Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Summer and Young Adulthood "Auld Lang Syne"

I haven't blogged in a while. Don't interpret that as nothing happening though.

This week I finished the summer lessons I offered. My students were inconsistent in actually showing up, but I did teach some 34 private lessons. While many students are well-intentioned this one-on-one setting solidified my opinion that way too many students are significantly behind where they should be. A combination of community values, lackadaisical goals and standards, combined with a student population who are expected to work on the family farm or ranch after school has led to poor musicianship.
I do not claim to (yet) be a guru in my field. I am the peon hired on by the pawns. Yet, for example, I believe (as the teacher's edition states) that Standard of Excellence Book 1 should be completed by the end the first year. If my curriculum, as set up with my administration, works as intended then this years 5th graders will pass the 6th graders in January or February. 

My classroom is slowly coming together. My Wenger Music Storage System cabinets are not yet in due to a local severe lack in masonry bits to drill the bolt holes in the wall. It is also due to our Driver's Ed class happening in my room for the past two weeks. Limited access has slowed my work tremendously, so I've been working from home a lot. However, working from home means my files don't automatically update to the server like they do at school. Thus when I returned my laptop to my room on tuesday and found it MIA on thursday morning I was frustrated beyond belief. Turns out some Driver's Ed hooligan stole my school computer from the classroom. It was returned after the superintendent and sheriff participated in what was probably a frustrating extra-lesson in the class. But the laptop appears to have been wiped clean. I haven't backed up very recently, it's been at least 2-3 weeks. So this is an epic loss. The only shenanigins pulled on my laptop were deleting everything I had and downloading a bunch of pictures, mostly of that Disney actress "Victoria." LAME!!!

My wife is in her 40th week of pregnancy and is as miserable as can be in this wretched heat. Any day would be nice!!!! Ok, not completely. Last saturday our landlord showed up, he lives in Arizona so this was big. Short version: They sold our house. It's been on and off the market for about 7 years so we didn't expect it to sell quite that quickly. But we've also done an inordinate amount of work and the place looks significantly better. However now we have to be out by August 24th. I took this job in March so I wouldn't have to move, start a new job, and have a kid all at the same time. However, in the next 3 weeks I will move, start my true first year of teaching, have my first child born, and redo at least 2 weeks of work because some kid was an idiot.

When I get stressed their are two physiological symptoms or signs of my stress. One is a slight tremor on the lower half of my left eye. No one can see it but I feel it kind of shaking. Doctors tell me it is a sign of exhaustion. The other symptom is more of a habit. I tend to run my fingers into my hair from the front, causing the foward part of my hair to stand on end. It looks really classy?!?! 

On monday, prior to the theft, I was able to check my PowerTeacher and see who actually registered for band. The HS Band is at 15 students, up from 8 when I arrived. The MS Band is actually about the same as last year (20ish). However, there are almost 10 students in MS who took lessons this summer but don't show up as being registered. I am hoping that was a mistake or an oversight and that they will change their schedule to be in band. 
I know it isn't really about the numbers. I fight between thinking about numbers-based program improvement and quality-based improvement. My superiors want numbers so I can't ignore that job stipulation, but if the band sucks.... I took a handful of students up to the UNK Sounds of Summer flag and drumline camp and, honestly, I was embarrassed at my students, not their behavior at the camp, but their musicianship and work ethic were atrocious. 

The honeymoon stage of this job is nearing it's end. I feel like trying to make the band grow is like kicking against the pricks. While in front of the students I find myself feeling hopefull, excited, and I feel like we make progress. But at night, while I'm packing up to move, searching for a home, or trying to make up lost work on my computer it is then I realize that:
I'm an adult now, a soon-to-be parent.
That my parents were right about a lot of things but that they aren't perfect.
That my ideal band is unattainable.
That I will always be poor.

Yet I wouldn't trade this for the world!!!! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Band Camps and other Opportunities

I've taken a break from painting the school for the past 10 days or so to go to a convention, host my own band camp, and take my students to a few other camps.
I spent three days at the New World Inn in Columbus, NE for the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association  Summer workshop/conference (hereafter called NSBA). I have been to NSBA conventions and workshops for 4 years now and things really "clicked" this time. I guess having a little teaching under your belt changes perspective. I always learned a little at NSBA, but this time I was devouring the information. I have soo many ideas and new tools to use when my classroom opens up in just a few weeks. I can't imagine that the NSBA was that much better this year, it must be me who has changed. I felt really refreshed and rejuvenated for teaching.
On Tuesday I hosted my own band camp. I'm told it's been 7-10 years since they had a summer band camp. It was only a 9-4 event on just the one day, but I felt we got a lot done. NSBA definitely helped. I had roughly 23 students show up, which isn't great, but the parent volunteers said that was significantly more than would've come in previous years. Here is my short review...
Biggest successes:
1. Making marching less tedious with activities, games and goals.
2. Setting a standard for those who didn't come to camp.
3. Really building unity and getting to know the kids.
Biggest flaws:
1. Forgetting a camera. The local paper would've loved pictures and so would have I.
2. Trying to plan too much myself. I should rely more on the band parents and community.
3. Communicating the need to wear tennis shoes for marching not flip-flops.

Overall I consider it a success.

At NSBA the Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA) gave a training on how to appropriately use facebook (and other social media) for teachers of band programs. I created a separate professional profile and a band page for the kids to "like."  I feel kind of weird having my students befriend my blank professional profile despite the fact that I have already had an increase in parent-teacher communication with this tool.

Several of my kids are now at a drumline/flagget camp at UNK in Kearney. I'm going back up tonight to see their final performance and drive them back into Franklin.

Their performance abilities are still, um, below average. But their work ethics and attitudes have improved amazingly.