Saturday, July 29, 2006

Load 'em Up!

It took us five hours to load the truck and trailer from Uhaul with seven people helping me. Thank God for the Schlarmann family and for Mike (the band director that is taking my place at my old school). If it were not for them I think I would have gone insane. I pushed my father a bit too far I think. There was a time when moving me around was no big deal, but in the last ten years diabetes and other medical issues have taken their toll. At one point I was seriously worried he was having a heart attack. In the end he made it through okay, but we have never been at each other's throats so much in the thirty years I have been alive. He was exhausted and I was just plain grumpy and emotional about the move. I don't really want to move, and the stress of moving, starting a new job, and setting up a new household is wearing on me.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ease on down the road

I just completed the biggest move of my life. Three kids, my wife, my dog, and a house full of belongings just made the big trip to a new community over three hours away from our old home. Of course, we picked the absolute worst weekend of the summer to move. Heat indexes have been up around 105 or higher every day this week and doing anything outside is an exercise in exhaustion. To top it all off I stupidly scheduled the move on a week that my wife was obligated to go to a week long conference in Des Moines. I thought I could do everything by myself, but I quickly found out differently. Luckily I have some very good and kind students and their families that volunteered to help me move out.

Monday, July 10, 2006

National Board Certification and Student Achievement

A recent study seems to suggest that teachers that have gone the extra mile to become certified by the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards may not necessarily teach better or increase student achievement more than non-certified teachers. The study has apparently caused some controversy with some professionals arguing that the National Board is "sitting" on the results of a recent study that may not weigh in their favor.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

You've Been Doing It All Wrong!

I admit it, I am a very novice web master. I know a lot about content management systems and databases, but until recently I have not paid a lot of attention to my actual writing. Now I am starting to realize that I could write the best articles in the world for and still no one would notice. In order for me to get people to look at my web site I not only have to write for my viewers but also for the stupid search engines. I discovered on accident last night that the one article that I actually took the time to really optimize for search engine traffic had jumped to number 4 on Google for the keywords I was going after. When i saw that it made me a believer but it also made me realize I need to go back and rewrite all of my existing articles if I ever want people to notice them....

So much for summer break.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What? No More Halftime Shows?

After months of searching and praying for a new job in the Des Moines area my family and I can finally rest a little easier. Beginning this fall I will make the transition from being a high stress high school band director to being a (hopefully) low stress beginning band director. I was worried at first. It is a big change, especially for someone that has been teaching 9-12 band for seven years. In any case, after much thought and contemplation I honestly can't wait to get started this August. With the new position I will no longer have any extra duty contracts, meaning that I will no longer be obligated to being away from my family two or more nights a week for football games or pep band performances. In a way I will miss it, but the idea of more family time is very appealing to me.

On the teaching side of things, it looks like I need to dig in my library and pull out my old copy of Teaching Music Through Performance in Beginning Band by Thomas Dvorak. It'll take a little adjustment on my part, but the energy and drive of young students really is infectious. Honestly, I can't wait. Only 45 more days till school starts!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Electronic Pet Peeves

Once again I am off the topic of music, but I have to rant a bit on this. As an Internet based publisher I am constantly aware of the fact that you have a higher chance of being successful if you have a domain name that shares the same keywords as the main focus of your site. For example, my site, is all about music education topics and more specifically about band directing in general. I also went out and bought and both domains point to the same site. Side note: if you are not doing this for your own site you NEED TO! If on the off chance you become a popular site you can bet that every porn site and low rent ads page dealer will be out trying to buy up the domains that sound similar to yours. For example, until recently www.whitehouse.COM was a porn site!

My pet peeve deals with the people that register a really useful domain name and then put up a sucky web site on it. Only slightly better worse than that are the people that buy a domain name and then put up a link farm on it. You have all seen these pages, the ones with the big bold copy of the domain name at the top of the page and under it just a bunch of links to OTHER pages that may or may not be what you need. Now don't get me wrong, the people that make those sites make a lot of money from them, but I personally think it is shameful.

The worst of all offenders in my opinion is the site owner with an incredibly high quality domain name that does NOTHING with it! There are dozens if not hundreds of sites out there with that problem and it drives a webmaster crazy to see those high quality names go to waste. Oh well... Enough ranting... Time to go write some more content.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Freshen Up The Portfolio and Get Your Suit Dry Cleaned

Wish me luck, I have an interview tomorrow for a job down near where we are going to be moving to. I am very confident about it, I got along quite well with the principal on the phone setting up the time and date. Of course, I was down this road once before and thought I had the job locked up only to be disappointed a few days later when I learned the position had been given to another individual.

