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Is Extracurricular Extra, or Essential?

The following could be applied to many areas we sometimes call extracurricular. I consider these essential to students. Music was crucial to my experience in school. Music kept me engaged and taught many lessons I might have otherwise missed. Below is something I wrote twenty years ago for a Cooper’s Troopers Reunion Band. The thoughts still ring true for me today.

practice pad

When in the third grade, Mr. Warnock’s aunt gave him this practice pad for Christmas.

All I Ever Needed To Know, I Learned In the Band 

  1. I learned the importance of persistence:  Do we really have to play that spot again?
  2. I learned that self-esteem is developed by meeting challenges:  Mr. Cooper really believes we can play this piece?
  3. I learned you can do almost anything you’re passionate about if you try long and hard enough.  Yes, I just love practicing the 26 snare drum rudiments. Oh yes, scales are fun, too!
  4. I learned the importance of flexibility.  You want us there at what time?
  5. I learned to suspend judgment:  “You don’t know if you like this piece until you can play it!” – Mr. Cooper
  6. I learned the importance of showing up, no matter how you feel.
  7. I learned to be on time.  There is nothing like the “Cooper stare” if you run into formation late.
  8. I learned organizational skills.  What other class requires that a student show up on time with 27 separate uniform parts, music folder, clothespins, snacks, and at least two drum sticks (hopefully a matched pair).
  9. I learned to appreciate the great outdoors.  I have fond memories of those early morning winter marches on the parking lot.  I hear sound coming from my drum, but I can’t feel my hands.
  10.  I learned that success depends on how you use your time.  “The best bands are the bands that fix mistakes the quickest.”  – Mr. Cooper
  11. I learned to keep going no matter what.  I remember the roar of laughter in a Little Rock stadium after one file took a counter-march 20 yards early.  We just kept going and regrouped at the majorette feature tune. “Take real big steps and well get this back together,” several unidentified seniors were heard to say.
  12.  I learned that everybody’s part is important from the first trumpet solo down to the triangle part.  “Get it covered!” – Hal Cooper
  13. I learned that there is more than one way to hit a drum.  “Yes, I know those are marimba mallets and you’re playing timpani, but that’s the sound I want.” –  Mr. Cooper
  14.  I learned how to ad-lib.  “Forget what is written, drummers.  Just make it sound right.” – Hal Cooper
  15. I learned the importance of consistency.  “You’re not getting better because you make new mistakes every day.” –  Hal Cooper
  16. I learned the importance of a compliment, no matter how small.  The tension and suspense after a halftime show lifted completely when Mr. Cooper turned and simply said, “Good job.”
  17.  I learned to travel in varied accommodations.  Experienced travelers by school bus will do fine in any third world country.
  18.  I learned the importance of a group effort focused on a common goal.  “Take aim and push your sound all the way to the press box.” – Hal Cooper
  19. I learned that it’s OK to be a little arrogant as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously. We really were pretty awesome!
  20. I learned the power of music.  I’ll never forget the first time I heard the Symphonic Band open up on Eternal Father, Strong to Save, arranged by Claude T. Smith! Sounds can change even a drummer’s life.
  21. I learned that success feels good, and failure feels bad.  If you take success for granted, you’re heading for failure.  If you learn from your failures, success becomes a possibility.  I remember a split rating we had difficulty understanding. Mr. Cooper didn’t knock the judge, we just went back to work.  The next ratings were straight First Divisions all the way across.
  22.  I learned that while perfection might be the goal, you have to go with what you’ve got.  I’ve heard a lot of great imperfect performances. Mr. Cooper once remarked as we listened to a reel-to-reel performance tape, “It’s amazing that a bunch of kids playing noisemakers can make sounds that give you goosebumps.”

Thank you, Mr. Hal Cooper, for a lot of great memories and a few musical “goosebumps” along the way!  Written in 2000 by Jim Warnock, now principal at Alma Intermediate School, but still a compulsive drummer. 

Click below to hear the band.

Recording of Hal Cooper’s El Dorado High School Symphonic Band from around 1973 

The Long, Slow Arc of Justice

MLK book coverRosa Parks said, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” when asked if she didn’t give up her seat because she was physically tired.

I was eight months old when Birmingham, AL, bus driver, James F. Blake, demanded that Rosa Parks give up her bus seat to a white man. I can’t find the name of the white man who boarded the bus and wasn’t given the seat by Rosa Parks, but think that it must have been sad for both of these men to live with that legacy.

Segregation in the schools was declared unconstitutional the year before I was born. I first shared a classroom with a black student in the sixth grade. Her name was Regina, and she drew my name for the Christmas party gift exchange. Funny what you remember.

I was playing drums in the sixth grade at a friend’s home close to West Woods Elementary in El Dorado, Arkansas, when I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. I felt no emotion at all. I knew nothing of the man. I never spoke of this to my classmate, Regina.

Though I could rationalize that I was just a typical uninformed kid, I still feel sadness at my lack of emotion when I first heard of Dr. King’s death. The significance of his death and his work became more relevant throughout my life. His words have gained tremendous significance to me. Strength to Love became one of my favorite books and I referred to it often.

King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I thought today how long and slow that arc bends! In many ways, struggles for fairness and equity still continue today.

As I wrote this, I was reminded of a song lyric by Dan Fogelberg – “When faced with the past the strongest man cries.”

Wisdom of My Father

My father died in January at the age of 91, so this is our first Christmas without him. I was going through some letters and found one that I mentioned during my dad’s funeral to illustrate his wisdom in parenting.

He would be quick to say he wasn’t a perfect parent. I’d be quick to counter, perfection isn’t required. He wrote this letter (one of only a few) following the birth of our first child, Christen, in 1984. I pulled out an excerpt that stuck in my memory the first time I read it over 30 years ago. I often say, “With parents like mine, I should have turned out better!” 

