Classroom Management via the Internet & Intranet

My most advanced class has 22 students. This is their third or fourth year in a class with me. Most of them are friends outside my class, wicked smart, highly skilled musicians & composers and lightning fast with the technology. Many of them also have IEPs or 504 plans (Special Ed), are ADD, LD or have substance abuse, eating disorders or emotional or developmental concerns. A couple even have their very own parole officer! Many have GPAs above 3.5 and scored over 2000 on the SATs, even the ones with POs! Over 50% of them will be going to college, not trade schools, as Music Composition, Music Technology or Music Business majors and one third of them never studied music before they took my class. This particular collection of students is probably the most gifted and skilled class I have had in my thirteen years of teaching. There is a special kind of comfort and familiarity in an environment like this that can produce a little less “discipline” than I would normally tolerate in my classroom. I walk a fine balance of whom they have experienced me to be, who they think I am and who they want me to be. I occasionally need to remind them that I am thirty-plus years older than they are, have several degrees and certificates in music, education and technology, more experience performing, conducting and life than most will ever and I am still their teacher.

This is a very special group of kids and the classroom has a special kind of controlled chaos. Ok, sometimes, not so controlled. My biggest concern has to do with delivery of material and communication. Traditional lessons just don’t cut it in this environment. Mostly, they compose their own music. I do give them assignments but it’s really like pulling teeth to get it done with the same gusto they do their personal projects. Threaten them with a bad grade?  Not exactly my style and certainly not what many of them need. They’ll just go away, drop the class or really not care too much. I really need to get my points across in a completely different way than I do in my other classes. Enter the Internet and Intranet.

I recently got a Facebook page. I have been staying away from Facebook because I really do like my teaching license and was afraid that something could go wrong and I would be in one of those Tweeted newspaper articles about a teacher who did something someone thought was bad on Facebook and ….  Not for me.  Then, reality settles in. Facebook is the most widely used communication tool on the planet. Period. So my Facebook page is as closed as I can make it and I warn my students about trying to “friend” me. Although 18 is the legal age in Connecticut, my age requirement is 21. It’s pretty simple for me, if you are old enough to have a legal drink with me, we can discuss being “friends”.  Until then, don’t even think about it. I simply tell them that if Read the rest of this entry »

Attaching Teacher Pay/Tenure to Test Scores or The Next Survivor

I don’t usually post my personal opinions or political views because I would prefer to keep my blog to my professional expertise. However, I was cleaning out my hard drive and came across an oldie but goody and thought about the recent conversations and federal government initiatives that support attaching teacher pay or tenure to student test scores. I say to anyone who thinks that this is a good idea, don’t even give me the six weeks that this story suggests. Give me six days, one unit of study, then, give a test on the materials. Let’s attach your salary or part of it to that test.

Since the beginning of the school year, 16 weeks or almost one half of the school year, I have had to speak to guidance counselors, staff psychologists, social workers, parents, administrators and even made a call to the state child protective services about various students who might be suicidal, are on probation, going to court, hospitalized for mental illness, might be abused by a parent, abandoned by a parent, in rehab, need to be in rehab, caught stoned or drunk in my class or have violent behavior. Forget about having to track, monitor, or report on the number of students who just don’t come to class (cut) or the 17-year-old who can’t manage to be responsible enough to get to class on time. BTW- my take on why we have so much of this is because kids are stressed to the point of breaking partly because we test them too much. Tests are stressful, people! Don’t even get me started on giving homework over a vacation…

My school has about 2800 students. I see 175 students, grades 9 – 12, over a three-day cycle (we are on an 8 day block schedule and I mostly teach part-time classes, 3 classes per 8 day cycle). When the spring semester begins, 100 students will end their classes with me and I’ll get 100 new students. I teach five different preps in nine sections of classes. 13.4% of my current students are “identified” (translate that to SpEd). 21% of my students are African-American or Latino (in my district that’s a socioeconomic indicator and compare that to the 2-4% in the performance ensembles but that’s a subject for another post). My kids learn project management, system design, respect, responsibility, how to be thoughtful in communication, appreciation for cultures unknown to them, right brain thinking, 21st century skills and any number of edu-speak jargon you care to apply. Oh yeah, they also learn enough about the actual subject that on average, 33% of my seniors go to college to major in the subject I teach. This year, it’s up to 54% or 13  out of 24 students. (That’s right Mom & Dad, your kids can go to college for this stuff and make a good living but that’s subject for another post). One third of those kids never studied music before they came to my class and some of these kids would never have seen the inside of a college. Assess THAT and tell me my salary.

