News, Personally Speaking

UPDATE: Jessica Ridgeway

Posted on 06 January 2013

I haven’t been on the blog lately and I suppose many of you can guess why. On October 15th, just 10 days after our sweet neighbor,  Jessica,  was abducted and her dismembered body was found in a local open space, Police in Westminster arrested a 17-year-old in connection with her murder. The Ridgeway family was understandably glad that someone had been arrested, but still in shock of the whole situation and our whole community is angry now that we have a face to put with this unthinkable crime.

Many of you have written notes of encouragement to my daughter and myself and I just want to say how appreciative of those we are. I have compiled a few links here for your browsing if you’d like to know more details about the ongoing investigation and memorials for Jessica, though little is being let out at this point. There is a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. and the media is fighting right now to have access to that trial.

In the coming semester, I plan to blog more about the goings on at work, but this whole personal situation has rocked my family life almost to a tipping point. There have been times I wanted to quit my job to do something else, but lately I just want to leave everything and stay home to protect my kids. I know that is unrealistic, but it is the day before we go back to school and I have little planned. My heart is not there, it’s here with my family and neighbors.

So, please continue to pray for my family, my neighbors and my community through this ordeal. It will be a long time until healing fully restores this community, but I know Justice for Jessica will be served.

Thanks for reading again. Here are the links:)

Jessica’s official website: http://www.jessicaridgeway.com/

Some 9 news articles:


Facebook groups and pages:







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News, Personally Speaking

Help Find Jessica!!

Posted on 08 October 2012

I know I don’t post a lot, and my readers have probably dropped off the face of the earth, but I’m begging anyone out there who is reading this to help in regards to my neighbor and daughter’s best friend, Jessica Ridgeway, who has been missing since Friday. This has been heart-wrenching and emotionally exhausting for our family, as well as Jessica’s family. The media are at our doorstep ready to pounce whenever we walk out the door, and we feel like we are being stalked. It is very scary for my two daughters and for my husband and I who knew this precious girl and had her over at our house almost daily to play.

Please, if you can spare a few seconds of your day, instead of clicking through this post and moving onto some other time-wasting activity, take the time to share Jessica’s picture on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media site out there. If you have a few minutes, pray for Jessica then print out one of the the posters at http://www.broadcasthemissing.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Poster.pdf and put them up in your neighborhood, business, or at your house. If you have an hour, talk to your kids about the importance of stranger danger- again- and how if they are overtaken by an adult, to drop an article of clothing, backpack, or personal item so that investigators can have clues. Label all of your child’s belongings with a permanent marker. If you have a day and a few dollars, buy your kids a cell phone with tracking capabilities. No matter what your beliefs are about kids with cell phones, this could have helped find Jessica if she had one. Again, please help to get his word out. It has been over 72 hours since Jessica went missing and she could be anywhere in the country.

Thanks for reading.



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Life in the Urban Elementary Music Room, News

“Pin-Lifting”: Part One- The Word Wall Makeover

Posted on 11 August 2012

In the scrapbooking world, when someone borrows an idea from a layout and creates their own, it’s called “scraplifting”. It’s not really stealing; it is widely recognized practice among croppers. I have come to coin the phrase “Pin-lifting” to define borrowing ideas from the popular social collecting site  known as Pinterest. It still baffles me that some people out there have not heard of this terrific website, and like Facebook, there are days I don;t know how I ever lived without ti!. My summer has been filled with time to “pin” and my classroom this year will be a virtual world of pinned projects and ideas that I have “Pin-lifted” and re-created for the benefit of my students. So this begins the first installment in a series of Pin-lifted projects that I have been working on the past few months. Where applicable I will try to include a link to the ORIGINAL website and/or creator because it’s just good netiquette to do so and I would appreciate the same link-up for my ideas. “Share and share alike” seems to be the theme of Pinterest so I don’t think I am breaking any copyright rules, but if you find an idea that it not properly credited, just shoot me a message and I will happily take it down or change it. 

