Brian Keaney

Tag: Dedham

My Jack Williams moment

Last night I was privileged to once again play a small role in the annual Holiday Harvest Telethon to benefit the Dedham Food Pantry.  Normally I prefer to give to charities that address the root causes of a person’s misfortune instead of just treating the symptoms, but it’s pretty tough to teach a man to fish when all he can think about is his growling stomach.

My role was to interview some of the guests and to accept a couple checks.  There are only so many ways you can ask people to call in, but fortunately my mother and sister, who were watching at home and laughing at me, gave me some good material to work with.  I stumbled over a couple of lines, botched our most famous guest’s last name, and at one point had a guest take the  microphone away from me because she wasn’t ready to leave the stage and I wasn’t prepared with another question.

The station has a new director, and she’s been a godsend.  She’s the one who recruited me to do a show, and there’s been a lot more activity overall in the months since she’s taken the reigns.  A couple weeks ago I was talking to her about the Telethon and she was telling me about her time at WBZ.  She said that whenever Jack Williams would get on and make an appeal the phones would start ringing off the hook.

At one point during the night I was standing there, waiting to go back on the air, and the intern working the camera poked his head out around and said to me, “This is your Jack Williams moment.”  He didn’t have a clue, but I knew exactly what it meant and from whom it came.

A minute later the red light in front of me lit up and I was on.  I had stumbled at a couple points throughout the night, but not during this segment.  I don’t know if it brought in any more donations, but I nailed it.  Though was easily my longest monologue of the three hour broadcast, and even though it was completely extemporaneous, it flowed smoothly throughout.  I was pretty pleased with myself, and the director even commented on how good I was after we were done and back in the kitchen finishing up the wine.

I don’t know whence that performance came, but I wish I could bottle it.  I think Jack Williams would be proud.


Better teachers make for better students

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Since news broke on myDedham last week about the Avery School being identified for improvement by the federal government – and parents subsequently being offered the choice to transfer their kids to other schools – its been a hot topic of discussion around town.  Traffic to the blog has been way up, and when I ran into an Avery parent at a bar on the Cape last weekend it’s all we talked about.

It’s also got me thinking about the research I did in grad school.  My Master’s thesis was on what cities and towns in Massachusetts can do to improve their education systems.  My single biggest surprise was reading over and over again about just how critically important teachers are. Obviously everyone understands that they play a crucial role; without them a school is just a building full of books and kids.

However, teacher effectiveness is the single biggest variable when you look at how successful students are. It’s more important than poverty, language spoken at home, parents’ education level, and the like.  A disadvantaged student with a great teacher will leap ahead while a student with everything going for her will likely fall behind if she is stuck with an ineffective teacher.  Studies show this over and over again.

To mention one recent study, a Harvard economist has found that by age 27, students with good kindergarten teachers are earning about $1,000 more per year than students who had average teachers.  In fact, they “estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year.  That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers.” Read the rest of this entry »