A Cameo In “A Chorus Line”, Spreading The Joy Of Clarinet, and Why Grade-School Teachers Are Unappreciated

ghost_lineHello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!

First off, readers, let me say a big hoorah! to all of you who offered your two bits in the brand new comments section which became (thanks to Chris Hold) the latest exciting feature of the SMNP. It’s great to read your opinions, feed back, stories, etc. So you get to voice your opinions on my uninformed views of life and the arts, whle I get to feel like I’ve got friends,…it’s a win-win folks!

As I write this weeks SMNP I am flying from Montreal to Vancouver to follow my one true passion, you guessed it!Musical Theatre!

Yes, yours truly will be playing the role of “woodwind 3” in “A Chorus Line” at The Centre in Vancouver.

According to the original band personnel sheet they sent me, someone else was supposed to play this gig, sooo I’m just going to assume their first choice broke his wrist that ticket pre-sales weren’t good and they needed a little extra star power on board to get tickets moving. Of course, I’m only too happy to oblige,… for the love of paychecks theatre!

In other news, earlier this week I found myself playing a different role, that of substitute clarinet teacher for a small group of 10 yr old boys.

My past experiences teaching kids have been,…interesting, and will no doubt be the subject of another SMNP altogether. For now let me just say I’m not a natural when it comes to working with the little ones. That said, being in school again has cultivated an appreciation for the importance of sharing one’s passion for music with the next generation. Otherwise, who will be left to illegally download our music in the future?!

Now if you’ve ever taught kids, you know that “teaching” is only a small part of the large skill set needed to get those little people learned.

Focus. Focus is something that needs to be instilled from the get go and I had six squirmy 10yr-olds who would quickly remind me of that fact. My arms extended forward, about to conduct our first song (that ‘ol chestnut, “Hot Cross Buns”), when all of a sudden… the questions began…

Boy 1: “Do you have a car?”


Boy 4: “Do you have a drivers license?”


Boy 1: “Why don’t you have a car?”

(awkward pause as my arms are still raised, ready to conduct) Umm,…it doesn’t matter. I don’t really need a car. (A lie that could’ve easily been spotted had they looked at my shoes, destroyed from walking 20 minutes in the pouring rain to get there.)

Boy 2: “My cousin has an Audi Quattro and he’s only 18.” (Did I mention this is a private school?)

That’s nice, now let’s just…

Boy 6: “Where’d you buy that leather jacket?”

Look! It doesn’t matter.

Boy 5: “Did you buy it from Abercrombie & Fitch?”


Boy 1: “Did you buy it from Club Monaco?”


Boy 5: “Did you buy it from…”


In the end, we all had a pretty good hour and 10 minutes together but I swear, you’ve got to be some kind of Mother Teresa to take a full-time job like that. It’s a tough job requiring an abundance of patience and dare I say, a little insanity. So to all you teachers out there, my hat goes off to you!…well, to all the good ones,…the ones who love to do it. As far as I’m concerned, good teachers are worth their weight in gold,… and should be treated/paid accordingly.

Actually, I’m going to take this a step further and say that the reason teachers aren’t higher on the salary totem pole is because the full breadth of responsibility and duties required of them is very little understood by the general public. I’ve actually heard people say that teachers are over-rated, that they already get paid too much for an easy job that includes 2 months vacation every year! “How hard is it to teach kids how to spell “tree” every year?”

First of all, I don’t think they get paid for those two months vacation. I have some good friends who are teachers, they make just enough money to pay their rent/mortgage and most of them have to take a part-time job in the summer to make ends meet.

And if you think teaching little kids to spell “tree” year after year is so easy then all I can say is,… you try it! Besides, the complexity (or simplicity) of the material is not the point at all. The job is expressing this material to a large group of kids (and class sizes keep getting larger every year) who no doubt find it quite challenging to grasp. We’re talking about classes of kids who come from very different backgrounds, with various degrees of English proficiency, with various family issues (like not getting breakfast before school). We’re talking about classes that include special needs children and hyper-active children. It’s ridiculous!

Finally, there’s all the paperwork and meetings that happen outside of class time. A lot of teachers who love to teach will eventually quit or “burn-out” because of all the extra time required for professional development, detailed character/performance evaluations, parent meetings, staff meetings, extra-curricular groups that need supervision, etc.

Most people however, aren’t aware of any of this. So when school-teachers ask for better salaries (that is, more than just keeping up with inflation), politicians who have to reflect the sentiment of the masses so they can get re-elected will say “no.” Salaries stay low, making the job less attractive to would-be educators, teachers remain under paid with increasing class sizes and responsibilities,… education suffers. Society continues its decline,…all is lost.

Well,… maybe not all, but just imagine if every school was filled with top-shelf, inspired teachers who could just focus on teaching. What would society look like 20-30 years down the road? It’s proven that for every tax dollar spent on educating kids you save seven dollars down the road with a better functioning society and stable work force.

This is one of those issues where I will quickly get in WAY over my head (because my argument’s totally one sided) and I’ll end up sounding like a fanatic. Maybe somebody can tell me I’ve got it all wrong and explain why. How do the Scandinavians handle this? Anybody?… they always seem ahead of the curve,…OK, that sounded ignorant.

Well, this SMNP kinda got off the rails. Hmm, I’ll try to pull it together for next week.

Thanks for reading and have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

  • http://wsf1027fm.blogspot.com/ Guy

    What? No comments so no blog?

  • http://jamesdanderfer.com james

    Yeah, just a busy week. I wrote something but didn’t like it,…next week, it’s ON.