One Little Victory…

To quote Geddy Lee and RUSH, I have had ‘One little Vic-tor-reEE’ today in my last 48 hours in my 3rd year of teaching. I try to avoid bragging (if you can call this story that) on this forum because that is not what I intended to do at all with it. When I started at my current job I was fresh out of College and was searching for what I considered to be a dream job, teaching a High School Band program. I didn’t really take much regard into looking at what that might entail as part of the gig, I just wanted a Band to call my own. As I have now reflected to realize, I was not prepared to teach Choir in any way, shape, or form. I thought I knew how to teach Choir but there was a ton more research and personal growth that I had to go through.

But why share that? Well, the first year that I taught there was a Senior who point-blank told me that ‘I am not in Choir to sing, I am here to get an A and have fun’. In that moment and still to this day I am confused by that statement, why be in a class just for an A and to have fun. Smarter and in the future me now knows that I had failed her in that moment, I had missed the point that she was making towards me. It wasn’t that she was not wanting to be a part of the class…it was that I was trying to teach them how to hold pitch missing the reason that she was there. I changed the way I taught Choir trying to give them more freedom, allowing them to sing what they wanted, while at the same time as having them work with songs I want to work with them on. Tomorrow is graduation and the Senior members of Choir this year (semester) wanted to sing the National Anthem. Today at our practice for it I was expecting 5 students to show up to participate. I hold told this semester’s kids to tell previous semester kids, but if they said no I understood. I had 12 students show up this morning not only excited to sing for their peers but encouraging me to drop what I was doing and to work with them.

This is where that small victory lies. Having that many students show up to participate…now WANT to participate is awesome. I tried that my first year and only 1 student showed up (Solo!) I was excited that the time I had spent tending to my choir garden I finally have some flowers. I know that I am not anywhere near where I should be to properly teach them, but through my growth, the program has grown too. To me…that is one little victory.

Something to Cheer for!

Marching Band is something that I feel many different views of this activity exist out in the social community. Some view it as a joke, others see it as an easy way out of PE, some see it as a fun activity, and others view it as a jukebox and mobile spirit unit. This has caused a marketing issue within my community as to what marching band is and what we can achieve through it. There are many students who are on campus who play an instrument in their past who do not want to make the commitment, but turn around and get upset when it is not something better. Hollywood shows band as dorks who are always practicing (we are) and are not socially competent. This hasn’t really permeated the school culture here on my campus, but the understanding that all groups work in different ways seems to be missed. In Marching Band world, October is the most important month here in AZ as that is when basically all of the competitions are within that month. While Football begins a month earlier, I personally put just as much if not more emphasis on these performances as they are a perfect chance to prepare for the ones that are outwardly graded. Explaining this however to a non-marching person is hard for them to understand.

Fighting this concept that we need stadium time too, or that we need a chance to practice getting on and off the field, or a chance to play a full show can help or hinder students. While they might look nice to you out there on the field at half; or you are bored of this annoying music and dumb looking uniform, this is their chance to apply their learning from the week in a high-pressure situation. Every Friday for 2 months, I have a high-stakes test in front of countless members of the community. I put my teaching and the teaching of my fellow staff members out for the public to see; and whether I like it or not I receive feedback on how I am doing as a teacher and coach. While this is wonderful, to community is starting to see through the cracks that is how some things are run. ‘Why are they so small?’- Well, I do not have a stable feeder program. You are right, I should have tons of kids given 5 different schools feed me. You should discuss this with their programs. ‘Why can’t we have nice things like band x?’ Well, I do not receive a budget like a few other activities and have to either charge the parents the cost, or fundraise for it. Even then, very few students are willing to participate. ‘Band Z does so much better than us, why?’- They have larger staff, students who are willing to practice outside of the school day, and a culture that is built upon giving their best. We within the MB are working to create this culture but at the end of the day, the performers (students) are the ones who have to make the commitment.

How? We need a shift in thinking. While your English class may not allow homework, or you do not value sporting events, if you say that around students enough times they too are going to believe and internalize these thoughts and then begin to feel that way too. How do I build school spirit? I am at whatever I can be and participate; is it always fun? No, but if I am seen being a part of the wolf-pack pride then I am doing my part to increase school spirit. The band alone, or Spiritline alone cannot and will not change a culture. If we want students the attend events, then we as a staff need to. If we want more people to attend a sporting game, then we need to get those teams cheering for each other. One team cannot feel they are most important and therefore everyone needs to come to them. While my students may not have the time I do encourage them to attend a play or dance concert; if they go then maybe a dancer sees them and then attends our concert to see what that is all about. If we stay in our bubble nothing increases. While spending a Saturday evening watching Marching Bands may not sound cool to you right now, what if you went? Maybe you’ll enjoy something about it and see that there are hundreds of students who are working hard.

