I Have a Gripe

November 14, 2013

NEVER Mess With the Marching Band!

‘Cause the players tried to take the field, The marching band refused to yield.
~Don McLean

Multiple times on this blog I have defended the importance of music education in public schools. All too often music departments do not receive the respect or the funding they need and deserve.

music education

The magnet on the back of my car.

I often say my years in marching band in high school were some of the best times of my life. I was in just about every music-related activity offered in my high school. I took private lessons for piano and bass. I helped teach pit at my high school after graduation. And the ultimate – I married a band director. I grew into the adult I am in large part because of my experiences in music. I learned about responsibility, teamwork, leadership, the value of hard work, and built confidence, to name just a few key life skills.

I knew I didn’t have what it took to be a professional musician, but it was still great. Many of the individuals I met through the music department became professional musicians and music teachers. My husband and I were absolutely beaming when we learned that not one, but two of my husband’s kids were my niece’s band directors.

Fast forward to today…

Like everyone I know on Facebook, links to articles get passed around regularly. Today I saw one that had my blood absolutely boiling. All too often, high school football teams, their parents, and game attendees think the marching band is there simply to entertain at halftime and give the players a break. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Well, a football coach in Annandale, Virginia  displayed the ultimate in bad behavior when he flipped out trying to get the band off the field during halftime so his team could warm up. He went so far as to yell at the kids and the band director as well as shake the podium of the assistant drum major.

To say I was furious when I read about this event is putting it mildly.

I fired off the following letter to the coach, the school principal, and the director of student services.

To All,
I just read an article online about how disrespectfully your high school’s marching band was treated at a recent football game. I am absolutely incensed by the rude behavior of the football parents, coaches and administration. You should all be ashamed.

From what I have read online Mr. Scott, your poor behavior has been a constant during the entire football season by bringing your team on the field before you should. And you are very lucky indeed that the Assistant Drum Major did not fall off the podium when you began to shake it.

Believe it or not Mr. Scott, the marching band is not there simply to entertain at halftime. Marching band is quite competitive and requires absolute marching precision while simultaneously playing an instrument. Something that is not easy.

How do I know this? I am a PROUD former marching band member from Belleville, New Jersey and a former Drum Major. I am also married to a Band Director. I also went to a high school where the football team (which most of the time had a losing record) was treated with far more respect than the marching band – as well as the music department as a whole. Trust me when I tell you, the band usually had a better record than the football team. It sounds like you have a similar poor record. Meanwhile, your school’s marching band has won both the Virginia State Champions and a National award for “III-Open” class.

Have you ever been to a marching band practice or a competition Mr. Scott? I doubt it. You should. Maybe you would understand what is really involved and how hard these kids work.

I have also read that it was “suggested” that the band do their show after the football game to avoid any issues. That is completely unacceptable in my book. In my many years experience (four years as a student and 25 years of following my husband as he traveled with his band), opposing teams and coaches are always understanding of special events, such as senior night, thus any potential penalties are waived. Do you really think it would’ve been acceptable to do their show as people exited the stadium? I think not.

My Band Directors, as well as my husband, always taught their kids to conduct themselves in the most professional manner. Over my high school years and my adult life, I have always been proud of both my fellow band mates and my husband’s kids and have conducted themselves, even in the face of stupidity. It doesn’t sound like you have set the same example Mr. Scott. You could probably learn something from the band members.

You should all be made to publicly apologize to Mr. Hilkert and the entire marching band, as it sounds like the administration just sat idly by and let this man’s rant continue. I also think Mr. Scott should be reprimanded by your Board of Eduction.

Shame on all of you,
Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten
Belleville High School Marching Band 1984-1988
Drum Major 1986-1988
Belleville, New Jersey

The band director, Adam Hilkert, is an incredibly accomplished musician, and he has decided to spend his life educating children through the vehicle of music. In addition to his position as band director at Annandale High School, he serves as Doctoral Conducting Associate at George Mason University, where he studies instrumental conducting. He is the Music Director of the Vienna Community Band and Graduate Conductor of the Mason Wind Symphony and Assistant Principal Double Bass with the American Festival Pops Orchestra.

The manner in which this “coach” (and I use that term very loosely) treated Mr. Hilkert and his marching band is simply deplorable.

