Sunday, September 25, 2016

Proactive Classroom Management- Part 3- Respect

To finish off the 3-part series on Proactive Classroom Management, we turn to Respect.

If you missed Part 1- Preparation on Band Director's Talk Shop, or Part 2- Offense in my last blog post check them out!

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Students (especially middle school ones) don't just behave because they're supposed to. They don't just work hard because it's expected of them. They are at an age when they are learning who they are and what their place in the world is. They are looking for role models both peer and adult. A music teacher can be a powerful influence in their lives because we can connect and allow them to be vulnerable and honest through music. However, cultivating that connection doesn't come easily or naturally to everyone.

The interactions you have with your students both on and off the podium have an impact on their rehearsal behavior. It really has a lot to do with your philosophy of your role as their teacher. Are you the boss of your students or are you leading them towards knowledge? 

Asking yourself this question can make all the difference.

Rapport- On the Podium vs. Off the Podium. 
- I am pretty much two different people. On the podium I am "Mrs. Bock", I can be quirky but mostly I am all business and the kids know this. Off the podium I am "Mama Bock", I have a more casual rapport. I joke, act silly, and sincerely care about my students' lives. Having this delineation has helped me connect with my students but be able to focus on music making when it's time. 

Relevance- Learn about their interests and use it in your teaching.
- I don't care about PokemonGo, or bottle flipping, or Spongebob episodes, or whatever ridiculous Vine video they're all quoting, but they do. So I at least pretend to and I bring it into our classroom and conversations whenever possible, because it matters to them.

Presence- The energy you give off, the confidence you exude and your body language say a lot to your students! Everything from how you dress to how you stand affects how and what they do.
- Teaching is acting. Even when you don't feel confident you need to look it. Middle school kids can smell fear and will tear you apart when they sense it. You need to act in control. The energy you give off effects your students and they respond to it. If they're out of control calm your speaking and mind down, it will reflect in their behavior. You must look the part too! My students have mentioned to me that they respond differently to teachers who dress more professionally, even certain colors make a difference. Apparently I seem more angry when I wear red. Who knew?

Require- Require their attention and focus in order for you to teach.
- I said it in Part 2- you work too hard and get paid too little to talk over them and have them ignore you. Stop and wait for every student to give you their attention before you do anything. It is worth the time you think you're wasting. If you don't believe you deserve their respect in this way how are they supposed to?

Passion- Show them how much you love what you do!
- Some people are afraid to get emotional and honest with their students. I disagree. Share with them how much you love music, be vulnerable about it. They will give that back to you and be grateful for it.

Pride- Take pride in what you do and take pride in what they do, and they will too!
- I have a saying "Good enough, is never good enough." Good enough is a phrase for someone who has given up and doesn't care to meet their potential, in my opinion. Have enough pride in yourself, your students, the music, and in your program to want to strive for the best. They'll want it then too!

Obey- Your own rules.  And when you don’t, explain why you don’t have to!
- Because I said so is really hard to pull over on middle school kids. 

Relax- Sometimes.  Life happens, they’re kids. 
- Let them get excited sometimes. Someone says something funny, a bug flies into the room, it's Valentine's Day on a Friday...there are just some times where it's okay to let go of control. Relax and enjoy your time with them. When was the last time you and your students had a good belly laugh together? However, be able to reign them back in when it's time. The nose breath works without a doubt.

Real- Be authentic.  Don’t put on a teacher act- be YOU as a teacher.  
- Let them know that you’re human too! Sometimes you're stressed out, your tired, you goofed up on something. Tell them, it's okay. The teacher act can only go so far. You're not acting a teacher character, you're being you as a teacher and sometimes you as a teacher snapped at the kids because of something that happened last hour. Own up to your mistakes and let them in just a little, they care, really.

Be honest with them as much as possible.
- They learn nothing when you sugar coat things. If they sound bad, tell them. Trust me, they hear it too. They respect you being real, plus then they know that's not going to fly. When they sound good though, you better make sure you celebrate that too. 

Reliable- Do what you say you will do. Be someone they can count on.
- Be true to your word. I can be forgetful, so the kids have permission to keep bugging me until I do whatever it is I promised them. They also love when they get to write me post-it notes on my desk to remember something too. Seriously, I have a kid who reminded me every day at lunch for two years to take my vitamins. Now when I see him my immediate conditioned response it to report to him whether or not I took them that day. It means the world to him that he helped me remember something.

