In this video, I demonstrate how you can use Python unit tests to auto-grade students’ assignments through GitHub Classroom.
Misinformation: You think it’s true, but it’s not.
Disinformation: You know it’s not true, but you say it anyway.
Once I entered Comsewogue High School (grade 9), the social aspects of school and the pressures of “fitting in” came knocking on my door. Let’s face it; my peers considered me to be a nerdy and oddball kid. The oddball-ness came from my poor vision and inability to participate in gym and other school activities. However, my drumming talents were relatively well known and recognized by others.
My parents continued to support my drumming by enrolling me in drum lessons at Heywood’s Music, located in Setauket, New York. My instructor’s name was Fred Levine, and I learned a lot from him. He taught me to use metal sticks with a pillow to practice. He coupled this with the infamous book “Stick Control.” It’s also the first time I got to sit behind a double-kick Slingerland set. Man, those were some very memorable times. I remember a large Foghat poster in the drum studio, and I remember Fred allowing me to drum along to songs like Slow Ride and Fool for the City.
I then ran into Tommy Henriksen. I’m not sure how we were introduced or which specific year of high school was. For those of you who don’t know, Tommy is one of the guitar players for Alice Cooper. He also plays with The Hollywood Vampires and is an accomplished and sought-after music producer.
Tommy had rock and roll written all over him. From his attitude to his long curly, bushy brown hair. He was and still is the real deal. The first time we jammed was in my parent’s basement. Our first song was Jumping Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones. Our second song was Sweet Jane by Lou Reed. We then brought some other guys into the band, including Jay Calendrino (sp). Jay, like Tommy, was a great guitar player. I’m not quite sure who the other players were, maybe Greg Heyman or Kevin McArdle.
I somehow got kicked out of the band, as Tommy kindly reminded me of when he signed my yearbook. Probably because my drumming was more Carter Beauford style than John Bonhams. I’m still happy to call Tommy a good friend.
My parents enrolled my sister and me at The USDAN Summer Camp for the Arts during the summers. It was there that I met drum instructor Gary Hodges. He was an excellent musician and instructor. I was fortunate enough to be a roadie for his band for a few gigs. Several of my friends from the neighborhood, including Adam Lowney, also attended USDAN.
I also have fond memories of playing in band and stage band under the leadership of the amazing Greg Proios. I’m thankful that Greg and I remain connected on Facebook and that he continues to inspire me.
My life in various bands in high school gave me an identity that continues to live with me today. Drumming kept me focused and out of trouble. My clothing also changed from the preppy way my mom dressed me to cool, loosely tied ties and denim vests. I looked the part.
I was now able to hang out with the cool kids in the cafeteria, and music became the glue that helped forge so many friendships and good times. As I read through my Comsewogue yearbook, there were dozens of comments about my drumming and the bands I played with.
Sure I still had to deal with being a disabled kid who used a telescope to see the blackboard and had to work with an exceptional teacher (Mrs. Goldstien) but drumming made it all ok.
Back in October 2016, Gayle and I went to see Tommy play with Alice Cooper. When Tommy and I were sitting on his tour bus, we reminisced about all of the good times that music brought us both. It was like 36 years didn’t exist. He even razzed me about being kicked out of the band again.
So what about drumming and Bruce now? I will save that for Part 3 of this series.
Thank you for reading.
It all started in fourth grade at Clinton Avenue Elementary school. It was at that time that students with the permission of their parents could take up a musical instrument. Originally I signed up to learn to play the flute but soon switched over to the snare drum. I have no recollection of why I had the desire to learn to play the flute. While I don’t remember that much from my early days learning to play the snare drum, I do remember the book we used entitled “Alfred Elementary Drum Method Book”. I also remember that my friend Joseph Verzulli was also learning to play. The band teacher’s name is also something I can’t quite remember and am thinking it started with a “B”, maybe Mr. Benter?
It wasn’t until Junior High School that I played in the school band. The band teacher was the nicest guy ever and his name was Gordon Jackson. Mr. Jackson was very supportive and encouraged me to learn to play the drum kit and participate in the stage band in addition to the concert band.
The first drum that I ever owned was a Ludwig Acrolite. The Acrolite was Ludwig’s entry-level snare drum and it was all my parents could afford at the time.
Band, and in particular, stage band, was a tight-knit group of students that enjoyed playing everything from Steely Dan, The Beatles, and Dave Brubeck. It was always rewarding performing in the various concerts throughout the school year. My mom and dad were always excited to come to see me play.
Practicing drums at home in the early days consisted of an angled practice pad and some super large 2B size sticks. They taught us how to play traditional grip which is something that I found very difficult to do. More on this later.
