Thursday, June 26, 2008
posted by Q6 at 1:23 PM
By force, not by choice--as is often the case in public education--I am being moved to a different school site. A VASTLY different school site. I'll save the bitter ranting for later, since there's a lot of it to do (my next few blog posts will be reports about my actual transition--none of it, so far, very good). What's important at the moment, however, is that the day I've been loathing for about four months now has finally arrived:

I turned in my keys today. I'm done at this school.

The office staff threw a little "going away" party of sorts, complete with cool food from Panera and gag gifts for the two outgoing assistant principals. It was all in good fun, but there was an elephant in the room: after today, things would not be the same. (For this and the next several blog posts, I'm gonna sound pretty full of myself. It's not intentional, nor is it comfortable; but to illustrate my points, it's necessary to convey the opinions of others regarding how awesome I am.)

Seven years is a long time to grow roots, but it didn't take as long as I thought it would to clear out of my office. I started last week, thinking it would take quite some time; it took three days, and I was packed by graduation day, a full week before I would actually leave.

What didn't surprise me were the constant reminders of how much I would be missed, the nice compliments everyone threw my way, and the frequent question: "What are we gonna do without you?" What DID surprise me were the constant comments about my sense of humor--apparently it made quite an impact. The last day or two I haven't stayed too long (having nothing to do but write my exit packet, which I kept brief--if they think I'm that interchangable, then the new guy shouldn't need detailed instructions, right?), and people are already beginning to feel the hole I'm leaving; especially, it seems, from what has been perceived as an eight hour a day stand up routine I do as I talk to people. Me, I'm just being myself; them, they seem to think I'm hilarious.

As I've said before, I don't want to leave. I know this place like the back of my hand, and it's gotten to know me pretty well. My hope is that the new guy won't let atrophy the seven years I've spent getting certain programs working well. This school requires a lot of maintenance, and everyone's convinced that the new guy isn't up to the job. Time will tell.

Ethereally and spiritually, I'm leaving behind a legacy of hard work and positive results. Emotionally, I'm leaving behind some close friendships and a lot of trust.

Physically, however, I'm not leaving behind much.

Thursday, June 19, 2008
posted by Q6 at 6:00 AM
I really don't want to go work at this new school.

I'm leaving a school that has 2200 students over six grade levels (7th through 12th). They take AP tests and SAT tests and ACT tests. They drive to school. They leave campus for lunch. They're involved in and endless list of athletics. More than 95% of the homes use technology. I've been there for seven years and, in many cases, I'm the only one parents, students, and teachers will turn to for help (largely because I've seen all the other administrative positions change hands at least once). My fiancee works there, and more than the pleasant idea of carpooling to work, I find comfort in the fact that she's only a few classrooms away if I need to see her pretty face.

I'm going to a school that has 600 students over two grade levels (7th and 8th only). No APs, SATs, or ACTs. They all stay on campus for lunch, and none of them drive. There are maybe four sports in the athletic program. Only an estimated 20% of the homes are on the web.

I'm gonna be bored out of my mind. I'll be asleep all the time. What's more, I got into this gig to work in a high school, and an isolated intermediate school just isn't my thing. (The principal over there, whom I know but not all that well, is a really great guy. Other than that, everything about this school reflects where I don't want to be.)

I've interviewed in another district already, but with no success. Another district has yet to schedule interviews for the two high school assistant principal positions it has open. Yet a third district has an opening I'll apply for by July first. All of these, of course, aren't sure things.

I really don't want to work at this new school, and I really fear that I'm not going to have any choice.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
posted by Q6 at 7:24 AM
Last week there was a news item about a school in the San Diego area about a "scared straight" tactic they used. Lots of backlash, lots of complaints, . . . and lots of making sense, if you ask me. (If you didn't click the link, the school kept several students from going to classes, then announced that they died in drinking-related accidents. The students showed up later in the afternoon, and the school announced that the scare tactic was to prove a point. People were pissed, but students got the message.)

We do a thing here every other year (that many, many schools do) in partnership with the local police department called "Every 15 Minutes." Students are taken from classes by the Grim Reaper every 15 minutes all morning to indicate how often someone dies from drinking-related accidents, and then there's a big to-do out back of campus with a simulated accident scene, simulated blood, and real emergency response--including the medivac helicopter--to demonstrate just how ugly it gets.

Our program makes a point. Theirs, I feel, does it much better.

What impressed me is that several of the students interviewed really felt like they learned something. In the 21st century, there's a certain amount of desensitization in kids that I don't think enough of us recognize. In order to get the message across that violence is bad, we're competing with violent video games played by the hour each day. When stressing the dangers of sex, we're competing with cable television (my assistant pointed out to me that she needs to have "the talk" with her youngest son, who's just finishing the second grade, for the love of God). To counter all of this, we need to take a page from a district-level friend of mine who coordinates emergency drills: the best drills, he says, aren't announced until they're over.

"Scared straight" needs to go to the next level to be effective. Fine by me.

*In "Seven," Kevin Spacey's character is creepy as hell. He's got a valid point, though.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
posted by Q6 at 9:32 PM
I told my fiancee (via an e-mail to her classroom across campus) that if one more person came into my office and said, "Whoa, it's really bare in here!" I was gonna punch him or her right in the nose. She suggested that I post a sign outside, and even wrote one up as an example. Knowing I couldn't come up with anything better, here's what it says:

Come see the

THRILL to the sight of a CLEAN DESK!
WONDER where it all went!