I am encouraging all my readers to email or call the Annandale High school and let them know that he should be, at minimum, reprimanded and forced to apologize. Personally, I would rather see him fired. He doesn’t deserve the important position of fostering the youth of this community.

September 6, 2013

Schools “Under Pressure”

Filed under: Education,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 12:46 am
Tags: , , ,

Just like many stores, Target has been running a “back to school” ad campaign. They are all set to popular music seemingly played by a bad elementary school band. While they are cute commercials, sort of, I find them incredibly frustrating.

You see, for those of you who read my blog regularly, know that I have very strong feelings about the arts and music in public schools. I am the person I am in due in large part to the music program in my school system. And while some of you may not think that is so great, I do. The music department helped me with confidence and I found a place where I was comfortable.

Now? Well, thanks to the constant barrage of required testing, the arts and music are “under pressure” and getting kicked out of school in many places. That is an absolute travesty.

I wonder if Target realized the irony.

July 8, 2011

The Space Shuttle…the End of an Era

Filed under: Education,United States government — alvb1227 @ 11:32 pm
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Today marked the beginning of the end of an era. The final Space Shuttle launch took place today; 30 years after the first launch.

I was 10 the year of that first launch and I remember thinking how different it looked from what I had seen at school or in books. That it looked like a regular airplane to me. I remember not changing for gym the day the Challenger exploded on takeoff and we watched the television with the rabbit ears a teacher rolled in from another classroom. It was the first time I understood the sacrifice involved with being an astronaut.

For decades Americans were fascinated with the space race. It also sparked an increased an interest in math and science by students across the nation. Now that wasn’t anywhere close to my thing, but it inspired students to excel in math and science so they could be a part of “the space race;” something new, and a way to show your love of country.

Now? The Space Shuttle Atlantis embarked on its 12 day journey. The last after 30 years. Now, we will hitch a ride with the Russians. Yes, the Russians we raced against. The race where we lost the battle of the first person in space, but won the war of getting to the Moon first. The federal government wants our students to excel at math and science, but without a major program from NASA, like the Space Shuttle, what are we focusing on as our next great exploration? What great goal are we working towards as a nation? What brings us together as one? The space race was it. What’s next?

 

June 17, 2011

Christie and Sweeney: Shame on You Both

As Governor Christie and NJ State Senator Sweeney made a deal with the Devil, I submitted yet another letter to both of them. I wanted to share it with my readers…

June 16, 2011

In regards to: Subject: Teacher’s Pension & Health Benefit Legislation

Governor Chris Christie

State Senate President Sweeney

Gentlemen:

I have contacted your office via email and phone several times in the past to express my frustration regarding this constant assault on teachers and their pension and health benefits. I am writing again to voice my outrage.

I am the proud wife of a 24-year band director. He became a teacher for all the right reasons – to give back, to influence the lives of youngsters, and to share his love of music with others. He has successfully taught thousands of students not just how to play an instrument and appreciate music, but what it takes to be a good citizen and adult. It is also worth noting he is not one of those “80K a year teachers” you hear about on the news.

This constant barrage “on union leadership” as I often hear you say Governor, has certainly trickled down and has turned into an “us vs. them” argument. Many people already have a negative opinion of teachers. You have certainly added to that negativity. And for the record, I voted for you. I believed you when I thought you were going to make positive changes on the state’s school system. In my opinion, your changes are far from positive. You should really try reading the bully legislation you signed into law, because that is exactly what you have become.

Today, teachers are much more than teachers. They are counselors, pastors, and sadly, all too often, parents. Add to that list since Columbine, police, hostage negotiators, and body guards. When I was a child, I was told the three safest places I could be were home, school and church. Now, that is far from reality.

You want the best and brightest to be teachers in order to continue the high performance of New Jersey’s students. With your constant barrage, why would anyone want to become a teacher? Being a teacher is not the easy job many believe it is. The teachers I know spend a sizable amount of their own money on school supplies, endless hours preparing lessons, tutoring students and being active participants in their communities. This battle of yours has put neighbor against neighbor.

What I would like to see is the state government acknowledge that the reason the pension system is having financial trouble is because politicians have been using that system as their own personal piggy bank. That would be a good place to start. Next, I would like to see those politicians fix this without hurting those who had nothing to do with the problem being affected.

I would also like to know why there is such outrage about limiting healthcare options on the federal level through “Obamacare” by the GOP (my party, by the way), when you, Governor Christie, are trying to do the exact same thing to teachers? According to what I have read, there is even a limitation in the proposed legislation that you will limit the ability to seek medical treatment outside New Jersey. We live across the river from some of the finest medical institutions in the world and we wouldn’t be able to do whatever would be necessary if my husband or I was ill? I wonder how Senator Lautenberg would feel about that, given his insistence on going to New York for his cancer treatment.

I would like to know if either of you have ever gone to a school and watched first-hand what teachers do everyday. No cameras, no entourage, nothing. Just you, teachers and students. I would like to see you really understand what a teacher does on a day-to-day basis. My hope is that you would have more respect for what they do and change this from an assault to a conversation.

Shame on you both.

June 14, 2011

The Importance of American History

Filed under: Education — alvb1227 @ 11:55 pm
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A report was released today that highlighted the poor understanding today’s students have of American history. I believe this issue is due to a variety of different reasons.

First and foremost, if you aren’t a test score, you may as well not exist in today’s school system. At this point, history is slightly above music, which is pretty far down down the list. Additionally, if your class’ subject matter isn’t associated with either math or science, you really aren’t getting much attention. Those three items are what makes up today’s schools: math, science and testing. Period.

I also firmly believe that today many are far too focused on being a “citizen of the world” as our President likes to call it. We are failing to teach today’s students what American exceptionalism is all about. I also believe that we are becoming too politically correct. As a result, we do not feel proud to be American and all we have accomplished. Everyone is too worried they will offend someone who is not an American or has a different heritage. How can we move forward as a nation if we don’t understand our past?

I believe we as a nation really need to take a serious look at what we are teaching our children and how we are teaching it. First, eliminate standardized tests. They are just about useless. By doing so, we can actually teach our children how to think critically instead of just spitting out data for a meaningless test. It is critical thinking that is key to innovation and moving our nation forward. Second, be proud to be an American! Take your children to national landmarks during summer vacation. Talk to family members who have served in the military to learn about their experiences. Most importantly, be proud to be American!

June 3, 2011

Christie and the Chopper…Ahhh, the Hypocrisy!

This week, a story surfaced that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used a State Trooper Chopper, not once, but twice, to see his son play in a baseball game. There are multiple levels of hypocrisy here.

First, and most obvious, is the so-called champion of eliminating waste in government spending using a state chopper as his own personal joy ride. What is even more ridiculous is that a car took the Governor and his wife 100 yards to the bleachers after they got out of the chopper. In my opinion, this is the ultimate “I’m the Gov. and I don’t care what you think” moment.

Second, I find it fascinating that he has his son enrolled in a private school (Delbarton). Now, as a parent, you absolutely have the right to place your child wherever you think is appropriate. More often than not, however, politicians have their children enrolled in public school to show they have a belief in the public school system. Well, it is no secret Governor Christie has absolutely zero respect for the work teachers do. Yes, I know; “it’s not the teachers he hates, it’s the union.” What I say to that is it all rolls downhill. His negativity towards unions is easily picked up by many of the masses and spreads to the overall opinion of teachers at large and for quite a while, he really didn’t distinguish between the union and the teachers.  But, hey, if you have $26,500 a year to spend on tuition for Delbarton…

Finally, what bugs me the most is his lack of understanding that this was completely offensive to the public at large. I mean, can I borrow the chopper to drop in on my niece’s spring concert? Must be nice to have that at your beck and call. He has agreed to pay for the use of the chopper, not because he understands it was wrong, but to get the press and his constituents off his back.

Maybe the Governor should try going back to school himself and try to learn about responsibility and economics again, among other subjects.

April 23, 2011

The Truth About Property Taxes

Let’s face it, paying taxes is far from fun. It is, however, a necessary evil. This money goes to various local, county, state and federal needs and programs to help make sure roads are plowed, police are a moment’s notice away, and children are educated.

Now, we all have programs we want to see supported and ones we want to see cut. For example, I often hear people complain about how the majority of collected property taxes go to support the local school district when they do not have a child in school. There is something important to remember about this potential sticky point. The value of your home is in direct correlation with the quality of the local public education system.

Think back to when you were purchasing your home, what was one of the first questions you asked the agent? “How are the schools here?” Even when you are taken to a property by a real estate agent, they often start off with information related to the school system. They will even steer you away from certain towns because their school system may not be considered “of high quality.” Whether someone has a child or not, the answer to that question will definitely affect real estate buying habits.

Generally speaking, those who complain the most about their property taxes are the elderly and those without children. What the elderly forget is that when their children were going through school, someone else who didn’t have children in school was flipping the same bill. Maybe they forgot that little point. Others who do not have children are also paying towards that same school budget, which will help keep the value of their home up.

Now before you get a knot in your shorts…yes, there are certainly areas where money is wasted in the public schools and yes, as tax paying citizens it is our responsibility to understand what our tax burden is and how it is spent.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, if you live in New Jersey, like me, you know how high the property taxes can be. Due to the high tax burden in this state, many are moving away and some businesses have left for other states with a smaller tax burden. Add to that the current negative opinions of “those greedy, lazy teachers” and their union, there are many on a witch hunt to further vilify the connection between public education and property taxes.

Some also complain that their property taxes are too high. Well, that may be true, however, it is important to remember every home will be assessed differently. Do you live in an urban area or a small rural town? Do you have a McMansion or a small two bedroom colonial or condo? Do you live on the waterfront or on a small piece of property with no “major amenities” to speak of? All these issues are taken into consideration and go into the tax assessment on a property. If you disagree with your assessment, you are completely within your right to challenge it. It is important to remember, however, that if you go from a small house to a giant McMansion, don’t be shocked when you get a major increase.

To steal a line from our President, “let me be clear;” I am far from advocating for MORE taxes. Additionally, I don’t particularly mind paying my taxes. I just want to reduce the amount of waste involved and look at what taxes are being spent on – such as healthcare for illegal aliens. Cut that out and we could save billions.

Ultimately, by spending more time examining how to eliminate waste, instead of going on a wild witch hunt spending money unnecessarily, the taxes collected can go towards important things, like our police, fire department, school systems, infrastructure and more.

March 3, 2011

Support for Suspended Philly Teacher

Filed under: Education — alvb1227 @ 2:20 pm
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In a recent post, I shared my opinions about a teacher that was suspended for blogging about her students that are “lazy, whiners.” Well, in an update, this teacher is receiving tons of support! The school system? Not so much.

“Ms. Munroe, by her own actions, has made it impossible for her to teach in this district,” according to a prepared statement read during a school board meeting. “No students should be subjected to such a hostile educational environment.”

Hostile educational environment? Seriously?

Many, however, are coming to the teacher’s side showing support. Paul Carpenter of the The Morning Call, wrote a great editorial and commentary about the entire situation, citing blame all around.

“Nevertheless, commentary that is not soothing to students, no matter how rotten they are, is not well received by the hand-wringers who feel all young people should be lovingly patted on their heads at all times. I’ve never been able to discuss stupid, criminal or lazy students without angry parents and others attacking me for being ‘insensitive’ or ‘insulting.'”

Mr. Carpenter is absolutely correct. More and more teachers, and the school system as a whole, are expected to be both educator and parent. That is, until the educator needs to reprimand the student. Then the parent is all of a sudden involved. Shameful.

Additionally, instead of the school system using this as a way to show parents they need to take a more active role in their child’s education, what are they doing? They are reviewing and establishing policies for teachers that blog. Oh yeah, that makes sense.

I echo Mr. Carpenter’s comments:

“If society does not like the message Munroe’s blog delivered, it should not kill the messenger. It should think about being more demanding and getting a lot tougher on the students who attend public schools.”

Public school goes beyond a “right.” It is a collective responsibility and students and their parents need to take that responsibility seriously if we expect our future generations to be able to lead this country forward.

February 16, 2011

My Perspective on the Budget

So the President released his budget plan this week and of course the GOP has their own plans. Of course, this lead me to want to jot down my thoughts on how to handle the budget.

Now first and foremost, I am far from a financial genius. I do, however, have a brain and on occasion, have been known to use common sense. To me, this is a common sense approach to spending.

First, can someone explain why the budget is still printed…on paper and ink? Anyone ever hear of a secure sharepoint? They definitely need to look at Congressional/Presidential printing. I would think that could save a nice chunk of change.

Next, look at all the places around the world where we have military bases. Do we really need all these different bases? Close some of those bases and reassign those troops stateside. That would both save money and bring home our wonderful military so we aren’t spread so thin.

Third, address illegal immigration. Now, before you go off the deep end on me, hear me out. Illegal immigration goes beyond an immigration policy or national security. It sucks up valuable resources, such as public education, ER care and other social resources. This all costs money. If we get our act together by resolving our illegal immigration policy, it will solve multiple problems at once.

Now, let’s address Congress. First, they should stop automatic pay increases. Whether or not they vote on the increase, they get it. Additionally, in order for Congress and the President to get what we “common folk” have been dealing with, they should each take a five percent paycut. Additionally, everyone is complaining about public employees, their benefits and other so-called perks. In order for a member of Congress to be vested FOR LIFE, they must serve for five years. New Jersey teachers must teach for 25 consecutive years to be vested. How about some outrage on that? Five years? Seriously? Also, upon retirement, they receive 80 percent of their salary as a pension. For starters, drop it to 70 percent. Finally, they should contribute three percent annually to their healthcare coverage both while in Congress and when they “retire.”

Moving on to the Department of Education. Cut it out completely. It isn’t needed and all it does it use its funding to stick its nose into local affairs. It just makes things more complicated.

Next up, Social Security. Let’s face it, more people my age believe that Area 51 exists than they believe that they will get what they have paid into Social Security. And to be clear, Social Security, like unemployment, is not an entitlement. An entitlement is a gift from the government. Welfare and Medicaid are entitlements. Our taxes go to social security, therefore, it is not an entitlement. The President should follow the recommendation from his debt own commission and raise the retirement age. Additionally, you should be allowed to “opt out” of Social Security. I would rather have that money in my check and decide how to invest it than leave it to the government.

Finally, move to a flat tax system. This way there are no loopholes, everyone pays in, regardless of their income level and has a vested interest in what happens to our nation. Currently, two percent of the wealthiest individuals pay over 40 percent of the taxes and will never use any of the services they support. Everyone, regardless of income level, should pay taxes. Otherwise, it is just a handout, which prevents people from feeling the pride of providing for their well-being. Additionally, just think of how many jobs could be cut. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a smaller IRS?

Well, that’s where I would start. I think these cuts would provide a solid start in getting federal spending on a real cost-cutting plan.

What would you do?

February 14, 2011

Teacher Suspended for Blogging About Students – A Different Perspective

Filed under: Education — alvb1227 @ 12:36 pm
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Last week, a Philly teacher was suspended for blogging about her “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners” of a classroom full of students. Of course, everyone is quick to beat up on the teacher. Now in the interest of fairness, I don’t know about her exact situation fully, but I thought I would provide a different perspective.

Many expect schools to provide both education and parenting. With schools providing in some cases three meals a day, after school care, full day kindergarten and more, I can understand how teachers can get easily frustrated. Parents expect the schools to do more and more…that is, until the schools attempts to reprimand students or correct poor or unacceptable behavior. Then they often step in.

From what I heard in an interview this morning, the teacher did not user her real name and did not use student names while blogging. Out of the 80-something entries over two years, about 20 were related to her job.

What really burns me about this whole story is that you have widely used websites like RateMyTeacher.com where students blog and openly complain about their teachers with no questions asked.

I hate to sound like one of those people, but when I was a student and came home to complain about a teacher, my parents would say “well, what did you do?” Now it is “what did the teacher do to upset you?” The roles have reversed and not always for the better.

Are there bad teachers? Of course. Just like there are bad accountants, police officers and office workers. Should those bad teachers be dealt with? Absolutely. But I ask where do the parents step in and, well…parent?

On Friday I saw an interview with a former student saying “she didn’t respect us.” Well my young man, respect goes both ways and is earned. It doesn’t sound like you and your classmates respected your teacher.

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