The photo was taken by my mother as my father and I moved some dirt in our backyard. Wish I still had that little wheelbarrow!

JC Warnock letter parenthood.001

Note: I would like to clarify that I never noticed the discipline slipping with my dad, but I did see evidence of unconditional love throughout his life.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a poem about my dad while thinking of how we spend years around someone and only scratch the surface. Part of the poem is below:

He was quiet, concrete, strong, and deliberate,
But often sang happy songs with a clear tenor voice.
He read slowly but knew what he read.
He was honest, even when it cost.

He loved his wife and kids, maybe imperfectly,
But he loved with his best understanding at the time.

Some have sad memories of their fathers.
Mine are not.

My only sadness? I barely knew him.

Mexico hike JC Warnock

Dad and me hiking in Mexico a “few” years ago

Calendar for January 6-10, 2020

Here’s the link for the AIS Calendar and photo memo that includes photos for the week of January 6-10, 2020 Calendar 010620 for parents

Calendar 010620 for parents

Building (and repairing) Relationships

I asked for permission to share Meredith Brown’s writing. She’s the teacher in our new Alternative Learning Environment, Space for Success. Reading her passage below reminded me of my career-long efforts to become more authentic with students. I remember the first time I said to a student, “I’m sorry I was harsh in my response to what you said.” My status as a teacher wasn’t lowered by my apology, but our relationship was repaired and stronger afterward. 

I found a lot of encouragement from Mrs. Brown’s comments about what she’s learning in working with students, especially the part where perfection isn’t required. Below are her thoughts.  ~ Jim Warnock


Guest Column by Meredith Brown, ALE Teacher

Brown Meredith

As the holiday break approaches, I have been reflecting on a statement that I read that impacts the way I see my relationship with my students, as well as relationships with adults in my personal and work life. 

In the book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristen Souers and Pete Hall, the author mentions how a mentor once told her that you only have to get it right 3 out of 10 times to make a child feel secure.  After reading that I only had to get it right 30% of the time, I felt a sense of relief because trying to display perfection is exhausting, and quite honestly is an unrealistic expectation for anyone. This gave me a great sense of hope because 30% doesn’t sound as daunting as having to get it right all the time, but what about the other 70% of the time? Repair, repair, and repair. 

This part hit me like a ton of bricks. It got me thinking about my interactions in the past with not only my students but my colleagues. I haven’t always gotten it right, and it revealed to me how hypocritical I had been at times when it came to the expectations I had set for my students. As educators, we ask our students to take responsibility for their wrong choices. However, at times, we do not hold ourselves accountable for following through with what we preach to our students. Why is this?! Is it because we feel like we have to be the “power” figure, and if not, then we fear losing control of our classroom? Or is it because we are scared to be vulnerable with our students because they may take advantage of us? 

The more I read about the importance of repairing relationships. The more I realized how much I needed to reevaluate how I went about building relationships. We know the importance of modeling appropriate behavior to our students, but keep in mind that also includes modeling to them how to repair and take responsibility for our wrong choices. Teachers are human just like everyone else. We may be held to a higher standard in the community, but the fact is we are human. 

To build genuine relationships with our students and their families, repairing relationships is so important. Humbling ourselves when we make mistakes and showing a little vulnerability, doesn’t lower our professionalism. I believe it makes us more relatable and approachable. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we have to be in agreement with the actions of the individual we are trying to build a relationship with, but the way we communicate our thoughts is what matters.

I have made it a goal this year to be more mindful of my actions in front of my students. They are always watching and are so observant. They know when you are being genuine and when you are just acting like you are listening. They watch how we interact with their fellow peers and other staff members. I still do not get it right all the time. There are times when frustration and stress get the best of me, especially when I am in disagreement with particular views or perspectives because I get pretty passionate about certain topics. 

I have, however, made it a priority in my life to bring awareness to repairing relationships, and I share that vulnerability with my students. I have been surprised at how much my students appreciate me sharing those weaknesses with them, and how much more they respect me. Instead of being quick to speak, I am trying to be a better listener. 

Alma Intermediate School will be a place where all students experience success, build self-esteem, develop resilience, and make great academic gains by taking ownership and responsibility for learning and building authentic and lasting relationships

This vision statement above is posted in each classroom as well as on our website for all to see. This is such a powerful statement in my opinion. We have such an important job, and it can be completely overwhelming at times. We all bring to the table differing views and opinions when it comes to education, which is so valuable because those differences drive us to continue to learn and grow together. To follow through with this vision statement, it starts with us, the educators. We have to be mindful of our own actions because how we respond and react while we teach is what is ultimately going to help our students develop the life skills necessary to build authentic and lasting relationships.

Alma Intermediate School Calendar for the week of December 16-20, 2019

Follow this link to open a pdf of the calendar and memo that includes photos. Calendar for Parents

Calendar 121619 Parents -1

Alma Intermediate School Calendar for the week of December 9-13, 2019

Link to pdf of the Calendar for the week of Dec. 9-13 that includes photos from the last week:  Calendar 120919 Parents

Calendar 120919 Parents

Alma Intermediate School Weekly Calendar November 18-22, 2019

Our complete weekly memo and calendar with photos is available at the following link: Calendar 111819 for parentsCalendar 111819 for parents-1Calendar 111819 for parents

Alma Intermediate School Weekly Memo November 4, 2019

Alma Intermediate School calendar for the week of November 4-8. To view the memo and additional photos open this link.

Calendar 110419 parents-1

Alma Intermediate School Weekly Memo Oct. 28, 2019

Click link for the full memo: Alma Intermediate Calendar Oct. 28, 2019 

Calendar 102819 parents-1

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