Posts Tagged ‘WVDE’

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?

This has been an interesting/frustrating/exciting week.

Story #1

My district conducts Instruction Practices Inventories (aka IPI) on a semi-regular basis.  Their purpose is to measure student engagement. After the IPI we have a debrief. Results are broken down by core classes, non-core classes, and then the overall. Monday, we had a debrief with a former administrator who’s part of our school improvement team. About halfway through the debrief…

Me: What do you consider to be non-core?

Him: You’re non-core.

Me: SAY WHAT??? “Actually, under NCLB, the arts are defined as being core classes.

Him: No it’s not. You’re wrong.

Me: ARE YOU *BADWORD*ING KIDDING ME???  “No, I’m not wrong.”

Him: We can argue this all day, but I’m right. I know I’m right so there’s no need to discuss it anymore.

(Now, for those of you who may not know this…I don’t mind being wrong. I’m wrong a lot and I will freely admit it when I’m presented with the facts. However, DO NOT *badword*ing dismiss me in front of a group of people and definitely don’t do it when it’s easy to find out the info.)

Excuse my language, but I was pissed.

I printed out the appropriate pages from the NCLB Teacher Toolkit that addresses what is considered a core academic class. When I found him later, I shared it with him.

Him: Yes, but our state doesn’t define it as a core class so I’m still right.


Me: Feds say it is. Even if you’re right (which you’re not) that would trump state policy, right?

Him: No, but WV doesn’t define it as a core class. (See, NCLB leaves the definition of “the arts” up to individual states.)

Me: Can we talk about this tomorrow?

Him: Sure can! *smile/wave*

I took it to the Twitter.

For those of you who may not know the awesomeness that is Jack Deskins…he’s the arts coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education.  He’s one hell of a good thinker. You should be following him. It’s just a smart move. Trust me on this.

(No, he didn’t pay me to type that. However, if Jack is reading this, we agreed on small, unmarked bills.)

Knowing where to track down the exact wording and policy, I printed and highlighted…jump to this afternoon.

Me: Hey! Guess what!

Him: What?

Me: You’re wrong! (recites policy numbers and exact wording from memory with a flair that would make any theatre teacher proud. Well, if we had one he or she would have been proud.)

Him: Well, our county doesn’t consider it to be a core class.

Folks, at this point I’m ready to stab him with my pen. I think at this point I shook my hands in the air with a “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME” expression on my face.

Him: For the purposes of the IPI, we don’t consider you to be a core academic class.

REALLY? He couldn’t just tell me that in the first place?

Whether my district considers the arts to be core or not, they should. Let’s redo that IPI form. If they don’t, they’re pretty much paying lip service to state and federal policy, don’t you think?

Story #2

My music appreciation class has been working on protest music this week. We’ve focused on different events in American history and the music surrounding those events. We’ve analyzed different song lyrics and determine if it was a protest song. If it was, what’s being protested? What makes you believe it’s a protest song? Etc…

The final project for the unit is for them to write their own protest song.

Last week, I previewed the unit we’d be working on this week. I told them the events we’d be looking at with the suggestion that they should look up some info on their own. (What the heck was I thinking?)

They knew we’d be discussing the Occupy Wall Street protests today. Friday, Monday, AND Tuesday I told them to turn on the news and see what they could find out. Today, I asked them to take markers and write everything they knew about #OWS on the board.

Crickets Chirp

After some coaxing, I got “New York” and “Banks” #ugh

I shared this article with them.

I questioned them. “What are some reasons there’s no good protest songs for this movement?”

*Insert picture of me pulling teeth trying to find someone that would make even a feeble attempt at answering.*

“Well, what about the Tea Party? Did they have the same issues? Do they have an anthem?

One of my darlings answered, “Tea party? Like with dolls and cups?”

To sum up the next 15 minutes of the class, I lost it on them. I ranted and raved about how dangerous it is to be ignorant.

“How can you write a protest song when you have no idea that you’re even supposed to be mad? Do you not get what’s going on in this country? Your rights are being stripped away and your potential livelihood threatened and you don’t even have a clue!”

(I’m not sure exactly what I said to them during my little speech. However, when I was finished, several of them were ready to march on Washington. I guess that means something got through?)

At the end of class each student could articulate a topic they were passionate about and knew the angle they’re going to take when writing their songs.

Tying It All Together

My college music ed program cranked out band directors. That was their focus. I was convinced I wanted to be a band director. My first job was a band job. I didn’t last long for several different reasons.