At the end of the day, we need more respect for the hard work that all students put into their activities. While dressing up in a school colored uniform may seem dumb or lame to you; there is somebody out their fighting back pain, being a hero, feeling like there is nobody watching, and enjoying life for 8 minutes. Isn’t that worth cheering for?

Team vs. Groups

I have a strange interest in how teams interact at events in a high school age group is an interesting cultural experience. For this exampling I will be using a football game so the players will be  Football, Marching Band, Cheer, Students, and Spectators (fans). In recent experience I was able to see a Team work and achieve victory over groups working towards the same goal. Through personal reflection of both my high schools (HS) and my wife’s experience in HS band with football. It has given me view that reinforces my drive to create school spirit and pride…not just the overall want or need to win.

At a recent game that my school lost, we were fortunate enough to see what I view as true school spirit and involvement. The band, fans, team, and cheer all had the same goal in mind, that was victory. They worked together as a Team, there was no one item ignored, no group was not participating, every group was feeding off of the other. While to the traditionalist would see it as the work of the team supported by those other groups a few of us on campus were able to see that this was the work of a TEAM not groups.

Us on the other hand are struggling to see this mentality grow and work together. There is a huge push to get school spirit up across the student population. However, if the staff has little pride; are we able to get the students to follow along? Let’s look at marching band real quick, last year we as a marching staff worked hard to create a culture that arrived on time, carried with pride, worked to give their best. This year, some of those targets were missed in the learning, some are hitting their target, others are needing to be re-taught. If I want students to be more involved with spirit and the game…we need staff there to be just as engaged. I cannot ask my students to do something I myself would not do, act, or say.

Is this not good practice? Should we not practice what we preach? I believe this is so, if we ourselves cannot model good examples, how it is done, or how to perform then we have no real business teaching it. I know that I am not good at teaching choir, I look up information on a weekly basis to improve my teaching. With this in mind however; I do not teach something new, or ask them to perform a piece that I cannot myself sing or show as an example. If we want to have the campus work as a team to have a winning, or even competitive effect; then I believe we need to look inward at the staff and get our spirit up.

Social Media in the Classroom?!?

I can here many educators now, ‘why would you do this? This will lead to issues! Students can’t be trusted.’ That is the issue, it not that we can’t use it in the classroom, it is that we are not always willing to let go and allow students to have the freedom to learn something without us. After spending 3 straight days working on what started as ‘tech integration’ for my district and ended as a ‘how do we teach better and maybe there is tech’. This simple switch in view has opened doors to where we can take our students in a way to become better 21st century students. Continue reading Social Media in the Classroom?!?

Why? Why? Why?

I have begun to wonder what about students has made them question seemingly small assignments in class. Assigning a Music Video to be made, or writing a paper in an ‘Easy Class’ suddenly meets the introduction of the lesson with a few students crying (yes with a tinge of pain) ‘Why?!’.  This is becoming one of my pet-peeves with teaching I’ve noticed, the question just drives me a tad insane(r). I did give it thought though, maybe it is because I was unclear and this, like many other issues in my classes are my fault. Continue reading Why? Why? Why?

She’s smarter than we thought

Listening to students I have come to a conclusion that we as educators do not listen to our students. (I am guilty of this as well). We think we know what is best for students since we as teachers sometimes see them more days out of the year than their parents, have a college degree, and even ‘have lived life longer than you’. I myself heard these things all the time as a student but never looked at why this might be said.

The students I teach, while they are teenagers at points in the day, are aware of a lot more than I think some people know. They can see the staff in-fighting, they can see the favoritism, and they can see when we are faking it. That’s where we need to draw back the curtain and hold a conversation with our students.

Teachers talk a big game about giving students the power, but its a gated power, we let them make choices but they are choices we already made and narrowed down stifling their creativity. Or we just haven’t taken the time to teach them the concept that we are building upon assuming that they have already learned it somewhere else.

Take the time, you might get further and learn something yourself.

What the future brings

I am a strange person. I want to look forward to the future and get to April so I can start marching band. The progress that the program has made in these 4 short months is amazing and has humbled me. The fierce drive, nay desire to be a true ‘High School Band’ program and music program has made me think about where I want to go and where we should go as a group with the Pride of Estrella Foothills Music Program. I am very aware though that this started before I had even graduated High school. Continue reading What the future brings

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