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Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to the Fort

Tomorrow I head off to Fort McMurray for Mike Eddy's retirement. Mike was and is the best high school band teacher in the entire universe. I worked with him for several years at Westwood High School and he was wonderful to work with. I directed 3 musicals with him as my music director. I have yet to work with anyone as good (sorry to all the other musical directors I have worked with but Mike is Mike and you really can't beat him). He is also one of those pianists who can actually accompany a singer. When he plays for you, you actually sing better. It's true. Ask anyone he has ever played for. When I moved to Edmonton, auditions became scary, because I no longer had Mike playing for me. I knew he was good, but I had no idea how spoiled I had become. I have had a few that have come very, very close (Monica Baczuk, Carol Anderson, Sally Hunt, Randy Mueller, and probably Brad Heintzman but I have never had him play for me) but Mike is Mike so the best I can give them is 99.9% of a Mike rating. When I wrote my first play, Mike arranged the music I wrote. When I played Angel in Whorehouse, Irene Molloy in Hello Dolly! The White Witch in Narnia and Mama Rose in Gypsy, Mike was playing. When I sang with the Honey B's, Mike was our drone on piano. He was a cheerleader and a supporter and a friend and a creative collaborator. He always made you better when you worked with him. We shall sing, tell stories and musicians will play and we will celebrate Mike and his lovely and generous wife Lori with music. It is very fitting.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What are the Proper Things to be taught?

I read a response to an article on Bill 44 wherein the writer said that Bill 44 was needed because the proper things were not being taught. What are the proper things? In my mind, those things are the Alberta Curriculum. That IS what is being taught. This curriculum has been developed with input from many educators, industry input, and legislators, many of whom are parents so one could that parents have had an opportunity for input. It is designed to be culturally neutral. What Bill 44 will do is hamper teachers form being humans with personal viewpoints. Sure, they should not be teaching their opinion, however, often in classes you take a position to stimulate discussion. Sometimes it is your own, sometimes not. I worked with a Social Studies teacher who only had one student guess his political affiliation correctly over the course of 20+ years of teaching. He was very good at teaching 'everything' without bias or slant. Not everyone is that good and it is an unreasonable expectation. The important is that kids are able to see that different points of view and opinions exist. Parents always cry out to teachers to involve students so that they engage in the learning. What Bill 44 will do is produce such a neutral delivery that no one will be involved. Teachers, good teachers, will quit and go elsewhere because it will be impossible to work in an environment where they are not allowed to be human.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bill 44 - Scary Stuff...

If I think too much about Bill 44 my stomach gets upset. I taught for 14 years. The bulk of my teaching over the course of those 14 years was Science, Drama and Math. The first two subjects would know doubt have landed me in hot water if Bill 44 went through as proposed.

I faced questions about creationism routinely when teaching high school science. I believe I dealt with those questions respectfully, but also within the curriculum and within the scope of the current scientific thought. I did say that I did not believe in Creationism, however, I would also say that I believed the bible to be allegorical. That God created us with complex minds that could understand that the story of creation was interpretive and 'who knows how long a day is to God'? I trust the Scientific Method. It's primary tenet is that you question everything. That you never trust that what you have is absolute, but that you challenge your belief so that you can minimize doubt and push the development of scientific thought further. I far prefer a doctrine that has this rigorous attitude than one that prevents change in thought. Subscribing our scientific thought to a belief system that is over 2000 years old is idiotic. There, I've said it. Stupid. An education system should not be encouraging students to be stupid. It should be pushing them to question everything.

I also faced many questions about homosexuality while teaching science and drama (and occasionally in the other subjects too). I would not ignore those questions because someone in the class might have a religious belief that promoted hatred towards homosexuals. I could not do that. I couldn't pretend that it didn't exist just to make some people's parents happy. That is wrong. Those estimated 10% of my students that happen to be gay deserved to be seen and be equal.

I am extremely disturbed by this proposed legislation. I don't think it will pass and I will march in protest if it looks anywhere close to passing. What disturbs me is that our 'leaders' brought this forward. My stomach is upset. What kind of hateful morons do we have in charge? Because you have to be either hateful or stupid to believe that Bill 44 has any legitimacy in our society.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The end of my rope...

I have two children. Two wonderful boys. Two very different boys. When Ollie came along, I understood him from day one. I knew when he was hungry. I knew when he was poopy. I knew when he just wanted to snuggle. As he got older I had struggles with him, but most of the time I still knew what he was thinking. I couldn't necessarily make him behave, but I could read his emotion or rationale for his behaviour. Then Gibby came along. From the beginning he was a bit of a mystery. It took me longer to figure out what he needed. I didn't have that instant connection that I did with Oliver. It could be that he was just different and I was using all my tools from the Ollie toolbox and they weren't gonna work with Gib. So I learned. But I have yet to figure him out in the same way I feel I know Ollie. The past few days have been really tough with him. Friday he had 6 meltdowns - super irrational melt-downs. Monday he wailed for 45 minutes at gymnastics. Today, he has had three crying fits. All of them are sparked by 'stupid stuff'... things that can't be helped (the teacher at gymnastics was new, Ethan was playing with Marcus, he had to have dessert after lunch) and I was and continue to be frustrated with his reaction. This is relatively new. He has been a pretty easy kid for most of the year, but this last week is driving me nuts. Hopefully I'll figure him out a little bit soon.