Tag Archives: teaching

Music lessons

During last night’s run, a song I was unfamiliar with came on my Spotify playlist.  The voice was familiar, but it took me a minute to bring the vocalist’s name to my lips…Lana Del Ray.  As I listened, a face popped into my mind and I smiled, thinking of the now-graduated student who had brought her music to my attention.  CF was a most ardent supporter of Lana and I can thank him for exposing me to her.  He also  introduced me to one of my now favorite high school movies, Easy A, a movie he said I had to watch because I reminded him so much in voice, mannerism and appearance, of the main character played by Emma Stone.  Nice kid, right?

I started thinking about other students who have shared themselves and their enthusiasms with me over the years.  I realized that, after working with thousands of kids for close to twenty years, the ones who left the greatest impression upon me, are the ones who taught me something.  The students I will always remember are those who opened a door and invited me to peek into their worlds, generally  through music.

There was CL who I will always immediately think of when I hear Voodoo Chile, picturing him on a semi-dark stage, eyes shut, playing his guitar as the audience of students gathered before him saw him in a profoundly different and new way.  JF was the student who I looked to for help when I received an iPod and was completely clueless about what to do with it. I brought my humble little iPod Nano to him and he took it home and loaded it up with music both familiar and new to me, impressing me with the breadth of his musical collection. How could you ever forget the person who brought Ornette Coleman into your world?

RS was one of those kids that I ran into at a show or two.  I knew I had passed muster when he came to me one day and started talking music.  He turned me on to M. Ward and his related projects, She & Him and Monsters of Folk.  We almost ran into each other a while back in Palm Springs and I know the day will come when we’ll both be in the same audience again.  DC taught me about Amy Winehouse and encouraged me to get onboard the retro R&B train, a move I’ve never regretted.  SE schooled me about Mumford & Sons and the Silversun Pickups and gave me, through her own experiences, a chance to look back at my high school years through a different prism.

There are days at school when I feel weighed down by my role as library cop, days when I feel as if all I do is correct behavior and enforce rules.  A nighttime run, plugged into a playlist, gives me a much-needed opportunity to reflect on some of the more positive interactions I’ve had with students, the opportunities I’ve had to learn from them.  So many students, so many bands, so much music, so much learned.  So very privileged.

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Filed under Education, Music, musings

Impressions from a spring concert

photo(133)Last night’s concert at my son’s middle school made an unexpected impact upon me emotionally. I’m not usually inclined to tears, but this gathering of kids, led by their obviously committed teachers, left me absolutely weepy. Here are the thoughts I had while sitting in that auditorium…

…there was a boy with a cast on his arm nevertheless playing saxophone.  During the presentation of the 8th grade participants,* a-soon-to-be graduate was introduced and described as having run in the rain to be present at his final Middle School performance. Each ensemble which took the stage was a remarkable variety of tall and short, dark and light, with every shade of skin, and texture of hair, imaginable.  Feet tapping, bodies swaying, heads nodding, everyone unified by the music they were making together. Beautiful.

I am so glad that my children attend a school where these opportunities are offered and valued.  The fact that this school is filled with a population often described euphemistically as “urban,” adds a richness to the experience for each and every student there.  These are kids that have interests and passions and talents, all of which are being fostered by the Albany City School District, and witnessed by their families.  It was a great evening and everyone involved should be proud.

*My son was introduced as the “one and only Griffin Lilly.” Never have I been more proud.

Follow up to Destination Lame:
I phoned the principal early this week and expressed my concerns about the trip.  She and I didn’t speak directly, it was more a game of phone tag and a series of voicemails, but I am satisfied with her response to my issues.  The trip, as presented to parents, is a bit different from the trip originally approved by administration.  The principal will be addressing the changes to the original itinerary and modifying the trip to add more structure and formal activities, as time and budget allow.  I was impressed with her immediate response and serious consideration of my concerns.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, concerts, Education, Events, family, Music, Schools, Spring

Testing – 1, 2, 3

No notice on this really – I’m sorry!  It’s my fault, not Pat’s.

From NYS Assemblymember Pat Fahy:

Local Education Forum:  School districts across the region are feeling the strain of limited federal and state funding, a convoluted funding formula, and increasing testing and other state and federal mandates. To give voice to these concerns, the Capital Region legislators will host a local forum to hear from educators about the Impact of State Mandates and Testing on K-12 Students on Wednesday, June 5th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 711A in the Legislative Office Building in Downtown Albany. The forum will provide an opportunity to hear from urban, rural, and suburban school districts on these challenges and all are welcome to attend.

Maybe you can get there?

