Category Archives: Education

Why I Live in Montreal

I’d like to tell you why I live in Montreal.

I came here in 1990. I was fresh from my Master’s programme in English Literature and needed a second-language credit to finish, so I came to do French immersion. Two weeks into the programme, I knew I was going to stay.

Although I’d grown up in Ontario and gone to university in Toronto and Hamilton, I never quite felt like I belonged. There was something about the formality of my education environments that always troubled me.

I never felt good enough or competitive enough. Although I now understand there were myriad reasons for my feeling this way-my natural temperament being one–external and measurable reasons existed too.

I was born in the 1960s, before the celebration of multi-culturalism in this country became standard operating procedure, and my parents had felt the lash of xenophobia. They were afraid of authority because they had reason to be. Although their fears had more to do with social ostracism than anything else, I could see, even as a child, that they occupied what they felt was a safe space on the periphery of Canadian culture. There was a reason they had one foot in Canada and another back in the old country: it gave them a sense of security.

So when, as a 30 year-old, I came to Montreal and breathed in the atmosphere, I was surprised to find myself feeling so completely at ease. Layers of unhappiness just seemed to peel off. There were also clues in the environment that told me I was in the right place, a place where I could be myself, or at least be closer to myself-as-a-destination.

The potential for greater authenticity seemed to be part of the zoning here, just like the crazy parking signs, the multitude of buskers and performers and the vivid street art. There was an irrepressible energy here-like the energy that made trouble for me back in Ontario-and I experienced a quiet sense of permission. There was a voice that said it’s okay, be yourself and it was irresistible. So I stayed; I explored.

Why am I still here? I can answer that best when I look at the last year of my life. I took part in two projects outside my teaching duties. One project involved working with Francophones on a government initiative. The other was a more personal project, one that had a less sweeping focus but was very important to me. The latter was organized and conducted by Anglophones in Ontario. Suffice it to say my experience of these two groups differed significantly.

I think courage is a strength of the Anglophone culture, both in Canada and abroad, and is what makes it competitive and strong. The Brits colonized much of the world for a reason. They had the will to do it and the smarts to accomplish it. Their ability to act speaks to a competitive streak that has served them very well. On the other hand, their famous reserve-that stiff upper lip–can be downright unnerving to someone like me.

The French, who don’t seem to like Anglophones very much, were just as exacting in many ways. Their capacity for bureaucracy startled and dismayed me. When I think of the French, I automatically think of paperwork. They colonized too; however, I’m tempted to believe that their relative lack of breadth in that regard was due to the bureaucracy that surely must have slowed their imperialistic drive. Invade another country? Attendre, we’ve got a form for that!

So what was the difference? That irrepressible energy I felt when I first started exploring the streets of Montreal has another incarnation and that’s in the level of connectedness I felt with my French colleagues. I screwed up a couple of times; most notably, I once got hopelessly lost on the way to a meeting and was very, very late.

At first I was met with a Gallic shrug and then questions about my welfare. Are you stressed? Do you have a GPS? Ahhhh, GPSs. A long and detailed discussion followed about the newness of the roads in that part of Montreal and how they were not yet appearing on satellite maps. I sat there willing everyone to please stop talking about it. It’s because there was someone in the room who was judging me quite harshly and that person was me. I’m not sure why this is, but I can still cringe over that episode. I cringe even though it’s clear I was forgiven, immediately and completely, by the very colleagues I had kept waiting.

My dealings with the Anglos didn’t go quite like this. I had some difficulty with them too, but the resolution, such as it was, looked quite different. I had an email correspondence with an Anglo woman that can only be described as a conversation so tautly strung with suppressed anger that it twanged. Politeness is there in spades, but underlying hostility is too. As is the judging, the neutral words designed to point out my deficiencies, the posturing for power, the strategic sense of advancement and retreat. In short, I felt I was fighting a war and I had to measure each word because, like beads on an abacus, they would be counted. It was painful too, but I didn’t cringe. I walked on eggshells instead and it was exhausting.

It would be easy to say I’m over-simplifying. That I’m erroneously making these conflicts represent larger trends in diverse cultures. But having lived here for over 20 years, I know I’m right. The connectedness I feel living in this city explains why things went so well with my French colleagues. People here look at one another, acknowledge one another, and it makes a difference.

When I first arrived in Montreal, I had few opportunities to work. My French was limited and even service-industry jobs require one to be fluently bilingual. So I did what I knew best: I taught English, first as a second language and then as literature at the college level. My first job was at a language school. It was located close to a flagship location of The Bay, right in downtown Montreal.

One thing I noticed about Montreal was that people, particularly men, would look at me in a very frank and undisguised way. I remember walking into The Bay, almost daily, and using mirrors on the cosmetic counter to check my face. I did this precisely because I was being looked at. I assumed these men were looking because I had touched my cheek after erasing one of the school’s whiteboards. I thought I must have an ink smear, or perhaps running mascara, on my face.

It took me a long time to realize that they were looking for another reason altogether and that a frank appraisal of my looks was meant to communicate a very positive message to me. It took me a bit longer to realize that even women looked at other women and, far from being a sign of competition, it seemed to reflect a genuine curiosity, or a willingness to make contact, however subtle.

At first I was non-plussed by this and and it flustered me more times than I care to remember. However, in a sneaky way it felt good and gradually I got used to it. Around that time, I had a chance conversation with a woman at a coffee shop, a woman who had been recently widowed. She told me that whenever she felt lonely, she would take a walk around old Montreal. She said she felt an instant connection to others and I knew exactly what she meant. Looking at another human being can be a salutory act, a way of saying “I acknowledge you.” It’s powerful and it happens here all the time.

So you can imagine my surprise when a friend from Toronto, here for a year, started telling me how violated she felt when she walked the streets of Montreal.

I tried to explain the difference in culture. I tried to tell her that if men were looking at her, perhaps it was because they found her attractive and that she should enjoy it. I also encouraged her to become an observer of life in this city and to wait and see whether or not women looked at her in a similar way, albeit with friendship on their minds. She was not convinced, although I hoped that in a year’s time she’d at least come to appreciate the power of a friendly glance.

I had no luck and that’s because the cultural imperative of avoiding the gaze of others is strongly ingrained in other people in other cities. That’s true in this country and in other parts of the world. It’s too bad. When my mother was ill and I was crying almost every day, I appreciated the fact that people here would see my reddened eyes and not look away. Their gazes, far from being threatening or embarrassing, served to tell me that crying was a normal thing to do under stressful circumstances. C’est normal, their eyes seemed to say. And that helped–a lot.

I can still feel the way I felt when I first arrived in Montreal: that I’m living in a transporting place where I can be taken to a higher state of consciousness if I allow it to happen. And it does happen when I come around a corner and see a sculpture in an intimate spot or a window-box overflowing with flowers. I still stop when I see a church facade that is particularly artful or an expanse of water rippling in the view between buildings. Montrealers have taught me to notice these things.

And I still remember my first year here. I remember opening my classroom window at the Y, where I was teaching English, and explaining that what a soulful saxophone player was doing outside was called “busking.” The children came to the window and we watched as a crowd formed and passersby stopped to put coins in his saxophone case. In other words, we watched while people of all ages stopped not only to notice his music, but to listen and acknowledge it as well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson from the ‘Look Who’s Talking Series

Such an ado was made at my passing from this life. Surely people knew that I was ready for the journey. Near the end, my memory failed, and my mind was not as keen and agile as it had been. I no longer wrote, nor could I converse with a degree of competency. Time had taken its toll, but I had been ready and I knew I was about to embark on another journey.

It had been an easy life that I enjoyed during the early times. Life was not complex. I came from a respected family, was fortunate to receive a good education, and had the benefits of good friends of intelligence.

As a young man I aspired to become a minister. I achieved that goal, but in time I determined it was not the life for me. My philosophies were not readily acceptable to the clergy. When I left the ministry, I embarked on a trip to England where I had longed to go to meet with men of literature. In my youthful mind, I believed this young country of America had no literary masters.

In years to come, I would know men such as Carlyle, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens, who would become friends. I was privileged to dine with Tenneyson, exchange ideas with Macaulay, admire the inventiveness of George Stephenson, and the mind of Thackeray.

As I grew older and wiser, I admired and respected my countrymen: Bronson; Alcott; Henry James: Margaret Fuller; Nathaniel Hawthorne, and my dearest friend, Henry David Thoreau, the young man I had taken into my home to assist me in my attempt at farming.

How grand and yet simple were his stories. His oneness with nature embellished all that he said and did. Well I recall helping to get him a scholarship to Harvard, and the joy I felt when he returned, still imbued with his love of nature, non plussed by the classic education.

What can I say of my life? That I enjoyed the company of all people? I was equally at home with the laborer as with the socially elite. I wrote my thoughts and feelings, and people invited me to speak them in public lectures. I was an admirer of the Plato philosophy, and a member of the Transcendentalist Society. My joy was exchanging ideas with anyone who cared to listen.

To be a poet of worth was my greatest aspiration, but it was not to be. My rhyme and verse were acceptable, but not of great literary value.

As a farmer I also failed. Hawthorne once wrote that my idea of farming was to lean on a hoe while Thoreau leaned upon a rake, and Alcott sat on the fence. It is somewhat true. We greatly enjoyed discourse over workhorse.

My thoughts and philosophies were not new. They had been the filtration of wisdoms from earlier times. I embraced the thoughs and beliefs of master before me, then reconciled them with my own intuitive spirit. In my essay, “Fate”, I wrote:

“No one can read history of astronomy
without perceiving that Corpernicus, Newton,
Laplace. are not new men, or a new kind of men,
but that Thales, Anaximenes, Hipparchus, Emp-
edocles, Aristarchus, Phythagora, OEnipodes,
had anticipated them;”

Did not Socrates and Plato come before Immanuel Kant? And before Moses, Confucius and Pythagoras? When people today speak of New Thought, compare it to ancient wisdoms, and you will find that nothing new exists under the sun that has not been envisioned by another.

How do I apprise myself as a writer? In my essay on beauty, I stated:

“It is proof of high culture to say the greatest matters in the simplest way,”
“To clothe the fiery thought,
In simple words succeeds,
For still the craft of genius is
To mask a king in weeds.”

