    In the two districts I have worked in, my PD requirements and my recertification hours were provided by the district, as long as I attended the usual sessions on math, reading, classroom management, ELL, etc etc etc. Some years--that would be 2 out of 16--we did get a helpful and valuable visit from a knowledgeable and experienced representative of one of the textbook companies. In all of those 16 years I spent hundreds of dollars paying for music PD at weekend workshops, summer school, etc. My favorite negative memory of PD is the regular email announcements that concluded with "Special area teachers choose a session to sit on." My favorite positive memory of PD is two enlightened principals who would say--before I could even get my request out--"You know what to do, Bart. Go visit a colleague or work in your room...whatever you need."