My music ed program (which did what they did really well) did me a disservice. By being so focused on training band directors, it gave the impression that band was the most important thing. Those other classes were just things you had to do until you could get the band program you wanted.  I bought into the idea that band directors weren’t teachers like everyone else. Elementary music classes were good, but they were most important because they gave the “real” teachers a planning time.

None of my college professors actually said this. It’s what they didn’t say that led me to believe these things.

It wasn’t until I landed my current job that I got it. It was a long road that left me feeling frustrated more often than not. I was swimming against the current. My heart knew what was true even though my brain was trained to believe differently.

What I teach is important.

What I teach has value.

What I teach makes a difference.

I teach music.

Better than that, I get to teach stuff other than band 🙂

I don’t need NCLB or Policy 2510 to tell me that students need music. I don’t need some guy in an IPI debrief to tell me I’m right.

At our football game on Friday, the band directors and their assistants (that’s me) from the 2 schools were chatting. We were discussing an upcoming conference geared toward teachers who teach non-performance based music classes. The director from the other school said, “I’m not a music teacher. I’m a band director. I don’t care about that other 80% BS. I’m here to build a band program.” (Wow, sounded like me right out of college.)

I literally bit my tongue…for about 5 seconds.

Okay, I actually didn’t say much beyond, “I respectfully disagree with your position regarding music education.” However, I was cursing a blue streak at him on the inside.

I was really annoyed with that guy Friday night, but tried to not think about it once we left the game. I was reminded of it today while I was mid-rant with my music appreciation class.

Both my students and that guy have the same problem. They’re short-sighted and ignorant. Also, they don’t realize that they’re short-sighted and ignorant. My students had no clue what was going on in the world around them. They didn’t know that they don’t know and they really didn’t care to learn. After my little speech (which has been building for a while) they opened their eyes a bit.

Band director guy is very happy in his band director world, taking the easy road of cranking out a product and not having to work to reach the kids that aren’t self-motivated like his band kids are.

I bet that band director thinks his job is more important than mine because he puts out a performance each week. I bet our higher-ups would agree with him. Just like my students needed me to get mad at them so they’d stop and think and figure out what gets them fired up…to find out what they’re passionate about, I needed band director guy to get me angry so I’d remember how strongly I feel about what I do.

Does this mean that I think all directors are like this guy? Of course I don’t. But, I will say that this guy teaches at another school in my district. Pair that with the conversation in story #1 and you might get an idea of how music ed is viewed here. We’ve got it better than some, but we still have a way to go.

I’m gonna bust my ass to make sure we get to where we need to be.




This week I’ve been in Morgantown, WV for the 2011 Teacher Leadership Institute. I’ll be very honest about the fact that my reasons for signing up was largely based on the extra money and new computer. Coming into the week I had only a vague idea about what we’d be working on…Common Core Standards and SMARTER Balanced Assessment.

I still have many thoughts circling my head about this institute. We had 3 types of sessions/work groups. First, we had the whole group (we’re talking hundreds of teachers) Death by PowerPoint sessions. Then we had our school group sessions, led by 2 facilitators from the state team. Finally, we had our content-specific teams.

Our Death by PowerPoint groups were difficult for me. I may (or may not for legal purposes) have threatened to punch co-workers in the throat for reading directly from PPT slides in faculty meetings. I hate them with a white hot passion. That said, I have no doubt the folks in charge are fun, interesting people who excel at what they do. Listen to them for a few minutes and it becomes obvious that they know their stuff. I would have just preferred a different method of content delivery.

Our school-based teams were a much better experience. We don’t often get the time to work and talk about thing that affect our school in a constructive way. Marty and Valerie did a very good job facilitating our sessions. I did have a little tension with Marty over tweeting early in the week, but after some conversation and sharing she became open to it. I’m not sure she’s 100% sold on it, but I love that she let me tweet 🙂

By far, my favorite time here at TLI has been our content-specific groups. I don’t want to say that the Arts people are more fun, but the Arts people are more fun 🙂 We did a lot of work on our non-verbal communication skills. We did a drumming session on day 1 in our group and then for the entire institute on day 2.

My big takeaways for the week have been the focus on targeting your assessment, figuring out what the knowledge is needed for specific tasks, and the work of Sir Ken Robinson.

It’s time to go hear our state Superintendent speak. I have quite a few things still in my head. Just wanted to get a few things down before they fell out of my head.