ARE WE IN MUSIC EDUCATION SIMPLY BEING COMPLICIT?
June 11, 2022
And so it begins, the summer of returning to normal. At least that’s the hope anyway right? School temperature checks are gone, signed attestation forms are gone, masks are gone. It’s what everyone has been hoping for. The first “normal” summer which will then lead to the first “normal” start of school since 2019. Bring out the balloons and party favors.
I have thought long and hard about what “normal” truly is. I have, at times written about it. I have also said that returning to normal would mean the joke has been on us. And while I still firmly believe this, I’ve started to look at the return to normal in a much different light. Let me explain. Instead of returning to normal, aren’t we simply just returning to a state in which we are being complicit?
While we may not have all felt the entire list below, we can all agree that we can relate to something on the list below, can we not?
Normal meant administrators that didn’t “get it”
Normal meant, at least for music educators, a work/life balance that was skewed.
Normal meant working in an environment where one didn’t feel supported.
Normal meant working in a system (school, district, or otherwise) that didn’t value the arts and music education.
Normal meant not being able to get a sub day to attend outside professional development events.
Normal meant a fight for facilities.
Normal meant perpetuating the exclusionary models that music education is known for.
So if we return to normal are we not simply just being complicit and perpetuating all that we don’t want to see and be?
Reflection is key in determining whether or not we want to be complicit or if we want to create a new normal. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? Are we educating administrators? Are we working to ensure we aren’t the last car in the parking lot? Are we working in an environment where we are respected for being a music educator and professional. Are we working in a school, district, or for a company that understands music education and more importantly the WHY behind music education? Are we working for someone that understands the need for continued professional growth? Are we working for an organization that believes in maintaining facilities for the good of kids? Are we working to understand that music education is about simply more than a band and orchestra?
And if we aren’t doing these things or in the types of organizations we want to be in or or or – then why are we okay with returning to normal?
Is it not time to stop, reflect, analyze, and stop the complicity?
And if not…why not?
BUT THAT’S HOW WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT…
JUNE 9, 2022
Okay educator types in all disciplines….Admit it. You’ve heard this phrase. You’ve heard this phrase from students, staff, administrators and if you think really hard, you’ve probably said it yourself.
We’ve taken over programs and sat back. We’ve been in programs for years. But why do we do what we do, and the way we do it? Because that’s how we’ve always done it.
If you’ve taken over a band program, color guard program, become a new team members on a staff, you’ve heard this phrase. We come in with grandiose ideas of how we’re going to change, make things better and move things forward. Those ways, our ideas, all become our new way of thinking.
We get into our routines, from warm-ups to how we select literature. But why do we do it? Because that’s how we’ve always done it. Are we doing things with fidelity? Is there a purpose behind it and what is that purpose?
With the summer “break” also comes an opportunity for reflection. Self and professional. With the summer “break” also comes the chance to rethink, reimagine, and redesign how we may do things. Should we change for the sake of change? No. But that doesn’t mean we should stay the same either. Maybe we don’t start with that concert F for every single rehearsal. Maybe our formula for picking literature should change. Student voice and student agency are huge – but missed by so many.
For years, the term “growth mindset” has been around in education. But for too many, it has become a buzz word and not a practice that is embraced by all. But in order to grow, we must step away from our old habits. We can no longer color inside the lines, and if we must, not be afraid of blowing up the box in order to recreate it. Old habits die hard, and old ways and “traditions” are meaningful only if they truly hold meaning.
Remember when you took that program over and all you heard was “because we’ve always done it that way,” and remember the frustration you felt every time you heard it? When you leave a program, classroom, or position, what will they say? Will it be “Because we’ve always done it that way?” For if it is, we haven’t grown and we haven’t committed to moving forward.
Why? Because we’ve always done it that way….
BUT WHAT ABOUT…
May 29, 2022
The tragedy of 21 lives lost in Texas will not leave any of us anytime soon. When the cameras and media outlets pack up and leave, and that little town of 16,000 begins to pick up the pieces , there is a group that cannot be forgotten.
In March 2020, the world, as we all knew it, shut down. Schools closed and the then second graders at Robb Elementary school went home. Second graders. 7 year old children. 18 months later, they returned, and although Robb Elementary only serves 2nd-4th grade students, they were now the “big kids” on campus.
If (and yes, I’m making an assumption here) the kiddos at Robb Elementary School were like most students we have seen and heard about when they came back to school, they struggled. They struggled with behaviors, with their social-emotional health and well-being and so much more. And now, as the end of the year school year was in sight, the unthinkable happens.
Districts across the country have poured millions into counseling, intervention, and social-emotional learning this year. And while there were 19 kiddos (and 2 teachers) who lost their lives, think of those fourth graders who are still alive. Think of the kiddo who smeared her friends blood over her to pretend she was dead, or the young girl who laid on top of her friend and kept whispering in her ear she would be okay and to hold on and not die. School was a place that was shut down for them and now school is a place that several have said they don’t want to return to.
These are the lives we cannot forget either. These are the ones we must continue to provide support to as well. Just when they had learned how to “do school” again, someone took that innocence away from them. The idea of school has a safe place is gone. The innocence of their elementary years taken from them as well. Their trust in school is now broken.
7 years from now, in 2029, this country will mark the 30th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Those “kids” will be in their mid-40’s. Listen to them talk. Listen to the pain, and suffering they went through following that tragedy. And they were in high school! 30 years from now in 2052, what will these little boys and girls from Robb Elementary say? What will they have endured? What will they have suffered through? How will they have struggled?
Will we be hearing the same political rhetoric about “loss of freedoms” and the “only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?” I sure hope not. If nothing happens, and we don’t learn now, we never will. The awful joke will have been on us.
But through it all, through all the hurt, loss, and pain, we can’t forget about those sweet, little, innocent lives that must still return to school. Their trust in school has been lost, and we have a moral imperative to build it back.
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.
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?
Your 43 year old self.
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.
2 YEARS AGO…
March 12, 2022
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, 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.