As I started to learn how to play the drum kit I started to piece together household items for the bass drum, hi-hat, and other drums and cymbals. For the bass drum, I used the container of pool chlorine. The bottom of this container was made of thick cardboard and made for an awesome-sounding bass drum. My parents did purchase a bass drum pedal for me that I attached to the container.
For the hi-hat, I used an old table, and let me say that I probably wasn’t supposed to use that old table for that purpose. I used several other chlorine containers for the tom and floor tom. Had I known that plastic paint buckets would have worked as well, I would have used them. I’m just not quite sure we had those types of plastic buckets back in the 1970s.
As my drumming progressed, my parents clearly saw that I was committed to them, however, my grades in school weren’t the greatest. My parents offered to complete my drum kit with a real bass drum, tom-tom, floor-tom and some cymbals if and only if I could improve my grades. This truly motivated to buckle down in school for which I did.
My first real drum kit consisted of a used black Ludwig 14×22 bass drum, a new 8×12 black Ludwig rack tom, and a used black Rogers 16×16 floor tom. The hi-hat stand was a Ludwig with some entry-level cymbals and I also had some type of 16″ crash. I also switched to a Ludwig Speed King pedal.
The drums were set up in the basement and things started to get loud. Very loud.
As some of you might know, my eyesight is limited. With visual acuity of 20/1600 in my left eye, which I don’t use at all, and 20/200 in my right eye. I also have nystagmus, making my eyes move rapidly from side to side uncontrollably. Luckily, my brain doesn’t show me things moving side-to-side most of the time, as it most likely adjusted to this when I was younger. It has returned on and off during the Fall of 2021 due to some trauma. I’m classified as being “legally blind.”
Being legally blind prohibits me from getting a driver’s license. I do wear some very powerful bifocals for reading. They are the most powerful magnifying lenses you can get in a set of eyeglasses. I believe they are a magnification of 10.
So, where am I going with all of this? I want to share a story about my elementary, junior high school, and high school years that helped shape the person I now am.
My parents recognized early on that I had problems with my vision. I remember my dad using the wooden letter “E” painted white to get me to mimic the position of the “E” he was holding up. Once it was determined that I had limited vision, the eye doctor at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC hooked my parents up with an organization known as the Industrial Home for the Blind (IHB), which is now known as the Helen Keller Institute.
The Industrial Home for the Blind helped shape me by doing two things. The first is providing an aide that came to my school 2-3 times a week. This person was Mrs. Henrietta Goldstein.
I remember bracing to hear Mrs. Goldstien’s voice come over the classroom PA system, as frankly, I was kind of embarrassed. “PLEASE SEND BRUCE DOWN TO THE OFFICE” is what I remember. I would then head down to meet Mrs. Goldstein, where we ate lunch and talked, and she helped me with my school work.
I was fortunate enough to have worked with Mrs. Goldstein from 1st grade until 11th grade. Several events throughout the year gathered other blind and low vision students from around Long Island for picnics, sporting events, and other outings. It was a chance for me to be with other kids like me.
Mrs. Goldstein passed away in 2004, and I want to express my gratitude for spending time with me each week, helping me navigate life, and being a “different” student.
The second thing that impacted me was another service offered by the IHB. Every Saturday, I would head to Patchogue, NY, and spend 3-4 hours at an IHB center with other blind and low-vision kids. A gentleman named Tom Jasikoff ran it. It helped me figure out how to socialize with other kids with low vision, navigate society, and be an inspirational individual.
I am also highly thankful to the IHB for providing me with handheld telescopes. I used to see blackboards, large-print books, eyeglasses, and many other things.
And of course, I need to also express gratitude to my family for the support they provided.
More on life as a low-vision person is coming soon. Thanks for reading.
Computer Technology instructor Bruce Elgort has created a software application geared towards improving the accessibility and navigation of course content. The application is a question and answer bot incorporated into Slack, a communication platform that Elgort uses with his courses
Harvard is now offering a free Introduction to Programming with Python course. I’m enrolled and ready to learn. I’m a big fan of Professor David J. Malan.
In my classes at Clark College, I’ve adopted the Transparency in Learning and Teaching methodology for assignments (TiLT). It has proven to be very effective and students really enjoy having assignments formatted using it.
I’ve created a template for you to use which you can find here on GitHub. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.
There is now a browser extension for students enrolled in the Clark College Web Development program. The extension provides useful links and resources.
Here’s the GitHub repo for those who want to see how it was built.
Not using Firefox? Well, there’s also a version of the extension for Chrome-based browsers such as Google Chrome, Brave, and Microsoft Edge.
Here’s a video by Vicky Zhao on communicating confidently on Zoom and virtual meeting calls. Are we not, after all, headed to the Metaverse, right?