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LET’S TALK DOLLARS and SENSE…CENTS TOO
June 13, 2023

Did you hear the news about San Diego Unified? This contract ratification passed with 98% of teachers voting yes. WOW!! I’ve included an article below about it.

But even with this historic contract in SDUSD, it is disheartening to see the state of teacher salaries across the country. Many educators are struggling to make ends meet, despite their unwavering dedication and commitment to shaping the minds of our future generations. Education is the foundation of progress, and we are past due in recognizing and valuing the indispensable role teachers play in our society.

One of the main reasons that educators leave the profession is due to the lack of a competitive salary. One particular aspect that exacerbates this problem is the lack of reciprocity when transferring years of service from one district to another. It’s disheartening to see experienced teachers unable to transfer their full number of years, losing out on the compensation and benefits they rightfully deserve.

This issue has far-reaching consequences for our education system. The disparity in teacher salaries and the inability to transfer years of experience act as significant deterrents for both aspiring and current educators. Many young professionals, despite their passion for teaching, are discouraged from pursuing this noble profession due to the financial challenges it presents.

Moreover, these limitations and barriers make it difficult for experienced teachers to relocate to different districts, seeking better opportunities or a change of environment. This lack of mobility restricts the flow of ideas and innovation, preventing our education system from benefiting from the diverse perspectives and expertise of educators.

The time has come in which we must address these issues and work together to create a system that values and supports education. While fighting for a more competitive salary, let’s also strive for a more streamlined process that allows educators to transfer their full years of experience when transitioning between districts. By doing so, we will not only retain talented teachers but also attract new ones, ensuring a bright and prosperous future for our children.

Let’s stop playing the games. Treat educators as professionals and provide them the compensation they deserve for the career they have served.

It’s simply common sense.
San Diego Unified Article
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HELLO OLD FRIEND….
June 10, 2023

It’s been some time since I’ve sat and put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking of course), but here I am. It’s the first wake-up after closing the doors on year 21. And year 21 was by far the hardest I have ever experienced in this noble profession. I can’t sugar coat that, nor will I sugar coat it. We in education need to acknowledge that not every day is Instagram perfect, as well as recognize and tip our hat to the fact that the profession as we know it in 2023 is so different than it was pre March 12, 2020.

I’m not talking about the content, that is a given and something which can’t be changed. Rather, I’m talking about all of the noise outside of the content that has fundamentally changed how we go about our daily business of trying to make better people for this world. And quite frankly, that is, in my opinion, what education is all about; providing young people with tools which they use to access deeper levels of thinking, in order to form their own conclusions about the world around them, while solving problems in a creative way that is unique to them. Sadly though, the trouble and issue we face is not simply the changing world around education, but the lack of change within the educational system.

Our mindset in education must change. We can no longer sit back and be naive enough to believe that every kid in band is a die hard band kid and destined to be a professional musician. Or think that every student enrolled in ceramics will be the next Grayson Perry. Likewise every child good at math may not end up being a pharmacist, and every avid reader may not be journalist. We must be smart enough to understand that these are simply vehicles for our students to figure out who they are, and that hopefully, at some point, they go on a job interview, shake someones hand, look them straight in the eyes, and work to make a difference in the world.

But in order to achieve this, we need to address some pressing issues within our education system. One crucial aspect is the need to retain those dedicated to the profession. These passionate individuals play a vital role in shaping the minds and futures of our children. They deserve better compensation for their tireless efforts and commitment. Teaching is not just a job; it’s a calling that requires immense dedication, creativity, and resilience. It’s time we recognize the value of our educators and provide them with the financial support they deserve.

Moreover, administrators must step up and provide better support systems for their staff. Teachers often face overwhelming workloads, limited resources, and challenging classroom environments. The role of administrators should be to empower and assist teachers in overcoming these obstacles, creating a conducive environment for both personal and professional growth. By fostering a culture of collaboration, respect, and open communication, administrators can help alleviate some of the burdens teachers face and enable them to focus on what truly matters: the success and well-being of their students.

In the changing landscape of education, we find ourselves facing new dynamics where parents have more of a voice in their child’s education. While parental involvement is crucial and can greatly benefit students, it also brings its own set of challenges. Parents have become more vocal and assertive in expressing their expectations, often with varying perspectives on what constitutes effective education. Balancing parental involvement with professional expertise can be a delicate dance, as educators strive to navigate the diverse needs and preferences of families while staying true to their educational philosophies and pedagogical approaches.

Furthermore, education faces external pressures from politicians who continue to attempt to vilify the profession itself. Instead of recognizing and appreciating the incredible dedication and impact of teachers, some politicians use education as a political battleground, undermining the hard work and commitment of educators. They impose misguided policies, create unnecessary hurdles, and spread negative narratives that erode public trust in our profession. It’s disheartening to say the least and down right discouraging at best.

Amidst these challenges, it’s crucial that we stay focused on the true purpose of education: nurturing young minds, fostering critical thinking, and preparing students for a rapidly changing world. We must unite as educators, parents, and advocates to protect the integrity of our profession and advocate for the necessary changes that will support our students and teachers alike. Let’s work together to ensure that we all collaborate harmoniously, with mutual respect and shared goals, while standing up against the misguided policies and negative rhetoric that threaten the future of education. Only by joining forces can we create an educational system that truly empowers and inspires our children.
And after all, has not that been the goal all along?

More thoughts coming…need to settle back into my chair in the cheap seats and get comfortable again.
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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?
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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….
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BUT WHAT ABOUT…
May 29, 2022

RobbElemThe 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.
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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.