I believe that we could learn much from the laborers who work close to nature. Watch a man build a bridge, see a woman tend her garden, observe the tin maker crafting his
wares, and you see nature in her finest hours.

If we are true to our nature, open our minds to the voice of the universal spirit, allow the will of fate to guide our actions, break no law of nature, then we have lived to the fullest measure of our being. To that end, I hope I achieved a modicum of success.

Mary Bradley McCauley is a writer in no particular genre. Her articles, short stories, essays, poems, travel bits, and ‘thinking about’ series have been published and well received.

Where to Find Help When Mourning the Death

Are you wondering what to do in order to deal with the wrenching pain, or if what you are feeling is normal? Are you not sure who to rely on with the deep feelings you need to share? How can you find the help you need? There are many answers to these questions.

To begin with, be assured there is nothing wrong with seeking help. We need each other, especially when someone we love has died. And even if you have an adequate support system, there is much about grief you may still need to learn if you had poor grief models as a child. So what can you do? Here are six sources to call upon as you see fit. It is your grief, and you need to grieve in your own individual way.

1. Obviously, the first choice for assistance should be those who you feel you have the most trusting relationships with. But then, decide who the best listeners are. Who will let you express your pain, witness it, and not try to fix it? Not everyone can do that. Who will hang in there with you for the long haul? All friends and relatives have their plusses and minuses when it comes to care giving. However, there are some you will have to rely on more than others, based on how they can meet your needs.

2. Early in your grief you may have no interest in reading. But at some point, it can be very useful to become aware of the wide range of normalcy in the grief process and the most used strategies for coping with loss. We all need education in these areas since very little is done in a formal way in the schools. Here are two books I recommend to all members of my support groups: The Mourning Handbook by Helen Fitzgerald and Life After Loss by Bob Deits. They are full of effective practical strategies to help your transition.

3. Join a grief support group. Even though you may have an adequate support network, you may also profit greatly from a grief support group. They have trained facilitators and you will learn much from them, as well as other members in the group. And, you may also find a grief companion in the group that you can talk with between meetings. There is nothing like finding someone who is also grieving and that you relate well to. Check for support groups at your local hospital, hospice, or church and be sure to ask about the background of the facilitator.

It’s Good to Know All Your Options

In another of my articles I dealt with the issues of developing trust and getting a fresh start. Not only will developing trust with your Short Sale clients be important in this business, trust is the building block to doing business with anyone.

I have to admit, I’m no Mother Teresa. I’ve told my share of white lies in my life, most of them to my wife who is a terrible snoop during the holidays. But when it comes to telling the people going through a foreclosure their options, the truth is the only thing that matters. My goal is always to be brutally honest with people at all times.

This article will deal with not sugarcoating the situation people going through a foreclosure are in and laying out those options in a way that is understandable. If you don’t know what all the options are, maybe the list below will help.

If your goal is to assist these people through the Short Sale process, regardless if you are working these properties as a Real Estate professional or an Investor, you need to be able to explain to them the options they have.

There is a difference the impact a full blown foreclosure has on your credit report as opposed to a successful Short Sale. Neither is very good to their credit rating, but according to my sources, they both stay on your credit report. The full blown foreclosure will stay on longer than the Short Sale.

The same with a full blown Bankruptcy, I would have never gone that route myself if I had known how adversely it effected our credit for many years after our financial troubles were over. That’s what I get for listening to an attorney!

What are the REAL options for a property owner?

·        Get caught up and get the loan reinstated
·        Work out a loan modification with the lender (Very popular now)
·        Sign a forbearance agreement with the lender
·        Sign a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
·        Sell the property before the foreclosure runs it’s course
·        Short Sale the property
·        Let it go through the full blown foreclosure, being sold on the courthouse steps
·        Declare bankruptcy and try and save the house through a re-organization plan

I will always try and explain as best I can what all the options are and the plusses and minuses that come with them. Since I am not an expert in either the legal end or credit implications that each would bring, I just relate my personal experiences.

I always want people making decisions to work with me making those decisions with their eyes wide open. My advice here is to explain the options, the good, bad, and the ugly. In the business of foreclosures, there are so many people out there that work by taking advantage of people in this situation. Please, don’t be one of them.

Educate yourself, and then educate your clients or customers as to what their REAL options are and let them decide. If you have been straight and honest with them, they will ask for your advice and look at you for guidance.

How to Help Them Deal With Bullying

Children with autism and aspergers have a great number of positive characteristics. Unfortunately, the sensitivities of children on the playground and the social scene in middle and high school can be very different from adults who have a lot more education and sensitivity toward those who are different.

Parents may suspect that their children are being bullied when the show some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Missing or broken possessions
  • Torn clothing or clothing and other items that have been scribbled on
  • Frequent cuts and bruises
  • Increased anxiety
  • School refusal, cutting classes
  • Complaints of digestive upset or headaches
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Depression
  • Morbid or suicidal thoughts
  • Personality change, modeling bullying behavior at home

What is a parent to do if they suspect that some of this is going on?

1) Help the child understand his/her diagnosis. It’s important for the child and the parents to have a working understanding of how the child’s mind works and why s/he may be having some of the difficulties in school. Understanding the plusses and being able to work on areas of growth are key in addressing the bullying.

