the Teacher’s Dilemma
Even though we are in the middle of summer break for Public Schools, I found this blog post a great reminder of the partnership we have with our school teachers who are usually our Arts Advocates on the front line. It is a Huffington Post Blog by Peter Greene that speaks to the “elephant” in the our classrooms.
“There Is Never Enough“… enough time, enough resources, enough support. There are great game plans in regard to syllabus and curriculum, but when it comes down to implementing all the great plans – Peter says it can often become “educational triage.” He goes on further with the metaphor of a beautiful Victorian mansion that looks lovely in theory. But there is never enough paint, the wood is old and likely rotting, many of the crevices are too high to reach with a ladder that is too short. And furthermore, there is the onslaught of observers that constantly point out how “you missed a spot here” or “you should try to fix it this way…”
The article itself has much humor. Others may find it as griping and a vehicle to vent. But for those of us that have a connection to arts and public education – we will likely understand exactly what he is talking about. Somehow, teachers may not have the solution, but boldly continue to take on the mounting challenge. Read the full post:
Peter Greene – The Hard Part
Letting Artists Soar
Since this came my way via two separate people, the universe is telling me to Pay It Forward. One from a former YPC student now interviewing to return as staff. The other from a teaching colleague via Facebook. It is about Eric Whitacre, renown choral composer, arts advocate and classical music poster boy who was just in the Twin Cities conducting the MN Orchestra and Chorale.
On his FB post, he refers to a difficult passage in his piece Equus. He comments that he finds the piece difficult at best, even though he wrote it and was having trouble with 16 measures of complex rhythms. During rehearsal, the process of breaking it down was getting worse and all involved were frustrated at solving it in the short time involved. Whitacre even acknowledges his own faults at trying to make it work for all.
So out of this frustration, he decided to experiment and told all members that when it came to the fractured section, he would just put down his hands, stop conducting, and let the members themselves continue on solo. And to his surprise, all 200 musicians forged on without any problems. He did the same in both concerts; “I would get to letter ‘K’, put my hands down and do a little dance, smile, and the players would take the reins.” He finishes by saying it is a powerful lesson learned time and again to allow artists to do what they do best. We should be leaders that only need to guide and let the artists soar. I think this can apply to any age.
The Burden of being Famous
This is a topic that rubs people both ways. It applies especially to athletes and Hollywood celebrities. There is one school of thought that they should do what they are paid for and leave political agendas at the door. And then others, like myself, that applaud them for using their clout and access to make a statement. I think it is imperative to make a difference in the world and why not use your influence to make a voice heard? Isn’t that what many of us do on Twitter and Facebook? Why not take it to a larger audience?
I bring this up after viewing both Jennifer Lopez and her introduction by the notable Rita Moreno at this weekend’s GLAAD Media Awards. Yes another gratuitous pat on the back for celebrities, but this is more about what they do when they are not in front of the cameras. Somehow I knew nothing about the show the Fosters on ABC Family network. Why would I ever watch it? But JLo is the executive producer who took the risk and put her name on the project that allowed it to succeed where it has become popular and been given an important seal of approval as Teen Choice Winner. It looks at family life for a pair of lesbian parents, their nuclear family of both maternal and adopted children, racial issues and teen well being. Any one of these topics is worthy of attention.
In her speech, she speaks very strongly about her gay aunt as a positive role model for her and why she felt compelled to Stand Up and give credibility to make this show happen. She speaks of strong words like “love” and “loyalty” against adversity as we continue to make leaps forward in the world. How could this possibly be out of line and criticized for having a point of view and making your voice heard? Kudos to her and others. I will definitely tune in and see what the show is all about now!
Looking and Feeling Pretty
I am not the type to be a hater and respect everyone’s hope to be seen as a beautiful creature that is uniquely their own. But I have had several exposures to this young Ukrainian woman who is being referred to as the Human Barbie. She was featured in an GQ interview where she spoke about her quest to obtain a perfect form – but as in any eating disorder et al, there is a danger in perception and the tipping point can get very warped.
Her name is Valeria Lukyanova. She denies rumors of extensive plastic surgery, but there is no reality to her appearance; esp when compared to former photographs. First there are the impossible measurements; what she has on top is not in alignment with the bottom. Her thinness is attributed to a liquid-only diet. There are even rumors of having her eyelids scraped to imitate the vacant Barbie doll eyes.
Again – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But yet body image in our young women is such a dominant weight hanging over them and yet we both perpetuate and aspire to this female image that is nowhere near realistic. We are offering a special session this summer that needs an audience of young girls. Through theater and other role models we are trying to empower them to be true to themselves.
link to Grrl Power class – scroll down for details
5 U.S. Teacher Myths
Being a creative type, sometimes statistics are difficult for me to decipher. I have a logical side, but it has more to do with order than numbers. So as I played back this video, I had to pause and ponder to make sense of it all.
It is a short video in defense of our US Education System and Teachers which have been thrown under the bus over the last decade as we try to quantify what isn’t working. It blasts 5 Myths which are now perceived consensus and is based on data from the American Federation of Teachers and Organization for Economic Cooperation Development. This last group looks at the top 34 democratic nations in the world to compare globally.
Student Performance is Dropping – false! We are actually consistent over the last 12 years, but the rub is that other countries are succeeding better. They point out that our US obstacle is a huge child poverty rate which no one know guess. We rank surprisingly low in terms of per capita family income and are able to show that this achievement gap is closing rather than widening.
Education Spending is High – false! This is skewed by the fact that colleges are so expensive in the US. Once that aspect is removed, we are only slightly above average in spending of the 34 countries. We are near the bottom for K-12 spending and manage to have a great teacher/ student ratio applied to those disadvantaged students mentioned in point 1. A huge gap shows that we are 24th in Pre School enrollment where it all begins!
Teachers are Overpaid – false! Turnover rate shows that almost 50% quit before they even hit the 5 year mark. They clock in the most classroom hours but are actually near the bottom for pay. What this means is that they are in the class, but have no time for important areas like prep time or meeting with parents.
other Countries Hire Better Teachers/ Unions make Teaching a Difficult Career – Japan and Finland who rate the highest, also back the strongest teacher unions. This creates a true sense of them being professionals rather than just vocational people. There is much more information given out in a short 5 minute video if any are interested in giving it a click.
5 Teaching Myths
More fuel for the fire from an article in the Huffington Post this week. It speaks to how creativity taps into the cognitive, but is a very different process from the thinking type. It is basically a scientific analysis of the right-brain, tortured artist. It is a long list of 18 power points and I wish I could list them all here – because they fit me to a T and are the very tenets that YPC aspires to.
Yes, there are the obvious traits that we people watch and observe. We also crave solitude and escape at times for balance. We believe that daydreaming is not a waste of time, but a portal to transport us. But there are more affirming traits like risk taking and turning life’s obstacles into growth moments. Look at any songwriter who has turned a heartbreak into closure and art. How about resilience – creative types fail and fail often! I also love that we are able to connect the dots when things aren’t always clear to us. A great list that should be taped to our refrigerators.
Huffington Post Creativity List
A theme that surfaces often both in schools and here at YPC, is youth entitlement in the current generation. Sometimes it sounds like “when I was young we …..” and other times it resounds with definite truth. This is shared from recent article in the Wall Street Journal looking at some insights into old-fashioned teaching methods.
Many current classrooms shroud themselves in passive and protective policies that praise kids’ self esteem. All in the name of accountability for test scores. The trend is to tease knowledge out of students rather than pounding it into their heads. But the article, which has much merit and details, points to 8 very strong tenets that beg some thought. Here is their list as well as a link to the full article.
- A little pain is good for you.
- Drill, baby, drill.
- Failure is an option.
- Strict is better than nice.
- Creativity can be learned.
- Grit trumps talent.
- Praise makes you weak.
- …. While stress makes you strong.
Tough Teachers Get Results
Civil Rights 2014
I have posted video clips from the show prior. This one is from a month back, but I was saving it specifically for Black History month. It is from ABC’s What Would You Do? which creates fictional scenes to get a reality reaction. This one was from a Harlem Barbershop where a black man entered with a white actress posing as his wife to get reactions in a very guarded community. The catalyst was a female barber who became very outspoken about the mixed race relationship.
As is usually the case, both sides of the situation garner a reaction. But in this case, it was reaffirming to see how much support was given and just how vocal some of the patrons became. It is good to know progress is being made, despite all we hear otherwise. Walk proudly and continue the good work.
What Would You Do? (youtube video link)