So here goes…The first makeover had to happen with my Word Wall. Though my previous word wall has been getting a lot of pins and compliments, it simply wasn’t being used effectively by my students. The main concern was the window writing, which at the time seemed a perfect solution to save paper and taping up all those little cards, but the alphabetical nature of the wall was unuseful, and the writing was getting harder and harder to read. I tried using the brightest chalk markers I could find, but then the  words just looked sloppy, and the kids were not interacting with the wall as I had wanted. So a change was in order and I took to Pinterest to solve the problem. When I happened upon THIS PIN I immediately thought of those Target dollar bin sentence strip holders and thought this could work. I really like the idea of organizing the words by Music Element and I had already made and laminated music element signs for my classroom. Then I happened upon a pin for PRINTING ON SENTENCE STRIPS and this sealed the deal for me. I went and bought the target sentence strip charts ($9) and some neon sentence strips at the teacher store, and stared printing. I began with the same words as the original poster, but then cross-referenced with my WORD WALL LIST to make sure I have everything that I usually teach. Some of the words did not fit into a category, but I printed them and saved them for my Alphabet Wall, which is another Pin-lift I will save for the next post. When all the words are on the charts, I think they look really nice; very visible and easy to read now. Pictures will be coming soon! I am still waiting for the acoustic panels to be installed in my classroom and will eventually install them there above my original windows so the kids will still have to look in the same general direction to find words. I am going to include much more writing in my lessons this year so I will have to post an update later to see if this is really working, but right now I am pleased. Stay tuned. I have about 5-6 projects in the works that are screaming for posts, but school begins in just 11 days so bear with me if it’s a slow series!



Until next  time… Happy Pinning!!


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Updating for Summer!


Updating for Summer!

Posted on 28 June 2012

Just wanted to notify my readers and subscribers that the “Documents” section of my website will be down for a short period of time this summer while I make some changes  and add new material. I have recently created a Teachers Pay Teachers Store and will be hosting my documents there to make some room on my blog server, but don’t worry, ALL of the documents previously listed on this site will remain FREE  to download and most of the new ones as well. In the meantime, click on the following TpT badge to get a FREE GUITAR QUIZ download from my store!


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UrbanMusicEducation is undergoing a Blog Makeover!

Posted on 18 June 2012

That’s right. After 5 years, several lost features with WordPress’s latest updates, and 3/5 of my entire VodPod private video collection lost in the greedy acquisition by Lockerz, I’ve decided to update and makeover the blog. I have high hopes that the new look will inspire me to write more often, get me back to a more creative outlet, and be fresh and useful, as the current state of things has been much like the stale hamburger buns I finally threw out today after walking past them and not wanting to make anything for weeks, but leaving them around “just in case”.
So, please bear with me as I get things re-designed and cleaned up in the next few weeks. It will be quite the undertaking, but my summer has just begun and I am excited to have something of my own to do besides being taxi mom to the girls and maid in the house! Stay tuned!


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Life in the Urban Elementary Music Room

Working harder, not smarter…

Posted on 16 November 2011

Hello blogosphere,

I have to apologize for being so absent lately, but things have been CRAZY! My family and I have been through a lot of health problems this fall and I am home today with my younger daughter who has a “tummy ache”. Instead of having the sub watch a video, I decided to try to have the kids get into the Music Lab and access the Harrington Music website, where I would upload a short video of myself instructing them on today’s lesson. Then they would post on WallWisher after they learned from Virtual Me, and then go play various games that I have linked on there. So all was planned, except I only had 1 hour to get dressed, get my oldest to school, make the videos for three different grade levels, make the Walls on WallWisher, publish the website, and check all of the links before the kids would arrive in my classroom with the sub! (And you wonder why I’m on anti-anxiety meds!…)

So, the plan was to have 4th grade do a Medieval webquest and read information about the Medieval period and comment about one thing they learned on their WallWisher site. That went pretty well, though I had only 6 commenters with terrible spelling. But at least I know they were getting it. Then 3rd grade was to watch a video of a powerpoint I had converted… scratch that…that I was YET to convert! The trick here was being able to get the powerpoint converted in time, and with several failed attempts with authorStream (worked for me in the past, don’t know what the deal was today), I ended up finding out that I can “Save as Movie” right in PPT! Arghh….

By that time, 3rd grade music was almost over and I called the sub to tell her just to direct them to play online games. I got the second grade movie ready but she told me that 6 of my computers were “freezing” and she just put half the class on the rest of them and half the class in the room watching a video. *sigh* So much for my 4 hours of work this morning!

