ReBand…A New School Year, A New Gig

September 5, 2008

One Cried, Then I Wanted To

The week has ended. This week I survived fire drills and picture day and was in fairly good spirits heading into Friday morning. Today was the second day of introduction woodwind testing and it had gone pretty well to that point. The first period class went pretty well until a sixth grade boy came back to my testing area (not doing his worksheets) just sobbing. I have small children, I understand sobbing, this was worse, completely uncontrollable. After several minutes of him looking at me and sobbing without attempting in any regard to tell me what was the matter or acknowledging my questions, I finally found out that he was so upset because he had forgotten an assignment for a class later in the day. I let that set into my mind a bit, was thankful that he hadn’t been hit by another student or been abused in any way before I became just flabbergasted that it was such a big deal to a 6th grade boy to forget his homework. I finally forced a smile while I wanted to cry because I was so delayed continuing my testing, told the child that it would be OK, and to go back to his seat. He smiled and sat down. I have so much to learn about teaching middle school. That boy will probably play horn. After the delay I got back to testing and only got through half the students I had hoped to. No water works the second 6th grade class…awesome.

Before school started, and before all the moisture of sixth grade, one of my better 8th grade clarinet players asked me how she could get out of band. Sigh. If she ends up dropping, she’ll be the second really potentially good woodwind I lose in three days. I forgot to mention in all the um…excitement of picture day that my one and only (and pretty decent) 8th grade oboe player dropped because I let the students know that there are some things that I will do differently than their previous director and that they would need to get used to my teaching. I honestly don’t think that it was any harsher than that, but apparently that didn’t agree with her or her mom. The clarinet player want to drop in 8th grade because she wants to do drama in high school. As I said before, I have so much to learn about teaching middle school. During class time, I addressed a couple of issues that I wanted to make sure everyone was clear on and then the classes the rest of the day went pretty well. OK, all except for 7th grade woodwinds.

Disclaimer: Where I work, 6th graders have band every day for 42 minutes all year long. Other programs may not expect the same level of progress due to impossible and ridiculous scheduling and the following is based upon the expectation of a student having pretty good progress and knowledge of the fingering on their instrument following their 6th grade year.

During 7th grade woodwind class, I came to learn that some all of the clarinets that had been transferred to my school from some other MSs (due to redistricting) and had been playing for the whole year had no knowledge of ANY notes above the break. One girl told me that they had learned 6 notes for being in 6th grade. At that point, I think I started to feel the room spin and I could hear my heart beating. Actually those things about my room and heart are not true, but I was thinking some pretty creative words about their previous directors. I sure hope that none of those words came out. I had some solace that the students who had been in my school last year were just as freaking confused by their peers’ dreadful lack of progress as I was. I wanted to cry again at that point. I sure hope that they can learn fast.

After school I went to speak with the counselor about the future drama queen clarinet player and was stopped by the vice principal on my way there. “Oh, hey, can you stop by my office before you leave….it’s no big deal?” she said as she grinned and lied through her teeth (though I don’t really think she thought that she was lying). At that point I hated my life anyway so I said sure that I would stop in soon. I cleared everything up with the counselor and headed to the office. I’ll touch on this conversation later.

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