2) Help the teacher, school social worker, and principal understand your child’s diagnosis. Present them with articles such as this one to help them understand some of the unique struggles that your child may be going through. Request that the social worker and/or teacher incorporate education about tolerance with persons who have disabilities, who are differently abled.

3) Seek to network and connect with other families who have children on the spectrum. Google autism or aspergers support groups in your area. You may find that there are children on the spectrum who have successfully navigated through the social landmines of middle and high school. Wrong Planet is an online forum started by and for Aspies. You may find additional support and solutions there.

4) If you child with Aspergers or autism is seeing a counselor or child psychologist, that therapist can work with your child in the context of social skills training to learn how to be assertive and how to deal with bullying. Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist has written some free material at his site, Bullies2Buddies, that can provide your child with the scripts and mindset to handle the mental and social challenges that come with bullying.

5) Ask the school social worker or home room teacher if there are students who are assertive and compassionate enough to serve as social mentors and friends to your child with Aspergers.

6) Encourage your child to join extracurricular activities at school which are in sync with their interests and abilities. By joining these activities they may connect with peers who can become a safe haven for them at school.

This is a partial list of suggestions that is open to feedback from you, the reader. What have been your experiences, and what are some solutions you recommend?

Working Smart From Home

While working from home it would be handy to keep these tips in mind when looking at potential jobs:

If you’re working somewhere, ask around your current workplace to see if any job and not just the one you’re working at now is movable or portable. A written plan explaining to your current employer about your ideas may help get you what you want. It’s a good idea to expect a lot from the current competition. A lot of people would love to work from home and will go inquire with any company they think have higher chances of hiring them. Don’t expect to hit jackpot or a fortune when deciding to work from home. The sure shot sign of something that is a shoddy scam is the promise of huge and multiple rewards with little effort or hard work. Real stay at home jobs tend to involve hard work, basic skills and a clever business sense.

Look out for any opportunities which involve pushing envelopes and assembling tasks, these activities profit just the promoters of these jobs. Most people earn decent pay packets at home and also at the regular workplace or office. People with good education and qualifications like a business or engineering degree possessing astute business skills have a fine record in workplace success. Stay at home jobs provide you the flexibility to work around your timings and still do other pending household chores like cleaning the house or cooking up a meal. Not having to travel to work anywhere distant or pay for child care are big plusses when choosing to work from home.

Home based call centers are really popular these days and they are a growing industry. Owing to the wonders of the internet and calling technology, more companies are learning that they can outsource their sales, client requirements and tasks to home based employees. Most me home workers have college and university degrees and tend to better educated and efficient than their counterparts according to a recent studies. The jobs that require taking orders under this category pay at lower rates while high paying jobs require smart and savvy sales skills. Some companies that employ home based workers are LiveOps, Arise and Alpine Access.

You can even start a web business operation from home. You can get started at these by getting a small business loan from your local bank or even work at a part time job to keep your entrepreneurial venture going until you start making a good amount of profit or turnover. The most important mindset that you should adopt before taking up such a business is to know that you’re going to learn from your mistakes and make it work as you go along.

Online auction sites like eBay are home to more than a million retailers and sellers who admit that the site is a primary or secondary source of income for them. Selling your personal or household items on these auction sites online can guarantee a sizeable amount of profit. Auction websites no provide guidelines to users to familiarize them with the selling process. Sellers should be careful with the quality and service levels of their product as negative feedback can dent their reputation and influence future sales.

Finding a Qualified Guitar Teacher

Here are some tips for parents to evaluate potential teachers, understand your role in your child’s lessons, and to help find a qualified teacher.

So you’ve decided to seek out a qualified guitar instructor for your child. Where to start? Well, some choices are to use search engines, phone books, local music stores, and local schools and colleges to find a teacher near you. The challenge, however, is to find someone who is both well qualified and enjoys teaching children. How do you know if a teacher is well qualified you ask? Good question. There is no governing board for private guitar teachers that specifies a specific education or certification requirement, so you have to inquire about your teacher’s background yourself.

Some considerations when selecting a guitar teacher for your child should include the following:

1) How long has the potential teacher been teaching full time? It takes several years and hundreds of students to really learn how to teach effectively, regardless of the teacher’s formal education. A teacher learns the most common problems and their solutions during the first few years of teaching and will generally be a much better teacher at 3 years than when they first started.

2) Does the teacher feel that your child should learn to read notes, learn musical terms, and music theory? They should. I think there’s nothing wrong with a teacher showing some things by rote or using alternate notation methods occasionally such as tablature to keep a child’s interest, but the focus should be on learning standard notation. There’s no replacement for notation when it comes to laying the foundation for complete musical understanding. The exception would be very young students being taught in the Suzuki method, where the student is taught by rote initially with standard musical notion being brought in later.

