When I first began teaching as a band director I reached out to thousands of other band directors by using Facebook Groups. I discovered a group called "Band Director's Group" that, at the time, had over 19,000 music teachers nationwide. Below are some of the comments I received when I asked "What advice would you give to your 25 year old self?".
- Finish your masters before you have kids (that's what I wish I told myself)
- Don't spend time trying to make everyone happy. Focus on the kids and what is best for your group. You can't focus on the kid (or parent) you upset, you have to focus on the ones you make happy! Trust your gut. Make connections with kids!! Don't just talk about band... Sports, music, tv, movies, games, etc. Create opportunities for performances! Teach them the pride/excitement in performing!! Remember that you never have it "figured out". Teaching changes every year and so should you!! You're bound to make mistakes, both as a rookie teacher and veteran teacher! Embrace them, learn from them and move on! Ah!! I feel like I could keep going!! Enjoy 😀
- Focus on fundamentals.
Don't take their snotty attitudes personally.
Each crappy day is (usually) followed by a much better day
- Balance!! Find a non-band hobby. Remember to have fun in all the craziness.
- Always stay calm. Don't let your emotion override your intelligence. Always remember, you care more about band than everyone else does. People don't usually mean things personally, so don't take it that way. You can't argue with the facts, always operate in the facts.
- find a regular outlet for you to perform with other top notch musicians. When you are personally involved in making music, it is a constant reminder of why you do what you do, and helps direct your instruction.
- Be willing to change how you teach. Every year I have become a better teacher. This is year 12 and I have completely revamped my approach. So, do what works to help kids fall in love with music and also keeps you falling in love all over again each year.
- Ear plugs
- After 13 years as a high school band director (in WI--Nick Lane!) I finally decided to make time for myself. It's okay to leave "on time." My desire to help kids isn't any less, but my my mental and physical health is far more valuable....and I'm more effective in rehearsals! As band directors we think we have to do it all for every kid. We can only do the best we can, with the time we have while maintaining a positive lifestyle...and that doesn't mean 70, 60, or 50 hour work weeks (I know from experience.)
- If you even have a thought of wife and kids, NEVER leave that job (or at least the middle school level) for high school...you will regret it.
- 1. Be systematic with your teaching approach so that every year it improves. 2. And every year, pick one weak area to improve upon in some manner. 3. Dream what you would like your program to be in 30 years and work towards that every day, week, month, and year. Good luck!
What can you do personally and professionally, to sustain the energy it takes to be passionate about students, teaching, and learning?
"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." -- Benjamin Franklin
I'm a big fan of the above quote. I believe health, wealth, and wisdom should be 3 goals everyone should make.
Health should be the highest priority that anyone focuses on. Emotional, spiritual, physical, and all types of health should be a priority for people to build sustainable energy for other activities. The mind is part of the body--and if it is not healthy the mind will not think clearly.
Wealth comes in time as a teacher but getting finances taken care of is important. I am not a self-made man and I give huge respect to everyone who helped me become financially stable throughout my college years and even in my years leading up to my first year of teaching. Getting finances stable is very important so that we can focus on our students and teaching and not about that next "bill".
Finally, Wisdom. I believe every person should aim to become smarter. I am a huge fan of books. I do not know of any place to get clear, thought-provoking, edited, advice that took years of planning for under $20 (or sometimes $10). Becoming passionate about learning is a snowball in that once the first book is read the others become easier and easier. To me wisdom is what builds fire to teach students and to work through their troubles.