Nobody wants to lose a band student. Sometimes it’s inevitable – you get a student who doesn’t want to work at all for example. Other times it may be our own fault.
Here are 11 ways to lose a band student for sure (and 11 ways to keep them).
1. Have Roving Eyes
Instead of focusing on the here and now and what students you do have, always look for the next Miles Davis. Never be content with who you have.
Make the best of who and what you have. Develop them to their fullest ability. Miles Davis could be weird at times anyway.
2. Don’t Answer Calls and Emails
Answering these takes time, time away from preparing the music. Just delete/erase these before they clutter up your inbox.
If a student takes the time to call or email you, it is generally because he wants to do well and improve. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, you are showing lack of concern for them. Many times students have told me I’m the only teacher who responds to their emails.
3. Don’t listen to feedback
Some of my directors growing up were “My way or the highway” types who really were not interested in becoming better people. Ignoring the feedback from your students means you won’t have as great of an opportunity to improve.
Listen to student feedback, even if you disagree. Maybe there is a compromise in there somewhere. Listen carefully if it’s coming from your leaders.
4. Don’t Get To Know Your Students
After all, music is the most important thing, so why would we ever ask them about their families, future plans or other activities. (Caveat…I DO make sure my students understand that our short rehearsal together is going to be focused on music).
Before, after and during breaks in rehearsal, get to know about your students’ families, jobs, dreams, interests and hobbies.
5. Focus only on your wants and needs
Who cares what songs the students want to play. It’s all about winning the competition and making me look good.
Isn’t it ok to play a Disney song once in awhile? Let the students pick some of the repertoire. I usually ask them to send me a www.jwpepper.com link so I can review it. If it’s not suited to our group, I tell them why.
6. Argue over little things
After all, what type of tread is on the bottom of the marching shoe has won and lost championships, right?
After 16 years of teaching, I quit being so strict about footwear at concerts. Do I want the kids to look nice? You bet. Does a percussionist wearing black sneakers instead of black dress shoes affect anyone’s enjoyment of the music? Not really.
7. Ignore The Little Things
I know Sally doesn’t have music yet, but there’s just no time for such trivial things. I’ll update the grades at the end of the semester. I know Brian took a retest weeks ago, but I don’t think he will mind having a D as long as I change it before the end of the semester.
The little things add up to big things. I am not perfect in this, so I write EVERYTHING down. I don’t want to forget the small details.
8. Don’t show appreciation
The students have the privilege of being in my class.
The students have the option not to be in your class. It’s your privilege to get to teach the best and brightest in the school.
9. Don’t Apologize
Rule #1: The director is always right.
Rule #2: When the director is wrong, refer to rule #1.
Saying “sorry” when called for is one of the best things you can do. I’ve lost my temper at a kid. I’ve said something that humiliated them or done something I shouldn’t have. I ALWAYS apologize. It makes an impact on the students.
10. Poor care of facilities
Hey, the music is the most important thing, so why do the room and instruments need to be taken care of.
Put away piles of stuff. Organize. Throw away. Make the facility look the best you can with what you have.
11. Don’t care
Look at the players as people who fill a need for an instrument rather than as people.
Show concern. Call when a student is away for extended illness. When they return, tell them how much you missed them. A student doesn’t care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE.
***James Divine has taught band and orchestra for over 24 years. He currently teaches at a Title I middle school. He is the host of The Music Ed Podcast. He is also the author of The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and Tips from my 30+ years in music. Get in touch with James HERE.