Saturday, May 12, 2012

Buckets on Their Heads

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. And sometimes they are exactly what they seem, which can be even weirder.

One afternoon, as I walked toward the school building where I taught, I passed two of my 4-year-old students on the playground. Both boys had buckets on their heads. Reflexively, I said, “Nice hats.”

They both looked at me as if I were completely insane. “These aren’t hats, silly!” one cried. “We just put buckets on our heads!”

“Oh, of course! Now I get it!”

A big part of childhood play is transforming objects through imagination. A chair is the seat of a space shuttle, a blanket over a table makes a fort, a blade of grass becomes a diamond ring. So naturally, a bucket can be a hat.

Or not.

In the adult world, it can be hard to accept that things are just what they seem. I have wasted a lot of time trying to come up with logical explanations for the inexplicable.

When people and institutions don’t make sense, I look for some piece, some person, some rationale or missing fact that will put it all in place. But by the time I arrive at that point, scratching the surface yields more questions (like, “How can this possibly be?”). The more I learn, the more apparent it becomes that the whole thing is deeply, pervasively illogical.

And the more that happens, the more I ruminate, coming up with creative, wild hypotheses that might make great plots for HBO dramas, but are probably too far-fetched even for that.

“Maybe some years ago, Person A saved the organization by secretly contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars and that’s why….”

“Maybe Person B knows where Person C’s skeletons are buried and that would explain...”

Surely it can’t be that people are actually dishonest, greedy, power-mad, crazy or willfully ignorant. Surely institutions don’t cover up dysfunction with more dysfunction until the whole thing is one big fa├žade. Surely things are just as we learned in school – do your best, get straight A’s, tell the truth, and everything else falls into place.

Life is fair, right?

So people who get D’s don’t make honor roll. People who lie get punished for it. People who don’t know anything about, say, Art Education don’t become Directors of Art Education at Art Schools. Places that are going under financially don’t insist on repeating the same patterns that got them there, with a little more navel-gazing.

Unfortunately, when things seem dysfunctional through and through, in every way, it’s often because they are. No amount of thinking will come up with a reasonable explanation. As my wiser sister told me once, when I was in full rumination mode, “You’re trying to make sense of something that just doesn’t make any sense. We want to make sense of things so we can understand them, but some things just don’t make sense.”

Sometimes it’s hard to accept that senseless things are just what they seem.

Sometimes it’s mind-boggling to find that they really are not complicated, or accidental, or unclear.

Sometimes people with buckets on their heads are just people with buckets on their heads.

All you can do is accept it, smile, and move on. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Can a Night Owl Become an Early Bird?

Why is this person smiling?
I need my sleep more than I need food. (Just ask my sisters.) I don't understand people who say, "Too much sleep makes me feel groggy." What is this "too much sleep" of which they speak? I could easily sleep for 12 hours and wake up feeling great! Eight hours is my absolute minimum.

The problem is, ever since my days as a young Disco Queen, I've gravitated toward staying up late. My glamorous restaurant work schedule got me home at 2:00 am, too. So if I don't set my alarm for a while, I easily slip into vampire mode.

I haven't set my alarm for a while.

In two and a half weeks, I have to get up at 5:30 to arrive somewhere by 7:30, all bright and functional. Lately, I've been getting to sleep between midnight and 1:00 am and getting up around 9:00. So I figure I have two options.

Option #1: Try to get to sleep early the night before. Read a boring book, drink three mugs of Sleepytime tea, try NOT to take one of my husband's Ambiens because they leave me groggy for hours into the next day.... Then at 1:30 am, in total frustration that I can't sleep, take one of my husband's Ambiens and be groggy well into the afternoon the next day.

Option #2: Aim to sleep and wake up 15 minutes earlier each day until the dreaded 5:30 wake-up-perky day.

I'm going to try Option #2. As they say in Sci-fi movies, "It's so crazy, it just might work!!"


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How my brain works.

1. I think I'd like to go back to Switzerland to finish my credential.
2. Even with the scholarship, I can't justify the expenses for travel and living there.
3. Hey, maybe I could get a Fulbright to go there!
4. Oh, Switzerland is the one country that only funds people 35 and younger.
5. Hey, maybe I could get a Fulbright to another country, study there, and then take a train to Geneva for part of the time!
6. Oh, the other Fulbrights require a doctorate degree.
7. Hey, maybe I should get a doctorate degree!
8. Oh yeah, I can't get a Ph.D. in Music Ed. without a Masters in Ed., and mine's in performance.
9. Hey, maybe I could take the additional coursework for a Music Ed. degree, and then go for a Ph.D.!
10. Oh, I also need state teaching certification.
11. Hey, here's a program where I could get a Masters plus certification in only 10 months!
12. Oh, but it costs $20k plus it's full time, so I couldn't work.
13. Hey, maybe I could look into those teacher residencies again, where you can get certified while teaching and earning a salary!
14. But I don't want to go back to square one of music teaching; I'd rather learn something new in that case.
15. Hey, maybe I could get certified in Early Childhood Ed. and then I could create a new way to merge music and movement with math and language arts!
16. Oh, I'd have to have more general subjects in my college transcripts to get into Early Childhood Ed.
17. Hey, maybe I could take some general classes at the community college and then go into Early Childhood Ed!
18. That'd take years, though.
19. Hey, I can get certified in music through the residency program and then as soon as I complete it, take the Praxis exam for Early Childhood, and teach that instead!
20. But then I wouldn't have had any teacher-training or practice in general Early Childhood Ed, because it would all have been in music.
21. Hey, maybe I could take some classes in Early Childhood Ed. to learn more about approaches to reading and math and then create my brilliant music and movement approach to them.
22. Or, I could go to Switzerland and finish my credential.....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Samplers: What little girls did 200 years ago...

