We settle... we all lose... A bit of a rant.

The current public school choral teacher for my children isn't bad enough to fire, but she isn't good enough to keep either.  I watch in disbelief as students enter the stage and execute programs that are "good enough", but have no spark.. little diversity, nothing special and in some cases are barely worthy of attendance at all.

Of course, that is inappropriate to say, because we all need to support the kids.  The problem is that no one draws the line.  This teacher is basically untouchable in my view.

Lousy performances.. too long.. boring...  Talented young musicians are being driven away.  Numbers diminish in the primary ensembles.  Programs tend toward flash and sex appeal... everything except excellence and inspiration.  Everyone knows there is a problem except of course the administration and the powers that be.   They don't choose to listen to experts... 

My public commentary, formal letter to principal,  and discussion face to face with the teacher last year yielded two significant things.  
  1. Nothing changed in performances, willingness to allow help, or instructional design.
  2. A full year, where my girls have been psychological targets for passive aggressive manipulation.  The commentary, the looks, the hypersensitivity demonstrated by the teacher are all so very subtle.  Nothing quite beyond the line. When I hear about it around the dinner table, I am infuriated beyond belief. 
Okay there is a third thing.  My girls are seriously considering dropping out of the choral program at their high school and I'm considering letting them... What a tragedy. 

The last two years have been a journey into the mediocrity of high school choral music for me and my family.  I hope it isn't the norm for our world. I fear it is.  I admit it... we were spoiled.  We had fabulous teachers for our kids in elementary and middle school, and we know so many spectacular music teachers locally and nationally...  and that makes the current situation all that much worse.  Our repeated offers to help at the HS were politely declined or ignored.  

FABULOUS music teachers in our very county are "under employed" or unemployed altogether and yet the same old story reigns.  It is clearly about who you know.. not what you do when it comes to teaching around here.  

Imagine for a moment if this teacher actually had to compete to keep her job.. as I do every year. What would the education system be like?  I wonder. 

Regardless, I reject mediocrity and I encourage you to do the same.  Expect more of your children and if teachers fail.. step up and find a way to fill the gaps.  We as parents are ultimately responsible for our childrens' education. 

We as a society should be ashamed at what we allow to parade around claiming excellence, garnering standing ovations,  and ultimately failing everyone.  Passion, Discipline and Application are the keys to success... from concerts to the board room... Desire to be better and skills to get better must go together... 

Is there anything that can be done when a teacher is "just good enough" to keep his or her job?  I doubt it, but I am fired up about it.  I wish more people were too... then perhaps things could change for the greater good and our kids would be brought along for the ride. 

-- Jeff


D. Toole said…
I went to a local choral concert at a large high school recently because a family friend who sings in my wife's youth choir was to be involved. The choral sound was not good. There was no work on blend, very little dynamic change in the music, and about as much excitement from the students and director as a wet dish rag.

Kathy's youth choir member directed a piece with one of the groups. She said she had no help from the teacher because it was her "project." Seems the student director was as good as the teacher (there might have been even a bit of excitement from the group during that piece).

I have consistently been disappointed in the public high school music programs locally, both the choral programs and the instrumental programs. It was even more disappointing to me because the elementary and middle school programs were so much better. My son went to Midlo Middle, then Midlothian High. Having sung in the Maryland Boy Choir for several years (and being involved in the Grammy winning recording of the Britten War Requiem at the Kennedy Center), he was really interested in being in another good choral group. He stayed in the high school group for three sessions and decided to drop the class. He vowed that the teacher simply didn't know what she was doing. It was a sad day for us. Luckily we had a good group at church and he sang there all through high school.

I must mention that the Appomattox Governors School had a good music program when Colleen was there. Of course it should have, being a governor's school for science and THE ARTS!

As far as anything being done: there may be things happening. I say that because I see a lot of turnover, particularly in high school choral teachers locally. What bothers me about that is that I'm not sure whether the turnover is because the teachers are forced to give the administrators what they want (like big attendance at concerts and a glitzy show for the public) instead of good music teaching that builds musicianship, or if it is because the teachers just so bad.

In any case, music teachers in high schools locally have been lasting less than 8 years. (The bad thing about that is that lousy teachers are still lasting about 8 years.)

Jeff Prillaman said…
Update on this situation.. it is resolved. Said teacher is moving on to another place.. I'm ecstatic.. well, for my kids and our HS. I do honestly wish her luck somewhere else. She is going to need it.
Jeff Prillaman said…
Further update.. had a great meeting with JRHS principal.. and presented ideas for partnering to improve.. Choral Excellence for a comprehensive high school. Notes here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZydRwEfb0lqwe8X3Cw7V-h-ZMxDLVuw7NHw5YSUEo1w/edit?usp=sharing

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