Showing posts from November, 2015


Nothing says "evil" like a fluffy white cat. Yesterday, I saw SPECTRE , the latest installment in the half-century old series of films about superspy James Bond. Overall, it was an enjoyable film, with some great action set-pieces, an encounter with the first age-appropriate Bond woman (she's no girl), and, as usual, a Byzantine plot that it's best not to think too much about. As in all three previous films starring Daniel Craig, this chapter was something of a reboot, introducing us to the latest incarnation of supervillain Blofeld. As with all supervillains, Blofeld is obsessed with a particular type of crime. In this case, it's one of the more boring evil obsessions: control of the internet. Ho hum. I've lost count of the number of suspense and action movies, including the last Bond film, Skyfall, that have rolled out this particular plot point. One gets the impression that the film industry has it in for the internet, and considering how many t

So You Think You've Got It Bad

Some music teachers teach classes larger than this closing ceremony at the AOSA National Conference. I've been whiny. I'm not going to apologize for it: this is my blog, a diary about my personal struggles and accomplishments. As a reflection of my life, it naturally is filled with both highs and lows. Since 2009, music education has handed me a lot of lows: layoff, unemployment, underemployment, competing with teachers who are younger (and, with less experience and education, less expensive) for the few positions available, and once I finally found that elusive full-time elementary job in a high-poverty district, having to contend with teaching in the gymnasiums of two schools, with ineptly applied "restorative justice" behavior management, and, this year, again losing my classroom, as well as having my instructional time cut by a third. Teaching music in the Portland area has not been a walk in the park. Administrators don't have time for such com

We're All Immigrants

Between 1755 and 1764, more than 80% of the Acadians living in the Maritime Provinces were expelled by Great Britain. As persecutions go, it's penny ante. Some of my ancestors were Acadians, French colonists in Canada's Maritime Provinces. They took Acadia, their name for the region, from Greek mythology: Arcadia (the "r" was dropped by the French), meaning "refuge," was an abundant land, a Utopia where all could live in peace, free from want. And in fact, the Acadians coexisted with the native Mi'kmaq tribal peoples, intermarrying with them and allying with them against frequent British invasions. Over the course of Acadia's 150 year history, the power of the British Empire came to dominate. For the last fifty years of its existence, Acadia and its Mi'kmaq allies engaged in a series of small-scale wars with the Empire, culminating in the expulsion of 11,500 of the 14,100 Acadians still living in the region. Most were resettled in


Estevao Marques performs with Sandra Salcedo and Jackie Rago at the AOSA National Conference in San Diego. One does not go to a professional development conference for a philosophy lesson. And yet, that's the most important thing I brought back from San Diego. This was my third American Orff Schulwerk Association conference. After each of my previous conferences, I came home with a boatload of ideas which I eagerly transformed into lesson plans, some of them so productive that I got entire units. I went to San Diego hoping for more of the same, and I did, indeed, get some ideas that I'll be incorporating into my lesson plans. For once, though, the content was not the big takeaway. Maybe it's that I have had, for the first time in my career, enough time with the students I'm teaching, and enough experience with the methods I use, that finding new ideas for lessons is not a problem. Like most Orff teachers, I create my own curriculum, teaching concepts th

How They See Us

O would some power the giftie gie us  to see ourselves as others see us. --Robert Burns Well look at that, Andrew. You're keeping company with Robert Burns. Andrew is a Comedy Sportz veteran, a brilliant improviser who has performed in more shows than I can imagine. He's also a world traveler, both for business and pleasure. Right now, he's in Barcelona, attending an international improv festival. That's what led him to make this observation on Facebook earlier today: You know how our shorthand for French people is smoking, and our shorthand for Italian people is hand gestures and kissing on the cheek? Well here in Europe, improv shorthand for American people is grabbing guns and shooting. That landed him squarely in the company of Robert Burns, and the quote at the top of this blog. Improv shorthand is an occasionally uncomfortable thing for me as I do my work behind the keyboard. I hear that we're doing something French, and I fi

Teaching in the Now

Every music teacher has a story like this: Last Friday, the lesson had wings. The second grade class I was teaching it to were completely in tune with me. We were riffing off each other, sharing a vibe that was magical. When I told the children we were out of time, they sighed: how could it be over? It felt like we just started! I left that classroom feeling great, knowing I had a winner here. This was especially important to me because I'd be teaching the same lesson to a different class Monday morning with my principal observing as part of my annual evaluation. I walked into that class on Monday, confident, assured, ready to tackle this group. The principal was a few minutes late, but that didn't faze me: this was a great lesson, I knew, fast-moving, action-packed, with plenty of opportunities for students to interact with the material in creative ways. But the kids weren't having it. Something was off: the children just weren't feeling it. The high flyers