Music was a required course where I went to middle school. Those who could sing joined the choir and the rest of us were drafted into the band. Since I was tall for my age, it was decided that I would learn to play the most popular instrument in all of rural Minnesota: the tuba. For eight long years I “oom-pahed” under the tutelage of our band director, Mr. Gordon Petersen. “Gordy”, as we liked to call him behind his back, was no ordinary, small-town Henry Higgins; he sent our tiny marching band to college bowl games on a regular basis. A impassioned task master, he demanded everyone’s best and his simple theory for achieving collective excellence was emphasized on a daily basis: “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.”
While I haven’t touched a tuba in more than 20 years, I thought of Gordy yesterday while attending a workshop on campus given by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis. As they shared their insight into flattening classrooms, they made a candid point regarding the importance of school administration. Simply put, when it comes to progress, “administrators can either be the obstacle or remove the obstacle”. It was an interesting assertion to say the least….
I am not an administrator, but I do encounter my fair share of obstacles in my position. For better or worse, however, I typically focus on getting around obstacles, and in that I am not alone. When websites are blocked, are students more likely to ask the school to consider opening them and state their rationale or simply use the Tor network to bypass the filter? When an application doesn’t work properly and a lesson fails, are teachers more likely to pursue an after-the-fact solution with the IT department or simply forgo using that program again and opt for the low-tech “Plan B”? When updated equipment is required to provide an optimal learning environment but the budget request is declined, does the technology staff demonstrate the undeniable need or prepare to make do with what is available?
Regardless of our roles and responsibilities, we have obstacles in our path, and how we choose to approach them is no small matter. Some are truly impossible to remove, and to progress we must circumvent. The majority of barriers, however, can be eliminated though the forces of intellect and conversation. For my part, I don’t want to be an obstacle and I have no desire to continue going around what shouldn’t be there in the first place. I may have lost all my musical inclinations, but thanks to Julie and Vicki, I was reminded that being part of the solution is the only viable option.
Let the band play on.