Tag: teachers

School Shopping

Today I was on the radio!  There is a local call- in talk show (not a hard core Republican show but more about local matters) called the Doug Wright Show on KSL.  I’ve always been impressed with Doug’s hosting abilities and combined with Doug Fabrizio on Radio West on KUER  (local NPR station) I think Utah has 2 of the best radio hosts in the country (both oddly named Doug!).

Anyway, today they were talking about ‘school/teacher shopping’. This is the phenomenon in education where parents ensure their children have the best teachers/schools and may even try different teachers out to see if they are a good fit for their child.

Here is my call in.  I am at 25:10.(A little under half way through)

Rachel\’s Call

It may seem strange for a single girl like myself to have passionate feelings about this topic but it all goes back to my upbringing.  When I was in the 4th and 5th grade I began to be bullied fairly roughly (is there a nice way to be bullied?).  During those years seemingly out of nowhere I gained a lot of weight.  This led to kids shoving me into water fountains, calling me ‘dog’ and asking me ‘what kind of dog food my mom fed me?’ etc (you get the idea).

Seeing the problem, my parents took action and met with the teachers.  Unfortunately these particular teachers were very inattentive and passed off our concerns with a ‘boys will be boys, kids will be kids’ type of attitude.  They actually told my parents ‘there is nothing we can do’.  Thankfully my parents pulled me out of public school and sent me to Reid School in Salt Lake City, UT.

I am so grateful to my parents for making this choice.  I know it was a sacrifice of time and money but it really did change my life.  At Reid School I felt loved and accepted. Plus, they taught me to master topics both in the short-term and long-term.  What matters at Reid School is mastery and improvement, not in a particular grade or score.  Each child is individually monitored and then learning is tailored to challenge and encourage their individual learning style and personality.

Even though I was only at Reid School for one semester it had a dramatic impact on me.  First of all, it taught me that my parents really were watching out for me.  This was during a time when my parents had a lot on their plate- my mom had just had a baby with bedrest, my Dad was working overseas in Japan a great deal, and they both had demanding callings in the ward.  To know that my parents were watching and cared enough to remove me from a bad situation meant a lot to me then and now.

this was me during the bullying time. Such a cute kid. My heart goes out to her when I see this photo

Secondly, it taught me to never look at a situation as a closed book.  To fight for your own happiness- a lesson I have had to continually relearn throughout my life.  My father is particularly good at this type of thought.  There are always new and interesting options with my Dad.  We do not need to accept the first helping that life puts out for us. Most of the time we can ask for more, we can fight for more.  This is especially important when it comes to our kids.

I know there are some who say ‘if you pull out your kid from a bad school/class than the school will never get better’.  Well, my response to them is- that’s just too bad.  If there ever was a time for me to be selfish it is with the raising of my children (if I ever have them).  If I have kids their happiness will be my top priority and I will not offer my children up on a sacrificial alter of a failing school/teacher.  I will do what’s best for them period.

Does this mean I will never put my children in public school?  No.  It means I will do exactly what this program talks about- teacher/school shop.  I will consider ALL of my options and find the solution that is best for my child.  If that is a great public school teacher than so be it.

I highly recommend watching the documentary Waiting for Superman.

Hurray for Dr. Holland!

I just found out today that my mentor and friend Dr. Matt Holland had exciting news- he was named as President of Utah Valley University in Orem Utah! This is a large college nearby my Alma Mater Brigham Young University. The school has 23,750 students and was recently upgraded from a college to a university.

I can’t think of anyone who deserves this more.  I met Dr. Holland as a student in political philosophy in 2001.  I had taken classical political theory previously, but I hated the teacher.  He was one of those teachers everyone said was “easy” but I found it boring.  I actually stopped attending after a while and just turned in my tests. I thought the class was so obvious and boring.  Despite being absent I still passed the class and gained an appreciation for philosophy.  For some reason I decided I wanted to be a teaching assistant for a political philosophy class (which is odd considering my experience with the class).

To improve my grade I took the class again for summer term and was lucky enough to have a brand new teacher named Matt Holland.  I loved all my philosophy classes, but Dr. Holland’s was special.  He just made me want to be a better person, to look at these theories and see how they could improve my life and the lives of those I love.  All of my philosophy classes helped me understand the world, helped me understand myself- and helped me know how to express my soul.  I remember in high school feeling like I could never convey what was inside my heart- the thoughts were there but the words would always disappoint.  It such a cliche to say but it was in college I found my voice.  Dr. Holland inspired this journey.

Just before his class was ending I approached Dr. Holland about being his TA (and when I say approached I mean I called him about 15 times in 2 weeks).  I knew that I needed to be persistent because I didn’t have the greatest GPA. Let’s put it this way- there were definitely students with higher GPA’s he could have hired. Something inside me knew I needed this experience. To my delight a week or so before class started Dr.  Holland called me and said “So, you want to be my TA hah?”.  After that, I was hired along with two of my best friends in the major Raelene Kochel (now Bradley)  and Bob Floyd.

See if you can feel my enthusiasium from a journal entry dated 09/01/01 (just after getting the job)?:

Oh, that’s right I am going to be a TA. I haven’t told you about that yet! I ended up getting an A- in my 201 class and I asked Dr. Holland if I could be a TA and he said sure! I am so excited. The best part of it is that I am going to be TA’ing with my friend Raelene who is super nice. She is honestly probably my best friend in the political science major. I really want to become more involved in the major this semester because this is my last chance. This TA will be a start….I am kind of scared to be a TA but I think it will be a super good experience and Dr. Holland is super nice. So, I am excited (If you couldn’t tell!).(09-01-01)

Now listen to a letter I wrote (don’t know if I sent) to my parents  just after my job is finished:


I think out of everything I am the most proud of my work with Dr. Holland. I have been thinking so much lately and I know that I am a better person for all that I have been experiencing. It’s intimidating to get up there and teach other students or grade papers, but he makes me want to try harder. My hope is that maybe when I see you again at Christmas, that you will be shocked at how much I have grown and changed.(12-09-01)

It’s hard to explain how a simple college job could be so important to me.  I cry whenever I think about it.  As part of this job I graded papers and tests, tutored students, created multimedia presentations, and even instructed the class on grammar once!  I’ve always respected that Dr. Holland never  questioned our grades, never second guessed us.  He had faith in us.  There were times when he gave correction but it was in a way that motivated, not discouraged.  Dr. Holland was without a doubt the best boss I have ever had. I wanted to be great because I knew he believed in me.

It was also a great experience to work and instruct students.  I remember the first time I connected with one.  It was an older Latino woman who was struggling to understand Plato’s cave. I could not figure out how to explain this concept in a way that an ESL student would understand.  After several attempts it finally occurred to me to ask if she had seen the movie the Truman Show?  She said she had.  I then showed how the set Truman is stuck in is similar to the cave.  Everything surrounding Truman is like the shadows in the cave- they aren’t real.  They have been placed there by the director, just like the shadows are placed in the cave by the philosopher kings.  She got it!  It was so exciting to see the light bulb moment in this student.  It made me feel smart, made me feel confident, in a new way.  I owe that moment to Dr. Holland and his faith in me.

Once I finished being his TA, I had Dr. Holland as my professor for my senior capstone class.  It was possibly the best class ever.  There were only 7 of us in the class- and Raelene and I were the only girls.  Last year I asked Dr. Holland if he’d seen anything like us again and he said “No, you two are legends”! He also said Raelene and I were two of his favorites! (That meant a lot to me!).

I started this class determined to get an A.  Despite learning a great deal in my classes, I often felt frustrated by my inability to get A’s.  I wanted to show Dr. Holland I could get an A in the most important class- the senior capstone.  I also wanted to prove to myself I could do it.  The class was on the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the main assignment for the class was to write a 20 page paper on his political philosophies.  I chose to focus on Jefferson’s theories of education. Here is the link to the paper if anyone is interested in taking a look:  Senior Capstone Paper.

Anyway, I worked for hours on the paper.  My friend Marcus and I met in the law library and poured over them again and again.  It only ended up being 20 pages, but I felt like I had written a book. It was one of the few moments in my life where I can genuinely say I did the best I could. I put in every ounce of effort I could.  I felt that way when leaving my mission.  I felt that way when leaving my job last year, and I felt that way then.  I always try to do my best work but this was something different.  This was my heart and soul.  Dr. Holland recognized that and was very encouraging.  In fact, when others in the class wanted to extend the date of the paper he called me to discuss it.  I felt that an extension would be one more example of how I worked the hardest but then ended up the same as everyone else.  Perhaps this comparison was beneath me but I just felt like I had earned the highest grade in the class for once in my life.  I wanted to prove to Dr. Holland and to myself that I could do it without any extension or help.