Everything this year seems to be turning out like this. In an attempt to utilize more and more technology in my lessons, I am spending an average of 8 extra hours per week beyond my regular “plan time” (which just ends up being tech support time at my school) making flipcharts in ActiveInspire, PowerPoint slides, updating the classroom website and the school website, inputting data into excel and Schoolnet, and creating my weekly lesson plans using Planbook. Though I am in love with technology, I also am neglecting my family, and my health has been affected as well.

I am reminded of Matthew 6:24 which says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” This is me with technology. It is a love/hate relationship for sure. Honestly I have to figure out a way to work smarter or all passion will be lost for this job. Everyone keeps asking me why I don’t work in IT for a large company. Really?! I cannot see myself in that world. I love kids and know that Harrington is where I am supposed to be serving right now at least.

So that’s my fall update. Until the next post, take care readers and please feel free to comment and offer any suggestions or sympathies.


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Working, Working, Working!

Life in the Urban Elementary Music Room, News

Working, Working, Working!

Posted on 31 August 2011

Welcome Back to school! Things have been crazy around Harrington! I’ve taken on a new role as STR (School Technology Rep), and life has been absolutely overwhelming since the first week of school, but I’m surviving! *Cue Gloria Gaynor Music* So I’m working on a few new Ideas this year in my classroom that I will share later, but for now, I wanted to jot down some of my ideas so I can tease you and come back later to remember to write articles. 😉 The first new project has been my new iWeb student page. I created the page as a last ditch effort to curb the spamming going on with the previous page housed here on the blog. So my solution was to buy a new domain, transfer everything over, make the site much more graphic and user-friendly for ELL’s and basically delete the old page. I’ll go into more detail later, but it’s working out pretty good so far.

The next project I’ve been exploring is Smoothboard for Mac. This shareware software allows one to use a wiimote and infrared pen to create a wiimote whiteboard system. I fell in love with the built-in toolbar (highlighter, shape tool, pen, etc) (Wiimote Whiteboard doesn’t have) and I don’t have to open up ActiveInspire everytime I want kids to write. Also got a new pen from Teachwithtech.com that is working very well.

Third experiment I’ve been trying is a new room set-up. Flipped the entire room 180 degrees and now am using the actual whiteboard (glossier surface=better for writing) for my IAW surface. I had to play around with my LCD projector settings to get it to project in 16:9 mode to fit the board at a “far away” width so my projector cart doesn’t have to be right in the center of the room. A little squishy, but it’s fine for now. Pics to come.

That’s all for now. I’m going to learn a lot of new tech with this new role, but it will come with a lot of ranting too I suppose. Get ready, this year is going to be one heck of a ride!!


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Teaching with Technology

My First Screencast!!

Posted on 10 July 2011

Found out about Screenr today an decided to make a quick screencast for a colleague who is researching articles for an online course we are creating. It was so EASY and FUN! I really need some work on my ad-libbing, (the time limit is 5 minutes!) but overall, I think this one came out great for a first try! Check it out…


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Teaching with Technology

Awesome Website Tool for Teachers!

Posted on 23 June 2011

Just stumbled upon this TERRIFIC website with Flash-based tools and games for teachers! This came just in time, as I am creating new websites for my classes and was looking for a Random Name Generator. Check it out!! Here are some other AWESOME tools the site offers:

Flash Jeopardy Review Game
Flash Speed Match Review Game
Seating Chart Maker
Group Maker Tool

These are just a few of the Flash tools offered on this site. There are also counters, random fact generators and  even a customizable Hangman game! Can’t wait to try it with my Wiimote Whiteboard!


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News, Personally Speaking

Taking a break…

Posted on 10 June 2011

Hi everyone. It’s been quite a while since my last blog post and quite frankly, I’ve been in a funk for a long time and did not want to post rant after rant on the blog for months at a time. So, it’s been stagnant and I apologize. I have come to  think that the blog needs a makeover. I’m thinking of dividing the student section and the professional section of the website and creating a more urban-kid-user-friendly links section for my class next year. I have actually been applying for charter school positions and may be abandoning the music tech lab and all of my incredible resources in favor of a more positive, energetic, creative, elemental experience.  I think the negativity and staleness of public education has burned me out. And not to be cliche….I feel strongly that the environment one works in can affect their health and overall well-being, which we know, as music teachers, is a precious commodity.

So, dear readers, please bear with me this summer as I try to determine what exactly constitutes a good length of time to take off and just live life for a while and when to get back to my professional life. While I’d like it to be with renewed vigor and passion, I’m not sure two months will be enough. We’ll just have to see.


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