New Hat!
Hello Fifth Grade Parents,

Happy soggy Sunday.  What an amazing amount of rain!  Our house is an absolute swamp.  Thank gosh for the intermittent sun today or I might think I was in Eugene, Oregon.  Read on for news of the week:

New Strings Teacher!  (Please read.)
On Friday we began a trial period with a potential new Strings Teacher, and it looks like she is going to be a keeper!  Her name in Mrs. Ewing, and she comes to us with an enormous amount of experience (!!!), actually, which is something quite new for our school.  Because Michele and I have kept the children playing their violins, the class was a natural starting point for Mrs. Ewing, and so she will begin with Fifth Grade only for the remainder of this month, and then if all goes as planned, begin working with the other classes in January, after the break. Our violin class will be on Monday and Friday.

Michele and I are extremely pleased with this development as it now time for us to remove violin practice from our daily main lesson period, where we have (with a bit of sacrifice) been keeping it since last year. Mrs. Ewing was pleasantly surprised that the the Fifth Graders could play so well, considering two non-violinists like us were in charge, and I can assure you that 95% of the reason why they were so impressive is because everyone practices almost every day in class.  It's that simple. It is not that the are better at Violin than other classes.  It is not that they are advanced, or special, or gifted.  It is not that Michele or I are better teachers than others.  The children play well because we made it a priority to practice every day, AND we asked them to practice at home too.

This is now going to change, and children are going to have to practice on their own now at home, and NOT in class. This is HUGE moment for the children, and also for the class as a whole.  Because, here is the reality of the situation: If your child does not practice at home on their own every day/evening, then she/he will not progress with the class.  As your child falls behind she/he will begin to drag the whole class down with them.  A child that does not know what she/he is doing generally becomes more disruptive too, and requires extra time from the teacher, which slows everything down even more!  I have seen this happen time and time again.  Really.  It's a complete and absolute bummer, honestly, when this happens, and even more of a bummer when I have to start attending violin classes myself and act as the "enforcer" so that the rest of the class can benefit from the daily instruction.  Having paid for private music lessons for my own children and knowing the cost and sacrifices associated with it, I scratch my head as well when I see families not taking full advantage of this amazing "free" opportunity for their child, and not helping to make sure their child participates with high effort.

So, what I am getting at is that I am asking that you take this opportunity to recommit yourselves to support your children with violin this year.  If a child comes home without a violin and cannot practice, I ask that you intervene.  For the record, I have asked the children to practice every school day, and at least one day on the weekend. At the end of the school day we review exactly what to practice, so there should be no confusion.  You should hear your child practicing multiple pieces a night, usually two pieces that are being mastered, and one that is under development, 15-20 minutes of focused practice total.

If the violin needs to be tuned and you need assistance, I am more than happy to help.  Have your child bring it in and I will do what I can.  I have become a very excellent tuner, and will try to show your child how to work on it themselves too.  

As you can tell , I am passionate about all this.  I have put forth significant energy towards giving the children an excellent start with this very difficult instrument-- to get them to this exact moment. The days of Mr. M (and Miss C) being the violin teacher must now come to an end.  With your continued help and support I think the children will do amazing things during the second half of this year, and I am excited to watch them blossom.  Please do not hesitate to talk to me about any and all of this if you have questions.  

Egyptian Museum Field Trip
Our trip to Egypt, San Jose style, is still on for Wednesday the 12th.  As usual, we have lots and lots of adults who would like to come along.  I have contacted the Museum and they have told me we have a maximum size of 44 individuals for our scheduled tour, which means we should be able to accommodate everybody currently listed on the sign-up page.  I have already paid the entrance fee for the students, so each adult will need to pony up 15 dollars at the door when we arrive.  I would prefer to do it that way rather than have to collect money from each of you ahead of time, if you wouldn't mind.

As of Friday there were still some parents on the list who have not been cleared by the office to drive.  I will wait until next weekend to arrange the cars so that you have time to do what you need to do.  I plan to maximize the use of the larger cars in order to take as few cars as possible. We may end up with a couple of adult-only cars if need be, which I doubt will be a problem.

Food Drive for the Napa Food Bank
We will be collecting food (non-perishables) during the last week of school before the break (week of December 5th) for the Napa Food Bank.  I hope each student can bring in something to contribute.  Feel free to send something in this week as well and we will make sure it gets to the right place.

Send in Your Penny's!
This coming Friday is the last day we will be collecting small change for our alumni, Elena Nelson's, project with the Noyaa School in Accra, Ghana.  I have pulled my own bowl of pennies and miscellaneous change out of my top drawer this weekend in order to pour into our class collection tomorrow.  If you too have pennies sliding around in your top drawer, please consider sending them our way on Monday, with your child and we will in turn slide them towards Elena's project in Africa.

Upcoming Dates:
San Jose Egyptian Museum: Wednesday, December 12 (normal drop-off and pick-up times apply)
Half Day/Winter Festival: Friday, December 14.
Parent Meeting: Thursday, January 10th, 6:30-8:30.  Childcare is provided.  Please RSVP at:
Class Play: Thursday, January 17, 6:30pm

Okay, I think that's all. Have a great week!




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