React Calmly- When you’re frustrated, breathe before responding.
It's going to happen, you're going to snap. You're going to lose it over behavior or a wrong note or something. It can happen once, it can happen twice but don't let it happen three times. Then you're the director who called wolf. Save“those moments” for far and few between and apologize if they happen.  

Praise- When it’s deserved but keep it real and specific. 
- Good Job! Nice work on your articulation that time! Those are two very different responses. One of them will get the students to keep doing whatever it was that they did well. Let them know what they're doing well, not just that it was good.

Ownership- It’s not your program, it’s our program.
-Directors come and go, programs are forever (we hope) and they are made up of the young people who choose to be a part of them. Those generations of young people who want to make music should have a say in some aspects of what happens in their program. In some cases, they may outlast you there. You have just been charged as the keeper of the band. Your philosophy on this is really everything. 

Options- Give them a say in what you do sometimes, they’re smart too.
- Maybe they can help choose some music, or even what piece to rehearse next. Give them a say! They'll feel more invested in what they're doing.

Opinions- Listen to their opinions and ask their advice, they want to feel valued.
-Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for and they have good ideas! Listen to them. Many of them you'll thank them for but immediately dismiss but some of them might be really wonderful. One day they're going to be calling the shots in something in their lives, let them help you do that now.

Reality- Be understanding of their reality and cut them some slack sometimes.
-You never know what's going on in their lives. Maybe that attitude you got had nothing to do with you. Maybe they didn't eat that morning. Maybe they were up all night caring for their siblings because mom was at work. Maybe they just fought with their best friend. Stop, think, and be considerate of them and their lives. I know what we do is everything to us but to the rest of the world let's be honest, it's just band. 

Polite- Manners go a long way.  Enforce the use of them from them and you.
- This comes from you and from them. Say please and thank you. Make sure they said it to all parent volunteers, staff members, bus drivers, each other. If you create this culture of respect it will carry through to rehearsals. 

Positive- Stay positive and SMILE!
- Yes, even before Christmas. It will be okay, I promise. No one wants to be the mean director all the time. Enjoy your students for the short time you have them and they will enjoy the time they have with you too. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Proactive Classroom Management Part 2

A few months ago I had an article posted on Band Director's Talk Shop about Proactive Classroom Management, in regards to preparing for the school year. Now that the year is up and running (and getting away from me, hence the delay in posting) I thought I'd add some more to the series. Most of what follows is from the handout for my session: Take Me To Your Leader- A PRO-Active Approach to Classroom Management. 

In the session I break down ideas related to running a consistent, controlled classroom into three areas
1. Preparation- most of which is covered in the BDTS article.
2. Offense- which I will outline in this post
3. Respect- a post for a later date.

Enjoy the notes about being on the offense in your classroom! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I am here to help everyone have a great musical experience with their students!

Create an environment where you are constantly in control of the flow of your class.

Must be fast and keep everyone engaged. 
Have the rest of the class air play, sizzle their part or be ready to answer a question. 
If you don’t find something to do they will find something to do themselves. 
Learn when to move on and come back fresh another day.
           If you are spending more than a few minutes on a concept or section move on and come back with a different approach another day. 
Build time into your rehearsals for their brains to take a break!
Their average attention span is only 10-12 minutes. 
Switch activities and give their brains a break. 

Rehearsal structure- Consistent so they know what to expect on a normal day.
 It will make the days that are not normal less chaotic in the end.
Sample rehearsal structure: 
Stretching & Breathing
Long Tones/Warm-ups
Rhythm Studies
Technique Book/Chorale/Tuning
Concert Repertoire

Percussion- Keep them busy with clear, consistent expectations.
Have them learn rudiments during breathing, keep the pulse during rhythm work.  
Don’t ignore them!

Programming- Find music at an appropriate level that they can get excited about.

Push Them- Time is of the essence and there is always a lot to do!
Good enough should never be good enough.

Podium- On/Off Switch to your rehearsal.
Only step on the podium intentionally and when you are ready to begin.
 They must know to respect it. Only allowed to touch it with invitation.

Opening- Begin each class the same way every day and with silence.
Get right to work- announcements can come later. 
 Use a catch phrase to grab their attention. “Hey Band- Hey What?”

Proximity- Get off the podium and work the room.

Observe- Watch them like a hawk whenever they are in the room.
 Also give them chances to earn your trust.

Refocus- When they start to lose focus or control quick tricks to bring them back.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Brain break activities
- Say your catch phrase
- Finger Countdown
- Clap Rhythm Echoes

Pause- Stop talking the moment that they start, mid-sentence, mid-word and wait.
- Sit back and wait for them to come back to silence and focus.
- Step off the podium to turn rehearsal “off”.  Never talk while they are talking. Ever.

