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YOU ARE NOT ALONE…
March 21, 2022

If you started singing lines from Dear Evan Hansen, this isn’t the post for you. However, the message is still the same. Isolationism. We see it happening all over the place, especially in education and more specifically in arts education.

Arts educators, often times the sole professional of the discipline on their campus are isolated. They become silos, very rarely coming up for air. Very rarely checking the outside world. Very rarely engaging with those outside of the discipline or domain. But is this a good thing?

“If I can’t see them, they can’t see me,” is the mantra I hear so often when talking to arts educators about their jobs and how they feel when dealing with those around them. But is this the right approach? Ultimately though, does isolationism directly limit effectiveness? I would argue that answer is a resounding yes. I would argue that isolationism is the #1 enemy of excellence.

In a 2 year study that concluded in 2020, it was discovered that just over 30% (32% to be exact) of arts teachers spent time sharing practices with their peers 3 or more times during that time. THAT IS IT!! Just 32%!!! Only 23% had access to a coach or mentor within those two years, and for those who served in a high poverty school district, only 10% of those arts educators, arguably the ones who need the most support, had access to a mentor or coach. Houston we have a problem.

So let’s put this in non-educational terms. Imagine you were going to a doctor or dentist for some time of ailment. Now, imagine that doctor never went to a conference to learn best or new practices. Now imagine that same doctor never called their peers for advice or to ask the question “so what do you think?” Would you still go to that doctor? Probably not.

Yet, we allow ourselves to get away with it in education. Why? Is it because it’s “just teaching?” Or is it because we think we “already know?” Or is it the lack of quality professional development opportunities available? Let’s face it, many of us may attend one, possibly two conferences within a year. But why so little? One of the worst things we can do as educators is stop learning and thus stop growing. So why is it like this? Is it because of administrators who don’t get it? Is it because of a lack of quality mentors or coaches available? The data doesn’t lie, and its telling us that the next 3-5 years in education are going to see a turn over like never before. So many veteran teachers leaving teaching or hitting the retirement age. So many (yet still not enough) young educators coming into the fold. How do we support them? How do we ensure their success? How do we ensure that we as educators and leaders keep learning?

We have an issue in education, and one that we need to seriously look in the mirror to find out the answer for. Ultimately it comes down to the wanting and desire to grow as an educator, to not settle, and to realize that we don’t have all of the answers. Isolationism in education is bad. Isolationism for arts educators is even worse.
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A LETTER TO MYSELF
March 14, 2022

Dear 20-something self –

Remember all those times you would get upset at kids missing rehearsal because of sports or family commitments?

Remember all those times you couldn’t understand why band wasn’t the top of the priority list for others?

Remember all those times that the rating or the trophy was the reason why we rehearsed?

Remember when you did your best to hide “those” kids who couldn’t stay in step, play their part, or struggled to “get it”?

Remember when you preached “we take everyone” but then pulled the elitist card and starting cutting people from activities or auditioning parade blocks or had colleagues who made kids stand on sidelines for a whole semester because they missed band camp?

Remember when you didn’t get it but thought you did?

Don’t worry, you’ll grow out of it and you’ll get it.
One day you’ll understand.
I promise.

One day.

Sincerely,

Your 43 year old self.

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ANOTHER NEW NORMAL
March 13, 2022

For those involved in education, Monday will bring about yet a new normal. We will see and hear excitement from some and hesitation from others. With masking requirements changing in California to strongly recommended, I would encourage all educators to welcome tomorrow with a sense of grace, empathy, respect, and compassion.

Every family has a story, and that story helps shape the thought process and belief systems which they follow. To that end, each family will have a decision to make come Monday morning. Do they send their students to school and ask them to continue to wear a mask, or do they let them go to school and not wear a mask? Neither decision is right nor wrong within the context of the campus community. Rather, the decision must be the right one for THEIR family.

Likewise, every member of school faculty and staff also has a decision to make. Just as parents will sit and talk as a family, so will every adult on our campus. And again, no decision is right nor wrong. Every staff member must make the decision that is correct for THEM and their family. They each have a story, whether it is an immunocompromised spouse, or loved one. They themselves may be immunocompromised. Their decision on whether or not to wear a mask should have zero bearing on the quality of education that their child receives. Just as the decision of the family to wear or not to wear a mask will have zero implication on their child’s educational quality.

It is my hope that school communities come together regardless of what their views or stance may be, and help model for all students what it means to truly change the ugly discourse we’ve been subject to.

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2 YEARS AGO…
March 12, 2022

2 years ago….

2 years ago today the world forever changed. It was a Thursday morning. March 12, 2020. I defended my Doctoral dissertation in the morning, and by the afternoon, schools were closing, people were asked to work from home, and the SCSBOA Festival season was cancelled. 2 years ago, the unknown became our new reality.

Today, 2 years after that fateful day, the world slowly seems to be returning to our new normal.

Today, I watched kids perform again.
Today, I evaluated bands and orchestras.
Today, I represented the SCSBOA.
Today, I worked with a panel of music educators that put kids first.
Today, I saw the resilience of the educational process in real time.
Today, I saw the resilience of an 85 year old organization.
Today, I was reminded of those who came before me, who helped guide, shape, and mentor.
Today, I saw a new generation of teacher take the podium with their groups, nervousness in their eyes, simply wanting to do their best.

Today, the best of what the SCSBOA stands for was on display.

The last two years have been hard. They have been hard on students and their parents. They have been hard on schools, and the people in them. They have been hard on people and programs. At times, it has felt like the educational institution is crumbling around us. And you know what? It has been and it is. And that is the way its supposed to be.

We can choose to view the crumbling of the institution as a negative – a longing for the days gone by and the way things used to be. Or we can choose to view the crumbling of the educational institution as an opportunity for rebirth and growth. Personally I’m selecting option B. We experience, we reflect, we grow, and we get better. And this is what I believe is happening in education. There are those “stuck in their ways,” not due to age, rather to environment. There are those who wear blinders and cannot see past their peripheral. Partly due to ignorance, mostly due to being scared of change and their perceived unknown.

People grow, organizations change, and education is ready to be redefined. We are the ones who get to shape what it looks like. We are the ones who get to call that shot. If we return to the way it was, the joke will have been on us the entire time. This is education’s moment. This is the opportunity for those in the arts to step into the spotlight, rather than wait in the wings. This is the moment where talk becomes cheap and action becomes paramount. Are we ready to answer the call?

14 groups today. Lots of kids, and tons of heart. I worked with 4 colleagues today who understood the moment, and ensured the right things were said at the right moments, and they backed it up with action. We all represented something bigger than us today.

2 years ago our lives changed.

2 years later, the light is appearing again with nothing but potential on its horizon.
2 years later, we take our lessons learned and can no longer say “We used to, or when I was….”
Rather we change the language, change the verbiage, change the context and help rebuild and redefine this moment in (music) education. Are we ready to meet the moment or will we simply talk, talk, talk? The choice is ours.