3) Does the teacher’s own background illustrate that they have training in these areas? It’s a safe bet that teachers with music degrees specifically in guitar are qualified in this area. It’s harder to evaluate teachers without degree’s in these areas, but this does not disqualify them, just as a degree does not automatically qualify a teacher. Having a degree simply makes it more likely that they will have the necessary knowledge to effectively teach your child. You must ask them about their experience and evaluate their abilities first hand to see that they are knowledgeable. This can be tough to evaluate if you have no musical training, so tread carefully as there are many people that market themselves as guitar teachers that are not very good in these areas. Don’t get fooled by marketing. Evaluate their resume and experience. For example: A local teacher that plays in the local church’s worship band may be a fine guitar player for that style and a nice person, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify them as a guitar teacher for your child. They may know little of music theory, note reading, or other styles of music.

4) Do you want your child to learn classical guitar? If so, then you need a classical guitarist, period. This is a very specific field of study that requires extensive and specific training. Don’t trust someone that says they teach classical guitar that does not have a degree in classical guitar from a reputable institution. Classical guitarists are often proficient in and teach many popular styles as well, but really are the only ones to go to when it comes to learning classical guitar.

5) What if I want my child to be a rock/pop guitar player or singer-songwriter, do they really need to know all of this stuff? Yes, you should still encourage note reading! There’s no way it’s going to hurt someone’s development. The idea that formal music training might stifle creative development is something as a guitarist I’ve heard before but believe is a misguided notion coming from the guitar being part of our popular culture, often being taught by rote, and compounded by the existence of talented and successful singer-songwriters that have little formal music education. This can give people the impression that note reading is simply not necessary. The truth is that note reading will help your child better facilitate the writing process, but also prepare them for a broader musical life that may include teaching, studio playing, composing, transcribing, etc. Would the Beatles have been as good without the help of their classically trained composer/producer George Martin? I don’t think so and neither does the famous guitarist Jeff Beck. You’re paying top dollar for guitar lessons for your child, so why limit their musical future?

6) Should the teacher be a top level performer? Not necessarily. I believe they should be able to play at a high level though, which is usually the case with guitarist that have performance degrees. You want to make sure that a teacher has been able to translate their own understanding of the guitar into their playing. However, some people just enjoy teaching more than performing and therefore have a more extensive resume in teaching than performing. This is a good thing, as they may still be very high caliber players that simply love to teach. Also, some top level performers may not be around often enough to give lessons consistently, which is especially important for children.

7) Is it OK for you to sit in on the lessons? It should be, and for children’s lessons some sitting in by the parents should be encouraged. You’re going to have to supervise your child’s practice at least some throughout the week if you want them to make good progress. You’ll need to pay attention to the important reminders your teacher gives during the lessons so that they can be reinforced during the week. Remember, it’s the work you and your child do during the week that has the biggest impact on your child’s success. If you sit in on lessons, make sure to let your teacher do their job and not interrupt too much. Occasionally, I’ve had parents who have completely lost patience with their child during the lesson. Though they were only trying to help, they ended up completely ruining the supportive atmosphere of the lesson and consequently the child’s enjoyment. It’s a pretty awkward situation being the teacher in that situation to say the least, and it’s counterproductive to your child’s success. A child needs to feel that it’s OK to make some mistakes while they’re learning, otherwise they’ll give up quickly. So, let your teacher do their job but pay attention to their tips, and you may even want to try playing some of the studies so you can help your child at home.

8) Another important point is that you may need to try a month or so with a teacher to see if they are right for you. Unless the teacher is just awful, you may not get a good idea of their abilities in a single lesson.

Where to find a teacher that satisfies this criteria:

Music stores

While local music stores are often a good place to find a qualified teacher, they’re not without their pitfalls. Some pros: convenient, as they carry the supplies you’ll need and usually have a wide variety of teachers from which to choose. Cons: some teachers may have little to no teaching experience, you’ll often pay the same fee for any of the teachers regardless of their credentials and experience, store’s often have registration/sign up fees to help pay their bills, fees may also rise more often so that the store can stay in business, they may force you to use substitute teachers if your teacher is out sick or out of town, and there’s always the possibility that the store may suddenly go out of business leaving you scrambling to find a new teacher.

So let’s say you’ve chosen to inquire about guitar lessons at your local music store. You should ask the management/owner about the different teacher’s backgrounds and which teacher does the best with children. Assuming you feel comfortable with their suggestion, it is advisable that you wait, if necessary, for an opening with that teacher if their schedule is full rather than starting with someone else. Starting with an unsuitable teacher may give your child a bad initial impression of lessons and could ruin their enthusiasm for learning the instrument forever. As stated, music stores usually have some excellent teachers, but they also often have people with little to no teaching experience as well. You have to keep in mind that their main mission is to keep their studios full so that they can stay in business. It’s possible that they may suggest a teacher that is not nearly as qualified or child friendly if the best suited teacher for your child is full. Remember, it’s your child so it’s your choice who teaches them. Don’t lower your standards for convenience.

Other sources

Private music “schools or academies”. These are usually just private businesses like music stores and have the same potential plusses and minuses except they usually don’t sell instruments. The term school or academy should not denote more credibility as they are not any better or worse a source for teachers than music stores.

Recommendations from public schools and colleges are another good option for finding well qualified teachers who teach privately.

Phone books and internet searches, including music teacher databases can also be good sources for finding local teachers.

Recommendations from friends can be helpful as well, but make sure to do your own research on the teacher. It’s worth the extra effort.


