Do you ever find yourself utterly exhausted at the end of a rehearsal, feeling like you lost a game of tug of war against your entire band? The podium can feel like a very lonely place at times, leaving you frustrated and feeling like the “bad guy”; however, taking a step back and focusing on the reality of your situation can easily bring you some relief and help you build connections with your students.
Consistency is the name of the game!
For many students, you may be the only person who provides consistency in their lives. Communicate your rules, expectations, and procedures to your students by adopting a band handbook. Use your handbook to define what being a member of the band means, the expectations and responsibilities a member of the band must accept and don’t forget to include your yearly calendar. Teach your rules, expectations, and procedures to all parents and students, and then commit to reviewing it throughout the school year as needed. Refer back to your handbook in situations to provide clarity while making decisions. Keep documentation by including an agreement form that is signed by both parents and students.
Communicate “the good, the bad, and the ugly” to your students’ parents and caregivers. This is my number one go-to for handling any classroom discipline and celebrations. Give parents an opportunity to help you correct their child’s mistakes. Most parents will appreciate this gesture and discipline their children at home. Discipline at home means your students are more likely to stay in the classroom and out of In-School or Out-of-School Suspension!
Strive to be INCLUSIVE with your ensemble, not exclusive.
This mentality will create an atmosphere built on trust and will allow students to feel good about being a part of your program, even if they aren’t the best players in their section. Each student has the potential to benefit the program. Allow students to contribute to your program by asking them to do everything asked of them to the best of their abilities.
Think, think, think!
Keep the students focused on the needs of the ensemble and explain their personal responsibility to the ensemble. Choose words thoughtfully–for example, use “us, we, and ours “instead of “I, me, and my”. Encourage students to take ownership of the program by appointing and training student leaders. In training leaders, instill the importance of leading with a servant’s heart. This will squash any potential poisonous “ego” problems that may creep rehearsals/sectionals that students may assist or lead.
Be an example for your students.
Be mindful of all of the ways to react in all situations: the words you use, your facial expressions, your body language, and the tone of your voice. Exhibit grace over condescension by speaking respectfully and pleasantly. Students will perceive you as fair, calm, and consistent, and will be more likely to fulfill your requests even if they would rather not. In addition, your calm, collected composure can positively affect your ensemble in nervous situations such as concerts, assessments, etc.
There is no broad-spectrum answer to all of the potential obstacles that you may encounter while teaching; However, these five keys have the potential to help you lead productive rehearsals and establish a safe, open atmosphere in your band program.
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