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Filed under Albany, Education, Events, Local, politics, Schools

Destination lame

image: planetware.com

My middle son is wrapping up his middle school academic career in a couple of weeks. There are a few events to commemorate the occasion, including a day trip to NYC, later this month.  When I was in 8th grade, we also went to the city.  I remember it vividly because I saw my first Broadway musical, Grease, and wore the brown sweater coat (the height of fashion in 1980!) my mother knit for me.  It was a special day.

On Friday, he brought home the permission slip which detailed the itinerary for their day. Basically, they depart from Albany at 6:30 in the morning, returning at approximately 9:30 p.m.  Their first stop is midtown where they have 2.5 hours scheduled at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  From there they head to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch.   I understand that not every kid has parents who believe in authentic experiences which reflect their locale, but doesn’t this sound incredibly generic? Is there anything about this that screams “greatest city in the world” to you?

But, wait, it gets better.  The kids then head down to the South Street Seaport – and this is the part that really rankles me, where they have 3 hours to wander around, using the “buddy system.” Now, I’m sure (right?) there will be adequate supervision of the kids, but this segment of the trip, the lengthiest one, is completely unstructured.  In the description provided on the permission slip, this cool, but small area, was heralded for its “mall and 15 places to eat.”  Really?!?  I’m sending my kid to New York to go to a mall and eat at some chain restaurant?

I’m pretty familiar with the downtown area where the kids are going to be.  The Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center are right there.  Why aren’t they bringing the kids to either of these free, yet, significant places?  Maybe a ferry ride to Staten Island?  There’s so much history in that area!  How about Chinatown, Little Italy or the Tenement Museum, all of which are included in the 8th grade social studies curriculum?

Is it just me, or is this a true example of missed opportunity and lack of effort in planning?  What do you think?

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Filed under Boys, Education, Events, NYC, Rants, Schools

A book, an event and an observation or two

image:timesunion.com

image:timesunion.com

That’s what I’ve been up to over at Moms@Work.

  • The book was about the benefits of allowing children room to grow without their parents obsessive intense encouragement and support.
  • The event is a breakfast and networking opportunity on June 6th at the Desmond.  Go and meet some Women@Work folks and get energized.
  • Heroes don’t always wear uniforms, but sometimes they do.  How about we honor all of them?

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Filed under Books, Education, Events, ideas, Local, Moms@Work, News, Observations, Recommendations

April Moms@Work & Women@Work catch-up

My byline snap

My byline snap

Notice I said catch-up instead of catsup or ketchup.  We all (or those of us who hang on every word of dialogue in Mad Men at least) know there’s only 1 ketchup.

I digress – anyway, here are some blog posts from my other spot out here on the internet, Moms@Work.

Also, excitedly enough for me, the print edition of the May/June issue of Women@Work is now available in all sorts of lobbies and waiting rooms around town.  Grab one, why don’t you and read my piece on page 59.  Don’t forget to linger over my name on the page listing of contributing writers!

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Filed under Boys, Education, family, ideas, moms, Moms@Work, Observations, politics, Schools, Spring, travel, vacation

I’ve got a badge – and a glass of wine.

Another perfect little find from Elissa Halloran's little shop on Lark Street.

Another perfect little find from Elissa Halloran’s little shop on Lark Street.

Well, guess who gets to be the bad cop?  Yes, yes, I know, if the shoe fits, blah blah blah.  Whatever.  Give me a second, please, while I take another swig swallow sip of wine, ok?  Exhale.  Sigh.

You know how kids like to play their parents, especially in divorce situations?  Yes, you do, you must have seen it before. Child, typically a teen, decides that the demise of their parents’ marriage provides them with the perfect opportunity to slack off?  Well, it is a crap situation that requires parental attention and communication…something which isn’t always easily managed as a former couple transitions to a new normal of shared parenting done in an isolated, yet equally invested fashion.   Maybe it’s a natural impulse for a child who wants to ensure that his recently apart parents maintain an open dialogue.  Perhaps it is a symptom of adolescence.  I don’t know for certain, but I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is exhausting and demoralizing.  Ugh.

Most of us are familiar with that cliched police interrogation technique – the whole good cop/bad cop thing, right?  Well, guess which officer I get to be?  I’ve always been the calendar keeper, the planner, the appointment maker, the initiator, shall we say.  I have a knack for making, and keeping, a schedule and taking care of things.  Naturally, it has fallen to me to be the one who checks in on the boys’ grades and initiates contact, when necessary, with their teachers.  And the reward for my attentions from my child who is treading seriously close to the line between living up to his potential and being a rebel without a cause?  Well, let’s just say it  is sort of the opposite of gratitude.

It would be so much easier to be hands off.  I would prefer to devote my attention to celebrating the wonderful talents and capabilities of my children, but it seems that a different type of focus is being demanded at this time.  Well, if I have to be the one who enforces the law in these parts, I’ll do it, with or without the assistance of a deputy.  Don’t you doubt it.

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Filed under Boys, family, Lark Street, moms, musings