Jazz. When performed well, it seems effortless. Players take turns with their solos; nobody gets in anybody’s way. Each performer’s solo is exquisite, and demonstrates wonderful technique and creativity. When coming back to the theme, all soloists work together as an ensemble, and sound like they have been playing together since childhood. It is wonderful!
Yet, hidden behind these great performances are countless hours of practice. These players all went to lessons and had teachers. They could have easily practiced 10,000 hours or more on their own, and then even more with their group. They play arpeggios and scales, duets with their teachers. They study theory, listen to past masters, and go to live performances. Are there new ideas in their world? They have to know what they are, see if they like them, and see whether they can incorporate any of the new ideas in their music. They are immersed in music, and we all benefit.
Just as no great group would ever expect to perform well without working and practicing together, the same is true for community-based agencies and school districts. The ‘ensemble’ needs a shared vision of their ultimate goal, and practice together to get there (i.e., have meetings and learn from each other); they have to practice on their own (i.e. stay aware of what is going on in that area); they need partners with different areas of expertise (e.g. evaluators, curriculum specialists, health administrators, project directors, site coordinators); and they have to know theory (e.g. the latest research).
I see evaluators as essential partners in this ensemble, and especially for groups pursuing federal grants. They can no longer expect to submit a successful federal grant proposal without the proper preparation any more than a great ensemble could expect to put on a great show without the untold hours of practice and other essential elements they need beforehand. Evaluators contribute from our area of expertise toward developing the basic information necessary for project proposals and ultimately grant submissions.
Working together takes time, but in the end, like jazz, the results can be wonderful!
** This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of blogs by evaluators and staff at Ciurczak & Company, Inc. We will touch base on many aspects of evaluation, and bring you our personal perspective on this and other topics. We look forward to writing them, and reading your comments.