Thursday, May 10, 2012

Week 2. Comments to my classmates

Comments to Cindi Madanski

MAC Week Two

Week Two Reading:  Human Potential, not Music Notes

The Ted video had me hooked from the start; I do not feel that I would have absorbed as much from the readings had I not seen, heard, and felt Zander’s energy in the video first.  The video and “The Art of Possibility” are inspiring words of wisdom for all walks of life, not just for musicians.  He talks more of human potential than musical notes.

Having a son who has now played violin for 5 years and a son who is learning to play the saxophone for the first time this year, I truly “laughed out loud” when he modeled how an early student of music plays a Chopin prelude.  It was as if he had been in my living room over the course of the last few years watching my boys learn to play!  Zander has not only an understanding of music, but of children’s growth as well. Many of the things he (and Rosamund) said in this week’s reading hold true from a teacher’s perspective.  Zander says, “My job is to awaken possibility in other people”.  I took what he was saying to mean that his goal is to take his students on a journey where they find their worth and look for the best in themselves.

I contemplated for a long time on what is meant by “The Easy A”.  At first reading, I thought that it doesn’t make sense to just pretend that all students are the same and they all get an A.  Pretending that my students will all rise to the challenge and do things they can’t do.  

After sleeping on it and being back in school with my 8th graders after thinking about it, I read that section again.  Maybe what he meant is that giving out The Easy A brings out what is unique in students, rather than how they fall when “standardizing” kids against each other.   Grades (and of course the high-stakes testing I just administered) are all about how my students measure up against all other 8th graders in Ohio.  Grades and OAA scores do not take into consideration the environment and unique talents of my kids. The Easy A however, allows students to face their own unique challenges and tell why and how they deserve their A.  This would give a teacher richer information:  not how they stack up against others, but how they stack up against their own hopes and dreams.  This concept aligns with the Social and Emotional Learning program my school has instituted, and I can see how it can have great benefits.  However, my district says I have to assign grade cards and administer OAAs.  To find how The Easy A can be used in my classroom is a challenge I will have to think more about.


Week Two Extra Post:  A Fall From Grace

As I said before, the Ted video had my hooked on Benjamin Zander.  I wanted to learn more and see what other videos he may have out in Internet-land.  So I googled his name.  Sadly, I found he has recently had a “fall from grace” (as many sites have been quoted as saying)

Here is Zander’s own website statement:

On January 11 (2012), just over one week ago, I was told I had been dismissed from my position at the New England Conservatory (NEC) where I have worked happily for the past 45 years.

The reason was that I had over many years retained the videographer Peter Benjamin to film classes and concerts, knowing that he was a convicted sex offender who had served a term of imprisonment. I supported him in the sentencing stage of his trial and after his release on the basis of what I saw as his earnest determination to turn his life around, but I did so without inquiring into the exact nature of the charges. This was a grave oversight.

Further, I did not seek the permission of the NEC, based on disclosure of his conviction and imprisonment, to use him as a videographer in the College and the Prep school. I accept that it was not for me to make the decision that it was safe to do so.

For all the upset and anguish my actions have thereby caused in the NEC community and beyond, I profoundly apologize

I am dismayed to know that this man who has inspired so many children and adults to become the best musician possible could have had such a huge lapse of judgment.  Obviously as a mother of 3 young boys, I am disgusted.  However, I may not have had such a profound disgust prior to my course in Filmmaking Principles in Education.  I have since learned the power a videographer has behind a camera.  They must show a bond of trust to their subjects.  If trust is not there, it becomes voyeuristic and uncomfortable. 

Peter Benjamin was hired to film children at the NEC 20 years ago by Zander.  Apparently, Zander even wrote letters to the judge in Peter’s case to influence a lesser sentence.  After Peter (whose victims were children) served his sentence, Zander hired him to film children!  While most of the media I am finding online seems to show that the majority of people who have spoke about this issue seem to think that NEC overreacted by firing Zander, I believe this was an appropriate course of action, giving the information I have read.  I question his judgment to hire a sex offender to film a youth orchestra, and while Zander has published an apology on his official website, that took him several weeks.  His first reaction was that of “I did nothing wrong.”  Is his apology genuine now?  Quite possibly.  Zander could have supported Peter Benjamin in helping him find work after serving his time, but absolutely not by working with a camera and young children, the exact environment where he committed a heinous crime.  This was a huge lack of judgment, and I hope and pray that no children were violated in the 20 years Peter was employed by Zander. 

Week Two Leadership ~ Where to Publish

Mathematics Teacher Educator seems to be the most logical place for me to submit my publication.

Well, the manuscript is to be no longer than 25 pages of text of 6,250 words (exclusive of references).  I can confidently state that my paper will fit that requirement!

Another option may be Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.

In fact, this publication currently has a request for manuscripts for "articles that address how to promote communication so as to encourage students to construct their own mathematical understandings in the public forum of a classroom".  My Action Research did use technology for students to communicate what the learned in Mathematics.  

Here are my comments to Cindi:


The world we live in laws/expectations we must meet make it difficult to allow our students perform to their potential when they have to worry about grades all the time. Considering the emotional disorders of your students it would seem to me that using the easy "A" could be a great tool from time to time. It would be fun to let them be creative with sort of "No Holds Barred" expectations.


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