I Have a Gripe

March 8, 2016

International Women’s Day -Whatever

So this morning when I logged into Facebook, I was welcomed with the following graphic:

intl-womens-day

<insert eye roll here>

I think days like this are completely bogus. And I’m sure I am going to annoy many of my fellow femme fatales. Let me explain why…

First, I don’t need a day to “celebrate” myself. You should value yourself every day. Second, you are lumping me in to a class that require special treatment and quotas. I hate quotas. I shouldn’t get something (a promotion, raise, job etc.) just because I am a woman. I should get something because I deserve it. You are insinuating that I need the help of someone else to make things happen. All it does is create animosity within a workplace.

I’ve worked in male-dominated fields my entire career. I expected nothing but what I deserve. If I didn’t get something, I would go in and fight for it. I never expected anything to be handed to me just because I am a woman. Have I worked harder than my male counterparts in some cases? Yes. Have I dealt with men who felt I didn’t belong there? Yes. Did I care? Absolutely not. I worked hard and let that speak for me.

Let me give you an example.

I worked on a help desk – generally a male-dominated field. One of my counterparts (a man) had obvious issues with me being a woman (the only woman at the time) in the group. I dealt with it for awhile. When I got sick of him, I didn’t complain to HR or cry discrimination. I cornered him and told him “welcome to America, you’re going to work with women – deal with it.” You know what? He came around and we wound up being great partners at the office. I stood up to him and I think he respected it.

That’s exactly what I’ve always done.

Here’s another example. While still working in IT, I used to support publishing processes. I loved it. I was good at it. Others knew it. Except for one male manager. He was known for not being very forward thinking when it came to women in roles of authority. Now, I wasn’t a manager, but I did have some level of authority. Again, I worked hard. I proved I knew what I was doing and had the knowledge to get the job done. One day when there was an issue he said to me “they should listen to you – you know better than anyone.”

Wow. Just wow. I won the guy over. I proved I knew my stuff. And that compliment from him meant more than he ever realized. And I didn’t need someone wagging their finger at him telling him to be fair. I did it on my own.

So what exactly is my point?

If a company has a boss, manager, etc. that has an issue with women, eventually he will be dealt with. He’ll have a hard time finding people to work for him. He’ll get his. Quotas don’t work with this guy. He’ll just resent them and make it even more difficult for those that are part of his team.

Some say “we need days like this for young girls.” I say absolutely not.

Again, what are we teaching them? Because you are a girl you should expect preferential treatment? No. Tough it out. Work hard. Prove yourself and be confident. Don’t rely on a quota – in college; in the workplace; in life.

So what should we as women do? Encourage each other. Support each other. Celebrate success and acknowledge failure. Personally, I have had more issues with women stabbing me in the back at the office than men. Men are good at the game. They help each other out. Generally women are so focused on getting ahead they don’t care who they step on or stab to get there. You want to know why men think women in the office are bitchy? That’s why.

And if you have kids? Don’t expect even more handed to you. You want to know what really grinds my gears – women who expect not only preferential treatment because they are a woman, but preferential treatment because they have kids. The built-in excuse. Can’t work late? Kids. Can’t take on an extra project? Kids. Then especially don’t complain when you get passed over for a raise or promotion. People used to tell me “well you don’t have kids, so you don’t know.” You’re right. I don’t have kids. I made that decision with my husband a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have special circumstances. My answer used to be “well my grandmother is sick – should I wheel her in here like you do your kids?” Prepare for children. Yes, things happen, but it shouldn’t be an automatic excuse for everything. You want to be treated special because you are a woman and mother? Then don’t expect me to applaud you when you get something you don’t deserve because of a quota.

Can you tell I hate quotas?

Now are there situations when female-related issues need special attention? Yes. For example, insurance companies should cover reconstructive surgery for women with breast cancer. They should also, as they are now required to, allow women time in the hospital after childbirth. Both men and women should be allowed time home after childbirth. Beyond that? I can’t think of anything else, but I’m sure I’m missing something important along similar lines.

So my advice is simple. Be tough. Be strong. Be a woman. But don’t expect to be treated differently just because you are a woman.

November 15, 2013

The True Sleeping Dragon – The Band Geek

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
~Isoroku Yamamoto

While this quote from Yamamoto is referring to the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, today it is referring to the collective community that is the “band geek.”

Yesterday I posted about a shameful event that took place at the final football game of the season at Annandale, Virginia, where a football coach threw a temper tantrum that included shaking the podium of an assistant drum major and yelling at the director to “get the band off the field.” An editorial appeared on the school’s news site about the event and in one resounding voice, proud marching band members, former band members, music educators, and the like have said ENOUGH.

For a long time, those involved in the music department have been disrespected while those who play sports are seen as the school heroes. This terrible event has rallied those of us who have valued their time involved in their music departments to take a stand. I have read comments on this event all over the Internet from Texas to Minnesota to Jersey (including me) aligning themselves with the marching Atoms to show support. I hope the musicians of Annandale know they have the support of music students (and former students) from all over the country.

Additionally, the story has been picked up by The Washington Post, NBC, The Huffington Post, Patch, CBS, and other local Virginia websites.

I say good. Enough is enough!

Today, the principal issued a letter to the parents and an apology to the band for the actions of the football coach and according to reports, an apology from the coach himself to the band and the director is forthcoming.

The principal and the coach owe much more than that.

This was the last game of the season. Senior Night. A special moment in high school to celebrate all they have accomplished. Now, that memory is forever tarnished. They didn’t get to finish their final performance properly.

Now I will say I did read a few comments actually “sort of” defending the situation. My personal favorite comment mentioned how band members should “learn their place” because the band exists “for the entertainment during the foot ball game.”

Um, what?

The music department does not exist simply to be a court jester for school athletes. Playing an instrument AND marching takes skill, practice, and discipline.

Now, let’s look at the other side of this coin. This coach shook the podium of the assistant drum major. Now, I know nothing of law in Virginia, but I would think in New Jersey he could potentially be charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child. And if that student fell, I’m sure a lawsuit would follow and rightfully so.

An apology? Well, that’s a good place to start, but the band and the director are owed much more.

Oh, and don’t think marching band members (and former members) will forget about this until we hear of a final resolution.

#bandgeekforlife!

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.

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.

February 14, 2011

Teacher Suspended for Blogging About Students – A Different Perspective

Filed under: Education — alvb1227 @ 12:36 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.

January 26, 2011

2011 State of the Union Address

So last night was the 2011 State of the Union Address. I will admit that my eye wasn’t twitching quite as much as last year, but I still have issues with a number of the items that were discussed.

I think the President started out well by acknowledging the empty chair for Gabby Giffords. The ribbons everyone wore I thought was a nice touch. He also discussed a new level of civility in light of the shooting in Arizona. Call it the Jersey cynic in me, but the “date night” and new bipartisan effort just felt fake to me. I still get the feeling of a “hand slap” by the left and blaming the Tea Party movement, even though the nut job in Arizona didn’t appear to have a political affiliation. I find it funny that now the President wants to not think about winning an election, but doing what is necessary to pull the nation together.

I liked what the President said about simplifying the tax code, but fell short of calling for a flat tax, which would ultimately save billions by either cutting or completely eliminating the IRS. I really believe that moving away from the current complicated tax code will both save money on the federal level while making sure everyone pays their fair share.

He cited a quote from President Kennedy that “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Well, I disagree with that sentiment. The future is a responsibility; first and foremost. I think we as a nation have really lost the concept of personal responsibility. Should we take care of those who need assistance? Yes. Should there be a level of personal responsibility associated along with that? Absolutely!

I found his more business-friendly tone encouraging. Again, I hope it isn’t just rhetoric and real action will follow. This means getting the government out of the way of private industry and let them do what they do best; innovate and create jobs. Remember, it is not the job of the federal government to create jobs. It is the job of the federal government to create conditions that are favorable for private industry to create jobs.

The President is still pushing green technologies, which is certainly laudable, however, I again wonder if this should be the business of the federal government. I point to California’s recent light bulb issue as the exact type of government intervention that while positive in concept can be negative in the long run.

From an education standpoint, I was very encouraged to finally hear someone (and I mean anyone) acknowledge that parents need to take a more positive role in the education of our nation’s children. For far too long, schools have been trying to be both educator and parent. Ultimately, they will fail as both. I also ask that while math and science are incredibly important, that the arts and music are not left on the side of the road. There has been study after study citing the importance of music and the arts in fostering a child’s creativity and improving math, science and language skills. I am the adult I am because of my involvement in the music program in my public school system.

It was also nice to hear there should be more respect for teachers. As someone who is married to a public school teacher, I say it is not as easy as many may think. We should be encouraging our teachers, not putting them down. Otherwise, no young individual will want to become a teacher. And that will be truly sad and detrimental to our future.

I almost fell off the couch when the President actually used the term “illegal immigrant” and not “undocumented” or other term. Whether the individual is a child or an adult, they are here illegally and thus breaking the law. They shouldn’t be here sucking up resources like locusts they have no right to access. And these aren’t all the wonderful young individuals looking to better themselves the President mentioned. They are often gang members trying to sneak people and drugs into our country. This is the single issue that will kill us as a nation if it is not dealt with, and I mean NOW.

Infrastructure “investments.” OK, moving on…

Social Security? Well, let’s just say I believe that Area 51 exists. I don’t believe the money I have been paying, and will continue to pay, into Social Security will ever come back to me. My eye is starting to twitch, so moving on…

I also agree the federal government should reorganize and streamline, however, again, call me a cynic, I really don’t see this happening. I hope I am wrong.

I found it interesting that the President is open to make some of the very healthcare bill changes the GOP suggested originally and he wouldn’t he even consider. Amazing what a shellacking can do for bipartisanship. And by the way, I hadn’t heard that word since I was a kid and my Uncle Sonny would threaten us with a shellacking that would never appear. If anything, he was the one to protect us all from the shellacking.

Of course, no State of the Union would be complete without a discussion of our military. Again, I refer back to my previous thoughts about illegal immigration. These two issues go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Illegal immigration is a serious national security issue.

So, as usual, I am hopeful, but not betting the house on it. The only reason the President has moved to the middle, I believe, is because he got beat and I mean seriously beat. I would like to see him not spend on infrastructure and instead let private industry develop tomorrow’s high speed railways. Again, just allow for private industry to do what they do best and get out of their way.

Only time will tell…

September 25, 2010

Waiting for Superman? How About the Parents?

“It’s important to support and empower teachers as well as hold them and others accountable for results.” ~Newark Mayor Cory Booker

As many of you know, I use this a mainly a download spot for my brain. I try to be eloquent when I can and always look to make a point. Well today my friends, I am seething. I am angry. I am upset. I can’t even truly put into words how I feel.

In my last post, I spoke of the $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerber to the city of Newark in New Jersey. This is on the heels of a documentary-style movie just released called “Waiting for Superman.”

Now, I will fully admit I have not seen the movie, however, it has been the talk of every news show this weekend. From what I saw on the news, it does not paint teachers and the teacher’s unions in a positive light.

I also mentioned in my previous post that my husband is a 24-year school teacher. When I hear teachers bashed, I take it personally. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.

Are there bad teachers? Definitely. Are there even more that are great? Absolutely!

Teachers (like my husband) spend many hours before school, after school, weekends and more preparing lessons, tutoring students and more. And lets not forget the money teachers spend out of their own pocket providing supplies and equipment for their students and their classrooms. I send my husband with a large bags of supplies to school throughout the school year. We do the layouts for his concert programs and have even paid for their photocopying out of our pocket some years, which is not cheap, I can tell you.

