It was recommended that we abort one of our kids

We received the news of all of our kids arrivals with joy and anticipation. Children are a gift from God.

With one of our children, the doctor was a little concerned with some things he saw on our required test results. We were told that there was a good chance the baby would be born with one or more physical handicaps. It was recommended that we abort.

My wife and I believe in the worth of every human – even those unborn. This was not an option we were willing to consider. It did cause great consternation on our part. How could we handle this? What were we to expect? Where could we go for help? We knew that our love for our child would go a long way. We prepared for the worst and prayed for the best.

Our third child was born in 1995 completely healthy and normal! He did have one tiny scar on his little tummy. We like to think that is where God performed surgery.

Tests are never 100% accurate. And even if they were, how can we be the ones to decide whether a child should live or die? That “recommended abortion” is now a grown man. I can’t imagine life without him. He has a purpose. He has a calling.

With one proclamation, President Trump would have my unending support

If President Trump would simply issue the following proclamation, I would support him forever…

“Let it be known that from this day forward, all marching band competitions shall be held on Fridays. All students involved in the competition shall be exempt from homework given or due that day. In addition, students not involved shall remain at school and complete any standardized testing required. Marching band students shall be exempt.”

“Let it also be known that each school district shall provide the competing band with a charter bus – complete with DVR and satellite – and shall provide catered meals for the marching band members and staff for the duration of the contest.”

“Let is also be known that the day following such competitions, practice by any of the bands participating shall be forbidden. If a band ignores this provision, it shall be required to take the standardized tests it missed. Band directors and staff shall be provided with a $200 honorarium to enable them to enjoy this day with their family and friends.”

Hereby signed by President Trump in the Oval (isn’t a whole note an oval) Office this day of October 15 in the year of our Lord 2017.

Differentiation in Band Camp

Guest Post by Seth Jones, Pennsylvania Band Director

Visit Seth’s site at: https://thebandoffice.blogspot.com/2017/08/differentiation-in-band-camp.html

DIFFERENTIATION IN BAND CAMP

Monday, August 20
Happy Eclipse Day, y’all!

Well . . . I made it through my 16th band camp. Wow. So tired. 🙂

A few interesting facts about me . . . band directing was not on my radar after high school. I went to a Conservatory and as default had no college marching band experience. Since I am a clarinet player by trade, drum corps never developed in my life either. Therefore, all of the marching band experience in my life has either been student or director. I think that I tend to think outside of the box when it comes to Marching Band because I’m not shackled by the pretenses of the Pageantry Arts. (I love Drum Corps, Winterguard, Percussion, and it all . . . .just never did it myself).

Therefore, when I set out upon Marching Band rehearsals, I treat them very much like I would tackle any rehearsal problem. I think that my marching band staff doesn’t always “get it” because they are used to the way they know. (Another future topic: how to teach a staff of drum corps people to be educators in one short summer).

This particular band camp presented a few significant challenges. And, despite such grievances, I think it turned out to be the best I’ve ever had. I thought I’d share some of our successes with you.

DISCLAIMER: Despite my unusual upbringing, my marching band is quite competitive (and good at it). We have won quite a few championships and been fortunate enough to have been a BOA Regional Finalist twice. We are on a definite upswing. One of my past challenges was cultivating the staff, parents, and students into this continued pattern of growth. (As you may have already seen, getting out of our long term rut was a priority). Therefore, I enjoy some advantages that I recognize the typical band director may not have. I have oodles of kids, and oodles of staff to go with it. Money is generally NOT a problem but by no means is it plentiful either. We get the job done with great decision making, wise spending, and a wonderful network of support.

So . . .therefore, going into the band camp experience I was naively unaware of the challenges we faced this year. Our band is 30% first year members. AWESOME. The kids have zero question in dedication (as previously evidenced). AWESOME. Our camp experience this year was different than in the past because we spent an ENTIRE week on fundamentals (that’s right . . . no show learning). Therefore, many of the days in camp were spent coming up with self-directed initiatives. And . . . wow . . . this was by far the best thing that’s ever happened.

I have to immediately thank my staff. They were awesome and worked with me on some great stuff. The first week of our camp was entirely dedicated to fundamentals (both visual and marching). Through our planning, we heavily relied on differentiation to instruct the students. This was completely new to me and I can’t speak enough on how it worked. Here is what we did:

Differentiation by Personnel
The first thing we did this year was split our group by WW and Brass. They never did anything together until very late in the process. While visual had one group, music team would have another. We worked on objectives together (the prep for music and visual was always the same) and strove toward common outcomes (visual exercise 1 matched musical exercise 1 so that the two could be done together). It was more consistent work for the staff (no breaks) but the kids benefitted greatly. It allowed for more staff to student ratios and created smaller working groups.

Differentiating by Ability
During one of our days of camp, we did a morning where the students self-identified themselves into a lower, middle, and upper group. (We kept tabs on this too). The three groups were split into different objectives. The lower group just worked on basics while the uppers added more layers of complexity. The groups worked toward the same objective (box drill, for example) and were able to perform together. One such challenge of band camp is the older experienced students grouped in with the younger students. This allowed the groups to move at their own paces. I even teamed up section leaders in the lowest group to build bonds between the members. Overall, the success of this was vast as the students were able to complete the drill objective together.

Differentiating by Self-Practice
On the music side, we did a lot of work on breathing and tempo fundamentals. Isn’t it funny how you teach something only to find that in practice the students still mess it up? I was noticing that students would KNOW how to do a horns up for example, but in our musical exercise, would mess it up. WHY? I discovered that I think it was more the “this is the count you have to do it, this is when, here is the metronome, am I on the right exercise?” blah blah blah affected the student more than we could imagine. Therefore, before reps, I would put on a met and tell students to just practice horns up and down on their own. They had to do 5. Then, we would add in marking time. 5 horns up while marking time. Then, we would practice blade breaths from the Breathing Gym (goal to get them to breath in time fully). The isolation with a met allowed the students to grow comfortable with each task. Putting them together became easy. I think providing time for the students to work it through was meaningful.

Differentiation by Objective
We have always struggled with foot tempo while marching. Like, the students are so concerned with getting to Point B from A that they forget about tempo. We had the time to explore this by memorizing specific chunks of the music. We would then take them outside, march these chunks with no specific visual path. The ONLY goal was to play and keep feet in time. I discovered that relieving the students of the actual pathway part of marching allowed them to get more comfortable with foot tempo AND playing. I wish I had used the drone. It was the biggest and most amorphous blob you have ever seen.

We even had the sections stay in blobs at one point by instrument just to give encouragement. It worked well.

