Thursday, November 27, 2014

Returning the Favor

Last week was a week of ups and downs. The ups were HUGE our marching band went to the state marching band championships and just had an amazing time. Then there were the downs, having struggles with some non band students on campus who were giving me a hard time. In the middle of last week I received this email from a wise beyond his years recent graduate from ST. I thought it was timely to share today on Thanksgiving. I am not only thankful for all of the blessings I have in my life on this day but its the signs of gratitude no matter how big or small that pop up in my life throughout the year that make this profession so special.

So here's the email I received on Tuesday of last week.

Dear Ms. Bounds
I understand that this week has not begun in a positive manner. In addition to what's happened, I know this is a busy time of year for the program. I wanted to take time to remind you of things you've done for me, as well as many others. 

1. You pick good music to play......I truly appreciate your music selection. 

2. You've ingrainted in me to always wait until my instructor (music or otherwise) is finished speaking, before I pack up. 

3. You've taught me to have a pencil during rehearsal.

4. You've taught me to use that pencil during rehearsal. 

5. You've made sure I have a tuner.

6. You've made sure I have a tuner during rehearsal/practice.

7. You've made sure I use that tuner during rehearsal/practice. 

8. You've taught me that if I'm late, hustle. (I overslept today, and as I was running to class, I couldn't help but remember when I had to run to the field to be on time).

9. You've reminded me to be flexible like Gumby. (I need to work on this more). 

10. You've taught me that it takes approximately 7 minutes before your instrument fully warms up.

11. You've made sure I know what concert F is. 

12. You've made sure I know what concert A is. 

13. You've made sure I go out into the world with knowledge of jazz standards.

14. You've made sure I listen to jazz. 

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your day!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Day in the Life of Work to Rule....a rant from a LBD

This started out as a facebook status update. I decided it should just go on the blog.

A Day in the Life of Work to Rule....a Rant from a Lady Band Director (aka LBD)

Reflections on Day 4 of Work To Rule.

I am not very good at work to rule. Ok that's not entirely true....I'm working on being good at aspects of it. I only did ST work (no CMEA emails, or non ST band specific emails). No personal texts or phone calls (which sucks because of the hours I keep. I really should call my doctor and get in to see him since I haven't been feeling all that hot).

 I tried to stay focused during my 1 hour prep and prioritize the week (which was hard considering the internet doesn't really work at ST) and it was very frustrating. I left at lunch and took my duty free break at my house and returned for Jazz Band at 2pm. During my "lunch" I did relax and eat and try to catch up on personal stuff (CMEA stuff, answering personal emails etc). Then I did some work because....well the internet works at my house and doesn't at my job.

Finally I taught jazz band and copied stuff right after school until my contract ended at 3:30pm. By that time I was playing with flute choir....because I am a member (I can't just call work to rule on them...if I am IN that group).

Then I came home and did the bus list for the competition because if I called "work to rule" and didn't do it tonight the only person who it would hurt would be me tomorrow morning when I had to do it at the crack of dawn before practice and walk across campus and print it because I don't have a printer in my office and have to print to the copy machine which often takes forever because the internet doesn't work at my job!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Work To Rule...the Introduction to the Saga

There are a lot of things that I should do more of. I guess we all fall into that trap. One thing I always feel like I should do more of is support our teachers union and honestly be more involved in many aspects of our district. But like so many folks I just don't have any more time. Before I knew it I like, many of my fellow teachers, we have found that our union negotiations are not going as planned and that the union was calling for a teacher protest entitled "work to rule."

What is the first word that comes to mind when I hear the words "work to rule"?  Conflict. I am about to have many conflicts in my little world. The union has a conflict with our district and now I have conflict of interest. Do I follow work to rule, meaning only work my contract? 7.5 hour work days would have me in at 8:05am and leaving at 3:35pm. I am still under contract to do the marching band class but would technically be done with contract hours before marching band practice ends. I can't end marching band practice early at the end of the marching band season. There are so many letters of recommendation to write and emails to respond to. What do you do with this conflict? Do you "punish" the students and cancel parts of the band program because its outside of my teachers contract?

I wasn't sure what to do so I started thinking about it. Then I read the following statement that  was prepared by my colleague, friend, and band parent for our parent community and students:

"Dear Parents and Students. 

I'm writing to solict assistance on an urgent matter. Despite a significant increase in funding to our school district, the teachers have not yet been given a new contract. Our union, the East Side Teachers Association, is pushing to reduce class sizes that were increased during the economic downturn and is seeking a long-awaited pay increase for teachers. Because the district seems unwilling to negotiate these issues in good faith, our union leadership has called for all teachers in the high schools of East Side Union High School District to state a protest called "work to rule." This protest is designed to bring the negotiators back together to work ou issues about class size and teacher salary. The phrase "work to rule" means that teachers follow the letter of the contract and stop doing any activities that are outside of it, such as working with students during breakj or lunch or before or after school. The goal of this protest is to encourage students and parents to contact the superintendent and school board to urge that negotiations be conducted in earnest and in a timely manner."

I am sharing this as part of my blog for many reasons: Its a my space in the internet and the world and its my platform. Many other teachers may have faced these and other similar challenges. My blog is to help other teachers. So if this helps one of my friends out there then its worth posting. And I want to be transparent with my students. 

Its a conflict for me to decide what to do because I didn't get into this profession because of what the contract said it would pay me to do. All along I have been here at Santa Teresa to create the band program that I always dreamed of running and Santa Teresa has been the BEST place for me to do that. I would never change working here for one minute. I am proud to be an employee of East Side Union High School District and Santa Teresa High School. 

