Archive for the ‘Thinking out loud’ Category

My school is small. It’s not tiny, but small. With a student population in the 400-500 range it’s easy to know everyone fairly well. That’s a good thing. That’s also a bad thing.

What? How can it be bad to work in a school where you get to know all your students well?

It’s bad because you get to know all your students well.

I love my kids at school. I get happy for them when things are going good for them. I get sad for them when they’re going through hard times.

This week, my heart has been breaking for a few of them. The kids in this school are MY kids whether I have them in class or not. I’m thinking I shouldn’t feel that way.

I had a situation yesterday with a student and I reacted as April/parent and not as Ms. Estep. Because of the surprising nature of some news I received I also didn’t react with as much diplomacy/tact as I should have. The student’s parent called, spoke with one of my administrators, and I got called on it.

I was asked to apologize (which I had already planned to do) and told to be more careful in the future.

So, I’ll be more careful. I’ll still care about my kids. I’ll still tell them I love them and remind them to make good decisions as they leave my class. My heart will still break for them for as long as I decide to this job.

Honestly, I’m not sure how people retire from teaching. This week has drained me. This week…which has been 2 actual days of teaching…has been almost too much. I’m sure tomorrow will be better and I’m sure there will be good days to give me a lift. But, 10-something years into this gig and I’m just not sure how people deal with it all.

For the record, I’m not upset that the parent called or that my boss told me to apologize. I’m upset with myself for not knowing where that line is…how much caring is just enough and not too much? How much of a reaction is okay and how much is not okay? I’m just trying to figure it out.


I know I haven’t written in a while. It looks like my last post is from January and I was a little upset with the WV Department of Education for blocking a whole bunch of stuff. Thankfully, they saw the light and unblocked a few things once they realized the internet’s not all big and bad. But, instead of finding bloggable topics, I ignored you and spent my time on the Twitter. I shared with people. I posted links. I ENGAGED IN CONVERSATION WITH LIKE-MINDED (and sometimes not so like-minded) EDUCATORS!

I’ve got to admit, Blog….it was good. So. Damn. Good. Me and Twitter…well, what we had was special. Maybe it was a little too special. I was tweeting a lot. I’d share links just so I’d see them in my sent feed and remember to go back later and read them. I made plans with people…found out about events…Hell, how do you think I found out that Dick Clark had passed away? The news? Facebook? Nope…it was Twitter who broke it to me. Twitter was good for that…always just a few steps ahead of everyone else.

But those days are sadly gone. My district has decided it knows more than our state department of education and has blocked it, along with Hootsuite and TweetDeck and anything that might even give a hint as to find a way to post to Twitter. (They blocked a lot of things…screwed over a lot of teachers who can no longer access sites they regularly used in class for various activities…all in the name of progress?) I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything more from a county who thinks a projector and doc cam are the stars of the Using Technology show. (Who am I to tell them anything different?)

So, here I am…running back to you, Blog. Slightly broken, disconnected, and sorry. Maybe you can help me. Maybe you can provide me with a place to share or vent. Hopefully you’ll take me back and not hold a grudge. I am TRULY sorry for leaving you out in the cold.



PS: I’d rather be Tweeting.

Update: The WVDE eventually unblocked Twitter. However, we still can’t access


I’m pretty sure the West Virginia Department of Education would block me for inappropriate content. I like to say bad words…especially the really bad ones. I also read books with sex, nudity, murder, rape, profanity, etc. I even occasionally watch rated R movies.

Of course, I don’t do any of this on school time or around students.

My music appreciation class has used several times this semester. I’ve created playlists to share with them and they’ve created them to share with me. Last week, I booked time in our school library for our final project for the semester. On day one of the project, several students chose to use as a resource. On day two of the project, playlist was blocked. Thankfully, the WVDE provides an email address and you can request a review if you feel a site was mistakenly blocked. I sent in my request and this is the response I received.

Thank you for your request. 

We have recently received a request to have this site blocked due to profanity in the music and user submitted comments.

We filter websites in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which states that we must filter for pornography, profanity, and content that is harmful to minors.   This site was found to be in violation of that criteria.

We hope you understand that while sites such as this offers many great educational resources, there is also unacceptable content as well.  At this time we will not be able to remove the blocking of this site in our filtering system.


I emailed back.

Who made the request?

If teachers are using the website in class and complaining about their students being exposed to profanity then I would question how well those students are being supervised.

I’ve used this site many times this semester to create playlists for my music classes with no problems. One class was even using it for part of their final project this semester, which is how we found out today that it’s now blocked.

I would ask that you reconsider having this site blocked.

Three days later…
I cannot provide information on the person who requested the page to be blocked.  The fact is that we review all requests to confirm that they do violate our filtering policies and this site was confirmed to do so.  We cannot unblock this site at this time.

*grumble grumble grumble*

Folks, I’m totally cool with filtering pornography. I personally don’t want my 7 year old to accidentally come across or when he’s supposed to be using the computers at his school. (Heck, I even have filtering software on my home computer…shh!) However, I really think the folks in charge are just being ridiculous. Do they really think we can block EVERYTHING that might be questionable? The BLOCK IT IT’S BAD mentality is crap. It doesn’t do what they want it to do and actually hurts the educational process. Teachers can no longer access Twitter. TWITTER???? Because someone might curse? Because kids could be exposed to profanity? Have these people never walked down a high school hallway? Just in case they haven’t, let me be clear: Kids don’t need Twitter to be exposed to profanity.  But hey, on the off chance some Amish kid who’s never heard an F-bomb hops on line and decides to tweet, let’s BLOCK IT!