Respond- Quickly and respectfully.  Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Choose your battles!

Remind- Constant and consistent behavior reminders.
Tell them “how” they should be doing something.

Repeat- Say it no more than 3 times- even less! Wait until everyone is ready to listen.

Precise- Give specific and direct instructions.  Say it in four words!
Make them think about the answers instead of giving them. 

Point- Have them point to their music to check for understanding.

Present- Have them show you the answer with their fingers.
 How many counts do we have? What count is the accidental on?
 Show me how many counts a dotted quarter note receives. 

 Use your hand as a music staff. Use sign language for pitch names.

Partners- Share your answer with your neighbor.  Gives structured talking time!

Order- What order should directions occur in? Be clear and concise! When I say GO.…

Reasons- Keep the end goal in mind and let them know it.

Rewards- Positive incentives go a long way.  Find "carrots" that will get your students excited.
“Faction Battle” “Harry Potter House Points”
Earn points or lose points for doing good or negative behavior.

 Student of the Week- student chosen vs. teacher selected

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Finding the Right Fit for Each Beginner

It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas- little band babies all over the country are receiving their very first instruments! It's glorious!
Do you just allow students to choose what they will play or do you test them out to see what they might be the most successful in playing? There are definitely different schools of thought on this. I have had the most success with students when we spend time trying instrument mouthpieces before letting them choose what they will play. Some directors do this to facilitate balanced instrumentation. While I certainly understand this and agree to a point, I rarely stop a student from playing an instrument just because we already have too many people playing it. I might strongly suggest they play something else but that will mostly be determined by what they made the most natural sound on. 
Students join band wanting to have instant success. They want to make music! It can be difficult for a 9-12 year old to truly understand the patience and persistence needed to be an accomplished musician. I never want the first few weeks a student experiences an instrument to be spend struggling just to form a basic tone.  Facial structure, body and hand size, and many other factors can effect a student's success on an instrument. For example, it is generally discouraged for someone with a tear drop upper lip to play flute because it splits the tone. I have had students play with this and while they have had some success they always struggle to produce a clear, pure sound. 
I generally spend some time introducing the instruments to students. If you are comfortable playing all the instruments yourself you can do this. I have also seen older students from the high school come in and perform for new bandies. Lately there are also a number of incredible resources with videos demonstrating the instruments. One that I really enjoy are Scott Lang's Be A Part of the Music videos. I find some of it a little cheesy for my older beginners but the content is still fantastic. Also, a project from the American Band College resulted in Beginning Band Boot Camp which has some wonderful video resources. I hope she got an A on this project! 
I developed a sheet students fill out after learning about all the instruments where they mark their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices.  They come to see me one at a time and I assist them in trying the mouthpieces for their choices. On the back side of the paper I make some notes for myself on how they did and then we discuss which one they felt the most comfortable on and which they made the most characteristic tone easily. Of course, if a student is still insistent on playing one instrument over another I do allow them to. Their happiness is important but I do usually try to convince them to stick with the one that was most natural. 
Some things I look for are:
Flute- a resonant tone and natural articulation
Clarinet/Saxophone- matching the mouthpiece pitch, comfort with the mouthpiece in their mouth
Brass- creating a buzz off the mouthpiece, pitch matching on the mouthpiece
French Horn- match pitch vocally in addition to on the mouthpiece.
For percussionists, I used to just see if they could pat a steady beat with a metronome but I am trying something new this year as suggested by a friend who is known for having incredible percussionists.  Students will be asked to keep a steady beat in their feet while sitting, then pat quarter notes, eighth notes and possible 16th notes with that beat. Sixteenths are really just an added bonus I think but being able to keep a pulse steady on quarters and eighths is essential. I also encourage students who have piano experience to play percussion since mallets are such an important part of what we do. 

Make sure that you are using working equipment so students have an equal opportunity to make a quality sound on every instrument. I will admit (and yes, this is controversial) that I do use a slightly harder reed on saxophone than clarinet. I want to make sure that I have committed students on saxophone who can play with good air. Saxophone is typically a little easier for students to make a sound on and no, I don't want a sax orchestra for my beginning band. 

Really my number one goal is to help students find the instrument that they will have the most instant success on. We want them to be able to make music as quickly as possible, if they are struggling to produce a tone for weeks while their peers are moving onto playing songs they are likely to get discouraged and eventually quit.