Take the time to get to know who your child’s teacher is both as a person and a teacher. Make sure they’re qualified, competent, caring, and communicate well. By taking the time to keep yourself involved in your child’s learning you will be rewarded with a child who will have a solid musical skill set and a deep appreciation of music for the rest of their lives.

Six Secrets to Ensure Success

Retirement (n): removal or withdrawal from service, office, or business; withdrawal into privacy or seclusion.

WRONG! With apologies to Webster’s Dictionary, this is no longer your father’s (or mother’s) retirement. Today’s retirees, and those approaching retirement, differ from their parents in a number of important ways. Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are living longer, perhaps spending 30 or more years in retirement. As a group, they are healthier, more active physically and mentally, more affluent, more educated, and more likely to relocate after retiring. Although seemingly an oxymoron, more Boomers plan to continue working in retirement and view retirement as a process, rather than an end, with perhaps several forays into and out of the workforce

This truly is a “new” retirement. In fact, many believe the word “retirement” itself needs to be retired – the word no longer represents the porch-rocking, shuffle-board playing, early-bird dining, silver-haired stereotype of yore. So, how can you plan for a successful, happy transition into the second half of your life? I’d like to offer six secrets:

Secret 1: Have Strong Social Support

Who would have known Barbra Streisand foreshadowed the results of a scientific study when she sang her song “People”? But did you know that those lucky people also live longer? A study done in New Haven, Connecticut found that men and women who were socially active lived an average of two and a half years longer than those who were not. Other studies have found that social interactions have a significant effect in maintaining mental health, regardless of whether retirees live alone, live with someone other than their spouse, or are childless. Satisfaction in retirement is strongly correlated to the strength and number of your personal connections. It would seem that investing in building and maintaining friendships can reap far greater rewards than investing in stocks and bonds!

Secret 2: Have Something to Wake Up For

Intellectual stimulation, structure, a sense of purpose, feelings of pride and accomplishment – these are key ingredients to a happy retirement. Sure, golf, fishing, tennis, and beachcombing are great, but can you really do them 168 hours a week? Although the answer is “yes” for some, for most of us, there needs to be more.

According to surveys, about 70% – 90% of boomers plan to continue working. Though an economic necessity for many, for others, work provides the feelings of engagement and self-esteem we crave (and don’t forget the built-in social aspects most jobs provide). When surveyed, the number one reason people give for retiring is “to do something else.” But, if you are content with working (and your significant other, if there is one, is okay with it, too), and there is nothing else you’d really rather be doing, then by all means continue to work. If your present career doesn’t provide you with the emotional and psychological plusses you need, or if you find yourself unable to work, or you’re bored with your retirement lifestyle, here are some other options to consider so you’ll be leaping out of bed every morning eager to start the day.
In addition to volunteering, a volunteer or service vacation is a way to help others while enjoying yourself. Tens of thousands of people the world over are involved in constructing homes, improving public health, helping set up small businesses, gathering data on global warming, or building trails in National Parks. Examples of organizations that offer volunteer vacations include Habitat for Humanity, the Earthwatch Institute, and the American Hiking Society. Some of the costs associated with these volunteer vacations may be tax deductible – check IRS guidelines, or consult your tax advisor.

Rather hit the books than a golf ball? Lifelong learning opportunities abound – in fact, the mature learner is the fastest-growing contingent on campus, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Many institutions offer classes for free or at reduced rates for seniors, allow you to audit courses (no tests or papers – yippee!), offer distance education courses (curl up in your comfy chair in front of a computer and go to it), have continuing or adult education classes, or offer member-driven courses through organizations such as the Lifelong Learning Institute. Contact your local community college or university for programs available to you. Give the Internet a try – you can take classes online through QuicKnowledge, ThirdAge, or SeniorNet. The term “college senior” can have a whole new meaning!

Strengthen your spiritual life. For many people, this time of transition provides an opportunity to delve further into religion and/or reconnect with the things that are truly important – areas that may have been neglected while climbing the corporate ladder and/or raising a family. Opportunities abound for involvement – explore them!

Secret 3: Have a High Level of Activity (Physical and Mental)

This really isn’t much of a secret at all. The physical act of exercise actually brings about a shift in mood. Even after something as simple as a 15-minute walk, people experience a more positive affect (feelings or emotions), and feel calmer and more relaxed. As researcher Paddy Ekkekakis noted in a study on exercise and mood, “Walking is inexpensive, familiar, and safe. That’s why many have argued that the most effective piece of exercise equipment is a dog.”
If you’re not a natural exercise-lover, increase your chances of consistently exercising by doing activities you enjoy, doing them on a regular basis (first thing in the morning prevents excuses later in the day), and doing them with another person (the guilt factor of letting an exercise buddy down can be a powerful motivator). The three pillars of physical fitness are flexibility, strength-training, and cardiovascular work. To ensure you get the most out of your workouts and are using proper form, consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions. Call your local health club for some recommendations. Costs vary, but run about $50 an hour. Trainers can come to your home (some have mobile vans outfitted with equipment), to your health club, or you can go to their place of business.

