Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's been a while

I haven't visited my blog space in a while. In fact, it's been so long, I had a hard time remembering my password!

Putting on a Variety Show, musical, what-have-you, is a tiring endeavor! The most frustrating things of all are those things which are completely out of my control. (There's a topic for deep discussion some anything ever in my control?) I'm specifically talking about the tech crew.

These work-release guys are something! Once you get past the tattoos, piercings, doo-rags, unevenly shaved heads, body odor, and their failure to wear underwear (when they bend over to fix wires and things, you see more than you want to, okay? I'm constantly turning my head so fast that I think I've developed whip lash!), you get to see their real incompetence! But, you know, I can deal with incompetent people as long as they know they're incompetent. The trouble is, these guys think they're on the ball! On top of that, last evening, I was sitting in the control booth at the beginning of the show, and caught one or two errors that the lead techie had made. Then, his lackey comes in, and he asks me to leave so she can sit next to him at the control panel! So much for catching any more of his errors! All I can do is remind them each night of what was wrong the previous night, and hope it sinks in.

On the bright side, the kids are doing a great job. They're so enthusiastic and hardworking; willing to do whatever I ask, and all with a good disposition. What more could you ask?

On top of that, the stage moms are great to have on hand as well. Got a tear in the curtain? No problem, one mom just happens to have a box a safety pins. Got mic troubles? No worries, another mom is there with flesh tone tape to hold the mics on the kids' faces. Got a costume malfunction? Johnny on the spot, our costume mom is there with needle and thread and anything else.

So, I keep telling everyone, You're doing a great job! It's just the tech guys who need to work out their issues. I just hope they can rise to the challenge prior to our close tonight.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I don't get no respect!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Puritan Prayer: Need of Grace

O, Lord,
Thou knowest my great unfitness for service, my present deadness, my inability to do anything for they glory, my distressing coldness of heart.
I am weak, ignorant, and unprofitable, and I loathe and abhor myself.
I am at a loss to know what thou wouldst have me do, for I feel amazingly deserted by thee, and sense they presence so little;
Thou makest me possess the sins of my youth, and the dreadful sin of my nature, so that I feel all sin, I cannot think or act but every motion is sin.
Return again with showers of covering grace to a poor gospel-abusing sinner.
Help my soul to breathe after holiness, after a constant devotedness to thee after growth in grace more abundantly every day.
O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
And am ready to sink because I fall short of my desire;
Help me to hold out a little longer, until the happy hour of deliverance comes, for I cannot lift my soul to thee if thou of thy goodness being me not nigh.
Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender, lest I offend my blessed friend in thought and behaviour;
I confide in thee and lean upon thee, and need thee at all times to assist and lead me.
O that all my distresses and apprehensions might prove but Christ's school to make me fit for service by teaching me the great lesson of humility.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Out of My Element

My son James had his last regular-season football game today. (Now playoffs begin!) James really loves football. I, on the other hand, have no idea what football is all about. I enjoy watching James play, and appreciate his enthusiasm for the game, but personally, I don't "get it."

At games and practices, as I stand on the sidelines with other parents, when the ball is snapped and the play begins, they'll all start shouting, "Wrap it!" or "Fill the gap!" or, before anything on the field even moves, "Watch number 32...he's going long!" How do they know number 32 is going long, short, or sideways when nobody's moved a muscle? What does "wrap it" mean, and why does it need to be wrapped? I never even saw a gap that needed to be filled!

At today's game, something happened (I'm not even sure what), and the ref began to move the ball towards our goal line, as though we had committed some sort of penalty. You should have heard our parents begin to shout, not to mention our coaches! But what was amazing was this: Our parents were shouting something about it being a "dead ball," which they had "declined" and so, no yardage was required of us. The refs actually listened to our parents, held a mini conference in the middle of the field, decided the parents were correct, and left the ball where it was. The refs changed the call after our parents pointed out their error!

My point? These people really know their football.

Now, I can tell a Partita from a Polonaise in a flash. I can recognize the difference between Beethoven and Mozart with little difficulty. But "declining a dead ball" and telling the refs their business? In this element, I'm lost!