Work to rule has made me take a step back and evaluate what my job would look like if I worked to the letter of the contract. It has helped me focus and prioritize both my personal and professional time. It has made me conscientious about my work and the time that I have to do it in....or not to do.  My contract is complicated because of my stipend and my complicated course load but none the less I determined that I couldn't do work to rule. Not now, not in the end of marching band season, winter concerts coming, chamber groups starting, jazz band auditions pending, etc. No way was that going to happen. But I could take a look at the things that I could do to support work to rule. 

But I am trying to limit what I do outside of the contract. And honestly that means that I do need to see both sides of "work to rule". This means that if I am only to try to only do what is in the contract then I need to only do East Side Union High School District work when I am at work and on the clock. That means no personal text messaging, no facebook, no personal emails, no calling the doctor, no surfing the web for personal items. For me it also means not responding to emails from CMEA Bay Section during my prep period or answering questions about the Music in the Park Festival or writing a recommendation letter for one of my marching band staff members. If I am going to do work to rule those other things that get mixed in my day need to be outside of my work day. And to the best of my ability my work day needs to stay when and if at all possible in my 7.5 hours. 

In rehearsal time alone I provide about 2.5-6 hours of supervised student time during the week beyond my contract. I volunteer, I respond to emails and I attend meetings just to name a few things. I support our students by taking them on field trips to music festivals and concerts. I do this because I love my job, but work to rule reminds me that those are above and beyond our contract. And this program and my job wouldn't be the same without these contributions. 

Today I was faced with an interesting conflict. My pit instructor became ill and he was thinking about canceling part of the practice but I didn't want to see that happen and was happy to volunteer my time for the group. I could have asked my staff member to pay me for taking the rehearsal or invoicing the booster club for my time but my pit instructor does work all the time for me that is above and beyond the call of duty.....especially when it comes to technology. Some of his help we would say is being a good friend or great employee but its also outside the scope of the contract he has with myself and our booster club (STMAA). And so I don't mind stepping up to help in this way....and my booster club takes GREAT care of me so I do feel compensated and supported. But the biggest reason I stuck around is because I could work with the students and make them better as we approach the final weeks of our marching band season and that is the real reason why I stayed after school today despite work to rule. 

I saw other teachers around. I couldn't tell if they were watching me work after school with our kids during this protest or if they were checking out the great work that the percussion section was doing. I am hoping the later but its probably a combination of both. I hope they know how much of a conflict it is for I hope it is for them....because then I know that we care. 

I am sharing with people the fact that I have conflict and its distracting from my work. That conflict is not having a contract. We work hard for these kids and our community and it would be great if we could be compensated for that. I ask both sides to work together to come to a resolution. 

I am not asking for sympathy. I LOVE the extra things about this job. The music festivals and competitions with the students are the best parts. There is nothing like working with a single student or small group after school and having a musical breakthrough. I didn't get into education for the pay check or the contract....but a positive, conflict free, work environment is something that we all deserve. 

So help support myself and my fellow teachers. In our own district and in mine. Specifically for those in my local community, consider asking both our union and our district to work together towards a resolution. Every student needs smaller class sizes. Teachers need more compensation and we deserve, a three year contract so that we aren't in the same place again next year. Provide me and other teachers with the stability that I have found with my school administration & staff, my students, and my amazingly support booster club. They are a big part of the reason why our band program is so successful and I never want to see that change. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quick Fundraiser: Spirit Buttons


This fundraiser started to come together a few weeks ago. Our athletic booster club started having a really great apparel booth at our home football games. Not only have they had great athletic apparel such as football shirts and hats but general school spirit items. They have everything from sweatshirts to lanyards to coffee travel mugs and fantastic polo shirts. I have been buying stuff up from them nearly every week. Bryan, the parent who has been coordinating this effort had one of my favorite items that we have had at our school in a long time....a button celebrating our school's 40th Homecoming. They gave them out at the football game and I thought it was a great way to celebrate this event. It was so much fun seeing all different Santa Teresa folks sporting these spirit buttons both at the game and now weeks later that it really got me thinking about creating my own button 

Then we got our band apparel for the year and one of my booster volunteers, Robin, who is in my office nearly daily working on this that and the other commented on how much she liked the fleur di lis that our "graphic artist" and band alumni Allison created for this year's marching band show shirts. I though of combining Bryan's button idea with Allison's art work and create a spirit item. 

I contacted Bryan's button vendor and got fantastic pricing for 500 buttons and its even a local company (something I LOVE supporting). I sent them the artwork (which was in a different color scheme) and they sent us back the above images. I did select option #3 for the button but its great to know that we could do some other versions at a later time. At the consultation of my students I decided not to add any text that way they would be timeless and not group specific broadening our sales base across campus. 

The pricing is $.93 + tax for 200 buttons or $.58 + tax for 500 buttons. I did have to pay a $65 rush fee because I wanted to have them done in time for our Championships Marching Band performance (I wanted this item in time for this big event so all of our supporters could sport these sweet buttons at championships). 

With tax and the rush fee the price difference between 500 buttons and 250 buttons was only $62.53 so the booster club approved purchasing 500 buttons. The price per button with the rush fee and tax ended up being $.76 per button. We are going to sell them for $3 each and are looking at a profit of $1119.63. For a fundraiser that took me less than an hour to come up with and process that's not bad at all. Plus I love when we can create an item that promotes our school program and allows folks to share their pride in our organization. We can sell the buttons, if we have extras we can give them to incoming freshmen as a welcome gift at some point, and we can even add a "volunteer" sticker to them and use some of them as name tags for our festival volunteers later this year :)

Can't go wrong with a button! What are you going to put on your spirit button?