Differentiation by “Just Try It”
Ok . . . so this one isn’t differentiation. How many times have you done a new rep with the group and chaos ensues? Someone forgets . . . someone done the wrong thing . . . .someone misunderstands the direction. Have you lectured the group after? I’ve done it, and sadly, I’ve watched my staff do it. I keep forgetting that in AUGUST the students are babies again. Often times, I’ll do an objective 2 or 3 times before I say ANYTHING to them. Why? You just gotta give them the chance to understand. I feel that I waste my energy speaking to things that are just part of the learning process (for example, here is our new exercise, you’ve never done it before, why can’t you do it right the first time?). Just seem so hilarious. I got in a very good pattern of allowing the students a few reps just to “get it.”

Now for you marching band lovers out there . . . . I can totally understand the argument that it allows them to be lazy. By no means is this the case . . . with ANYTHING I have mentioned above . . . we DO NOT move on until every member does it correctly. Even in music warm up, UNTIL THE HORNS ALL GO UP TOGETHER (after the differentiation I explained above) we do it again and again. I’m just saying here that I don’t expect them to do it perfectly the first time in August and then lecture for five minutes about it. Trust me, follow the the process, and by November all will be well.

Well . . . camp is over. Now, I have to get ready for the first week of school. More posts to come!

A Glimpse of my (Italian Widowed) Mom in Heaven

Dealing with a family member who has had a stroke is very difficult. There are so many things to attend to, not to mention wondering if your family member will even survive! My mom had a stroke in May of 2016. At first we thought she was going to die.

When she made it through the first few days and was in recovery, we got to see a glimpse of what she will be like in heaven. It was a wonderful gift…one that I especially treasure now.

Looking back on my life and seeing how my mom acts now, she is sometimes a real PITA (rhymes with her name). No, not an eastern style flat bread. This is a very different definition of PITA.

A lady I know used to occasionally call her grandkids PITA when they were acting up. She said it so sweetly that I thought it was a pet name for them. I asked her what it meant. She said it meant Pain In The ____. My mom can be a real PITA at times.

My sister and I have always lauded her as the master of the guilt trip. We were used to it growing up. We often had interactions like this…

Me: Mom, I’m sorry I talked back to you. Will you forgive me?
Mom: You’re not sorry.
Me: Mom, please forgive me. I’ll never talk back to you again.
Mom: You don’t appreciate anything I do for you.
Me: Mom, I DO appreciate you. I love you.
Mom: You don’t love me. People who love other people don’t talk back to them.

Let’s just say there were times when there was not a lot of grace. If anything, mom has gotten worse about this with age. She is 73 but constantly talks about how when she was 5, one of her sisters stole an orange from her. When you try to reason with her, it backfires and comes back to “Since you are arguing with me, you don’t really love me.”

It has become somewhat of a family joke that all these bad things happen to her because people are prejudiced against Italian widows.

“Jimmy, they got my order wrong at McDonalds on purpose.”
“No, mom, they’re just incompetent. They get everyone’s order wrong.”
“You don’t understand what I’ve been through. They are doing this because I’m a widow.”

Sheesh. They must get my order wrong because I’m the son of an Italian widow!

We all do things wrong in life, including mom, and we all need God’s forgiveness and grace. Mom has somehow lost that grace for others in her own life. However, for three wonderful weeks last June, we got to see what she will be like in heaven.

A stroke normally does change a person’s behavior, but it is often for the bad. In Mom’s case it was for the good. She became very gentle, charming even with the hospital staff (she normally berates hospital staff. When I apologize for her, they tell me they only have to live with it temporarily while they acknowledge I have had to live with it for life). She ate food prepared by others. As usual, she insisted it wasn’t as good as her own, but she was cute and charming about it (normally she won’t even eat ANY food prepared by others). She was very grateful for life, for the hospital staff, for everyone who came to see her, for the hospital food, for all the well-wishers who came by to visit, for my wife (who was there EVERY day…our Friday night date nights became dinner at the hospital cafeteria for awhile…I am so grateful to have a beautiful woman like that as my soul-mate).

Alas, as her brain healed, she went back to being normal, which for her is depressed, condemning, judgmental and unforgiving. I truly believe the untreated depression contributes to this, as well as undiagnosed mental illness. I have asked my wife to watch me for any mental illness as I know it can be hereditary, but so far nothing has shown up (shhh, the government is looking over my shoulder as I write this).

I hope that reading this article doesn’t give you the impression that I’m ungrateful. My mom was a single mom. She gave up a lot in life so she could purchase a saxophone and music lessons for me, and I’m extremely grateful. We never went hungry. Despite the guilt trips and being chased by a wooden spoon often, we knew we were loved. She taught me about God, probably the best gift she could ever have given me. Mom is racked by a lot of guilt and regret. I wish she would accept the lessons she taught me. God forgives her. He has wiped her past away. He still has plans for her, despite her poor health.

I write this to give you encouragement. Maybe you were raised by someone who was the master of the guilt trip. Maybe you are dealing with mental illness, or stroke, or cancer or a multitude of other things. These issues have to be faced with grace, forgiveness, humor and support from others. With God’s help, I’ve become the person I am today, and I am grateful that for three weeks I had a glimpse into heaven of what my mom will really be like when “God will wipe away every tear” from her past and heal all her wounds.

James Divine is a musician, author and music teacher. His latest book “A Stroke of Bad Luck: A survival guide for when someone you know has a stroke” is available on Amazon. James tries to share truth, grace and love wherever he goes. One of his main goals in life – besides running away from the ever-present wooden spoon – is to act his shoe size, not his age. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

I Was a 7th Grade Bully

Throughout my childhood, I was often picked on and bullied. I was somewhat of a momma’s boy. I was not close to my father. I had a high emotional IQ and cried easily…the men in my life pounded into me (sometimes literally) that men don’t cry.

One day in 7th grade things turned around…

Red headed Patrick – tall and mean and someone who had bullied me all school year – pursued me into the hallway of the apartment building where my family lived. As he grabbed me and tormented me with his words and shoves, something in me snapped. I was sick and tired of the years of unrelenting bullying. I was done with being picked on. I detested the feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach.

I grabbed Patrick’s shirt and shoved him forcefully against the wall.

Patrick’s demeanor changed…

“Whoa James…calm down…I was only joking, “ he proclaimed.

“Yeah, right. Only joking for the last SIX-MONTHS, “ is what I thought to myself.

I let Patrick go. He told everyone at school that I beat him up. I had never laid a fist on him (besides the shirt grabbing). Patrick’s actions caused me to have a revelation…I was a big guy…I had size to my advantage…I didn’t need to let bullies torment me anymore.

Unfortunately I became a bully. I felt powerful. I felt strong. I liked this feeling.

I chose Bill Gates as my first victim. It wasn’t the real Bill Gates, but imagine what a 7th grade Bill Gates might look like. Spectacles. Skinny. High water pants. Future billionaire. I don’t remember this poor guy’s name, but we’ll call him “Bill.”

Every time I saw Bill, I tormented him. I spoke harshly to him. I acted like I was going to hit him (but I never did). Most of the time he bolted as soon as he saw me.

After a few months of this, I felt terrible! This was not who I was! I was a kind person. I had been through a lot in my short life, but was that reason for me to bully? I remembered how much I hated it when I was picked on. Why was I doing the same thing to others? I decided to quit.

