Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Intuition Is Sometimes Right, Even Mine

When I decided to retire from teaching, I felt pretty strongly that Id overstayed my welcome. My patience for bureaucracy, students, and even a few of my friends at the school was wearing thin. I’d stopped having fun teaching more than a year earlier, for multiple reasons. While the subjects still fascinated me, my never-particularly-tolerant tolerance for fools began to suck the life out of my classroom attitude. My last couple of labs were so painfully pointless that I could barely stand the idea of showing up to class on those days. And four of the work days required me to be in those two labs. Between the cell phone addictions and the “Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom . . .” interruptions from a couple of ADHD-diagnosed kids with no more self-discipline than baby bobcats I was back to dragging myself out of bed to go to work. So, two years ago, today I decided I wasn’t going back for the 2013 fall semester.

Off and on, I’ve wondered if I retired too early. If I still had something worth providing to the few students who actually give a crap about music, audio, technology, and the rest of the skills that are required to make a few bucks in the “music business.” One piece of evidence that I’d made the right decision was, oddly, from LinkedIn.com. My youngest daughter, Genya, turned me on to LinkedIn years ago, after I’d left medical devices and was wandering around looking for a 5th (or 15th) career direction. The site never really did anything for my career options, until I’d already began my teaching career. However, it has been an interesting social networking resource, allowing me to keep in touch with past co-workers, friends, students, and employees. LinkedIn has a silly feature that allows users to “endorse” their connections with a button-push; not exactly a rousing recommendation or even something that requires much thought. My friends have generously provided me with hundreds of endorsements for my “skills” ranging from electronic design to recording engineering to musical capability. The last 12 years of my career certainly provided me with more LinkedIn endorsements than the previous 30 years of my career, mostly (I hope) because this kind of resource didn’t exist until recently.

I don’t pay much attention to stuff like this because its no longer relevant to whatever future I have left. I haven’t counted my endorsements or tried to encourage (or discourage) anyone to endorse me. I’m not really looking for work and I don’t care all that much who knows what I know (or used to know) or what my talents are or were. I’m done with a lot more stuff than I expect to do.

However, when I was in New Mexico over the winter of 2013-2014, I offered myself up as an extra-curricular instructor for the Truth or Consequences high school; teaching the same subjects I’d taught at McNally Smith College of Music. Not much happened from my offer for a month or so and I decided to rattle the music department’s cage to see if I’d fallen through the cracks. What I learned was that the school was pretty much dropping music and art in order to concentrate on bringing the state and the school’s ranking up from dead bottom. The only comment the about-to-be-unemployed music teacher had for me was, “Nobody had much to say about your teaching ability on LinkedIn.”
As far as the button-pusher rankings, he was right. I hadn’t noticed that, but I didn’t have a single vote for any aspect of teaching/education/classroom/mentoring bullshit. Not a subtle hint.

2 comments:

Steve Sullivan said...

I can't help but think me graduating and you becoming disillusioned with teaching went hand in hand. And I know from the handful of dudes that went on to actually do shit in music love and revere you as the final word on most things audio, technology, motorcycles and the way things actually function. Also there's a mantra I have. Every morning I get up and look in the mirror and say, "Your net worth is not your self worth," and the same applies to linkdin, facebook likes and thumbs up from people on the bus.

Thomas Day said...

I don't know how I missed this comment, Steven. If you read any of this, you know people like you in my classrooms would have kept me fighting the bureaucracy for several more years. So, you're sorta right. You and some of your classmates were among the most talented and fun students I ever worked with.

Two semesters of record lab students who couldn't figure out mic stands, wouldn't turn off their cell phones, and thought any sort of discussion about acoustics or recording theory/philosophy were a waste of their time told me it was past time to go. The department politics had a big part of my decision, too. The tight instructor community that I loved being part of ten years ago was pretty dissolved, with the best and brightest gone on to better things. It just wasn't fun anymore.

I like your mantra. You're a terrific example of the kind of person who makes incredible music, deep and meaningful relationships, and who has made a powerful and positive mark on the world. There is a reason why some of the best, most talented, most complicated people I know like working with you.

Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.