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NJMEA/TI:ME 2010 – No Passport Required!

The Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME) National Conference is at the NJMEA Conference in New Brunswick, NJ February 18 – 20, 2010. That’s right, New Jersey and for all of us New Yorkers, there is still no passport required to get to New Jersey!

I’ll be making two presentations this year. One will be Teaching Music Through Composition With Technology: Beginning Lessons That Work and the other will be a performance by a group of my students, nanoBands: Live Performance And Demonstration By Greenwich High School Students Sponsored by SoundTree.  The band’s name is “Total Kaoss” and they will be performing on hand-held devices including Korg’s Kaossilator.

A  pdf file of NJMEA and TI:ME offerings at the conference can be downloaded here: TI:MEconfinfo

For more information about the NJMEA Conference, go to their conference website:

http://www.njmea.org/conference/

For more information about TI:ME, please visit their website:

http://www.ti-me.org/

Don’t forget to visit the CT Chapter website:

http://www.ti-me.org/CT/

Student Music New CD Avaiable on iTunes

FINALLY! The 2008-2009 GHS Student Music CD is available on iTunes. Just go to the iTunes Store search box and type “Greenwich High School”. The CD includes Emily’s piece “Gothic Memory Land” that was the First Place winner in the NSBA/MENC Electronic Music Competition. Enjoy!

iPhone & Music Apps

I did it. I got the new iPhone. I arrived at the store at 8 AM and I was about the 60th person in line. Between the long line and computers slow or crashing, I waited six hours. I have never done something like that before, waited the first day something came out, and there’s a really good chance I never will again. I will say, however, it was worth it. It’s an amazing device and I am very excited to have and learn about a hand held computer.

Trust me, I didn’t get the iPhone for the phone! When Apple announced they were opening up software development for the new iPhone to outside sources, it meant you no longer need to hack or “jailbreak” your phone to get some of the cool applications that were already available. Sure enough, those applications are already on the iTunes site. Simply go to the iTunes Store and find the link for the App Store.

See below:

Then select from the list of Categories in the left side bar:

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iPhone 2.0 and Moo Cow’s Band Software

You have all probably heard of iBand, the first band to use the iPhone and software created by Mark Terry of Moo Cow Music back in February 2008.

Unfortunately, you needed to hack or “jailbreak” the phone to get the software loaded. When Apple announced they were opening up iPhone software development to independents, you just knew Moo Cow was going to be in on the deal and a legal versions of what was then called iPiano and other interfaces would be available. Sure enough, Mark Terry unveiled Moo Cow’s Band software at the Apple WWDC a few weeks ago. Here’s the a clip from the Keynote when Mark and friend demonstrated Band:

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GHS student wins second place in MENC/NSBA Electronic Music Composition Contest

Congratulations to junior, Kenny, on his second place/runner up award in the MENC/NSBA Electronic Music Composition Contest. Kenny’s piece, Translation, was one of 18 submissions from Greenwich High School alone in this annual contest sponsored by MENC and the NSBA (National School Boards Association). Here’s a sample of Kenny’s piece. The full version is now available on the GHS Electronic Music CD and soon available through iTunes, Lala.com, Amazon MP3 and other aggregators

THIS MUSIC IS NOT PART OF THE CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. ALL MUSIC IS PROPERTY OF THE COMPOSER AND SUBJECT TO ALL APPLICABLE LAWS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO USE IT ALL OR IN PART, PLEASE CONTACT ME SO I CAN PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH THE COMPOSER.

Translation

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Order your GHS Electronic Music 2007-2008 CD!

25 tunes – 73 minutes of music – $10

Please use this form to order your CDs!

cd-order-form