One day shortly after this I saw Bill at the bus stop. Bill took off as fast as his skinny legs allowed. I started running after him! He ran faster. I ran faster. He ran even faster. I ran even faster.

What a sight it must have been, especially when I called out to him…

“Wait, wait. I want to be your friend.”

Amazingly he stopped running! Poor Bill. What would you think if you were being chased by a bully now saying he wants to be your friend?

I apologized. He accepted.

From that moment forward, when someone attempted to take advantage of Bill, I was there by his side using my newly discovered size to help him. It was my penance.

I became a bully because I enjoyed that feeling of power, but using physical size over others is just plain wrong! I’m glad it was just a 3-month portion of my life. My bullying days were over.

And Bill…you may find his name listed as an owner of an S&P 500 company.

Don’t Waste Your Time On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time! Most of the resolutions don’t last beyond the end of January. They are bound to fail. Resolutions are often not thought out, have no action steps and are rarely written down. They often lack specificity.

I want to lose 20 pounds by summer
NOT I want to lose weight

I want to earn $12,000 more each year by December
NOT I want to earn more

I will spend every Friday on a date night with my wife
NOT I want to spend more time with my wife

Did you know many gyms sell about 30% more memberships than the capacity of the gym? They know many people are not going to follow through on their desire for fitness.

There is – however – a way to achieve and exceed your goals.

Write them down

When I was young, I had goals and dreams like everybody else, but I didn’t write them down. For some reason, when we write our goals and take actionable steps, we are more likely to achieve them. I have goals in seven areas of my life:

Spiritual

Physical

Financial

Intellectual

Work/Career

Family

Social

Goals give you a starting point and destination. They are going to change as you grow and as you figure out what’s important in your life.

John Acuff, in his book Start, talks about how he has been able to write several books and also help build two schools in Vietnam. He didn’t write that down on a whiteboard several years ago, but as he progressed through his goals those opportunities became available.

Five years ago, I would have never believed I could be writing my fourth book.

What are some of your goals? Would you like to schedule 20 gigs in the next year? Would you like to finish your master’s degree in the next three years? Do you want to find a spouse and be married with kids in a couple of years? Do you want to move to a better job that fits your skills and talents? These are attainable and will be different for everyone.

EVERYTHING you’ve done – even things you didn’t like – have made you who you are today. For me, the military band was a great experience. It is where I developed my chops. It was my music education. Being self-employed was difficult, but it helped make me who I am today. I learned a lot about marketing, about pricing, about what my audience needs and wants…all things that help me even in teaching.

There are many good books about setting goals. One of my favorites is Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love. My seven goals are adapted from his book. Get a copy of Dan’s book and work through the goal-setting process. Also read anything you can find by Zig Ziglar on goals.

In late November or early December, I create my goals for the following year. These big but specific and measurable goals are then translated into action items. I create a to-do list on my iPad mini and prioritize the items – always remembering to leave margin in my life.

Most people use a daily to do list. I am a much more global, big-picture thinker and find that a weekly list works better for me. On the iPad, I am able to reprioritize the items quickly each morning as needs and urgency change. Some people like to write their items on a list. Others use their phones. Whatever system you use, find something that works for you.

EVEN WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, I begin to tackle items on my list. Sometimes just starting a task is the hardest part. Sometimes just getting started practicing is the hardest part. Sometimes starting a resume’ is the hardest part.

JUST START!

Put away all distractions. Turn off your email notification. Turn off your phone so you are not distracted by every text message that comes in.

Multi-Tasking

Did you know that multi-tasking is a myth? We work at only 80% of capacity or less when trying to multi-task. When it’s time to book some gigs, write some music, practice, prepare my lessons or another important task, I turn off my cell phone, close my internet browser, shut down my email, get off of social media and get some focused work in. My rhythm – maybe because I am a public school teacher – seems to be about 45 minutes; then I need to take a short break and stretch or get some water. Others find that two-hour blocks work for them. Others prefer to work in intense 20-minute bursts. Find your rhythm.

Think of the short and long term goals as being a plan for your life. For example, if you want to lose 6 pounds in six months, that’s the big goal. The to-do list becomes the action steps necessary to meet that goal. In this example, you might get up thirty minutes earlier to exercise, prepare your lunch before you go to work so you’re not tempted to eat out, and buy some exercise shoes. Those are your action steps.

The goals that work best are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

If you can’t reach the goal, you will only become discouraged. If you are 200 pounds overweight, to lose that much weight in one year is probably not attainable. If you had zero gigs this year, deciding you want 300 in the next year is probably not attainable. If you have no college education, setting a goal of finishing your master’s in 18 months is probably not attainable. Here are some examples of good goals:

  • I want to lose five pounds in the next six months.
  • I will call five venues this week and every week.
  • I will book five events this summer paying $200 each.
  • I will save $2,000 this year by saving $200 per month.
  • I will save $50 a month to purchase that new instrument in 20 months.

What are your three-month goals? Six months? One year? Five year? Spend some time writing them down. Sometimes I set aside a half day Thanksgiving weekend to develop my goals for the next year. When I have acquired an early start, sometimes I have accomplished 10% or more of my goals before the New Year even begins.

Get A First Down

At the end of the year, many of us will start making plans for the upcoming year, setting goals (good) or even making new year’s resolutions (usually ineffective).

Although we can often visualize the big picture, we sometimes forget that every goal needs to be broken down into a small component.

I recently heard an interview of Lou Holtz – famous college football coach and analyst. He was asked what type of goals did he inspire his award winning teams to achieve. Was is to win the game? Score a certain number of touchdowns? Block passes? No.

Lou instructed his teams to “Get a first down.” If you can continue to get first downs, you will win the game! The first down is the smallest component of goal setting in football.

In our own lives, we need to “Get a first down.”

Want to write a book…write the first paragraph.

Music teachers need to…Get that first chord in tune.

Want to lose weight…Put that chocolate down.

Family time important…Schedule an evening just for family.

What can you do to “Get A First Down” today?

I’m Glad My Marching Band Didn’t Make State

This was the best marching band season to date. Our scores were some of the highest we have ever achieved. Our show was the most difficult we have ever attempted. My students were the most committed they have ever been (with lots of room for improvement).

As my students attained higher and higher scores, we all thought for sure we would make it to state. When we competed at regionals and beat a few bands that normally beat us, we thought it was in the bag!

But we didn’t make it.

And we were disappointed.

And I’m glad.

When I told my students I was glad we didn’t make state, they looked at me like I was crazy. Some responses were…

“Don’t you care about us?”

“Why are you glad?”

“Don’t you have confidence in us?”

I DO care for my students. They are like my family.

I DO have confidence in them. They had achieved higher than they ever have.

But I was glad we didn’t make it.