So here's where I'm going. In this particular football league, if you want out of volunteer duty, you have to pay a fee. I declined to pay the fee (because I'm cheap), so today was my "dancing day."

Today was my day to be a member of the "chain gang." No, I wasn't impersonating Cool Hand Luke. I was the guy on the sidelines who holds the posts marking the ten yards necessary to gain a first down. (Did I describe that correctly?)

Now imagine this. A school headmaster, a musician, who knows nothing of the calculus of football, required to measure the length of ground necessary for each team to gain a first down, down to the inch, and all of these parents, who know the rules better than the referees, watching me, occasionally screaming "Straighten the chain!" because my poorly-measured inch was jeopardizing the play. To make matters worse, every quarter, in the middle of the play, they'd change the direction of the field! So, if our team was originally going in this direction, all of a sudden we had to turn everything around and go in that direction.

I was so lost, so nervous, and so clueless, I felt like a duck out of water. No, I felt like a missionary at a cannibal convention! Totally out of place!

Fortunately for me, the guy at the other end of the chain was one of "those dads." You know, the ones who know the rules better than the refs. He was constantly telling the players what to do, offering his opinion to the coach, that the ref finally warned him, "One more word out of you, and I'll throw you out of this game!" I had no idea what I was doing, but by keeping my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open, I kept out of the ref's eyesight and out of trouble. I actually looked like I knew what I was doing!

I gained a greater appreciation for the game today. I always thought that, once the ball was snapped, you just tried to stop it from getting down field. But after today, I realized that there really is a sort of calculus going on down there. I gained a greater appreciation for the coaches and all they've got to manage. But most importantly...

I gained a greater appreciation for my son James who, at 11 years old, seems to really understand all of this.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I just wanna be heard!

I had an eye-opening experience today. But first let me say that, after 20+ years of working in Christian schools, I can still learn something new that, perhaps, I should have learned 20 years ago!

So, what did I do that was so eye-opening? Did I chew a student out publicly? No. Did I dress down a colleague in the hallway for all to hear? No. Did I suspend a child for not having his shirt tucked in (as I've been often accused of doing), just so I could see what it feels like? No.

I asked parents to come and talk to me about communication at school, and offered them coffee and bagels for their trouble!

That's it!

You would've thought I swam the channel for them, or rescued their children from a burning building!

This morning was, by far, the best parent PR vehicle I've ever accomplished, and it was really no big deal. I began by asking them how many of them had ever been quoted in the local newspaper, or been directly associated with something reported on in the local newspaper. Almost everyone in the room raised his or her hand (there were quite a few dads there, for which I was grateful!). Then, as they kept their hands up, I asked them how many of those news reports got at all of the information right. Every hand immediately went down! Of all those people who had at some point been reported on in the paper, not one of them could state that the story was 100% accurate. Think about that! The point I was trying to make was simple: We think that accuracy in our communication is the norm; but the exact opposite is true. Usually, most communication involves some level of error. In short, miscommunication is the norm.

After letting that soak in (one of the dads said I ruined his whole weekend, as now he won't be able to think about anything else!), we talked about the various ways we teachers and administrators go about communicating, how parents communicate back to us, how we can all do a better job, and what they'd like to talk about in the future.

We had bagels, we drank coffee, we laughed, we shared our thoughts (my wife thinks I offended half the moms there with my Jersey humor), and then we went about our day. No big deal.

But the remarkable thing is how these folks responded to just being heard! They so appreciated me taking time out of my day to listen to them. They were so relieved to have an opportunity to meet with me, but not for the purpose of slogging through some prearranged agenda, or for them to bring me a problem (which is why most people come to see me in the first place).

What is it about us that places such a high value on wanting to be heard? Why is that my daughters and my wife will often-times tell me, "Just listen to me!" (I'm not making a sexist comment here, it's just the fact that my sons don't do this.) Why is it that my wife, when she brings me a problem, frequently doesn't want me to provide a solution, she just wants to know that I'm listening?

To be honest, I'm not sure what the answer is. But the undeniable truth of life #34 is this: We want to be heard. We want to be understood.

And as long as we're willing to understand others, as well as seek to be understood, there's nothing wrong with that that I can see.

And to only took me 20 years to figure that out!

From the Prayer of St. Francis:

"O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand."