Appendix F - March 2001
Excerpts from online interviews with parent webmaster, Elvinor
TR: How did it come about that [your child chose to] enter the Academy ?
Elvinor: B. has expressed her/himself through music since s/he was very young. In fact, his/her pre-school teacher told me when s/he was 2 that s/he would be a drummer. S/he also started playing and composing on the piano when s/he was 6 or so, and then started percussion in middle school band as well as various bands outside of school. So s/he naturally gravitated toward the high school courses offered in [music]. When s/he was a junior, s/he realized that for the most part s/he was taking the classes that were required to obtain a Fine Arts Academy degree anyway, so s/he might as well join. Also at that time s/he started seriously considering pursuing music as a career and majoring in jazz in college, so s/he figured being in the Fine Arts Academy was a natural step in that direction...one that would help her/him prepare for music as a major in college.
TR: Were you ready for that? lots of parents want their kids to not be artistic because they worry about the economics of it.
Elvinor: Sure but I feel it is most important for her/him to live his/her life according to what his/her heart tells him to do. In his/her heart, s/he's a musician, and I am thrilled that s/he's following his/her dream. When I asked her/him why s/he'd chosen music as a major, s/he said, "because I have to." I have a couple of other thoughts on the subject...his/her private drum instructor has been able to make a "good" living (a nice home and food on the table for his/her 3 children) by doing a combination of things involving percussion -- teaching, performing, recording, touring...and s/he seems quite happy and fulfilled as a musician [and parent]. S/he is a good role model for B.. Also, B. is smart and has done well in his academic courses. S/he could do anything s/he wanted in school, and s/he's chosen music. I think that says a lot.
TR: There are lots of studies that show that kids who are good at art are good at academics and often that's used to justify arts programs... for me that's not necessary, to prove that a kid is "also" anything... from my point of view, art is very hard and requires a lot more self discipline than business studies
TR: How did you get involved in the web site at Captain Dewey High? As it after B. became a Fine Arts' kid or before?
Elvinor: I started learning how to do some basic web development at my job ... When I was thinking about how I could be involved in helping out at Captain Dewey High after my 2-year stint as PTSA secretary, I thought of the idea of creating an all-school-events calendar on the web. I approached the PTSA president and the Captain Dewey High webmaster and they said go for it. That was the summer before B.'s junior year and it was at some point in his/her junior year that s/he decided to join the Fine Arts Academy.
TR: So s/he got involved with the band pages after you got involved with the events calendar?
Elvinor: Yes. S/he was elected band president at the end of his junior year and s/he told fellow band members that as president, s/he wanted to create a web page for the [group] S/he took a web-development class during that summer and I helped her/him when s/he ran into some problems creating his/her pages at the end of the summer. S/he worked hard on it until his/her schedule became so full. S/he really hasn't done much with it recently. That's one of the major obstacles with web pages the maintenance can be very time-consuming.
TR: What do you think of the web? I am kind of in love with it I think. Berners-Lee, the guy mostly responsible for it, had two scientist parents and he studied at Oxford, classification systems and he got from his dad a belief that the brain works like a big neural network and he made the web design to act as a giant brain... I think it's an amazing idea.
Elvinor: Very interesting about the development of the web....I find it fascinating as well. I love the way it connects people whose paths would never have crossed otherwise...The interweaving of minds and spirits over such a distance, and in such a short time....I consider myself fortunate to be part of it.
TR: for me, to go to Captain Dewey High to work with them with their web site is an interesting idea because there are so many layers... there is the idea that kids get their work out there for anyone in the world to see.. there is the layer of teachers experiencing a kind of validation of the work they do... there is the layer of letting folks know about the Fine Arts Academy... and underneath it all is a feeling that personal relationships will form through the work and because of it too... as a parent, but also as a person who has been working on their site, do you have any visions, even if we can't do them now, of what a school web site might be or do?
Elvinor: I think you have just mentioned several of them - For teachers, I can see them using the web in several ways: informative ways with links to various helpful and relevant sites that could expand a student's learning experience and postings of homework assignments and due dates; in philosophical ways....expressing why they teach what they teach and what inspires them, and in a representative way by exhibiting students' work or sharing lesson plans. I can see students, parents, and other teachers benefiting from such teacher pages. Students could follow similar models in posting information/news re: their areas of interest, like for various clubs and organizations that they are involved in. Again with the understanding that an adult actually puts the info up on the web, so that appropriateness of subject matters is monitored Students could also share their creative projects on the web.
TR: You gave me an idea! Thank you! I hadn't actually thought about how parents use the site or might contribute to it and here I am talking to a parent who makes a huge contribution to it! hmmm... Can you tell me some about the parents and their involvement/needs and whatever else you think is important... gosh, I feel very dumb to have forgotten parents!
Elvinor: Parents like to have things like dates and times of various activities, sporting events/game results, that type of information that is interesting to them (and they can't easily obtain from their teenager or the newspaper). Parents involved in various booster clubs would probably be the most likely to do this.
TR: I think it's way too much work for only one person to have the password to upload things and I don't think [the district] has any rules against more than one person having access as long as it's an adult and supervised... do you think it's ok to have individuals not in contact with each other but just with [the web master], each putting up information related to their needs and interests? I'm talking about adults, teachers and parents .. I think it's ok because co-ordinating it all through a committee or one person seems way too daunting and would probably kill the whole experiment. But then, if we had adults doing this then maybe besides the web club for kids, I ought to think about a workshop for parents who are interested? Is that a really bad idea?
Elvinor: I think a workshop for parents would be great! There are several parents (mostly those involved in the PTSA and/or booster clubs) who give a great deal of their time and energy to Captain Dewey High. I think if they had the support of someone teaching them how to do the web work, they would take the ball and run with it. Also, yes, I think it would be fine to have any number of adults uploading (with the Captain Dewey High webmaster's permission), because I agree it's way too much work for any one soul to do. That's also the beauty of the interwovenness of the web that we were talking about....the more brains at work, the better... Really, of the three populations we've talked about...teachers, students, and parents, the parents (at least a handful--a rather large handful-- of them) have the most time to give to this sort of thing. There are several Captain Dewey High parents, like I said, who already give so much of themselves. If we could help channel that time and energy into web development, great things could happen! What they need is the support of someone teaching them how to do it. It may appear overwhelmingly difficult to those who dont understand how easy web development can be!
TR: When you read about artists working in schools around the country, the programs that end up lasting usually accomplish that because somehow the community, especially the parents, get involved and excited about it... and yet when I am in the school itself, the parents are kind of invisible... I don't think I've ever worked with parents before ... in their capacity AS parents that is...
Elvinor: I think it would be good if you contacted the PTSA president and approached her/him about coming to a PTSA meeting and bringing up the subject in that setting. That would be a good place to start, anyway. I'll check on the next PTSA meeting date and time, and give you [the] contact info. All this is on the Captain Dewey High web page, if you want to look for yourself. Its true about excited parents accomplishing wonderful things...I think we may be on to something...just look at how you and I got hooked on the web...I think there are any number of other parents out there ready to be reeled in! Also, I see more of the parents, since I am a parent myself...true, I tend to see them at meetings and musical events after school hours . but there are many who actively volunteer during the school day in the office, etc., too
Second conversation, next day ..
Elvinor: I believe it is in the arts that we experience truth and meaning in our lives.... through the creative process our spiritual beings are free to express themselves...and as a lover of the arts, my spiritual being connects with the artist (be it a musician, writer, dancer....) and I am filled with a sense of awe and wonder.. like I've been blessed with a glimpse of the Truth and it is truly beautiful. It is difficult to express this without sounding totally cheesy, but it really is what gives my life meaning.
TR: Yes, I agree.. for me, that's exactly what it does, it connects me, now this will probably also sound really cheesy but like a good religious ceremony can do the same thing for me and though I am not a sports fan, I think I see that those people find a connection there. But for me it's art the most because, exactly what you said, the truth and beauty thing come together and especially help my emotions come to a peace. As an artist I like collaborative arts more than the solo parts because I love the feeling of jointly discovering beauty and truth. I am a total addict of that experience. I think we did that yesterday when somehow we found new thoughts together so I don't think we ought to worry about whether those ideas might damage anyone. We can be very gentle - and sharing need not mean depriving anyone.
Elvinor: Also, I have a question about your time frame. Will your relationship with Captain Dewey High continue beyond this school year? I sure hope so. I could see some great training opportunities going on this summer for web development that could carry into next school year! School folks seem to be the most motivated in the early Fall.
TR: I think ongoing relationships are best. so if they like me and I don't run out of money I would like to keep working there for awhile till we feel we've seen the roots take hold Sable said teachers don't like to do stuff in the summer but is that different for parents? it's a good time for me to work also I like getting things sorted ahead of time so I think it would be great to have some things kind of in place before kids come back to school - what did you have in mind?
Elvinor: I know Captain Dewey High has hosted some summer camp for students in creative computer technology (I believe in conjunction with UT ....) For parents, maybe some kind of workshops on possible uses of the web and basic web development training for those interested (most likely PTSA and booster club). It would be good if teachers could be involved as they plan their curriculum for next year, but I'm not sure when that takes place.
Elvinor: Sounds good to me, TR! . Again, thank you for all you are doing to help our school and community! Peace ;-)