We missed making it to state by one band. One band! You could say we almost made it to state. With being that close, the students are determined to work harder, smarter and achieve more next season. Their talk afterwards included “if we had done this a little better”, and “if we had been a little more focused at rehearsal we might have made it.” Their ideas for how to make the band better started to pour forth.

If we had made state…and if it had been barely, by only one band…you could have said we almost didn’t make state. The students may have gotten cocky,

“We made state, we made state, now we don’t have to work as hard next year.”

Oh, they wouldn’t have said this out loud, but it would have come across in their actions. I know my students well, and I know that for this band for this season, I’m glad they didn’t make state.

I’m proud of them. I know they will start next season with more dedication and more commitment, and I know they will achieve higher next year.

And if we make it to state, great… but if we don’t, we will take pride in having done our best. Ultimately that’s all any of us can do.

Follow these 7 tips for an extra 7 hours this week

About 5 years ago, my son was on the wrestling team at the school I teach at. Practice ran until 6:30 every night. Since we lived a half hour away, I thought I could get a lot done and catch up on my to-do list. Even though I was spending an extra four hours a day working, I still didn’t get everything done. It’s not about time spent, but spending the time you do have wisely, and spending it on the right things!

Here are some tips to help you save seven hours each week.

1. Limit Media Time

Many people spend hours upon hours mindlessly researching things on the web or scrolling through their facebook feed. I’m not saying to eliminate those things…just be more deliberate in how and when you do them. Set a time limit on web research. Have a specific goal in mind. Want to watch tv? DVR the show. You’ll save 20 minutes in a one hour show. Set a certain time to look at facebook rather than letting the ding of the notification control you.

2. Touch email messages once

I once had a coworker who had over 1200 email messages in her inbox. They were there to remind her of things she needed to get done. Guess what? She never got any of them done and spent much time scrolling through the emails to find the information she needed.

I read an email one time and strive to keep my inbox empty. I have created many folders in my email program. Some examples are: Save, Admin, Reservations, Kudos, Bookings. When I read an email, if it’s something I can do or answer quickly, I do it and delete it. If it’s some important info I need to keep, I file it in the appropriate folder. If it’s meant for someone else (something I have to delegate), I immediately send it to the person who can do it, or I respond that I am not the one who handles that. Have set times to check email. Many people have notifications on and are checking email 50+ times a day. Some people need to be this accessible, but most of us just need to check it 2-3x a day.

3. Follow the 2-minute rule

If you can complete a task in 2 minutes, do it! I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in charge of a music event and needed info from other directors. All I need to know is how many students someone is bringing because I am responsible for ordering pizza. No response! It takes 3 seconds to respond! Do it and get it over with.

Don’t even add the item to your to do list if it takes less than 2 minutes. At school, the lady in charge of IEPs often needs a feedback form from a student’s teachers reporting on how they are doing. When I see the form in my inbox, I fill it out right away and return it.

4. Control your meetings if possible

Do you need to disseminate some information at a meeting but are otherwise not involved? Ask to be at the beginning of the meeting so you don’t have to wait through it all. I taught at a school where I was responsible for renting the sound system at graduation. I sat through two years of meetings where when it came to be my turn, the headmaster asked “Do you have the sound system rented and details taken care of?” I quickly learned that was the only reason I was at the meeting. I began to contact the headmaster a few days before, let him know I had the details taken care of, including the time and expense. I would then ask “Do you need me to be at the meeting?” He always answered “No.”

5. Schedule time to get work done

I was finding myself continually being interrupted during my plan time as a teacher by students who needed help, or sometimes they were just hanging out because they had a free period. I love my students, but I have a lot to get done if I want to be an effective teacher. I started being more deliberate about that time. That time is for lesson prep. I kindly ask the students to leave (even having them around being quiet is a distraction, and they often ask just a “quick” question, which gets me off task). I get a lot more done this way.

6. Consider your mission

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Focus on your strengths! Know when to say no (I call that my Know No rule). If you are a helping person, you naturally want to help everyone, but you shouldn’t if something isn’t your mission. For me to help the football coach would be a “good” thing, but I would be missing out on the “great.”

7. Look at the big picture

Often our schedule revolves around “Well, I don’t have anything else going on, so sure I’ll do such and such.” This attitude is not deliberate enough. What if we take a look at our calendar for a year and “fill in” things that are important to us before other things crowd the important things out? For example, I’ve already filled in my anniversary weekend, so if someone calls me with a speaking or performing opportunity, I will answer that I already have something scheduled.

I do have some flexibility. If the person calling me were to offer a great honorarium, I would present the opportunity to my wife and say “How about if I take this and we celebrate the following weekend, but instead of a weekend in Denver we get to take a cruise?”

Plan each week, month and year of your life so trivial things don’t fill your schedule. Make sure to include off time too. If you are teaching a 2 week class, block off four days or even a week afterwards so you can relax, hike, visit the grandkids, whatever you like to do.

If each of these tips saved you one hour a week, you would have seven extra hours a week to exercise, cook, hike, read, practice, sew, take karate or whatever you like to do, maybe even sleep!

James is a music educator, musician, speaker and podcaster. He enjoys hiking, biking, and spending time with his wife and family. He also enjoys long walks on the beach, but these are usually either solitary or with his wife. He is the author of “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested” and “40 Ways To Make Money In Music.”

Contact James today if you need a speaker at your next event.

4 Tips to Help you be a Better Band Director using the Acronym BAND.

4 Tips to Help you be a Better Band Director using the Acronym BAND.

There are four key areas that – if you focus on these and make them a priority – they can help you be a better band director. None of them have anything to do with music, but the word “BAND” does fall nicely into place to help you remember them.

B-Bread

Watch what you eat! When life gets busy, it can be very easy to grab something to go. I once was 30 pounds heavier than I am right now, all due to poor eating choices and failure to plan. Plan ahead what you are going to eat. Buy some healthy snacks. Keep them in a fridge at work, in your glove compartment, wherever. Pack a healthy lunch. Watch the pizza. I once ate 8 slices at a football game and regretted it for the next day and a half. I could do that when I was 18, but I’m in my 40s now.

A-Activity

Move your body. Exercise is important, not only to your physical self, but your emotional and mental health too. Pick something you like. Jogging, hiking, swimming, biking, walking. Put more ing in your life. You should strive for a minimum of 20-30 minutes 4-5x a week. It will lengthen your career and leave you feeling like you have more energy. Warning: When I was 30 pounds heavier and first embarked on exercising and eating better, I initially felt worse. This is normal.

N-Night

Get plenty of sleep. The amount is different for each person. I need 7 hours a night, so I try to make sure I get that at least 6 nights a week. Try napping. The floor of my office becomes a 10 minute nap area during marching season. Students have posted hundreds of pictures of me sleeping on the bus on a trip.

D-Diversion

Have a life outside of band. I heard of a band director who does not allow himself to read anything unless it is something that will help his band. I think this is unhealthy. Take up a hobby. It might even be music related, but not be something you need to do for a living. I had to quit giving lessons for the most part because I felt like my day was never ending, but I perform, record and compose simply because I like to and it’s an outlet for me. I also hike, bike and meet with friends (and spend time with my family of course).

When life gets off track and you’re not sure what to do, think B.A.N.D.

The 5 Band Directors You Meet In Heaven

When I first started teaching band in 1998, I was VERY isolated. I didn’t even know very many band directors in my local area. I was only part time, showing up on campus right before my 1st class and leaving right after my 2nd class…I had kids to pick up from daycare. Most of my music contacts were in the performance sector.

By 2000, my third year of teaching, I became full time. As I participated in events like solo and ensemble and all-city band, I got to know many of the directors. But my kids were still small. This was a time when I needed a mentor the most but when I had one the least.

In 2005, I switched schools to my current position at Falcon High School. In some ways it was like starting over. At the local events, it was a different group of directors. But they seemed to have one thing in common…they all seemed old to me (maybe older is a better word).

Fast forward to 2016…

When I look around at band director gatherings now, I am one of the oldest. How did I get here? Are people looking up to me like I looked up to others? I’m just realizing how little I know!

I have the opportunity to mentor and encourage others now. One of the ways I do that is through The Music Ed Podcast, quick and easy tips for how to be a better band teacher. As I approach my 50th year – not of teaching but of life – my 18th year in this wonderful field of music education – my 30th year in music – I reflect on some of my greatest mentors and what made them great.

I present you with The 5 Band Directors You Meet In Heaven

 Ed Cannava

 I first had the chance to meet Ed in 2000 at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, where he brought his Dry Creek Dixie Dawgs to perform. I was performing with the Rough Riders Dixieland Band. We did a few selections with Ed’s group and was able to mentor and encourage them. At the same time I found a teaching colleague who became a mentor and a friend.

I was immediately impressed with Ed, first with the quality of his student performing groups and then with Ed the person. He is humble, works hard and willing to give a listening ear to a young director needing advice. Even now, every time I speak with Ed, I walk away feeling like I’m a better teacher and person. Ed offers advice and encouragement, and he does it in a way that doesn’t allow you to rest on past accomplishments. One must always strive to the next level.

The great thing about Ed is that he realizes it’s a journey. Every band program is different, and although sometimes he has disagreed, he has been able to see why I might do things differently. We share an Italian heritage and a love for emotional – not just technical – conducting. The best conductors I know are at least part Italian.

During trying times at my current school, Ed offered a ton of encouragement. It helped me make the decision to stay. Longevity is a huge factor in developing a great program. Although it’s not the only factor, it is one we often miss the importance of. Ed had been at his school for over 20 years. Although he retired about seven years ago, he is still active in many areas of music.

Dale Crockett

 I have only gotten to know Dale in the last 8 years or so, and more closely in the last 3-4, but I remember hearing his name as early as 1993, when I was still in the Army band at Fort Carson.

Dale is the most down to earth, humble person I know. Sometimes at local music meetings, you can see someone’s ego attached to their shoulder, like a little elf. Why would someone want to carry that dead weight around all the time? Dale carries no such weight. He stands tall – literally – and you can see he is proud of his students and proud of his work, but it’s the pride in a job well done, not due to ego.

Although Dale is “retired”, he still works “half-time” at a 5A school where he is the only band teacher. I would venture to say that it’s a full time job with half time pay, especially during marching season. It’s obvious when talking to Dale that he loves his students and that he loves his fellow directors. He is always willing to take time for a cup of coffee to talk shop or just talk about life. Did you know Dale has been a pastor at various times in his life? Ask him about it, and about his faith.

Joe Brice

 Many of you know him as the guy who heads up the Regional Concert Band Festival in Colorado. The festival is always well organized and smooth running with great clinicians and adjudicators. This is because Joe takes pride in his work. His wife Carol is often with him at music events. She is like a mom to so many of us. She does a lot of the behind the scenes work too. She greets everyone with a hug. This is more important than you might realize.

I got to know Joe through a mentorship program that one of the music programs in our state was offering…free mentors to come and work with your band. Did I mention they were free? Many directors do not take the organization up on this offer.

Joe was at my school for a clinic. He mentioned the fact that I did not have a tuba player in that particular group. I replied with “I just don’t have anyone playing tuba.” He wouldn’t let me fall back on that. He said, “Have you asked anyone?” I admitted that I hadn’t. The next week in class I asked for volunteers who were interested in learning tuba. I immediately got several people who wanted to try.

An interesting bit of trivia… Joe was Ed’s mentor, who became my mentor. I in turn am mentoring people too. What you do today has an effect for many generations!

Orlando Otis

 You’ll never meet someone as hard working and dedicated as Orlando, yet he is down to earth, friendly and humble. Orlando has achieved success in his program, yet he still finds time to give a word of encouragement and support to those who need it. He also puts on a terrific jazz and marching festival. His booster parents know how to take care of directors.

Orlando and I are in a competition for best-looking band director and band that has the most fun. I definitely have him beat on the former, but he is a very close second on the latter.

When I was a “new” band director, new to high school but I really had been teaching for 7 years and was approaching age 40, I brought my jazz band to his festival. My drummer didn’t make it to the bus that morning. This drummer was hot (I’m lying, he just thought he was hot). Orlando’s son filled in for us and did 3x better than our regular drummer. It was an eye opener for the jazz band. They could see where the band could go if we had a great drummer instead of just one who was ok. That drummer didn’t last to the next semester, but the memories of the jazz band did.

Jess Girardi

 Anyone who has taught in Colorado for any length of time knows Jess Girardi. He retired from Englewood HS, where he had a very successful program. Jess has remained active well into retirement encouraging young directors and teaching adjudication sessions. If you sit down with him in conversation for 10 minutes, you feel like you walk away with an encyclopedia’s worth of information. He’s smart, likable, friendly, and lends a listening ear, plus he’s Italian.

Jess has a quiet faith that is important to him. I believe it guides him and makes him the person he is. There is no guile in Jess. What you see is what you get.

Hosea Haynes

 When Hosea finally “retired”, he had 40+ years teaching experience. The only reason he retired is that he found out at a retirement workshop that he was working for just 10% of his pay (with retirement he earned almost 90% of his salary). He retired, but continued to substitute the maximum number of days he was allowed to and also worked for Meeker Music. He earned more in retirement than he did working full time.

Hosea became a mentor and then a friend. I had been teaching for 6 years at a private school. I had no teaching license. I began a program that allowed me to earn my license. I needed to find a band teacher with a master’s degree who would mentor me. Ken at Meeker Music suggested Hosea, and that started our friendship.

Hosea met with me for more than the required amounts of time mandated by the college. I know he wasn’t paid much, but he didn’t do it for the money anyway. When the year through the college was over, we continued to meet regularly. Hosea always had advice and encouragement for me. He always had a positive attitude. Illness took him from this earth much too soon, so that’s why he is number 6 on this list of 5 directors. Hosea has already preceded us to heaven and is conducting the community band that will welcome the rest of us.

No out of tune players

Instruments work perfectly all the time

Reeds never squeak

Valves never break

There are no poor attitudes

Tuba players move in all the time

I’m looking forward to sitting in the sax section (wait, are there saxes in heaven).

Find a mentor TODAY!

***James teaches band, orchestra and guitar at Falcon HS. He is the author of 40 Ways To Make Money As A Musician and Forgive: One man’s story of being molested. James is very thankful for these mentors and many more and attributes his success to their advice and encouragement. Find out more about James and invite him to speak to your group at www.jamesdivine.net.

How To Book More Gigs

Excerpted from “The Saxophone Diaries.” Release June 2016

You aren’t going to get any gigs if you don’t develop some process and spend some time on it. That is going to vary by what you want to accomplish and what your goals are (see goal-setting/goal-getting chapter). I know many musicians who are MORE GIFTED than me who hardly ever gig, although they will tell you they want to. Do you know that although talent and skill are much needed, there is one trait even more important than these? Persistence! When you get 19 no responses for a yes, you need persistence. When people tell you what they think of your music (negatively) – which is personal to you – you need a tough shell and persistence. When you’re driving 300 miles to a gig, you need persistence.

You also need to treat this as a business. One of my early mistakes was not doing that very thing, but more on that in another chapter.

Here’s a booking process that worked for me for many years and continues to work although it has been updated somewhat. This worked really well from 1996-2001.

  • Compile a list of venues I wanted to perform at that fit my target audience and size. Send an introductory letter to the person responsible for scheduling music. The letter is just a short introduction of who you are and states that you will follow-up in a week or so with a phone call.
  • This is important! Call when you said you would. This is a low-pressure call simply asking if they would like a packet with more information. If they say yes, get it in the mail to them that day (a packet with CD, promo materials, etc.).
  • This is important! Include another letter in the packet saying you will call in a couple of weeks to see if they have any questions. Then call in a couple of weeks. Try to get the decision maker on the phone. Be persistent but not annoying. If he is out, call back once or twice a week until you reach him. Be kind to the secretary/receptionist. Ask if he/she received your materials and if there are any questions and if they’d like to go ahead and schedule a date.
  • At this point, you will receive a lot of nos. That’s ok. If you are an excellent musician and have created some decent materials and have properly focused your marketing niche, you WILL get some positive response, but you need PERSISTENCE.

These were my stats using this process…

  • Send 20 introductory letters to decision makers
  • Follow up with a phone call
  • Ten wanted a complete packet with CD, etc.; mail those out
  • Follow-up with a phone call
  • Out of those ten, one would schedule me right away, 3-4 would say not right now, and the rest would say “no.”
  • With the 3-4 “not right nows”, I would continue to call monthly until I either scheduled a date or received a no. Usually one of those would eventually schedule a date, sometimes a year or two after I sent the packet!

You can see that out of 20 contacts I would get one gig, sometimes two after much persistence. Believe it or not, that’s a decent rate of return, and it was at a time when the quality of my music product was not as high as it is now with 20 extra years of practice.

I made a decision that every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I would make ten new contacts. After about a year of doing this, I had to take a little break from it because I had 125+ gigs lined up. That sounds like a lot, but because of poor marketing, pricing and business strategies, I didn’t make much, even though I was working my butt off. For example, sometimes I drove 500 miles for a gig that I might earn $300 for. That might be ok if I had 5-10 gigs in that area, then came home, but it was usually the only gig I had and was followed by another long drive to another area. Learn from my mistakes and it will mean fewer mistakes for you.

By the way, don’t expect a booking agent early on. They usually will not look at you until you are so busy you can’t handle it on your own.

The booking process has been updated for me. I rarely send out letters anymore. Most of this process is accomplished via email. Warning about email; you will not find much success if you just send out email blasts to a large group of anonymous people. Target and tailor the email to the decision makers. Have a good website with all of your materials. Have documents created that you can link to your website and attach to emails.

PERSISTENCE IS KEY!

Sleeping Underneath A Piano

Guest Post by Steven Kristopher. Check out links to his albums at the end of this post.

 

It was the fall of 2007, and I had been on the road full time (10 months out

of each year) for two years. On the road as a musician in a band was great, and

difficult, and amazing and painful, all at the same time. I had an hour or two

before our gig that night. I was in Little Rock, Arkansas on the road with

Midnight to Twelve and before a gig we had some downtime.  I decided to go

on a walk and clear my head so I could focus on music. I saw a piano store a

few blocks away from the club we were playing.  I went in knowing I couldn’t

afford any of the beautiful pieces that sat before me.  It was a small store and the

pianos were almost flush against one another.  I side-stepped toward one I’d

never played before.  I sat down to a Bechstein Grand Piano.

 

I played the first couple of chords of a song I was writing at the time and I could not believe the

amazing tone of this beast.  It was the most beautiful sounding piano I’d ever

played.  I played it for a few minutes and the owner of the store walked over and

asked if I had any questions.  I did.  I asked him, how much for the one I was

sitting at.  He said, “the smaller one next to you goes for 85, and the one you’re

sitting goes for 110.”  Inside, I was astonished at the price.  He meant $85,000

and $110,000.  I was so blown away and tried my best to restrain myself to make

it look like I knew that’s what the price would be.  The owner was very kind.  He

gave me his business card, which I still have to this day on my desk.  Its a

reminder of the experience and hopefully one day I can afford a Bechstein piano

for my home.  Back then I was playing keyboards in a rock band touring the

country opening for bigger bands, playing clubs theaters, festivals, etc., so to

own a piano like that was a big dream.

 

When I was a kid, I started playing drums in my church and I knew I

eventually wanted to play an instrument that would allow me to write songs.  I

wasn’t sure on guitar or piano until my friend played a song for me.  Create in

Me a Clean Heart by Keith Green, was a song that had a 3 minute piano

prelude that I was very impressed with.  So much so, that when the song

finished, I said the words, “I want to play piano like that.”  Not six months later, I

was playing a Casio Keyboard and an upright piano my Mother had in the living

room as much as I could with a chord book in hand.  I learned as many songs of

artists I loved that I could.  I would put on a C.D. and play along, learning songs

by ear and figuring out how songs were written.  A couple of years later, I was

writing my own songs.  I sincerely love the piano very much.  It calms me down

to sit and play.  It brings me joy to play.  It shows me parts of myself I didn’t know

existed.  It helps me grow as an individual in many ways.  I told my Father one

day that I would trade my bed and all the things in my room for a piano.  He

asked me, “Where would you sleep?”  I said, “I’d sleep underneath the piano,

where else?!”

 

I currently live in a house to small for a piano and use two keyboards that

are great.  But there is nothing like playing an amazing sounding piano, feeling at

my fingertips the craftsmanship and the artistry of something that is so perfect to

me.  I am hoping that one day, I will be able to walk into that shop in Little Rock,

Arkansas and buy a Bechstein Concert Grand Piano for my home.  That would

be a pretty great day, to say the least.

Steven Kristopher

 

www.StevenKristopher.com

www.facebook.com/stevenkristopher

www.iTunes.com/stevenkristopher

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPYM8dgXVL0 – Psalm 23 Official Video

With Abandon (New Album) Itunes Link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/with-abandon/id1063836099

I Thought I Was Going To Jail

The summers of 2010-2012 I was driving every week to Weatherford, Oklahoma to work on a master’s degree in music education. The trip took me through the Texas panhandle.

The panhandle gets its name because when you view Texas on a map, there’s a thin stretch of land in the northwest corner that – when combined with the rest of Texas looks like the handle to a big ol’ fryin’ pan, you know the kind I’m talking about. They weigh about 57 pounds and are made out of cast iron. When not used for cooking, they have alternate uses as doorstops and behavior modification for wayward husbands.

The panhandle is also flat. It’s so flat that you can see anthills in the distance rising out of the landscape. The road is so straight that I once set the cruise control, lashed the steering wheel into place and climbed into the backseat for a nap.

The thing about the panhandle is it seems that nobody lives there. Oh, you see the occasional cow, the occasional road kill, and vultures. Vultures everywhere, sometimes tearing into road kill that seems like it hasn’t even cooled down yet. You hope and pray that you don’t get a flat tire because you’ll be changing the tire with one hand while fending off vultures with the other.

Did I mention that it is also hot! With air conditioning on, it sometimes felt like the interior of the car only cooled to 85 degrees or so.

I was driving along the panhandle on my way to Oklahoma when I passed a state trooper on the side of the road. Now, it was sometimes tempting to speed along this stretch, especially since I was making this drive every week, but as I mentioned you could see for miles in any direction and I knew I wasn’t speeding at that moment.

The state trooper pulled in behind me. If he wasn’t a state trooper, he could have easily been accused of tailgating. There was no traffic in either direction! We were the only two cars on this four lane divided highway and he was tailgating me. I carefully checked to make sure I was on target for speed. I even racked my brain to try and remember if I had been speeding.

The trooper continued on my tail for 3-4 minutes.

Finally, much to my relief, he pulled out from behind me, scurried over to the left lane, and passed me very quickly. Relief! He was really beginning to make me nervous.

My relief was short-lived. He immediately pulled in front of me and slowed down rather abruptly, causing me to tailgate him. Now, I hate being too close to a car. Why did he pull in front of me like that? I was still worried about my speed and checked to make sure that remained steady. I did not have cruise control in this vehicle. It was easy to end up with a lead foot, especially when I was tired.

After another minute passed, I was tired of tailgating the trooper, so I pulled over into the left lane, still being cautious about my speed. The trooper remained in the right lane, about two car lengths ahead of me. We continued on like this for 3-4 minutes. I was nervous the entire time. It just seemed odd to me that this trooper would remain so close when we were on this big expanse of highway.

Finally, the trooper slowed way down, but wait! He pulled in behind me in the left lane and turned on his blue flashing lights.

Great, not only am I being pulled over by a state trooper, but now I’m going to have to rescue him from the vultures too!

The state trooper sat in his car for a looong time behind me, a very long time, a very very very long time. My nervousness was reaching a peak and my air conditioning was working overtime trying to keep my car cool. Was the sweat dripping down my face from nervousness or heat, or maybe a combination of both.

The trooper exited his vehicle and approached mine with both hands on his hips, with more swagger than a policeman in a Clint Eastwood movie. There were no witnesses out here in the panhandle. Was I going to be beaten? Were drugs going to be planted in my car? I thought for sure I was going to jail.

It seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. Maybe it was just the heat waves shimmering on the blacktop. The officer approached my car. The swagger had left his hips and risen to his voice.

“Ya know what I pulled you over for partner,” he drawled.

“No sir, I have no idea,” I answered.

“Ya was drivin’ in my blind spot back there. If I hadda needed to pull over to the lef’ lane, I mighta hit ya.”

“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t realize that,” I answered.

Here’s what I really wanted to say…

“You idiot. You were tailgating me, then you pulled in front of me causing me to tailgate you. I moved to the left so I wouldn’t be tailgating anymore. Why were you doing that when we have all this highway open?”

Fortunately I held my tongue and didn’t say anything. Remember, this was the panhandle and there were no witnesses. It was not my day to become vulture food. I can see the newspaper report now…

Colorado man found eaten by vultures on the side of the road in the Texas panhandle. The foreigner had no idea when he stopped to pee that he should have had a shotgun in one hand while taking care of business here in the panhandle. Outsiders beware! We don’t tolerate disrespect for the law in these parts.

The officer returned my paperwork and instructed me to have a good day.

Have a good day?

Have a good day?

For the rest of the summer, I drove about 5 miles under the limit through that entire section of my commute to college.

Maybe I’m being too rough on this trooper. With the exception of the occasional road kill and once every decade when a truck filled with cocaine was discovered, there wasn’t much happening in his part of the world. I drove this section of road twice a week for three summers, for a total of about 24 times. He drove it EVERY DAY!

He could have just stopped me, told me he was lonely and then we could have driven to the next small town and chatted over bad coffee and tasty tacos at the local diner. He could have shared about his dream to become a Texas Ranger and how he ended up in the Texas panhandle. I would have listened. I love Texas Rangers, especially Walker, Texas Ranger.

I Wasn’t Always This Way

James Divine
James Divine

I wasn’t always this way!

People look at me – 49, getting better looking each year, married to my high school sweetheart, parent of four, grandparent of 3, successful band teacher, author, speaker, musician – and they think “Wow, James is so confident and sure of himself. Life has been good to him. I wish my life was like that.”

I wasn’t always this way!

I struggled, really struggled with self-esteem for many years. I know it was related to having an abusive father, being molested and all the damage that did to my psyche. I ALWAYS felt like I had to be dating someone, and my self-esteem plummeted when a girl would break up with me. I would beg her to come back, to give me another chance, to tell me where I failed. By the way, this is the worst thing to do. I should have said, “OK…I was thinking the same thing.”

My friend Amy – after hearing about the umpteenth time of a girl breaking up with me and how sad and lonely I was – she was one of those people who got to the point quickly – confronted me about why I felt like I needed to be dating someone all the time. I don’t think she even realized the impact of her words. It caused me to think. It caused me to change my behavior. I decided to stop being worried about finding the right person. Maybe I needed to focus on me, on becoming a better person! Becoming more Christ-like.

The interesting thing is that when I did that, that’s when I found my soul mate, my life-long lover, my best friend. I started dating Susan soon after that talk with Amy. I knew in about a week that Susan was probably the one. (By the way guys, after a week is not the time to mention this, even if you know deep in your soul).

Even after I started my adult life, got married, joined the Army band and was a successful husband, dad and musician, my self-esteem was still rock bottom.

I wasn’t always this way!

You see, I am the typical people pleaser. At first glance, a people pleaser seems to be a really nice person. Everyone can count on them. Need cookies baked, call a people pleaser. Need someone on a committee, call a people pleaser. People pleasers can’t say no. Ultimately for me, this desire to please grew out of a fear of rejection, which had its roots in not being close to my father due to his abuse of my mom. I felt that those close to me might reject me if I didn’t do everything they wanted.

Although I started killing off the roots of what caused me to be a people pleaser, I didn’t totally sever the roots until I went to LifePlan this past summer. LifePlan is basically two intense days of physical, emotional and spiritual counseling. In the course of the two days, you uncover your roots – patterns and behaviors that have contributed to how you act or react to things – and sever a lot of those roots (the bad roots). I learned to leave those people pleasing tendencies behind.

I wasn’t always this way!

So when you see me – successful, self-assured, confident, willing to disagree, making sure I have my priorities straight – I want you to realize it wasn’t always like this. It is a journey, a process, sometimes hard work that takes you from one point to another. I had the same doubts you have. I had the same struggles you have. I had the same lack of self-esteem as you have.

I overcame and

Now I am this way (but I wasn’t always this way)

And I like that I’m this way…the only one I truly have to please is God

And He’s pleased with me because He is making me into His image

By taking care of me first, it has given me more time

By focusing on my mission and calling, it has made me a better person

And believe it or not, I love others more than I ever have

 

So don’t look at me and say, “I wish”

But look at me and say, “If he could do it, with God’s help I can too.”

 

I love you.

I’m proud of you.

You make my life rich.

 

* James is first and foremost a son of the King. He loves that he gets to teach band and orchestra at Falcon High School. He is also a musician, speaker and author of “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested.” Find out more about LifePlan at www.chrislocurto.com

The Beatles Had It Right

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“All you need is Love. Love is all you need”

So true, and advice so needed as a teacher.

When they don’t meet your expectations…love them anyway.

When they disrespect you…love them anyway.

When they don’t work hard…love them anyway.

It’s not hard to love the students who are excited about your class, who work diligently and exceed your expectations. It’s the others that are hard.

Love goes a long way. It won’t solve every problem, but you don’t know what the long term effect will be.

…Love Them Anyway

You could never disappoint me!

After I discussed our first playing test of all 12 scales in one of my high school classes, a student of mine came to speak to me a few days later…

“Mr. Divine…I’ve been working hard on the 12 scales and wanted to let you know that it’s possible I might not pass them on this first try.” (I allow multiple retakes). “I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me.”

I felt like my heart was about to break. Here’s an outstanding student doing her best and her worry was that she would disappoint me.

I said, “Honey, you not passing your scales would NEVER disappoint me. I only have grades and give playing tests because I want everyone to improve and I know you are going to improve.”

She left class with a smile, came back the next week and aced her 12 scales.

I share this story because – as teachers – our words have tremendous impact! I know we can get caught up in the 5-10% of students who give us a hard time, but most are hard working and want to please.

What message are your words sending to your students?

For an example of how words from my teachers affected me, click HERE.

Teachers: Powerful Forces for Good or Bad

Some of my teachers played a big role in my life. A great ancient Hebrew named James had this to say about teaching…

“Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.”

Here are some good and not so good teachers in my life.

  • My Kindergarten teachers were outstanding, kind, compassionate and made me feel welcome. I remember crying on my first day of school, but after that I couldn’t wait to get there. I wish I could remember their names.
  • My second grade teacher was Mrs. Everitt. She took me on as a project and cared for me and my family. She taught me and loved me.
  • I did not like my first fifth grade teacher. She seemed to hate children. I know now that was probably not the case, but it sure felt like it to me. Fortunately I moved away after two months of fifth grade and ended up with the most wonderful fifth grade teacher.
  • In seventh grade, I had another of those teachers who seemed to hate kids. Her name was Ms. Crudup, but we would often pronounce it very close together so it came out as Miss Screwed Up.
  • My first band teacher was awesome, Mr. Derrio. He and my elementary music teacher helped to develop the love of music that has given me a successful three decade career.
  • My wife and sister had a teacher in high school named Legan. He seemed to enjoy giving students failing grades. I never could understand that. When I have a student fail, I feel like I have failed somehow and I adapt my teaching.
  • My wife had a fourth grade teacher who told her she would amount to nothing.
  • Mr. Trammel taught me about integrity. Even though he had a large number of sick days, he took a day off without pay rather than fake sickness.
  • My best teacher was Steve Ambrose. Students will typically have a greater connection with the teacher who teaches the subject they are passionate about. Steve was passionate about music, still is, and passed that passion and excitement on to me. He really made you think!

Teachers, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility. You can make or break your students’ day.

The Sheep, The Sheepdogs and the Wolves

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There are three types of people in the world: The Sheep, The Sheepdogs and The Wolves.

Most people are sheep. They live a somewhat normal life…they go to work, do what they’re told, pay their taxes, raise their families, watch tv, hang out on weekends. Basically doing life but not creating any waves. Most of them think life is great until
– dun dun dun – the wolves attack.

images_1The wolves are all around us. Some of them are obvious, like the criminals we see in the news each day. Some of them are not as obvious; they often occupy leadership positions in business, government, education and religion.
The wolves are out to steal, kill and destroy. The wolves are on the prowl for the weak sheep, those who have fallen away from the herd, those who are scared, those suffering from an injury. The wolves are out to fulfill their own needs and care nothing for the sheep.

images_2The sheepdogs have a mission…protect the sheep from the wolves (and sometimes from the sheep themselves)!
The sheepdogs round up the sheep, promoting unity. This makes it much harder for the wolves to attack (the wolves like wounded and solitary sheep because at heart, the wolves are cowards).
The sheepdogs often bark in warning to keep the sheep together. The sheepdogs sometimes have to inflict pain through a nip on the legs of the sheep. When compared to being eaten by wolves, this pain is minimal but necessary. The sheepdogs often seem to be all alone.
Like the wolves, you can find many sheepdogs in leadership positions in business, government, education and religion. However, some of these people should be sheepdogs, but are actually sheep being controlled by the wolves. These can be more dangerous than the wolves.

But…something strange happens in this scenario…Even though the lives of the sheep are dependent upon the sheepdogs, the sheep often hate the sheepdogs. Some sheepdogs look like wolves; they have sharp teeth and claws and are always barking, but it’s to protect the sheep! The sheepdogs often get into terrible fights with the wolves to protect the sheep.

images_3Over them all is the Good Shepherd, Jesus. He gave His life for the sheep. Many of them hate Him too. Many of them reject Him. He made the sheepdogs. He gave the sheepdogs their mission because He cares for the sheep even more than the sheepdogs do.

How about you?
Are you a sheep, a sheepdog or a wolf?
Maybe you’re a sheep controlled by a wolf?
Have you met the Shepherd?
The Good Shepherd warned us that the wolves often come to us in sheep’s clothing.