In addition to the body, we also need to exercise the three-pound dynamo we call the brain. Comprising about 2 percent of our weight, but consuming close to 20 percent of our energy needs, this vital organ needs to be kept in the best shape possible. Specific suggestions: do crossword puzzles, brain-teasers, acrostics, play bridge or chess, read, listen to music, dance, learn an instrument or foreign language, travel, play board games, or do something to disturb your normal routine such as switching hands to brush your teeth or getting dressed with your eyes closed. These activities can rev up neglected nerve pathways.

“Use it or lose it” applies to both body and mind!

Secret 4: Have a Willingness to Renegotiate Roles

The first two years of retirement are difficult for many, as major changes in roles and togetherness result. If you have a spouse or a significant other, discussing – in advance – your goals, plans, and dreams in retirement may save some angst down the road. For example, do you plan to age in place or relocate? Plan to work part-time or start a new career? If moving, what characteristics are important: climate, proximity to children/friends, excellent medical facilities, beach/mountain/lake living, a small town or a large city with lots of amenities, downsizing to make travel possible? Talking about issues and attempting to resolve or work out differences now may ease the transition. Recognizing that it is good and healthy to have separate as well as shared interests is important as well. If one member of a couple has been the traditional homemaker, that person may want to retire, too, and share (i.e.get rid of!) some of the routine chores. Research shows that most couples are happy in retirement, but talk, talk, talk to help ensure you fall into this category!

Secret 5: Have a Strong Financial Plan

Yes, you knew money was going to have to enter into the retirement discussion at some point! However, some of the studies about money may surprise you – there is both good and bad news. Let’s dispense with the bad news first: only about one-third of adults have saved for retirement, and half of retirees rely on Social Security as their primary source of income. The good news? Research points out that it’s not the total net worth of a person that helps determine financial satisfaction in retirement, but the knowledge that their savings have occurred in a regular, disciplined way over a period of time.

Realize that for most of us there is no retirement number that is ever going to be “enough,” but participating in a forced savings plan during your working years, such as a 401 (k) plan, is a great start toward building that nest egg. Also, consider consulting a fee-based certified financial planner or a certified public accountant (CPA) to help in your retirement planning. Just like you might hire a personal trainer to make sure you get off on the right foot with your exercise regimen, investing some money to put you on the path to fiscal freedom in retirement is a wise move.

Secret 6: Have a Good Attitude

Although there are unpleasant things that happen to us that are beyond our control, we can control the way we respond to them. Practice stopping distorted ways of thinking by replacing negative thoughts with more positive, realistic ones. A little story illustrates the point: Two shoe salesmen were sent to a faraway island to sell shoes. After the first day, both men sent back telegrams. One read: “This place is a disaster. No one wears shoes.” The other telegram said: “This place is a gold mine. No one wears shoes.”

Humor And Discipline In The Classroom

After a forty-point performance the night before, Greg, a high school basketball star, arrives late for the third time to his economics class. Mr. Stalls says, “Hey Greg, with all the stardom you’re getting on the court, I’m glad to see that your head still fits through the door.” Greg and all the mere mortal students have been signaled, with the use of inoffensive humor, that despite his stardom, the rules apply to him as well.

It is the last time he is late. A tall, long-haired scraggly-looking 16 year old shows up for the third consecutive day without his homework. Instead of writing him up or giving a detention, Ms. Mills pairs him with the most clean-cut, well dressed, smartest female student in the class. For 45 minutes, they work together on his incomplete homework. Not only does the class find this amusing, but the next day his homework is completely done. Thirteen year-old Sean is forever interrupting class discussions or criticizing Mr. Hart’s teaching. After becoming increasingly exasperated, Mr. Hart looks at the bright side. He tries to identify the plusses in having this student in his class. As hard as that is, he comes up with a few. The next time Sean acts in an intrusive way, Mr. Hart is ready. He says, “Sean, I know that God put you in my class to help make me a better teacher. Although sometimes I wish you would just sit back and say nothing, your tough questions push me and lots of your classmates to think harder about what we say.” Sean’s behavior in class became more cooperative almost immediately.

There are many situations of potential conflict that can be defused with humor. Humor in discipline can be used when it is a natural part of the adult’s personality and style, and/or there is a relationship that has been built with a child which allows for off-beat words or actions to be accepted in a non-defensive way. The use of humor which pokes fun at a student, can often be successfully used when the student knows you care about him. Otherwise, such words and actions can be misinterpreted and viewed as a put-down. That creates the possibility of embarrassment and the need that students will have to defend themselves. Most adults who respond to students with a kind of sarcastic humor, both accept and often invite students to respond to them in kind. Sarcastic humor is only one type and is the most risky because of its dependence upon prior relationship and even a student’s disposition that day.

Humor which is based upon affirmation is much safer but must be predicated upon honesty and genuineness in order to be effective. Like Mr. Hart, it requires the adult to identify how the student’s irritating behavior actually contributes positively to the class. For example, a student who mouths off is redefined as “a quick witted young woman whose comments add a welcome touch of humor to the class discussion.” A student who refuses to do work is viewed as “donating his time to fellow students.” Her teacher can now approach and genuinely say, “Martha, I’d prefer to see your work done. But when you don’t do it, I have one less thing to do which gives me more time for teaching and for giving feedback to other students. It is time for me to start noticing that fact more often.” Another student who doesn’t do homework is defined as “having more important things to do.” Without blame, his teacher tells him, “Mark, I hate getting in your way by giving you homework when you no doubt have more important things to do. So you can stay after school and do your homework here. That way, you won’t have to be bothered when you get home.” When reframing is used, the educator acts without frustration. Elements of affirmation are blended with humor which creates a changed and often improved relationship.

