Prayer Has Never Been Removed from Schools

I hear Christians lamenting all the time about two Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s that “removed prayer from schools”. This is a distortion of the facts. I decided it was time to set the record straight.

Those decisions did not remove prayer from schools, but removed state-sponsored prayer from public schools, and frankly I’m glad they did!

Christians have always been for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for those whose rights have been taken away, for those who are being abused. After all, it’s what Christ commanded us to do. And with our constitutional right to freedom of religion, this also includes the freedom to reject any religion. God has never forced anyone to follow Him. 

So why would we want to force people to pray? And what would happen if the majority of people were not Christian? Would they then have the right to force us to pray to their god? We should NOT have state-sponsored prayer in our schools, but neither should prayer be prohibited, and according to our constitution it’s not.

The dictionary defines prayer as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. Prayers can be out loud, or silent and in our minds. They can be made with eyes open or closed. While standing, sitting, or kneeling. The Supreme court decision in the 1960s did not ban prayer in schools. The constitution demands freedom of religion, which means you can pray whenever you want. 

Here’s why I think Christians have become dismayed over this subject…

Someone “in charge” at a school – a principal, board member, or teacher – has made a decision to “ban prayer.” Maybe the decision is made out of fear (many parents are ready to take every decision they disagree with immediately to the superintendent these days). Maybe the decision is due to lack of knowledge (many people misunderstand our freedoms – read the constitution please). Sometimes Christians have allowed themselves to be bullied in these situations. To be fair, the bully doesn’t always know he’s being one.

I pray daily at school – at my desk before I eat – in the hallway before students file in – while proctoring state testing – every Friday when I walk through the campus specifically praying for the school – and every week I pray for the leaders in my school district. 

Nobody stops me.

If a group of football players wants to get together before the game to pray – THEY ARE ALLOWED TO – and if some players don’t want to join in – they are allowed to refrain. If a group of students wants to meet early or stay late to study the bible – THEY ARE ALLOWED TO, unless the school prohibits all groups from meeting.

There are some things I’m not allowed to do…

  • I’m not allowed to use my music class time to proclaim the gospel
  • I’m not allowed to be disrespectful of other people’s beliefs that differ from mine

But what I’m allowed to do far exceeds that…

  • I’m allowed to pray whenever I want, silently during class or out loud when I’m alone
  • I’m allowed to talk to students about my faith when they ask me about it
  • I’m allowed to say Merry Christmas to students and staff 

You CAN pray in schools, for schools, for teachers, for administrators, and for parents and students. You CAN run for your local school board. When was the last time you prayed for our schools? Will you take a moment to do so now?

*** James Divine is in his 24th year of teaching, which he believes is his calling. Today’s Christian teachers are on a difficult mission field, but they have the potential for tons of impact. Find out more about James at www.jamesdivine.net.  Find out more about Prayer.

How To Pay For College Without Debt and Without Worry

College is affordable

We are constantly hearing all the “woe is me” about our colleges and the cost to attend! Some of those problems are our own doing, but college is still affordable!

My Story

I wanted to go to college for as far back as I can remember. My mom didn’t have any money saved up for me for college, but she did tell me I could live at home for free as long as I wanted while going to college.

I made the same mistakes many young people make…

  • I bought a NEW car (it was a Ford Escort, mind you, but it was still more than I needed)
  • Insurance was expensive on my NEW car
  • I felt like I was working just to pay for things needed for my NEW car (do you see a theme here)

I was taking one or two college classes and working full time at a construction job. It was ok, but I hated the work. Each night I arrived home tired and worn out, ready to eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed and do it again the next day. It looked to me like it would take forever to finish school at that rate, so I talked to a recruiter and joined the Army.

You can join the military and in exchange for three years of your life, you’ll receive about 72k in education benefits, plus you should be able to complete 2 years of college in a 4 year enlistment.

I started attending college while on active duty. I had to pay about 10% of the cost, the rest was covered by the military. There were only a few choices of colleges, it took me ten years, but I completed my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration!

You might be surprised at how many different types of jobs there are in the military. It’s not all about shooting weapons and war. I was in the band. You can be a cook, an admin assistant, work with finance, work in the chapel, shoot people, + a myriad of other options.

The Reality

I’m going to break down some real costs for my area (Colorado Springs)

Example #1: 18 year old student living at home with parents

Tuition at Pikes Peak Community College 3736

Books and Other Fees (you can probably bring this down buying used) 1800

TOTAL 5536

If this student works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, he will earn approximately $15,000, more than enough to pay for college and have plenty to get around, plus some extra for fun.

Example #2: 18 year old student living on his own 

Tuition at Pikes Peak Community College 3736

Books and Other Fees (you can probably bring this down by going used) 1800

Renting a room in someone’s basement 6000

Food (does not include Starbucks or going out to eat; lots of ramen and mac and cheese)

3600

TOTAL 15136

If this student works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, he will earn approximately $15,000. He will need to live somewhere close to the college and won’t have any extra money. However, if he took another part time job the weeks he didn’t have school – working just ten more hours per week – he could make 7.25/hour x 10 hours per week x 16 weeks = $1160. This could help pay for a couple of extra items.

But

  • This doesn’t sound like fun.
    • It’s not, it’s work, but it’s a sacrifice you make over a short period of time.
  • How can he work 40 hours AND do all his assignments.
    • The average college student spends upwards of 30 hours per week on media, social and otherwise.
    • Most wage earners actually stay at minimum wage only a short time. I earned minimum wage from the age of 14-17 – since then not. Once you prove to your employer that you are worth what she is paying you, you will earn substantially more than minimum wage.

Let’s take a look at a state college

In the state of Colorado, state colleges are required to take your transfer credits from community colleges when you transfer into their school.

Tuition at UNC Greeley 10,000

Room and Board 10,000

TOTAL 20,000

Now you have several options regarding work…

  • Continue working 40 hours/week and earning 15k/year; you accrue about 5k a year in debt, times two years. Not much debt at all. Work 60 hours a week during the summer to reduce that amount even more.
  • Don’t work at all during school, but work 60 hours per week during school breaks. Let’s also assume that since you now have your associate’s degree, you can now earn $10/hour. Your earnings would be $9,600/year. Let’s round that to $10k, so over two years you would need to borrow just 20K for your education. Once again very affordable.

The problem I see is that many students do not want to make the sacrifice needed to go to college. Because the loans are so easy to get and insured by the government, many students don’t work, yet continue to finance their lattes and vacations with borrowed money. Some choose to go to more expensive colleges. Some choose to major in Polka Music History and then wonder why they can’t get a job.

I wanted to get a master’s degree for a long time. I researched and looked into many possibilities. The 50k cost of most of many of them simply was not worth it to me. However, I finally found a small college in southwestern Oklahoma that gave me in-state tuition if I played in the summer band. I attended in the summers of 2010, 2011 and 2012. My total cost for a master’s degree was $9,000, which included room and board for the half of each week I stayed in Oklahoma. That’s $9k total, not per year!

Was it a sacrifice to have to drive each week? Yes. I could have stayed but I wanted to be home with my family. If you add the cost of driving, it would add about $3k to the total price. $12k – not bad for a master’s degree, and it immediately boosted my income about 5k per year as a teacher. There were options available in which I could have finished a master’s degree in 1-1 ½ years. Some cost 80-90k. If I had borrowed money to go to one of those schools, I would still owe the debt.

College is affordable. Don’t let the lies sink in.
*** James is a middle school teacher at a Title 1 school in Colorado Springs. He grew up in Title 1 schools before they were called that. Part of his growing up years was spent homeless – at least by today’s definition (we bumped around from family to family sleeping where we could; when mom was able to get her own apartment, we did not have electricity) – and on welfare. He is a strong believer in life-long learning. Sometimes that learning comes from a formal education, but mostly it comes from reading. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. Also check out more resources HERE.

I Wasn’t Always This Way

I wasn’t always this way!

People look at me – 55, getting better looking each year, married to my high school sweetheart, parent of four, grandparent of 8, 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 a recovering 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 Next Level Life in 2015. What is it? 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 is also a teacher, musician, speaker and author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.  Find out more about Next Level Life at www.chrislocurto.com

Episode 186 – What To Do At The End Of The School Year

End Of The School Year

You’ve just performed your last concert and there are two weeks left in school. Now what?

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 185 – Advice for When Someone In Your Community Loses Their Life

Loss of a Life

There is nothing about a lost life that is easy. I experienced a huge loss in a community I served a number of years ago. I navigated it with great difficulty, anguish of heart, and much prayer. Hope my journey helps you.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 184 – What To Do In a Parade

Parade

A parade can be a lot of fun – or it can be stressful and annoying. The choice is really up to you. These tips can help it lean more towards the fun side!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 183 – Is Getting a Master’s Degree Worthwhile and Affordable

An affordable master's degree

Although I have been in music my entire adult life – 34 years to be exact – I did not have a music degree until I was 43 years old. I had wanted to earn my master’s degree for many years, but kids, life, and cost prevented me. There are excellent master’s in music education that cost 25, 35, 50 thousand or more! Do you know what I paid for mine? Just $9,000! It’s more affordable than you think. And there were no student loans.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Advice: Choosing Quality Band Literature at the Appropriate Level

Choosing Quality Band Literature

Here are a few things I have learned about selecting music for wind band…

Ability Level of the Ensemble You Direct: 

A piece of music may be the greatest creation ever made, but if it is too difficult for the students to play, they will become discouraged. I often made the mistake of selecting literature that was too difficult in the early years of my career. Does this mean that there should never be a piece in the folder that is beyond students’ reach? No, there should always be something that we are looking at that would be a stretch for our group. Musicians have never “arrived.” We are always working and striving for better things.

