If there were an exam dedicated to music, the students of Turkey Hill Middle School in Lunenburg, Massaschusetts would have achieved a perfect score based on their performance this evening. Under the direction of , the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade bands and chorus played together for the very first time this evening. It was not the or the , but it was a group of kids and a teacher who clearly enjoyed the evening!. The packed house at laughed and clapped their way through the evening displaying pride in the children of our small community.
So why was this evening so successful? What is Mr. A teaching exactly? Some would say he teaches music. Based on the results this evening and the stories I hear from my daughter, I believe he is educating our children in areas well beyond the notes and instruments.
Here is what I think the children are getting from Mr. A’s approach:
Confidence: the auditorium was completely packed with parents, friends and siblings this evening. Despite this, Mr. A clearly instilled the confidence in the performers necessary to put themelves out there.
An ability to come together to do something special: Mr. Archambault pointed out the fact that the students had never actually practiced together prior to this evening. Despite this, the children came together and played their parts with a few little bumps in the road. Think about how this prepares our children for life in the real world!
Humor: The conductor took us through the journey the students have been on for the first half of the year starting with day one. The band played a loud group of notes which resembled nothing but noise….the parents laughed. Mr. A laughed and the students laughed at themselves. The kids learned it is ok to make mistakes and have a laugh at yourself once in a while.
Technology: Mr. A incorporates technology whenever he can to help the . This was not as evident during the evening but my daughter will frequently come home to share a new “cool” thing she learned on the MAC. These “cool” things are always related to the topic. The students learn about music and how to use technology without ever realizing it!
Storytelling: Mr A took us through a journey of how his students/our children went from making noise to playing ‘s ““.
Oh,….yeah…music: I almost forgot. The children actually sang and played songs on their instruments! That was a nice bonus.
As I think about the fact that we removed music from our primary school last year to help with the budget gap, I find myself thinking what a supremely bad idea that was. As we move into the budget process for next year, we need to find a way to bring back to our primary school not for my last bullet point but rather to provide children the opportunity to grow in ways that will prepare them for life beyond the walls of the Lunenburg Public Schools.
Last night the Lunenburg School Committee held a workshop to discuss how to better engage the . This comes after a discussion about some of the challenges the District has had in consistently communicating with the community. There is a recognition by the entire committee that the District has done some things well but also, that there is major areas for improvement.
In our discussion last night we identified several areas for improvement:
Preference based communications: If the school were a private company, I would describe our communication approach as “spray and pray’. The schools send emails, voice mails, paper forms, paper news letters, have a website, and use verbal communication to try to reach their key target audience. The District does not currently provide parents a mechanism to select their preferred communication channel. In today’s era of the empowered consumer, who has access to unprecedented amounts of data to make informed decisions, must embrace a communication approach which addresses an audience of one.
: We are behind the times when it comes to embracing social media. Districts around us and across are using , , , and other social channels to engage communities. Like the in ’04…why not us? Well, we will be dipping our toes in the water over the next couple of months…stay tuned.
Website: There was discussion around improving the overall customer experience with the District and school specific websites. Several community members expressed frustration with the inconsistency across the websites stating that it can be difficult to quickly find information they need. There are a couple of approaches we can likely recommend here: design guidelines and policies for lay out, content management processes to ensure information is up to date.
Single view of the student: Currently there are several locations parents can go to see student information and monitor progress: Power School, school note, sneaker net (aka information sent home in backpacks). There is a desire have a ““. This would be one location where parents can view ALL information pertinent to their children’s world at school. The good news is that Lunenburg owns the software to make this happen! We need to explore how to increase adoption of the Power School solution to take advantage of all the capabilities the solution offers.
Their are some long hanging fruit here and some longer term items which will need to be addressed over time. The most important thing Lunenburg residents need to understand: the schools want to engage the entire community. The and Lunenburg Public Schools need residents’ help and support to make this a reality.