This whole process has made me really think about who I am and what I want to be. After a lot of thinking and a lot of applications I realize that the only place that I believe I can be truly happy is as a band director, preferably at the high school level. I have applied for other positions, many of them in technology, but I honestly don't know if I would enjoy them. If I get this position it is the best of both worlds, a great job in a great school, plus it turns out the school is right next door to the summer camp that I spent almost fifteen straight summers at both as a camper and as a counselor/program director. Knock on wood... Don't want to jinx it.

By the way, I wrote a few new articles this week on my web site about Drum Corps International and using it to help teach normal high school marching band. Take a look at the articles and let me know what you think:

How Drum Corps Can Help Your Local Marching Band

Drum Corps, The Music of Summer

Blast 2: Music In Extreme

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Free Music For The Classroom

Napster has changed the way it does business. They are the first site to offer almost all of the music in their multi-million song library for free. Now there is a catch, but for music educators it isn't too bad a deal. In fact, I will probably use it almost every day in my classroom.

You can click and listen to any song in the Napster database via streaming audio. This means the quality won't be very good, but at least you get the entire song. This is a great opportunity for teachers that want to play representative music to demonstrate a concept or technique in class. The big catch is that you can only listen to a piece five times before you have to pay for it. Check out for more information.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's Nice To Know You're Loved

Not loved in the love sense, but still highly respected.

Last night my students threw me a surprise going away party. My wife totally pulled the wool over my eyes to the point I did not even see it coming. After eating out with the kids for dinner my wife begged me into stopping at school to pick up something for her. I had a feeling something was up when she insisted that the kids (and her) come in with me. When we went in the school about half of my band was there waiting. I have to say it felt really good. I am going to miss these kids something fierce. Up to this point this is the longest job I have had as a band director, and I finally had hit my stride and felt like I was really doing a good job.

I guess I was.

They made a book with personally written pages to say goodbye. On one page in particular the student hit the nail on the head and let me know that besides a love of music I had also instilled many important values and pride in my students. I am honestly thinking of adding that student's letter to my resume file. It hit the nail on the head and more importantly it helped me to get ready to move on to the next phase of my career, wherever that may be at.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Sunday Ritual

For the last three months it has been the same every Sunday. Get up, get dressed, and go across the street to pick up a Des Moines Register. Give the coupons to my wife, the comics to the kids, and I keep the classifieds. The thing that has bummed me out since March is the total lack of music education openings in the area of the state my family is moving to. Today was the same thing. Only one opening and it was over eighty miles from town. Discouraging...

Normally I am the positive one in the family (I always tell my wife she is too much of a pessimist). These days the roles are reversed. On the plus side there were a few more technology director positions available, but I still am not totally certain that I want to go in that direction. I know I would be great at it, but the idea of giving up teaching still bugs me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Next Step In The Process

We put our house up for sale ... The next step in our families move. I really hope it sells quickly. My gut feeling is that we are priced very fairly for how much space and how newly remodeled the house is, but to look at the other listings it scares me a bit. Part of our whole plan for this big move is to get enough out of the house to pay off a few bills with the profit from the house and thus be able to afford a bigger mortgage in the new town. I really hope this doesn't take long because my health can't take all this stress.

Still no job. I interviewed for a technology coordinator job this week but nothing came out of it. I had a really good feeling when I left but I guess they liked someone else better. I am really starting to regret my graduate degree decisions. I did not go after a masters in music, instead I went for my other passion, technology. I loved every minute of the program and learned an immense amount of information in the process. Now, however, I fear that this master's degree in a field other than music might be holding me back from getting a job in music again. Since schools pay based on your education level having a band director with a master's degree in technology is not the most cost effective use of their money. Hell, I'd take bachelor's wages at this point just to have a contract in my hand...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Is There Life After Teaching?

Can a band teacher really quit the profession and then get back into it? How hard is it for a teacher to leave the profession he or she loves?

After seven years teaching band I turned in my resignation. I did not do it because I wanted to. In truth I always thought I would be there until I retired. Instead I made the move for the betterment of my family. We are going to be moving to another city where my wife has been offered what can only be described as her perfect dream job. But while she has a contract for next year I don't. To top it all off I am getting more and more concerned in the fact that there have been so few band director vacancies in the area of the state we are moving to. I think I am going to turn my site blog into a band director in limbo blog for a while. I hope it will help me to think things through a little bit more and who knows, maybe it will help some of you as well.

As for me, I can't see myself doing anything other than teaching. I love it, and the thought of working behind a desk doing the same thing every day scares me. Plus, over the last several months I have done so much to improve my knowledge in my content area that I have started writing to share my knowledge and experiences so that others might not make the same mistakes that I have in the past. I even started a web site to house all of my new found knowledge and share it with other teachers and music students. Of course, at the moment no one is looking at it, but that will change in time I hope.

So to use a line from Evita, so what happens now? Everything will work out I am sure, but in the meantime I think I will be using this blog as a place to vent my frustrations as well as tout my successes. I have had plenty of both, but I must admit that the good tends to outweigh the bad.