Monday, March 23, 2009
posted by Q6 at 5:47 AM
So I posted a rant not long ago about using business books and manuals in education, and my frustration that (a) they don't really cross over, and (b) education isn't important enough to have it's own section of the bookstore. That rant is partly motivated by a general sense of urgency in my profession, but it also affects me personally.

My boss--the principal of my school--LOVES these books. He can't get enough of them. He reads two or three a week. He copies chapters out of them and hands them out at meetings. He's always talking about them (and he's the kind of guy who never remembers if he's told you something or not, so I get repeats). And his new favorite book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

I read Gladwell's Blink, and I thought it was insightful. I didn't think it was written for specific audiences (like business or education), but that didn't stop people from trying to apply the concepts to everything they did. I [am almost sure that I] skipped The Tipping Point, for no other reason than people told me it was too similar to Blink. My boss now goes on and on about Outliers--and fine, I'll read the damn book. What worries me is that according to him, it's about what the traits that make people successful; and to listen to his examples, 90% of these traits are beyond the control of the individual (like what month of the year you were born). I don't want to read 300 pages of "Here's what makes successful people tick, but there's nothing you can do about it" or "These are the things you didn't do for your kid and now he's irrevocably screwed up."

I'll read the book, but I have to finish the one I'm on now (The Power of Less by Leo Babauta) and read the next one in line (Fool by Christopher Moore). Then I'll read it, boss.
Friday, March 20, 2009
posted by Q6 at 10:16 AM
This week provided my first opportunity to hear a music concert by students at my school. It was . . . well, it wasn't what I expected. It wasn't bad, really, given what our music teacher has to work with, but it wasn't what I was used to.

At my prior school works a man of music who teaches his students along classical lines, but has the benefit of teaching students who either take the class seriously, have additional lessons on the side, or who have been playing the instrument(s) for a number of years. His concerts are just under two hours long and include instrumental, jazz, and vocal--up to ten numbers in each section, at times. I always made a point of going to his concerts, partly because I enjoyed the students and the program, partly because I prefer the arts over athletics.

At my current school, students have only the classroom time to learn; practice time at home is probably distrcted and not all it should be; and the students have no outside, formal training. The concert the other night included the beginning band, the choir, the jazz band, and the concert orchestra. There were fewer selections (the entire evening ran about 45 minutes), the acoustics in the gym were less than adequate, and the audience was . . . (perhaps "rude" is the wrong word) unaccustomed to attending music concerts--there was talking, there was moving about, there were distractions. At one point, I felt bad for the teacher (who was very upbeat throughout the whole thing, actually), and then I felt a little bad for the students who had worked so hard but clearly didn't get the audience they deserved, and then I felt glad that our school, where the students don't have much and still work hard to satisfy, had a concert at all.

And I missed my previous school's Maestro.
Monday, March 02, 2009
posted by Q6 at 2:51 PM
Budgetary issues being what they are in California, everyone in education gets nervous around this time of year. (For those who are unfamiliar with the education calendar, districts must notify you by March 15 if you're going to be released. Pink slips are called Reductions in Force, or RIFs.)

On Friday, I got a postal slip notifying me of certified mail. My heart sank, then leapt into my throat and did a little dance, then stopped altogether for a few seconds as I considered why I would possibly be receiving certified mail from "school district." In my mind, for a few minutes, I had been RIFfed. It was a very scary feeling, and my now-well-exercised heart goes out to all those people, particularly educators, who have experienced this feeling and have been left holding a pink slip at the end.

The district had not mailed me a ticket to the unemployment office, but my contract for next year (plus a note reminding me that my salary was being cut slightly for '09-'10 . . . that's a whole different story). I have a job, and I'm happy with that. I don't know if I'll be staying at my present assignment or changing campuses again, but I don't really care overmuch. I'm employed.