Blog

And we are here with Mike…

So, when you watch the same news broadcast day in and day out, you get to feel like the people on the TV are like family.  Any why not?  They are in my living room almost as much as me.  I talk back to them a lot.  So, when they decided to go on location to the Wawa in nearby Galaway Township, I had to go and see them.

I began by talking to the traffic girl, Jessica Boyington who has a birthday coming up as well, and she told me where I could find Bill Henley the weatherman.  After a brief discussion about my weather concerns, he asked me to wait ten minutes and meet him outside.

There I joined Bill and Jessica with some friendly banter about my upcoming retirement and went on to do an interview.  Here it is.

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/NBC10-On-The-Road-Hoping-for-Good-Weather_Philadelphia-424033194.html

Click the above link and enjoy my moment of 36 seconds.

 

No Time for School Pride

When it was performed for her and the assistant principal, it was received with a great deal of enthusiasm.  The students, as well, warmed to this song and adopted it almost immediately.

Prior to 2015, there was no school song for Buena Regional High School.  Technically, there still isn’t.  When the Senior Class Advisor asked to have the choir sing for graduation in 2015, I said that only songs that are appropriate should be sung.  When she asked what this may be, I said that I have seen both the Star Spangled Banner and the Alma Mater should be sung.  Since the Star Spangled Banner was being played by the band, I suggested that we would sing the Alma Mater.  I knew that no Alma Mater existed.

I offered to write an appropriate school related song to be sung at the graduation.  When it was performed for her and the assistant principal, it was received with a great deal of enthusiasm.  The students, as well, warmed to this song and adopted it almost immediately.

Over the past two years, there seems to be a resistance to having the choir perform for the graduation.  Last year, a special second song was reluctantly allowed.  The year before, a second song was asked for, so we performed God Bless America.  This year, “a request was made to shorten the ceremony”.  Wow!!!

In 2001, when I arrived, the school included 1000 students which meant that there was about 250 graduates.  Today, we have just over 500 students which means the graduating class is half that large.  Diploma awarding is the longest section for graduation and is half of what it used to be…so…what’s the hurry?  Is tradition and ceremony just an annoyance now at the high school level.  In a world where we celebrate kindergarten and even preschool graduation…do we dare minimize the ceremonial importance of the culmination of 12 years of academic work?

 

 

A Night at the Opera

Having seen the movie, Amadeus, I was confident that I knew all that there is to know about this work.  I did not.  I learned much and was excited to be seeing this production.

Several weeks ago, I attended the opera. It was my first opera in awhile.  I saw The Marriage of Figaro in Philadelphia’s historic Academy of Music.  Prior to the Opera, I went to a lecture on the story of this opera’s creation.  Having seen the movie, Amadeus, I was confident that I knew all that there is to know about this work.  I did not.  I learned much and was excited to be seeing this production.

My seats cost $20 and were low cost due to the obstructed view seats that are common at this venue as it was once a concert hall only location.  Since getting it’s Broadway makeover, it has many seats that are behind columns.  My column was not a huge distraction and with some courtesy on the part of all attendees, there wasn’t going to be a problem. I brought my opera glasses…aka…tiny little binoculars…and turned my $20 seats into a significantly better deal.  I could see all of the little facial expressions that actors have become known for thanks to the movie industry.

During the 3rd act, after the intermission, a man in the row immediately behind me decided that being silent was a choice that he didn’t have to live with.  He proceeded to talk at full voice to his increasingly irritated date and when he was corrected by her, the girl next to me, and finally me…his response was to mock me in response.  He then proceeded to play YouTube videos on his phone with no headset.  After 10 minutes of this behavior, he and his date left.  The whole incident left me bitter about how a person could exhibit this behavior in public.

Yesterday, I took my high school choir on their final trip to Broadway.  We saw The Phantom of the Opera at an unusual Thursday Matinee.  Our seating was upper mezzanine, but in the front row for the most part.  A section of about one dozen front row seats were unoccupied at the start of the Overture.  If you know this show, the overture includes the coming to life of a dead chandelier and a riveting orchestration as the stage is automatically transformed in time.  It was at this moment that the theater staff attempted to seat a group of students late without first ascertaining the order that they should sit in their seats.  The moment was stolen from me.  This is one that I anticipated and for my first time attenders, I was extremely disappointed that they lost this experience.  There is no late seating at the opera!!! Why is this tolerated at the Phantom of the Opera?