As I write this I’m resisting the urge to sing the praises of Twitter for collaboration and professional development. I really could go on forever about the topic. I will say I’ve used Twitter with my students to bring professionals into our class. Author Scott Westerfeld tweeted a message to my students when I told him we were reading his book and creating a playlist to go along with it. Singer/songwriter Corey Smith weighed in on how the internet has changed the way musicians market themselves…yes, he did that using Twitter.  Even school reform guru Diane Ravitch read a blog post I wrote about school reform and sent a message to one of my students. How did this happen? You guessed it! Twitter. That connection to those people made my kids feel a little special and made what they were doing in class feel a little more real.

(But, Twitter’s bad…right? We have to protect the kids, right?)

Folks, we can’t block our way to safe childhoods. The internet is just like everything else. Instead of blocking everything that might be harmful, we should be educating our students and teachers about the appropriate uses of Twitter and Facebook. Instead of telling teachers they can’t be trusted to connect with students online, how about we educate kids on how to recognize inappropriate behavior and what to do if an adult approaches them online or in person? Am I crazy for thinking that’s a good idea?

Just a quick write about something that’s bugging me…


At the beginning of the school year I did two days of training to become a mentor teacher. I have a really awesome elementary music guy that I observe and meet with weekly. He’s doing really well, but I was a little weirded out by the way he was writing his lesson plans.

What I noticed with his was under “OBJECTIVES” he’d list what he wanted the students to know/do, but he’d also list his procedures. Am I wrong in thinking that’s wrong?

The conversation we had about it went like this…if you put something under “OBJECTIVES” it should have a standard that goes with it. It just makes sense to me. Anything else would go under another section.

He changed it, hopefully not just to make me happy but because it made sense to him as well.

Fast forward a bit…

I’m toying with putting together a website to put out a professional “hey this is who I am as a teacher” kind of thing. To figure out what I want my site to look like, I’ve been searching out other music ed professionals to see what they’re putting out on their sites. Some include sample lesson plans.  Several newer teachers do the same thing the teacher I mentor does…they put what I consider to be procedures under objectives. It just feels SO WRONG to me, lol. Am I alone in thinking it’s wrong? Is that just a common new teacher mistake? (That’s assuming that it’s a mistake at all, of course.)

(In my district, our lesson plans must be evaluated twice each semester so every teacher (in theory) is writing lesson plans. I’m going to check around and see what others in my building are doing.)


Over the summer I was very interested in and followed the story involving Missouri educators’ use of social media to communicate with their students. You can read about it here and here.  While the law’s purpose was to protect students from inappropriate contact from adults, a judge issued a temporary injunction halting it’s implementation.

Last night while watching the news a story aired from Ohio. Dayton Public Schools have put a similar policy in effect. I was annoyed but not alarmed until I heard something to the effect of Ohio was getting ahead of the game by banning contact between students and teachers through social media.

JAW DROP (I wish I could find a clip of the story to get the exact wording.)

How is banning something that’s a way of life for most of us getting ahead of the game? Barring a total collapse of the world as we know it (think a Stephen King-esque super flu or zombie apocalypse) social media isn’t going anywhere.

I get what these districts are trying to do, but they’re doing it the wrong way.

You can’t ban your way to safety. You can’t tell kids (and adults) “don’t do that” and expect them to behave the way you want them to.

Let’s face it, if someone wants to take advantage of a child they can do it without social media. Predators have done it probably since the beginning of time. They don’t need Facebook.

We need to be proactive and smart. Let’s teach adults the right ways to use social media with their students. Let’s teach our children how to recognize inappropriate contact and ways to deal with it…ways that will better serve them than a ban.

Why I teach? Music?

Posted: August 30, 2011 in Thinking out loud
Tags: , ,

I have this in a pseudo-nice wooden frame for my work area at school.


I don’t teach you music because it’s a science.

I don’t teach it because it’s math.

I don’t teach it because it’s a foreign language, and

I don’t teach it because it’s history.

I don’t teach you music because it’s physical education.

I don’t teach it for any of those reasons.

I teach it because it’s an art.

It allows a human being to take dry and boring things and create an emotion.

That’s one thing the computer still can’t do. It can’t create emotion.

I don’t teach you music because I expect you to go out and major in music.

I don’t teach it to you because I expect you to play or sing all your life, although I’d like you to.

I don’t teach it to you so you can relax and have fun either.

I teach it to you so you’ll be human.

…So you’ll recognize beauty…

…So you’ll be sensitive…

…So you’ll be closer to an infinite beyond this world…

…So you’ll have something to cling to…

…So you’ll have more love, and more compassion, and more gentleness…

In short, so you’ll have some more life.

Of what value is it going to be to you to make a prosperous living unless you’ve learned how to live?

That’s why I teach music.

The thing is, I don’t know that I want to teach music anymore.

I love music. I think it has the power to change lives. It gives me something I couldn’t find anywhere else.

But do I want to teach it? I’m not sure. It’s not like I want to teach some other discipline…it’s a question of staying in the classroom or not.

The question then becomes what would I do if I didn’t teach. I’m one of those “I’m a teacher, what the heck else could I be qualified to do???” kind of thinkers. While intellectually I know teaching gives me a ton of employable skills, the thought of actually applying those somewhere else is a bit intimidating.

I do love education. Even if I was out of the classroom, I’d like to stay in education. I’m incredibly interested in creating meaningful professional development…and of course the tech side of things always gets my juices flowing.

This blog entry has been one big ramble…just thinking through my fingers. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.