Finally I turned in the paper and low and behold an A! It still holds up as one of the best moments of my life. To end the class Dr. Holland gave me a book called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  It has since become one of my favorite books (anyone who has been in a book club with me can attest to that).  The inscription on the book reads:

Rachel,

I hope you enjoy this stirring narrative of a female slave.  I believe it embodies many ideals you seem to cherish and represent yourself!  Courage, discipline, and freedom for all– especially those who lacked it in previous societies.  It’s been a great delight having you in class.  Both as a student and  teaching assistant.  Good luck, Prof.  Holland.

This meant so much to me.   It’s hard to describe.  It just did. Still to this day, I feel motivated to do my best because of Dr. Holland’s faith in me. I don’t want it to have been for naught. I want to mean something to the world.  I know I can accomplish great things.  That is the power of a great teacher.  Dr.  Holland isn’t perfect.  He was just the influence I needed at that moment, at that time, and he rose to the challenge.

Everyone has key figures in his or her life- people who if they made a biographic film  would have to be in it.   My parents, my siblings, my grandparents, Dr.  Holland and a few key friends would have to be there. I am not a believer in total fate, but I do believe that each person has key people who we are supposed to meet along the way- both people we need to help, and that improve our lives.  Dr.  Holland was such a key person for me. I am grateful that he took the time to nurture my intellect and encourage me to do my best. He saw a potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself and once again- that’s a great teacher.  I am so excited for his future as the President of UVU, and I wish him all the best.  Good luck!

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Voice Lessons

My first teacher Dalin and I.  (BTW, I love this dress)
My first teacher Dallyn Bayles and I. (BTW, I love this dress)
My amazing teacher Amanda
My amazing teacher Amanda and I

After the greatness of last week it was almost guaranteed that this week would feel like a disappointment.  Perhaps disappointment is too strong a word but nothing fabulous has happened like last week.  I was having a hard time thinking of what to write about when I remembered that I have been wanting to write about my voice lessons for some time.  I have been taking voice lessons with Hale Center Theater Orem for 3 years now and it is one of the most rewarding things I do each week.

I don’t pretend to be a great singer or have any illusions about a potential career in music.  Time for such things has past, but I will say that music and singing has always been a passion of mine.  It has always been something I wish I was better at.  Something that I wish had been nurtured more by my parents and teachers when I was younger.  When I was in high school I had a choir director who was evil (very manipulative and controlling) and who refused to look beyond my bag of nerves and see the potential within me.  She was all talk about love, warmth and kindness but when it came down to it she only cared about her vocal ensemble and how it sounded.  Instead of trying to nurture talent that was less obvious she refused to give someone like me a chance- which to me is the definition of a bad teacher. In addition, my parents were busy with a new baby (which meant my mom had to be in bed rest for my freshman and into my sophomore year) and did not have time to focus on my music.  I am not saying this to complain.  It is just a fact.

It is this lack of nurturing that perhaps explains why when I had my own disposable income and time one of the first things I did was sign up for voice lessons.  I took them the entire time I was at BYU.  I was also in the University Choral twice, which I greatly enjoyed.  Dr. Broomhead (isn’t that a great name for a choir director?) was fantastic and my other director Joni (can’t remember her last name) was good too.   These lessons were helpful and kept my singing alive but I had so many other disciplines to study that they never really pushed me to become better. Plus, my teachers were students of varying abilities.

So, I went on  my mission and sang a lot in Indiana.  Sister Hamill and I (now Carrie Carnley), who has a great voice, would even stop people and ask them if they would like to sing a song with us.   I remember one man in particular who sang “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” at the top of his lungs with us.  The funny thing about singing on the mission is that it is the one time in my life where the female parts were way in the minority.  Needless to say I learned Elders of Israel very well by the time I left, but we would make the elders sing Sisters in Zion every once in a while too!

When I returned home from my mission I started working and almost immediately I found the hum-drum life of a worker to be just that- hum drum.  I also had a hard time cutting myself off from work and focusing on other goals.  There is nothing worse than overanalyzing something that is already boring to begin with! Particularly working in accounting I became frustrated by the fact that every day was the same.  I never felt like I really accomplished anything.  Again, this is particularly true in accounting because as soon as you finish a week or a month you start again with the next week or month.  I needed a sense of accomplishment in my life- something to be proud of and work towards. Around this same time I attended a show at Hale Theater Orem (one of my favorite activities) and I saw the advertisement for voice lessons. Remembering the fulfillment that music had always given me I called and signed up!

