Monday, July 9, 2007

So Much to Blog, So Little Time – Part I: Professional Frustration

This weekend has been so mind-numbingly busy, that I have chosen to take one of my morning constitutionals to the coffee shop to play MySpace catch-up. I woke up at 7am, took a quick shower, and got here ASAP to read up on all of the blogs I have missed over the past week or so. In doing so, I have been reminded of the thousand-and-one things I have wanted to blog about over the past week or two, an likely STILL won't have time to write about. After spending 2 hours reading blogs and writing a few comments, here it is, 9:15am. With 45 minutes to get to work, I'll probably barely scratch the surface of what I want to write about, so this will probably be a multi-part blog written over several days.

Okay, professional frustration. There are a bunch of levels on this subject that have been digging under my skin like rabid, mutant ticks lately. At the risk of another whiney blog, latent with complaints and "woe is me" stories, I shall vent thusly:

First and foremost, for the first time in about 14 years, I find myself WITHOUT a marching band job for the fall. The band I have worked with for the past 3 ½ years, like all too many others, hit the budgetary chopping block, and I was the appendage to be severed. Every other staff member has been retained, but I was let go. At first, I disappointedly let it roll off my back, citing facts to myself like, "I was the only staff member that WASN'T a caption head", "the other wind instructor is a T.A. paid by the district payroll and not the band budget", "this is happening all over, I'm not the only one", etc..

Then it started to get to me. I was the only one there capable of running an effective sectional or rehearsal with ANY of the sections without just saying, "play through this number…okay again…okay again…(ad nauseum)". Was there some other reason? I had heard there were some rumblings of dissatisfaction with something I had said or done last year. I got this third party from my advisor at Wayne State when she tried to place me at this school for my practicum and student teaching. I got nothing solid or ANY details (which is the frustrating standard for WSU – particularly the music department), but there was some reason I couldn't be placed there that was political. Beyond that, I was never contacted by the director this year, despite the fact that she had said she'd drop me a line with the season details and schedule in May. I had to contact her.

My biggest pet peeve is when someone has a problem with me, but won't confront me with it and just either lets it stew and fester, or worse, takes it out on me surreptitiously. I'm a reasonable guy and usually very open to constructive criticism. If you have a problem with me or something I did, tell me. I'll do my best (especially in an employment or educational situation) to repair the damage or change my behavior in the future. I'm there to get better at what I do, and adjusting to others' teaching or operating style is part of the job. As good as I think I am at reading people, I misjudge from time to time. All I need is a friendly hint of what to do different next time and, after blushing with a bit of embarrassment, I'll make the necessary adjustments. I'm not prone to blowing up at people (unless the aforementioned festering or surreptitious back-stabbing occurs). The same applies to friendships.

So here I am, the only bit of professional gratification I get for the year (in my chosen field) taken from me, no prospects for other bands, and pretty much every other band fully staffed or under-funded to the point of not being able to pay me what I am worth or would even financially justify the time and gas to do it.

Gives new meaning to "Trickle-down Economics".

If any of you know of a band that needs an instructor – winds, visual, or general purpose – PLEASE let me know! It leads to a crazy busy fall for me, but it's the only chance I get to remind me why I got into Music Education in the first place. The best part of being a lowly band tech is that I get all of the benefits (sans monetary) of the job with none of the hassles. I get to teach students, impart my wisdom, and utilize teaching and performance techniques I have gathered over the years to improve and guide young musicians, but never have to deal with budgets, lesson plans, administration, or (at least so I thought) the political bullshit entwined with the position of band director. The director tells me what needs to be accomplished, and I use my knowledge and experience to get results – and I DO get results.

Things are tough all over, but it never occurred to me that they would end up hitting my fall marching band gig. I suppose I should have gotten suspicious when, for the first year ever, I wasn't contacted about ANY other gigs or camps.

God, I hope this is just about budgets and not about my reputation as an instructor.

Further frustration involves my job at Custom Music. With the boss screaming for a pointless and often discarded inventory, he has decreed that I not bring my computer to work (hence my backlog of blog material and other computer related communication). This is to ensure that I am working on the inventory every possible minute. More likely, it's to quell the complaints from one of the salesmen who loves to hover over everyone's shoulder and check, double check, undo, and redo everyone's work. He then proceeds to complain that he doesn't have time to do his own various duties.

The thing I hate about this inventory bullshit, aside from the fact that it is never used for anything other than to give the owner a sense of gratification to see a nice fat stack of paper itemizing what he has acquired, is the time it takes. When we first did the full inventory 3 years ago, it took 3 of us a full 2 weeks of doing nothing but inventory. Now, it's just me doing it in between customer repairs, servicing horns for conventions, designing ads, making web page updates, shipping, receiving and whatever other pointless, redundant, or otherwise useless tasks they interrupt me with. The boss doesn't get that, no matter how many times I relay that information to him, and asks me at least 5 times a day if I'm done yet. I try to chalk it up to the fact that he's 90+ years old, sick, and feeble-minded, but it doesn't make it any less infuriating. Couple that with the brain-dead salesman who can barely tie his own shoes or wipe his own ass, interrupting me to help him with the simplest and most menial of tasks, and I'm ready to tear my hair out. This guy is a combination of Bill Lumberg from Office Space and a whiny, demanding 2-year-old in every irritating way.

Thankfully, Blockbuster is still Blockbuster, and my one (though ill-paying) professional island of adequacy. I'm appreciated and liked by my boss, coworkers, and customers alike, and usually look forward to my shifts. The district manager has yet to follow through with utilizing me for training purposed or reward me with anything but a grateful slap on the back (that and a buck fifty will get me a cup of coffee), but the day-to-day there is still pretty nice.

This ends my professional opining…for now

Coming up next: So Much to Blog, So Little Time – Part II: Recreational Frustration

No comments: