Thursday, February 11, 2010


To the three loyal readers of my blog (maybe more now that Google Buzz has come into play to increase my "popularity") you may have remembered when i wrote about my new commitment to write each day about the things I am grateful for in that day. I also told you I would let you know how it went.

As is true with most things in life, it took a little bit of effort to get it going. I would keep at it for a few days, then just be too tired and forget about it for several days, then pick it up again. Well, finally yesterday I gained a great testimony of how valuable it can be as a method to process through my day and see difficult things in a new light.

Yesterday was not the best day. I didn't get up to exercise and as a result didn't feel very successful with any of the things that I had planned to do in the morning (you know, read about my dissertation, read more about my dissertation, listen to music for my dissertation, read about my dissertation...) and wasn't in a very good mood. As I get to voice lessons, one of my students seems particularly worried about the things I am teaching and I get the sense that this student doesn't trust me as a teacher. I keep thinking to myself "You're the one who is paying me! Why don't you listen to what I have to say?" Later I go to my class and notice halfway through class that one of my students seems to be particularly upset about the grading that I just handed back and my heart absolutely broke. While I was somewhat challenging in my response to this student, my intent was to help the student see how to improve and where to focus effort. I felt horrible that my intention to motivate had actual led to the exact opposite. It distracted me for several minutes while I tried to keep the class moving. Needless to say I was very tired and frustrated (mostly with myself) by the time I got home. Why wasn't I able to say the right things to get this student to trust me? Why had my attempts to motivate led to discouragement instead?

When it came time to write my journal yesterday evening, I thought that I would focus on a wonderful wife. When I came home she listened ever so patiently as I unloaded about my day, tried to help me see things from a different perspective, and made a FANTASTIC dinner that really made the whole day of frustration worth it since I got to come home to a loving, supportive, smart wife.

Then the Spirit started to talk to me: "Did you notice how you didn't blow up at your voice student, that you were given the right things to say to get that student to listen to you, and that by the end of the lesson the student had made some real progress?" No, I had forgotten all about that. I bet the student will be a lot more willing to go with things next week now that there is evidence of some progress. "Did you notice how it worked out that you ran into the student in your conducting class afterwards so that you could find out that the student was having a bad day because of other things? Didn't you think that I let you notice that student so that you could go talk later and show the student some much-needed concern?" Wow, I never thought about the role I would play as teacher who is building people and not just students.

I remember driving home from work one particularly cloudy afternoon. As I looked up over the mountains I noticed this one patch of brilliant blue in the midst of all of the clouds. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. It was so bright and clear (much better than the usual hazy blue that one gets looking through clouds) that it changed my whole perspective on the rest of the cloudy sky. Instead of being an "overcast day" I thought about this one spot of brilliantly blue sky.

Its amazing how finding (hunting, scraping up) one ray of light in what seemed like a very cloudy day gives you just enough light to see the silver-lining.

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Knowledge is....

I am a new fan of the Franklin Planner. Whitney and I got them near the beginning of our marriage, as we realized that our responsibilities were not only to ourselves and required that we would need to be aware of each others' needs and the needs of our household.

Part of this my planner is a little bookmark that keeps track of the day I'm on, but also has me set goals for myself with the different "hats" that I wear in my life. At the beginning of our marriage that was quite easy since I only had two hats: "be a good husband" and "pass my preliminary exams." Now, however, the number of hats I have to wear has dramatically multiplied: husband, teacher, conductor, dissertation writer, reviewer, conference proposal researcher, job applier, and the list seems to keep growing! Interestingly enough, in true "Covey" style, the bookmark suggests that you set four personal goals to maintain your sanity: a physical goal, a spiritual goal, a social goal, and an intellectual goal.

I struggle the most with the intellectual goal. For me it seems that so much of what I do already is intellectual. Pouring through books and articles to be able to see how they fit (or don't) into my concept of my dissertation, or my conference proposal, or my article for the Choral Journal. It seems like a lot of work to suggest that I should on some other level be increasing my intellectual skill.

On a different note, I recently attended a presentation by a hopeful candidate for the School of the Arts at the University where I am currently employed. His presentation was supposed to center around his vision for the School of the Arts. He definitely demonstrated his academic knowledge as he presented us with an 18-page paper that summarized the history of the words "arts," "university," and "vision." While it was an impressive analysis, it didn't seem to fit with a School that is geared for performance and preparing future secondary educators and showed that his knowledge was (in my opinion) ill-suited for our needs. It seems in this case that knowledge is not power.

As I have been diving deep into the job market and doing my best to find some full-time employment that will support a future family, I have been living by that very phrase: knowledge is power. The more that I can know about a university, the search committee, and the job-search process in the choral academia, the better prepared I will be to say the right things at the right time to the right people and I will find the job that is best for us. On the other side, the more that the search committee can know about me - my skills and my interests - the more likely that they will see how well suited I am for the position.

I am beginning to doubt how much knowledge really is power. After spending an evening of reading through articles that are designed to give tips on how to manage the hiring process, I think that my increased knowledge has led to more doubt: doubt in the effectiveness of my letters of recommendation, doubt in my ability to fund on-campus interviews (one article discussed how less and less campuses are willing to fund interviews), doubt in the effectiveness of my cover letters or in my tactics for helping myself stand out from the deluge of job applicants. The doubt discourages me about the fact that I will ever find a job that is right. It seems to me that - in this case - knowledge is not power, but fear.

Then I turn to the knowledge that I have received from my Heavenly Father as I have turned to Him in this whole process. The information He gives me is so little so rarely. To summarize it, he says "you will get the job that is right for you." I can derive from that two assumptions: I WILL get a job, and I don't necessarily need to change from the course I am headed (that is, shipping off several applications a month) to be able to get to the job that I will get in the future. When I trust that message, I can act with courage instead of doubt in knowing that the path I am treading will lead me to a place where my family and I will be successful and my family will be happy.

For once in my life, I think that my academic success has much more to do with FAITH than with KNOWLEDGE!

How do you depend on faith when you have no knowledge to back it up?