When the show ended, I was separated from my entire group as we made our way to the bus.  I had my students board the bus that was double parked on 8th avenue and once again was told that it was my fault that they got separated.  I later found out that the group that was late had a person that was irritated by the behavior of the students in my group.  The person took issue with one of my teachers who took issue with the late arrival of the group.  Later still, I found out that a person from my group yelled toward the stage an inappropriate remark.  It makes it hard for me to write to the theater to take a position on their bad choice of seating those late arrivals and the poor execution as well.

I believe that we all have to take responsibility to teach those who “don’t know” what they “should know” and why.  If they choose not to “learn” the skill necessary to appreciate the art, then they should not be around those who do know how to act.  It all boils down to manners.  There’s a reason for it and I’m not going to “let it go”.

Most Likely to Succeed

What I have just mentioned contains an awful lot of hot button issues in our current system, but our current system was created for an industrial society that was the state of the art over 100 years ago.  Tragically, it hasn’t been relevant to our own students and our own country’s needs even since I went to high school.

About a year ago, I went to see a movie at Cairn University, formerly Philadelphia College of the Bible.  If you will grab a pen and paper, I will give you a website where you can go to get more information.  You see, I had to travel to Langhorne, PA to see this film because you couldn’t find it anywhere online.  Thankfully, this has changed.  It is available on iTunes.   The website is mltsfilm.org.  This stands for Most Likely to Succeed  and it is a film about education.  This film includes experts like Ken Robinson, who has the most viewed TED talk online entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  It also includes Sal Khan, the creator of the Khan Academy.  Additionally Ken Jennings, arguably the smartest man in the world according to Jeopardy.  Also present are leaders in industry that all have a problem with our current educational model.

This is a film for everyone…all stakeholders because it doesn’t talk about reform in the sense that we tweak our current system of education, but instead start all over.  For students…imagine a school without homework, or grades, or even subjects.  For teachers imagine complete academic freedom, no supervisors, no lesson plans.  For the board imagine no tenure or collective bargaining contracts etc…

What I have just mentioned contains an awful lot of hot button issues in our current system, but our current system was created for an industrial society that was the state of the art over 100 years ago.  Tragically, it hasn’t been relevant to our own students and our own country’s needs even since I went to high school.  More and more our success in the future relies on a skill that has weakened for lack of use over the years and that is the skill of creativity.  Everyone possesses this skill but it has lied dormant in a world of standards, accountability, and fairness.

Every day this year, I have been teaching a class of Digital Music Composition.  The students create everyday, individually or sometimes in groups.  Sometimes original pieces or derivative work.  When a subject or concept comes up it is part of the creative process and we learn about it, just in time.  Sadly, this course will be going away with my retirement.  This is sad.  Sadder still that when teachers who obviously recognize this need for creativity in the school and have been trying desperately to get funding have resorted to a Pie in the Face fundraising activity to get just the minimum financial consideration.  

On April 12 our music students had an opportunity to hear from a guest speaker.  His name was Dawson Coyle.  Dawson is a young man with Tourette syndrome.  He attends my church, was a participant in season 12 of The Voice, and is home schooled.  I was curious about how he would respond to the statement made by one of his Voice panelists just before he was knocked out.  She accused him of being a singer/songwriter.  His answer to me was that he has been singing all his life and writing about what he likes and sharing it with the world for free…and the world paid him back! He never auditioned for The Voice…The Voice found him.  It shouldn’t just be homeschooling where this is the case.

Everyone tonight is encouraged to view the 2 minute trailer at the web address I gave you and the entirety of this message can be read again on a blog entitled uncommonsense at michaelmccausland.com  In the meantime, I leave you with some comments that some of my students have regarding their experiences in their music classes.  

It is hoped by me that in spite of all of the challenges that you currently face, or perhaps because of those challenges, that Buena emerges as the best place for learning in the 21st Century.  I thank you.

A matter of perspective

I hate mice. I hate the way they look I hate the way they act. I don’t want them in my house. If they appear in my house I’m going to call an exterminator.  This used to be how I thought about mice, until I got a big change in perspective.
This is just the way it is. When they invade where I live they deserve to die. I don’t want them around. I can’t stand there little mouse droppings that are evidence of there being around. I don’t want to even think about them being alive period
That’s why it’s just her craziness that one I found a nest of baby mice in my lawn mower I felt compelled to protect them. When they were deprived of their mother and squealing at the top of their lungs out of fear I just wanted to protect them. When I left them in the lawnmower to cool off outside some of them had jumped off the mower and we’re sitting on the stone driveway. I went and got some cardboard scoop to them up and put them back into they’re little Nest on top of the lawnmower.
I then Returns the mower to the shed where their mother had decided to create a home for them. That’s my shed. The mice didn’t belong there. Yet still I had to return them. I also locked the shed door because I know that there is a cat next door. I know the cat enjoys hunting in my yard. I root for the cat to catch all the mice again in my yard. I just don’t want them to catch these babies.
This is illogical. I know these mice are going to grow up to be adults and come into my house and make me angry enough to call an exterminator to kill them. What is it about us that makes us want to protect the Young no matter who they are? I don’t know. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective.

https://youtu.be/7lZ5dQSrBUg

True Blue~A Police Encounter

the officer introduced himself as a member of the Evesham Police Department.  At that very moment, I realize that this is a guy from my home town.  I am on a drive through highway that connects many towns, but this person is here to protect my home town.

On Sunday night I was driving home from my parents house in Marlton, NJ.  This is not an unusual situation as I have been having dinner with my parents every Sunday since my family moved away last year.  As I customarily do, I called my wife so that we could chat for the ride home.  I use a Blu-tooth earpiece for my phone so essentially, I am hands free and legal.  As I passed the abandoned Champs Bar and Grill I changed lanes from left to right and immediately caught the police lights go on in my rear view mirror.

Now, the crazy thought start to run through my head.  What did I do wrong? Did I just cut him off?  Did I drink at my mom’s house? (yes, 1 glass of wine).  What kind of crazy encounter am I going to have?  Do I have all of my documentation? Is he/she going to be nasty? Should I record this?  Should I dig through my glove compartment?  Will he/she think I am looking for a gun?  Fear and terror filled my person.  My wife said it would be better to end the call so not to confuse the issue.  I hung up and rolled down my window…yes legit rolled.  The car is old.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity a knock came at my passenger window.  I nearly choked myself reaching over to the other door’s manual crank. (Well, at least I won’t get a seat belt violation.)  After getting it down the officer introduced himself as a member of the Evesham Police Department.  At that very moment, I realize that this is a guy from my home town.  I am on a drive through highway that connects many towns, but this person is here to protect my home town.  I begin to relax…not in any small part related to the fact that this man was treating my like I was an honored guest at a party.  He informed me that my registration was coming up expired in his computer.  I checked my glove compartment and came up with the same answer.  He asked for my documents and he went back to his car.  I called my wife and explained to her that it was a registration issue.

When he returned to my car he indicated that the violation would not be a moving violation but since so much time had passed since the car was registered, he had to write up the violation.  He also helped me with the process for registering the car and told me the best way to get it corrected without having to run the risk of a repeat violation.  He also helped me identify that my insurance was due to expire in one day.  We chatted about a couple of things and I ended up going away with a very good feeling.

I began to reflect on all of the traffic stops that appear in the news.  You know…the ones that go horribly wrong.  These are the ones that we see recorded and get plastered all over the media.  I can’t help but wonder about my anxiety and just what caused it.  I can’t help but think about the media accounts of discourteous cops and belligerent citizens are making us believe that this situation is far too commonplace.

I have heard that it takes 10 positive experiences to cover up the one negative impression. If this is true, then hopefully this story will go towards reminding people that one badly recorded episode of people being at far less than their best is not representative of the greater population. Maybe then, the next time I get pulled over. my anxiety level would not go through the roof. 

Tomorrow, we can talk about the NJ Motor Vehicle Agency. Now there is a trip through crazy😭

Fidget Spinner

OK. So I bought a Fidget Spinner.  I know that it said the word “toy” at the end of it.  I was attracted to it because it said that it would help with ADHD and similar focus related things.  I know that I have trouble focusing on things.  I know I have to fix this.  I know that it is a problem.  I also know…that I have just added another distraction.

OK.  So it is not going to help with focus.  Maybe…it is the distraction or triggering that it can help with.  When, I find myself on the wrong track…I will just pull out the spinner and it will get me moving.  I am really reaching here to justify my $10 investment.  Oh well…time to spin.

4/20–NO!!!

Marijuana has been illegal for a very long time.  April 20, 4/20, should not be hailed as a day for the freedom to indulge in this drug and its destructive effects.  Don’t fall for the line that this is good for individual rights as well as the community.  It’s not.

You just don’t need one more excuse to allow students or young people to say that they have the right to do whatever they want to do. They are already confused enough about alcohol. The fact that alcohol is legal doesn’t stop them but encourages them to begin use even when they are underage. I say no.

Faith

“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to…”~Miracle on 34th Street

I think that we all struggle with demons.  These demons live in our minds and occupy corners and lay in wait for a weak moment and destroy our dreams and ambitions.  They are assisted by those who want to share “realities” that are uniquely theirs…not yours and certainly not mine.  The demons move from person to person in this way.

If you look at the quote from Miracle on 34th Street, you can see that belief is a strong characteristic and we all have it.  We believe that we can or we believe that we can’t.  It’s a choice.  What do I choose to believe…for my life…for this day….in this moment?  Don’t I really control my destiny?  Do I relinquish my control to something or someone else?

In my own life, I know now that who I am and what I have become up to this day is my default position when I don’t consciously follow my dreams or my desires simply because someone else has appeared to make sense.  At some point, I have to decide, and I mean really decide what I believe.  My actions then have to bear that out.

I must be careful to guard these beliefs or my destiny will be lost in The River of Dreams.  This really shouldn’t be…uncommon sense…but, it is.

The Creativity Conundrum

What became apparent when attending a workshop was the challenging notion that what I was doing was the “least creative thing” I could be doing in music. This gave me pause. I dwelled on it and realized that it was true.

Having been a music teacher for years and directing choirs has been rewarding for me. I have been fortunate to both perform in music ensembles and direct them with the firm belief that this art form and its inherent creativity was beneficial to the members of the group. What became apparent when attending a workshop was the challenging notion that what I was doing was the “least creative thing” I could be doing in music. This gave me pause. I dwelled on it and realized that it was true.

The person directing this workshop indicated that the persons who participated passively in the experience of listening to music also could be brought into the experience of creating music. Again, it gave me reason to think. Using digital software, you can create music and you don’t even have to know how to write it. In education, I have become somewhat of an elitist in that I believe that to be a musician you had to learn and use notation. When the ultimate experience of music is audio…why is that the case.

I bought the software and I was fortunate to have a young lady, who loved to sing, record “cover tunes”, just so I could learn the process of using the software. Still, creativity eluded me. So, we took some of those covers and made a few videos. Here, I first discovered how I could use the music to create a visual experience that would give a greater impact. I was on my way, but I didn’t understand why I was finally on my way. The cover tunes gave me structure. The structure gave me parameters to develop something. The truth is, we all need parameters.

The first day of school in the subsequent year, a contest was presented to me to produce a 2 minute video to support the need for music education funding. You needed original music. There were only 72 awards and this went nationwide. There was only 4 weeks until the submission deadline. Truly, the odds were against winning, but I finally had parameters. I finally had purpose…and the creativity flowed and the contest was won. All the participants, myself and 9 students, felt that “we had accomplished something great” For me, it was more meaningful because it supported my belief that we can all be creative. Now, I need to get others to believe it as well.

On this site is my “ongoing attempt” at creativity. I hope that you enjoy as I continue to explore this side of me that has been dormant for many years.

(This is a re-posting of an entry on a previous server.  I felt I needed to revisit it.)