50 cents a peek.
You don't want to miss it!

I've collected two quarters so far, and no one else has said anything to my face.
Friday, June 13, 2008
posted by Q6 at 9:11 PM
As my final year at this high school comes rapidly to a close, I'm trying to attend as many events as possible; partly out of a sense of administrative responsibility, partly because I want to savor what little time I have left. The other night I had the privilege of attending the final vocal concert of the year. Our music director has become a very good friend of mine, so I try to do as much as I can to support his progam. (His students are also some of my favorites; I've always had greater rapport with the arts kids than the athletes.)

His concert Tuesday night was nothing short of superb. I always enjoy getting the CDs made from these performances, because you sit there thinking to yourself "Wow, (s)he's really talented" and then you listen later thinking "Wow, that's a student?!?" The Concert Choir, which is made up of many grade levels, includes several students who routinely visit my office; so it's encouraging to see them involved in something productive. What I think I enjoy most about the Concert Choir is Maestro's selections--they're complicated. It's one thing to sit and enjoy the music, but quite another to watch different parts of the choir do different parts and play off each other. It's not just a whole group of people singing at the same time . . . there's some timing and arragement that goes into this--and it pays off.

The solos are always my favorite part, because those students really shine. Some, of course, you know will do well. They've been doing well for years. Others surprise you: there was a duet ("Phantom of the Opera") that blew me away because although I knew those two students were in the music program, I had no idea how talented they were (and they were, believe me). There was another student--we'll call him Double-A--who has done the alma mater for my daily announcements before, but he did half of a duet ("Lilly's Eyes") that made me sit back and take notice. I had no idea he had that kind of talent. (Maestro tells me that if he can keep his ego in check, he'll be dynamite next year.) There was a solo that made me uncomfortable, which is rare: we have this senior whose arrogance brings new definition to the term, and although he's got some talent in the music and drama departments, it's hard to see it with his ego in the way (I mean, at two different points, he seemed to question the accompanist's playing, which is altogether uncool). Anyway, he did this German piece ("An Die Musik"); and when you combine heightened arrogance and the German language, it just makes my Jewish sensibilities want to get up and run from the room. My favorite solo by far, however, came from my fiancee's TA (and after hearing her I'm sorry I missed her in this year's production of "How to Succeed in Business"), who is an outgoing senior. She did "The Stars and the Moon," which was perfect for her--she has this 1940's-singing-screen-star thing going on not only with her voice, but with her presentation (and, quite frankly, her look) and it all comes together as though an entire production team has been working on it for years (and she's had it ever since playing a unicorn in the middle school "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" production). I've never had much contact with her during her time here, only what I see in productions and occasionally in conversations in my fiancee's classroom; but over the years I've had maybe ten or fifteen "favorite" students--she's two of them.

Madrigals were impressive, not just because it's a concentration of vocal talent, but Maestro's selections really bring it out. He chose two Haydn pieces that included several solos each. Again, complicated in that different people are doing different things throughout each piece. For several of the seniors, this was the swan song. They'll certainly be missed (but I have CDs!).

As I prepare to finish my final year here, I gotta tip my hat to the Maestro. If I ever work at a school with a music director half as motivated and skilled, I'll be a lucky man. If you read his blog at all, you know that he struggles sometimes with the "administrative vision" working against him; they want to see a music program that appeals to a lower common denominator, and he wants to run an on-campus conservatory. Given that so many of our students are high-performing academics destined for the Ivy League, his approach makes a lot more sense, and still he must fight off the spectre of a marching band with a crucifix and cloves of garlic. When it comes to his educational approach to music (instrumental and vocal) his heart is true, his cause is just, and his victories are sweet. He and I also fly our geek flags pretty high, so it's little wonder we get along as well as we do.

I will miss a great many things after I leave this school. I will miss the music program more than a lot of the others.

Bravo, Maestro. Bravo.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
posted by Q6 at 9:13 PM
I bought a new bike. Wanting to try it out, I rode it to school last Saturday to help the new Test Center Supervisor work her first SAT Test. Five miles there, five miles back--not an easy start back into cycling, but I was in no hurry, so . . .

It was sweet. It only took about 25 minutes each way, and it wasn't a difficult ride at all (well, there's this one hill, but if I shift into a really low gear and pace myself, it's not bad at all). And I thought to myself, If I pack some clothes to keep in the office this week, and I don't pack a whole lot of crap I don't need, why couldn't I ride my bike to work every day? So I have. Since Monday.

As it turns out, I've got a lot of crap in my briefcase I don't need. My clothes don't stay in the backpack too long, so they don't get too wrinkled (and some items will stay at work all week--pants, shoes, a belt). There's plenty of room in my office for it, and it makes a nice conversation piece. Quite a few people have complimented me on my decision to bike to work, especially with gas prices being what they are. Of course, if I'm ever asked to make an impromptu trip to the district office, I'll have to borrow my fiancee's car or something; thing is, there's very little of the school year left, and my "new job" is too far away to do this, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity while I can.

Naturally, I'll have to take my car when I finally need to move the boxes out of my office . . .