Friday, November 14, 2014


We’ve got strings right here in Calvert County Public Schools.

I had the pleasure this week of attending the All-County Orchestra concert this week at the new Calvert County High School Auditorium.  What a beautiful facility and what beautiful sounds those children made.

I’m really excited about the strings program because, you see, I’ve never ever had a strings program in my schools before.   Ever.

Most school districts begin band instruction in 4th or 5th grade.  Standard band instruments – flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, drums.   If they stick with it in high school they generally get some additional options – jazz band, concert band, marching band.  I’ve had some schools get special grants to borrow and teach steel drum bands.  That can be fun.

But violin, viola, cello, bass, it seems like those instruments make sounds that get into your heart - sounds that give you goose bumps – tunes that put a tear in your eye.

In Calvert County Public Schools every child has the opportunity to hold and stroke and strangle and mangle some sound out of a violin.  We let them begin between 4th and 6th grades.  We loan them an instrument if they don’t have the means to lease or buy one.  What a gift to have the opportunity to see if you like the fiddle without buying one.  

So, students at each school get the opportunity from 4th grade to graduation to play a stringed instrument, to appreciate how they blend together, to develop an ear for harmony and musical nuance that can’t be provided in any other environment.   We have to acknowledge that this is all part of group instruction during the school day with no opportunity for private lessons if one shows a special talent.  Private lessons may be hard to find.

Bottom line, I loved hearing the orchestras.  There was a middle school group and then a high school group.  I assume they were the first string.  I assume they were good and didn’t have to pull any strings to get selected.  Really, I don’t mean to string you along.

They made beautiful music.  Pulled on my heart strings. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What ever happened to the Golden Rule?

Luke 6:31 - “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Confucius – “Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us.”

Ancient Hindu teaching – “Do not do unto others which would cause pain if done to you.”

Philosophers call it the ethic of reciprocity.

As I started to prepare some notes for our upcoming bullying prevention summit, I couldn’t help but recall the simple teachings of what most of us learned as the "Golden Rule”.  Cultures around the world have used these words or similar words to teach others the concept of empathy.

Of course, those ancient cultures and many modern ones as well, didn’t necessarily think that they should apply the rule to their enemies or their slaves.  So, for many it is a selective empathy.  Still, I think the Golden Rule, in the many ways it can be expressed, has to be a foundational belief for preventing bullies.

You may find this hard to believe, but from where I sit, I have to mediate more adult bullies and adult accusations of bullies than those of children. You would think that educated people in a government culture would be nicer to each other.  You would think that these people would also have the skills to mediate their own conflicts.

These conflicts seem to come from 2 primary sources. 

  1. A colleague says something perceived to be rude, mean or hateful.
  2. A supervisor says something perceived to be rude, mean or critical.

For number one, my general response has to be, “Come on people.  So you really need me to be Dr. Phil and get you both in chairs in my office and to ask you what he said and ask you to tell him how that made you feel.”  Golden rule people!  There is a chance that that person who stepped on your pride may not even know he did so.  Why don’t you tell him that his words hurt you, rather than tell me?  Model for the children how adults resolve their differences.

For number two, most times I would respond the same as number one.  But, there is also this condition that causes many people to be hyper-sensitive to constructive criticism and direction.  I have found supervisors, who have communicated very explicit, direct expectations without anger or threat.  They even say please and thank you, yet they are referred to as bullies.  There is a big difference in being a bully and being bossy.  We employ a number of bosses and they may on occasion need to be bossy.  I’m OK with that.  Sometimes, calling a committee and asking them what they think and how they feel is not appropriate. 

So let’s not forget the value of the Golden Rule.  Treat others like you want to be treated.  It’s as simple as that.