Teachers take their job seriously. They do all they can to make their classroom a positive and safe place for their students; or as my husband calls them, “my kids.”

Oh, and let’s not forget how since Columbine, teachers are expected to be ready to protect their students from crazed gunmen. That is all too forgotten in my opinion.

Teachers are educators, ministers, disciplinarians, psychologists…and yes, all to often, parents.

So this is why I get more than steamed when I hear people saying teachers are the problem. I would like to ask, how about the parents? All too often, parents are too busy to check homework, attend parent-teacher conferences, back to school night or other school events. It is not the responsibility of the school system to become the parent. If adults decide to have children, they need to understand the serious commitment it is. I have seen this first-hand. Parents drop their kids at the school door and that’s where the school should take over. And God-forbid a teacher does try to intercede? The parent will quickly file a complaint or sue.

Should teachers be held responsible? Yes. What about the involvement of parents? What about support from the school administration? This should be a collective effort, not a blame game.

Unions have their place, but I am the first to admit they need to become a better partner in the process. In my opinion, unions have not changed with the times. They were great to protect employees from abusive companies, however, they need to better define their role in today’s education system, as well as all other industries they represent.

So, as I said, I am truly angry. Teachers work damn hard and I will not sit idly by and listen to the masses bash them.

September 9, 2010

Screaming Children Will Not Be Tolerated: Amen!

We’ve all experienced it. You go out to enjoy a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a nice dinner with your spouse, only to have to deal with a screaming child at the next table. Well, Brenda Armes has heard our cries!

Breanda is the owner of Olde Salty restaurant in Carolina Beach that read “screaming children will not be tolerated.”

Now of course there are parents that will complain, including one mother of an autistic child saying she is discriminating against children with special needs. I completely disagree. I think she is responding to people who have had enough listening to screaming children and parents not handing the issue.

Now whether right or wrong, when I was a child and acted out in public, my mother would say very flatly, “I’ll give you a reason to scream.” That’s all I took, because I knew she was serious. Today, parents are more interested in being their child’s friend and trying to reason with their children. Now, whether my mother’s approach was right or wrong, I knew the behavior that was expected of me. Actually, even my friends that came to my house knew exactly what level of behavior was expected of them as well. In my opinion, teaching manners and good behavior in public is a lost art.

I would like to give you a personal example. My husband and I spent our hard-earned savings a few years ago to go to Cape Cod. I wanted to spend a day on Nantucket. So, we purchased tickets for the ferry and headed out. There was a child screaming bloody murder the entire looooong trip. There was nowhere you could go and not hear this child. What did the parents do? They turned her carriage to the wall and ignored her. I went to the snack bar to see if they sold Tylenol or Advil. The girl apologized but said she was completely sold out and actually gave me two Advils from her purse. Ten minutes before getting off the ferry, the child fell asleep. When we got off the ferry, my husband took me to lunch. When the restaurant employee tried to seat us, they tried to give us a table right next to that family! Well, I flipped out and said there was no way in hell I would sit next to them because they are terrible parents! They looked at me with a dirty look and then employee sat us elsewhere. Once we sat down, he asked me what that was about because he had tried to seat at least five different groups at that table and none of them would sit there. So, I told him the story. He said he completely understood and for the rest of the time that family was sitting there, he sat no one near them.

I have said for years, just like there are “smoking” and “no smoking” sections in restaurants, there should be “children” and “no children” sections as well.

As you can tell, I have a pretty strong opinion on this topic. Nothing makes me more crazy when I go to Starbucks and there are two mothers enjoying their coffee while their children run buck-wild.

Now, do I think all parents are bad parents? Certainly not. I have a friend with an adorable autistic child and every time we have gone out with her children he has always behaved very well. Is that always the case? I’m sure it isn’t, but she is an excellent parent.

So, I ask parents, please stop trying to be your child’s friend and be their parents!

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