ReBand…A New School Year, A New Gig

September 7, 2008

The Vice Principal Talk

Some things to keep in mind when you get a new band job:

1. You have to train help your administrators to understand how you (a new person) will in almost every circumstance have a influence and at least a slight change on the current program, you know, because you’re not a clone of the last director.

2. Know you’re going to have the a similar exchange as the one below, probably after school Friday of the second week.

Vice principal: So, how do you think things have been going? (Loaded question)

New Director: About as I expected, I’m having to make a lot of adjustments, what are you hearing (it is FRIDAY AFTER SCHOOL, please get to the point)?

Vice principal: Oh nothing really, and I’m certainly not musical (no kidding and here comes the contradiction) but I’ve heard from some 8th grade students and a parent about band (a parent….one….parent…..). I think I bit through my tongue.

New Director: Yes, I’m sure that the students are having to make adjustments as well.

The conversation continued in this manner for a while before I could finally get her to let me know some concerns and learn who they were from. She basically wanted to know that if students dropped band, would the program possibly be hurt. While in my heart I wanted to tell her that if they were the proper kids, things would actually get better, but chose the more middle of the road, “yes it will affect it” (duh). Then we spoke about how things are going well in the 6th (only adds) grade and the 7th (only one drop) grade (despite a lack of proper training for some). We talked about how I could address concerns if they came up. I suggested (I think this suggestion is ground breaking) that students and/or parents should actually speak to me instead of her.

I am a very calm person to speak with normally, and held my composure all through this meeting, but at this point I just hope that I did some good administrator training as I reminded her that with so many changes such as students transferring in and out of the school, a new band director with mostly HS experience, a new school year, and a much smaller group (even though population to band percentages stayed nearly the same), that students were going to need to adjust to new people and ways of doing things just like I was having to do. I felt like she probably got most of it and is even supportive of me and the program. She did a good job in asking me about it and trying not to sound judgmental. I got her to agree to have any student or parent who wanted to talk to her about an issue with band to first make sure that they speak with me before they discuss it with her. So as long as she sticks to that, I feel like I’ll be fine.

The parent complaint (comment in the vp’s words) was that I was not getting the 8th graders method books this year and her son would miss having the fingering chart handy. I pointed out that the fingering charts in the books that the child already had would be identical. I was also beyond comprehension of the complaint because 8th graders had not normally been given books in the past. I might not have been as upset as I am with this complaint except for the manner in which it was placed. This whiner commenter is a teacher in the district. Even with that position, this woman abandoned professional courtesy and chose to go to my vice principal instead of emailing or calling me and asking about it. Unbelievable.

As far as numbers go, I’m really in good shape compared to other schools in the area and, again feel pretty blessed to be where I am compared to where I could have gone or what could have happened. I know that part of my job is to train admins to understand how band works, how important music is, and how they can and should support and administrate band and music departments. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to have this conversation, in fact it will normally happen within the first couple of weeks of a new band job. I knew this was coming even before the in service dates had started. I should have just penciled it in on my calendar for about this time.

Date: Friday of the Second week. Event: Get the “can you stop by my office after school…it’s no big deal” question from an admin and have the conversation.

I guess that’s one thing I’ve learned about doing a band job and apparently it happens at all levels.
I still hate that meeting. I can only hope that good will come out of it. I guess at least I didn’t have to learn that part about teaching in MS.

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5 Comments »

  1. Thanks for dropping by. I’m gonna add you to my blogroll, and I’d appreciate it if you could do the same. I’m looking for my audience, after all *smile*

    I understand about that whole thing. My first year teaching, though I was not in charge of the program, was very similar. In fact the whole year was similar, full of loaded questions, all the way down to “are you happy here?” I think you handled it masterfully, and I would have asked for that professional courtesy as well.

    By the way, I’m from Down Press Up

    Comment by eatsbugs — September 10, 2008 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

  2. Hi There Eatsbugs, thanks for reading for the compliment. I added you to my blogroll too. It was a loaded question, but I do think it was with the best intentions. I’m fortunate that my principal, even though this is his first head gig, has more experience dealing with programs at least similar to music/band. I know I’ve had these loaded questions even after being at places for years.

    Comment by reband — September 11, 2008 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

  3. Admin must enforce the chain of communication. How would the principal feel if you took your next “concern” straight to the superintendent? In a similar case, I recently had a counselor who granted a student a schedule change out of Beginning Band because “someone told the parents that Band would be too hard for their son.” Are you kidding? “Someone told them”? Please, Mr. Counselor, I know you cannot always discern people’s motivations, but please, please try to send parents with questions TO ME.

    Best of luck to you, ReBand!

    Comment by Cary — September 15, 2008 @ 8:53 am | Reply

  4. Hi Cary,

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes I’m sure we’ve all had these types of situations in our teaching (or will). Some principals want to feel that control, others are very good about it, and some others just do whatever at the time (or don’t know what they are doing). It seems like we’re on the same pages now in my situation, but then there is an adaption of one of my favorite sayings, “don’t tell me, show me”. Have a great day!

    Comment by reband — September 15, 2008 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

  5. […] not less taken for many of us.  His own experiences in a typical situation are presented in  The Vice-Principal Talk . Rachel Rambach is doing some interesting things on her site with educational music for children.  […]

    Pingback by The 5th Edition of the Music Education Blog Carnival!!! « Composing Like Mad — October 31, 2008 @ 9:41 pm | Reply


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