Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Welcome to the Gesundheit Institute for Musical Developement

This is a portion of my new film, Patch Adams: Band Director
note: this is not a portion of my new film. I lied. It's a slightly altered portion of the real Patch Adams movie. Duhr. Enjoy

"Sir, Would you define practice for me?"
"Yes, practice would be defined as the care of a student seeking musical attention."
"Everyone who comes to the rehearsal is a student, yes. And every person who comes to the rehearsal is also a teacher."
"I'm sorry?"
"Every person who comes to the rehearsal is in need of some form of physical, mental, or musical help. They're students. But also every person who comes to the rehearsal is in charge of taking care of someone else... that makes them teachers. I use that term broadly, but is not a teacher someone who helps someone else? When did the term 'teacher' get treated with such reverence... At what point in history did a teacher become more than a trusted and learned friend who visited and taught the learning..."
"What if one of your concerts had failed?"
"What's wrong with failing sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can't we treat failure with a certain amount of humanity and dignity and decency and, God forbid, maybe even humor? Failure isn't the enemy gentlemen. If we are going to fight a disease why don't we fight one of the most terrible diseases of all: Indifference. Now I've sat in your schools and heard you lecture of transference and professional distance. Transference is inevitable sir. Every human being has an impact on another. Why don't we want that in a student/teacher relationship?... A teacher's mission is not just to prevent failure, but also to improve the quality of life. Thats why when you teach a student you win, you lose. You teach a person, I guarantee you, you win, no matter what the outcome... Don't let them anesthetize you. Don't let them numb you out to the miracle of music... Always live in awe of the glorious mechanisms of the musical body. Let that be the focus of your classroom and not a quest for grades which give no idea of what kind of people they will become. Start your communicating skills now. Sing with strangers. Sing with your friends. Sing to wrong numbers. Sing to everyone. And cultivate musical friendships with those amazing people at your back.... Sir, want to be a teacher with all my heart. I wanted to become a teacher so I could serve others and because of that I lose everything and gain everything. I've shared the lives of students and staff at the school. I've laughed with them. I've cried with them. This is what I want to do with my life. And as God is my witness... I will still become the best damn teacher the world has ever seen. You can't keep my from learning. You can't keep me from studying."
"Is that all?"
"I hope not sir."

NOTE: I have had the distinct pleasure this semester of not only seeing the interpersonal and humanistic growth of many students, but (and the wording of this is crucial) as a side effect of the personal growth I have been blessed to experience a musical miracle of growth also. While the homesickness and loneliness of living in the backwoods just south of the Middle in the county of Nowhere makes me long for civilization and old friends. I wouldn't trade this for the world. My students are not yet the best musicians in the world, but most of them now care. They have something they live and breath for. We are few, but not indifferent or lazy. I thank my God for the chance to be here and do what I do with my amazing wife and daughter by my side. While I am not truly friends with my students I am enjoying them and I love them. Radical as that may be in the industrialized mechanism of modern teaching. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pulling the Lion's Tooth

Today I pulled a few rotten teeth from the mouth of the Lion.
The Lion bit me in anger so I hit it with 7 detentions.

I don't know what it is with this place. I give homework. Like a worksheet or something ONCE a semester. This time I gave them 4 pages of worksheets with the answers on top in a reading section and the questions below. I gave them 3 days of class time to finish. Today was the two week anniversary of the assignment's due date and I had 33 not turned in by class time.

Last spring I gave 2 days of class time for a one-pager and had 13 not turn it in at all. They took zeros.
In talking with teachers around here it seems like these kids just simply don't do their homework. Ever. Our modern society demands that we don't accept zeros in schools. I'm lucky that my superintendent says they can't NOT do the work, but I can give them a zero if it takes way too long.

This is BULLS###

My parents would have found the biggest stick and beat the living daylight out of me if I had just blatantly refused to do homework. You just didn't not do your homework.

I nagged to get a bunch more done and turned in by the end of the day and had reduced my naughty list to 7. Impressive nagging skills come from my mother's side. Five of the seven say they aren't going to do it. Ever. No matter what.
So they'll finish it in detention or suspension, whichever comes first.

See detention is a problem around here. Kid's don't take it seriously. Teachers almost never do it because the students don't show up for detentions. Teachers have to create verbal contact with parents to carry out a detention so parents can arrange for transportation. So detentions are often several days after the event which earned the detention.

Again, bullfeces.

You don't NOT show up for a detention. And if my kid got a detention and had to miss the bus that would be fine. Walk your delinquent butt home.

For each detention you skip you get two more. Get more than 5 detentions stacked up and you get an in school suspension. Statistically (according to my administration) about 80% of detentions end up in ISS.

They will do their homework. Someday either now, or in detention/suspension. But it will happen.

"In my day" we didn't even think of not doing homework, or not showing up for detention...

I hope this is a cultural thing around here and not a social construct of the current generation.

Because if my children.... so help me God there will not be a stick big enough...