As I mentioned earlier, I have now been taking voice lessons for 3 years and it is one of the joys of my life.  Each week I go and meet with my teacher Amanda Crabb.  We do funny warm-ups that often make me laugh and then we work on songs.  I can’t completely explain how satisfying it is to start a song all wobbly and messy (I am a terrible sight reader) and then in 2 or 3 weeks have it “passed off”.  Is it perfect? Of course not, but I think it is good enough that if someone heard me singing they would find it pleasant. Some of the songs I have passed off over the years are:

Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera

Home from Beauty and the Beast

Till there was You from Music Man (my first recital piece)

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

I Know the Truth from Aida

Travelin Soldier by the Dixie Chicks

Scarlet Tide by Alison Krauss

Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie

Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Someone Else’s Story from Chess

Dreams be Dreams by Linda Rondstat

I Don’t Know How to Love Him from JCS

And So it Goes by Billy Joel

Foolish Games by Jewel

I Can Hear the Bells from Hairspray

Someday from the Wedding Singer (my fifth recital piece)

There’s a Fine Fine Line from Avenue Q

I could go on and on.  I have actually passed off almost an entire Hal Leonard Anthology (I have 5 of them! Plus other music). I can’t put into words what it means to me when I finish a song and listen to myself sing something competently.  It’s like the inner-child in me screams “Yes, you did it!”.  There have been many a week where the only sense of accomplishment I get is from my voice lessons.  With each song I also feel creative and inspired by the rhythms, lyrics, melodies etc.  Singing honestly makes me want to be a better, more vibrant person. It is a creative outlet that I would miss terribly if it was taken away.

Another blessing I have received from voice lessons is a new level of confidence.  Because I was told by this teacher that I was not good enough, that my voice wasn’t good enough, I always had issues with singing in public.  Its funny because I got positive feedback from family, friends, companions but I still believed for a long time that it wasn’t good enough, wasn’t beautiful enough.  After signing up for voice lessons I learned we had 2 yearly recitals at Hale Center Theater Orem.  The idea of singing on the stage of a theater I loved terrified me.  I was literally shaking the first time my teacher Dallyn Vail Bayles told me of the recital.  I was terrified of getting out on stage and my voice cracking or sounding terrible.  I did not have the confidence that I could sing, which is sad when you consider how badly I wanted to sing my whole life.

I don’t know why it took me to the age of 25 to overcome this fear, but I worked hard on the song Till There was You, got on that stage and sang my heart out.  The funny thing is that I believe I am at my best when performing for others.  I have always thrived on sharing and interacting with groups and this has proven to be the case with singing.  Who would have thought this fear of mine was actually a strength?  I am not going to say that I am amazing or ready to go on American Idol; however, I always get positive feedback and I think I sound pleasant, pretty good.  In fact, one of the directors of Hale Theater told me at the last recital that she looks forward to hearing me sing at each recital because I put my heart out with each song.   This is perhaps the greatest compliment anyone could give me.  It is not only complimenting me but the teenager inside me that yearned to sing.

I have often said I would give up a meal a day before giving up my lessons.  They are a sacrifice, no doubt about it- both in time and money.  However, next to attending church and conversing with my family/friends, they are the most rewarding part of my life.  When I am sad, tired, grumpy, depressed or lonely I get out my music and for a second the world is better.

I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie “The Kid” with Bruce Willis.  In the movie Wills’ cocky and arrogant image consultant is confronted with the 12 year old version of himself.  Despite a wealthy career the 12 year old boy is disgusted and disappointed with himself.  He says “So, I’m forty, I’m not married, I don’t fly jets, and I don’t have a dog? I grow up to be a loser.”.  I love this movie partly because of what it makes me think about.  Would the 12 year old Rachel like what she see’s or would I be a loser too? Let’s see she would see an independent girl with great friends, family, her own apartment, returned missionary that sings! (I actually don’t think the single thing would be a big disappointment to the 12 year old me.  I have always been weird that way. )  If the 12 year old (and particularly 16 year old) me could see me at Hale Theater singing my heart out before a small audience she would be proud.  I can’t explain why but it is so true.

I’m so grateful for my teachers- particularly Amanda Crabb who I have had for the last 2 1/2 years.  She is not only a wonderful talent but a terrific nurturer.  There are many times when I pick songs that are difficult (See I’m Smiling,  The Beauty is, Unusual Way etc) but she always has full confidence that I can learn the songs and you know what- I usually do. She is the best!

I hope by sharing my experiences with voice lessons each of you feel encouraged to be brave and accomplish the dreams of your childhood.  It is never too late.  There is nothing I can say that I am more proud of than that I sing- I am a singer!

This is at my first recital.  I was so nervous!
This is at my first recital. I was so nervous! My brother brought me the rose.