Death by a 1,000 cuts… I am at 997 cuts

First, again, I apologize for not writing for a while.  I am doing a podcast now and I am getting myself all organized with the variety of tools to share my thoughts.  I am sorry.

I had a little breakdown yesterday.  I did.  I am going to share with you some stuff that will cause some emotions with several of you.  As I say to my children / my students and more and more saying to ADULTS, I am not responsible for your response for what I am going to share.  I will remind you that what I am sharing with you is with love in my heart.  In no way do I want to get y’all mad at me or say, “we’re done.”

I have a taught at:

1989 – 1994   TOKAY HIGH SCHOOL

1994 – 1997 THE YORK SCHOOL (Private School in Monterey)

1997 – 2005 GRANITE BAY HIGH SCHOOL

2005 – 2008 GALT HIGH SCHOOL

2008 – 2017 DUBLIN HIGH SCHOOL

2017 – PRESENT OAKMONT HIGH SCHOOL

Yes.  Six High Schools.  My beautiful family has moved, well at least six times, but really 10 times. In Galt, we moved into a nice home and stayed in that home for three years.  All the other places, one house to another house.  TEN TIMES!!  My family is super strong!

Why so many schools?  I have a book CONDUCTING MY LIFE.  When you read my book, you will have a really well-described story about the first four schools, as well as very honest autobiography of me.  What I will say as brief “cliff notes.”  When I feel the program has reached a point where it is ready for someone else to enjoy it or take it to the next level, I leave.  Again, I told you I would be honest – brutally honest.  When I feel not appreciated or I cannot make a positive influence on students / community, it is time for me to move.

Again, “cliff notes.”  Won’t tell you which school (it’s in the book…):

  • return from a trip where the band was BEST OUT OF STATE at the Portland Rose Festival Parade to a parent who had a gun in the tuck (probably wasn’t going to use it; it was in the gun rack; just seeing it there sucked); weighed over three-hundred pounds; 2am in the morning, YELLING — “Where the F*** is Mr. Everts?  Where the F*** is Mr. Everts?”  Done.
  • When a JEEP blew up in the school parking lot, and the BMW & MERCEDES next to the blown-up jeep (because the student left a lit candle in the jeep) were ruined, the next day … the student that left a lit candle in the jeep had a new JEEP.  Done.
  • When a parent stood outside the band room handing out flyers that said, “FIRE MR. EVERTS.  IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN GETTING MR. EVERTS FIRED, PHONE 555-1212.”  Done.
  • Put on paid administrative leave.  School board voted FIVE-ZERO in my favor to “immediately” get me back in the classroom.  By the way, one of the parents involved in the that HEINOUS / EVIL / MEAN-SPIRITED act phoned my next school and told them “do not hire that man.”  SHE NEEDS HELP.  Learning to forgive her.  Yes, I did not sue her.   Done.
  • Took a band to a great trip … when returning, not one THANK YOU from the group.  Remember what I said about being “appreciated?”  DONE.
  • BTW … I was put on paid administrative leave at another school…placed back in the classroom and stayed at that school for another three years which included two successful trips to Chicago & out of country.  DONE.

Why would you stay in the teaching with so many hurtful stories?  Because, I love my job.  I love what I have to offer people.  Go on rate-my-teacher-dot-com and you will see what the Dublin High School students / parents say about me.  Much of it is very hurtful.  I don’t read it.  Those who love me have read it and are shocked by how terrible some of the comments are.  And you still teach, Paul?  I KNOW. I KNOW. I KNOW. So, when I love what I do / who I work with / for, I need to be able to take all the thorns with the roses.  Death by a thousand cuts?  I am at 997 cuts.  I am almost done.

Teaching at six schools does give me a different perception about education than my peers who have been at school longer than ten years!  I have seen each program turn around.  How much fun and great feeling it is to see a program flourish!  Yet, in doing so, I never really get to enjoy all the work that it took to get the turn-around to happen.  It takes a lot of work to turn around a program.  The first year at the new band director?  You’re an “idiot.”  You know “nothing.”  Very angry folks.  The current school I am at, I am the third band director in three years.  Those students are shell-shocked.  I am getting / receiving TREMENDOUS SUPPORT.  Seriously.  Super thankful.

Teaching at six schools, I have a better understanding that DEMOGRAPHICS really are the cornerstone for education – successful schools and schools that fail.  I read such great things about amazing high school music programs.  Look at those amazing band programs’ schools’  “report card.”  See the entire breakdown of the school:  ethnicity; average income of families; student-to-teacher ratio; parents with college education; etc.  No wonder those schools are succeeding.  Not jealous.  I have been in those areas: GRANITE BAY / THE YORK SCHOOL.  I have worked with those demographics.  Those demographics are so supportive of music education.  Look at the teachers!   Some of the very best teachers.

However, I like to call those very special teachers “Phil Jackson.”  Phil Jackson won NBA championships because, yes… HE IS A VERY GOOD BASKETBALL COACH (as those music teachers winning trophies / giving presentations / highly respected).  But, seriously.  When a coach has a “Michael Jordan” or “Kobie Bryant” – he is  “supposed” to win.  And the expectation can cause stress.  Look at the current Cleveland Cavaliers coach (TYRONN LUE), he just took time off because of stress.  The stress to win when you have the “players” is high.  Yet, on the other hand, you are winning championships / teacher of the year / your students are getting to perform incredible repertoire — you are there because you did a great job with great players.  Me too!  I did as well.  Enjoyed every moment in working with those folks who live in incredible neighborhoods.  AS I ENJOYED all the good moments in those demographics, it is a choice we make to enjoy or not enjoy our jobs.  Difficult to admit it.  But, it is our choice.