Seen yesterday at an antiques shop in Queenstown: two early 19th-century samplers. These were something of a rite of passage for girls. They were a way to practice stitching skills and to produce an ornamental work of art, as well. 

Both of these showed the tiniest little stitches and knots imaginable!

This one says (I think):

Jesus permit thy gracious name to stand
As the first efforts of an infant’s hand
And while her fingers o’er this canvas move
Engage her tender heart to seek thy love
With thy dear children let her share a part
And write thy name thyself upon her heart.
Eliza Record
Aged 10 1826

Even harder to read, I believe the words here are:

Art has Taught my Fingers skill
To write without pen ink or Quill

This is my Needle Work to shew
When I was Young what I could do
And by my Marking you may see
What care my Parents took of me.
Harriott Whitchorn
11 Years of Age
November 8, 1803

Can you imagine the lives of the little girls who spent so many hours doing this work? I wonder what thoughts went through the minds as they so painstakingly placed each little stitch. It was all preparation for a life of domesticity. 

So here's one thing they probably weren't thinking about: what they wanted to be when they grew up. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back (to reality)

It's been so long I forgot my password. It's also been so long I've forgotten family members, eight hours' sleep, and how the washing machine works (which explains why I've been dressing weird).

Between my last post and this one, I lived the life chapter, "Modern Dance School Director." 

I resigned two days ago. 

I'd say "It didn't work out," but it really did, in many ways. The students, parents and teachers were wonderful, and I managed to accomplish a lot in a short period of time: I reworked the school handbook from embarrassing to presentable, and changed the schedule format from awkward to useful; set up wi-fi and online registration; fixed an error that was preventing emailed billing statements; launched new classes and grew the student companies; produced school car magnets, staff email addresses, business cards, class cards, a blog; revamped a tired show into a fresh one; donated hundreds of dollars in props, costumes and music; changed the e-newsletter from a long, one-column thing -- replete with huge bold fonts and exclamation points -- into something readable; and, my biggest source of pride, convinced families who'd been on the verge of leaving to stay... and made them happy.

BUT, there's always a but. You just never know what form the "but" will take. 

I'll really miss it, BUT... in the end, once a chapter is finished, all you can do is turn the page.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Farewell Cards from Children

Some of the children at Lucy School made beautiful goodbye cards for me. I thought I'd share a few here.

Dear ms. monica,
Your stores are the best your singing is the best you dansing is the best to I love you mosv your the best music thr.

Dear ms. Monica,
I like when you are my music teacher. And I really like when you play your recorder. Wut I willy like about your recorder is your voice.

Dear Ms. Monica,
Thank you for being my music teacher. I love all the stories you did with us. I love the way you play the piano because it sounds butyful.
Love, Sophie

Dear Ms. Monica,
I love your stories. You are nice. so I wrote you this. (She sang the next part to me.) If I cold let you go. may be it will flow. butt I don't think so, not now, butt how.
Sincererely Anika

Dear Ms. Monica,
I love the way you sing, dance, and play the piano. You are the best music teacher in the worlde I know. My favort storie is statues. Good bye. Thanke you for everything.
Sincerely, Sadira

Dear Ms. Monica
It is the last day of the year for the your muosic clas. I hop you have a good life and a good year.
form Nino  thank you

... I hope they have a good life and a good year, too...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Learning from Goofus School

Friday was my last day teaching at Lucy School -- the "Gallant" of my teaching career. I learned so much there.

But I also learned a lot from The Goofus School of a Performing Art, which I must remind you is fictional, because who could believe any school would be so incompetent?! (Any resemblance to an actual school of a performing art is purely a coincidence, and a very bad sign.)

As School Director of Kinetics Dance Theatre, I want to be sure I'm doing everything right. Since Goofus School considers Education People incapable of the fine art of Office Work, I have to question whether I really know what a stapler is for. Is my understanding of file cabinets completely accurate, or do I make false assumptions about them? Are my skills at typing up to par, or do I make embarrassing typso?

Simple decisions might SEEM to make sense, until I remember the Goofus School way. I must always keep in mind my complete lack of experience in Goofus School Administration.

Just three examples:

1. Online registration.
Kinetics doesn't have online registration yet, and I think it's important. As a novice, I found we can pay a service $15 a month, customize a few forms, and link our database of classes with a few clicks.

But The Goofus School has devoted three employees and four years to setting theirs up, and then gradually -- very, very gradually -- implementing it. Assigning this work to people with no expertise in technology gives it that unmistakably fresh perspective. Although the faculty doesn't use the system, they must be trained. Slowly. ("Here where it says name, the student types their name.")

2. Class listings. 
In my silly naivety, I am listing the classes we offer -- ballet, modern, yoga, etc.

But The Goofus School has developed a clearer way of listing lessons this summer. Simply list one offering -- "Ballet," for example -- and then group the rest under a "Non" heading -- such as "Non-Ballet." Why didn't I think of that? Maybe "Non-Jazz" will be big this year.

3. Fees.
I was thinking of going with the standard registration fee you find everywhere. But that shows how little I know!

The Goofus School charges a "$60 non-refundable withdrawal fee." It's $60 added on to your tuition, in anticipation of your decision to withdraw. You might think it'd make more sense to say, "In case of withdrawal, the school will issue a refund less a $60 fee," or something. But why do that when you can make people feel they're paying something for nothing? I'd never have considered it! That's why they're the experts.

Yes, I'm sure I'll keep the Goofus School model in mind many times over the coming year.