Humor is at its safest when adults poke fun at their own imperfections and errors. Statements like, “that’s one of the best mistakes I’ve made today,” show students the value of a mistake and a lightened perspective that can help them learn to be less uptight. I remember an esteemed professor from graduate school who had a habit of chewing her pen while she was lecturing. Sure enough, the day came when she accidentally bit too hard and in the middle of the lecture, blue ink started drooling from her mouth. Upon discovery, this usually serious, dry individual hollered “code blue!!” The class, which had been restraining itself in an effort to be polite, broke into uproarious laughter.

The most nerve-rattling disciplinary moment for most educators is when a student or a group challenges adult authority in the presence of everyone else. These “button-pressing” moments can often be defused by using humor. Sometimes the humor shows strength with uncertainty. When a student attacks with “you can’t make me,” or “this class s—s,” others will usually look intently to gauge the teacher’s response. It is the goal of “saving face,” that leads so many educators into using threats with the student or more often simply removing that student from class. An alternative is to defuse with humor. For example, the teacher might say, “wow – you must be really mad to use that kind of language here. As I look around, many of you have that “what are you going to do to Billy look on your faces. How many are wondering that? Well in case you are, all I can say is that I’m wondering about that too. Until Billy and I can figure out why he needs to use words that we all know are unacceptable and against the rules, there’s no way for me to know what’s best. Billy, you and I will deal with this later. Now it is time for us to get back to _________.”

Humor often requires doing the unexpected. I once had a middle school nurse teacher ask me for comment about whether a certain practice of hers constituted a punishment or was it a consequence? She said that an eighth grade English teacher had a group of boys who engaged in daily choreographed farting. Conventional efforts had essentially failed, especially since this group got a lot of attention from others and were generally considered by peers to be trend setters. The English teacher referred the four boys to the school nurse who had four chairs set up outside her office. She came out the door with rubber gloves on and asked each boy to come in one at a time after she told them that they were here because their teacher and she were concerned about their “inability to control their sphincter muscles.” As each boy entered, she discussed the general principles behind “intestinal gas production and its release.” Their faces were amazing-“they just kept staring at the gloves.” She continues, “part of the discussion revolved around how I would examine a patient with rectal problems – a thought absolutely revolting to most 8th graders. They returned to class and refused to discuss what happened with their friends or each other. No further problems were noted.” A first year female teacher was challenged by a 14 year old boy who aloud said, “what would you do if I said I was going to drop my pants right now!” The teacher paused momentarily and answered, “I’d say hurry up because we’ve got a lot of other things to do. I might even start singing the song Is That All There Is?”

Effective discipline on a daily basis requires attention to a multitude of factors by multi-talented educators. We must not underestimate the power of humor as an effective tool in our arsenal of relationship-developing skills. Gentile and McMillan wrote about humor: “for purposes of inner harmony and peace, no single human phenomenon is as healthy, spontaneous, honest and soothing as laughter. Unfortunately, opportunities for classroom humor may be overlooked by educators, who see it as an inappropriate distraction from the standard curriculum.” Studies and interviews with students consistently rate “sense of humor” as being a very highly regarded characteristic in teachers. And it is increasingly clear that student classroom performance is strongly influenced by relationship with teacher. In fact, humor works best when it is integrated into classroom instruction by making learning an enjoyable, involving experience. Next time you’re developing your weekly lesson plan, be sure to include a component on how you plan to have fun in the classroom. Do at least one thing every day that is fun for you. The humor will begin to flow.

Sales & Marketing Plan Strategies

Design and Implementation of a new Sales & Marketing campaign must be carefully thought through from the beginning. What message do you want to send about your company, products, and services? What are the anticipated results? What is the execution strategy? What is the cost ratio versus expected return?

These are just a few of the questions that run through our minds in the early stages of planning. If your goal is revenue growth and expansion, I believe you need to design, develop, and implement your Sales & Marketing plan on that foundation. Here is some criteria to consider while planning:

o Identify your markets and your profit potential in the selected markets

o Segment your markets by customer, service, etc.

o What type of penetration is desired: existing, new, different, or all of the preceding

o Design a plan to include procedures and controls to monitor and evaluate market penetration by segment

o Determine and build internal and external sales strategies

o Evaluate and plan staff training to generate internal monitoring controls, evaluation processes, and customer education if necessary

o Plan to control revenue growth with product mix, product promotion, and customer pre-qualification

o Evaluate expected sales and then ratio numbers to your sales staff’s current compensation package to see if consideration is needed for additional or different wage incentive programs

o Design controls to evaluate, monitor, and drive the highest level of profit possible

o Determine the type of media and then budget advertising accordingly

o Develop a backup plan in case of immediate campaign disaster