This just happened yesterday (April 6, 2018), “Mr. Everts, I appreciate you being tough on us,” says high school junior.  HUH?  What?  “…appreciate you being tough on us.”  HUH?  So here it comes… the part that could get your boxers in a knot.  WE NEED TO BE CONSISTENT.  WE NEED TO BE “TOUGH.”  I do think teachers are not as “tough.”  Teenage jargon. “Tough.”  What happened was the student had not been at zero period for several times, yet there he was for first period.  No apology.  No note.  Nothing.  So, I got “tough” with him.

I took him into my office.  LEFT THE DOOR WIIIIIIDE OPEN (never close the door with one student in the office… NEVER).  Windows.  Me:  “Okay… so what’s up?  You don’t have a note.  You don’t come up to me to apologize for this lack of responsibility.  So, this is what we can do:  lower your grade; phone home; or “talk to you.”

Guess what he selected?  Yup!  So, I “talked” to him.

Boy did I “talk” to him.  I was so proud of him.  He “listened.”  And then he said, “Mr. Everts I appreciate you being tough on us.  I am sorry.  I should have told you why I was late and shown more care about the group.”  While others will go to rate-my-teacher-dot-com and say CRAPPY THINGS, there are moment such as the one I described.

This happened on Thursday (April 5, 2015).  “Mr. Everts, other teachers don’t talk to us like you do.”  THIS IS A GUITAR STUDENT!!  What he was talking about was on Wednesday (April 4, 2018), I had mentioned some news events for the students to pay attention to.  I am big in getting students to think “globally.”  The student mentioned that he has relatives in Honduras and felt attached to the story about the caravan making its way to the United States.  Prior to his guitar test on Thursday, I thanked him for his sharing his story.  He then opened up about some personal / life stuff.  NOT GOING TO SHARE WITH YOU!!  And then that is when he said, “Mr. Everts, other teachers don’t talk to us like you do.”

I am not looking for a pat on the back.  I do love pats on the back.  I do have MANY MANY “KEEPSAKES” from students.  I need too.  I do get hurt for being “tough.”  I do get hurt for holding students accountable not the way their parents want me to hold their students accountable.  Some of my least favorite parents, “If my child does anything wrong, please correct him” and then those parents schedule a meeting with me and an administrator.  Oh, I didn’t correct him the way you wanted me to correct him.  Oh…

Thursday and Friday, those students gave me great gifts in words.  I do love my students.  One of the things I love to do with my students who make mistakes:

Here are four possible responses to what you (STUDENT) did:  1). Lower your grade; 2). Phone Home; 3).  Give you a referral; or 4).  Talk to you.  You (STUDENT) tell me which response you would like to have for your misbehavior.  And more times than not, “4). Talk to you.”  My response:  “Okay… here I go.”

I have had more than one administrator advise me, “Paul, lower their grade.  Simply lowering their grade takes so much stress off you and the parents / students don’t have any drama with you.  You will have fewer students / parents hating you.  Life will be simpler.”  Nah. It’s important for my teaching philosophy to allow the student to make choices and then see what happens.  And BTW… the principal is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.  If I simply lowered their grade, I wouldn’t have a 3.3 rating from the Dublin HS rate-my-teacher-dot-com.  I would be a FIVE-STAR “great” teacher if I simply lowered their grade or even, lowered my expectations to meet the current generation of students.  Yet, I have made my bed and I sleep soundly.

I am coming to the end of my career.  I know this.  The gains we are making at Oakmont are not surpassing the pain that I am feeling with public education.  Public education is deciding to encouraging folks to be “victims.”  All the bad stuff that is happening to you (student / victim) is because of the other person’s inability to read your mind.  My current students and I are making tremendous gains.  We are growing in numbers and musicianship.  We are growing as people.  We are starting to understand  Love. CONNECTION. Encouragement.  Every time I am done with “4). Talk to you” I am quick to tell the student “I am very impressed with how you received my message” and “thank you” and “I love you.”  When a teacher gets hurt and all the wonderful things that happen to you (teacher) don’t “cancel” out that pain you get from students and their parents (shot my car window / lied about me / left a bag of crap on my front door step / phoned principal telling her to not hire me / when one parent is soliciting others to get me fired and others stood silently), it is time to go.  I look forward to a wonderful three years.  I know I will get those thorns, but there will be beautiful roses.

I ask God, family, and friends to please continue your needed to support.  Teaching is an amazing career.  Just be ready for the unknown level of love and hate you will receive when you are simply doing your job.

 

 

1 Comments

  1. Reply

    Students need teachers like you! Not many people have the strength to stand up and do/say what is right even when it isn’t the most popular thing. That’s what makes it so important. You are not just impacting those students (and the students you’ve had for your entire career). You are impacting GENERATIONS. You have influenced many who will go on to be leaders and teachers who will in turn teach with similar principles.

    The thorns do hurt, but the roses are plenty.

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