My students still say things like “This is too easy.” I have learned to explain to them that – yes, their individual part is easy, and each person may feel that way about their part, but when we put it all together it isn’t musical yet. It’s hard to make music when one is struggling with the technique. There is good quality music available at all levels. At some levels it will take more digging to find the quality stuff, but it’s there. You might use a resource like the Teaching Music Through Performance series.

Instrumentation: 

This is a difficult one. If you don’t have an oboe/English horn player, it will be difficult to do a piece like Russian Christmas Music. It can be done – and as a professional sax player I have played the oboe and English horn cues in that song – but it just isn’t the same. Likewise if you have no trumpet players or few low brass players, there are simply some things you cannot perform.

I want to thank one of my mentors, Joe Brice, for helping me in my teaching in this area. He came to clinic my band and said “You need another tuba.” Of course I agreed but stated that I couldn’t do anything. Joe answered with a detailed, thoughtful answer that represented his 50+ years of experience. He said, “Did you ask anybody?” At that point I wanted to slap my head in a big “Duh; why didn’t I think of that” moment. I asked and convinced three students to switch over.

My point is that – although instrumentation (or lack of it) can be difficult, we really need to take a long term approach to it. Ask your students if anyone wants to switch, especially if – like me – you have a ton of flute players and less of others. Some of those who switch will become awesome; some of them will go back to their original instrument. That’s ok! Explain to the students why it is important that some of them switch for the good of the band.

Rehearsal Time: 

We are involved in the field of music education. Sometimes I think we forget that…I know I have…especially as we rush to prepare for a concert, festival or competition. A director of a professional symphony may be able to prepare difficult pieces with just 2-3 rehearsals. However, our job is not only directing, but educating. As I have gained more experience, I have realized that the educating part of the job is much more important and has more lasting effects.

I think it is better to do one or two high quality pieces and play them extremely well than to perform 4-5 pieces and not have really learned anything in the process. It is important to dig deep into the music, the history and even some analysis of the songs being performed. So often we are so busy with the need to get through the music that we forget to instruct students about the music.

Select Quality Literature: 

Now we arrive at probably the greatest challenge in selecting music. How do we define quality? For me, the definition has changed a lot over the course of my teaching. There are many pieces I regret having wasted money on in my early years of teaching. I know quality when I hear it, but I don’t always recognize lack of quality (if that even makes sense). There is quality literature at every level. There is junk at every level.

Here is my definition of quality music…

Quality music moves me emotionally. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable, not a cover your ears and run out of the room uncomfortable, but uncomfortable in the sense that my thinking is challenged. It is expressive. It is melodic. Although it may contain repeating motifs, it is not the same two measure repeating motif for 120 measures.

Now do you feel qualified to determine whether music is of quality or not? Me neither. We need something more. Frank Battisti in his book The Winds of Change says that many directors have stopped attending concerts and listening and studying great music. We must expose ourselves to great music so we can know when we hear it. Battisti likens it to a wine connoisseur whose tastes improve as he becomes exposed to more wine. I liken it to a little kid who thinks a fast food burger is the greatest thing on earth, until she matures and realizes that there are burgers ten times better than the fast food variety.

I encourage you to listen to great music, attend your state conference and listen to the groups selected to perform, and when you go to contest, schedule some time to listen and observe other groups. As Battisti states, your taste level will be elevated. You will become better equipped to know when you hear poor quality music.

I will end with a quote from Battisti, “We are what we consume! If one wants to become an artist conductor/teacher – one must consume great Art.”

***James has been a performer and educator for over 30 years, teaching band and orchestra at every level from 4th-12th grade. He also hosts the music ed podcast, delivers keynote speeches using music, and has written several books on music and life in general. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. 

Episode 182 – Should You Focus On Sound With Beginners – Here Are Three Tips

Great Sound from Beginning Band

Air will get you there! I learned this from one of my mentors when he would come to work with my band – and even as a professional musician – when taking lessons – I was told to USE MORE AIR. In this episode I share three tips to help your beginners get a fuller, rounder, thicker, more beautiful tone. It’s a process – a life long one at that!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 181 – Teaching Jazz Phrasing

Teaching Jazz Phrasing

I recently taught these exact same lessons to my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands. It didn’t take them long to get the hang of playing notes the proper length and acquiring a swing feel. In this episode, I lead you through the process to teach the same concepts to your band.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Are you burned out? Take this test to find out.

Burned Out

In 1998, I started my first teaching job with passion, dedication, love and joy. I gave my all to my students, but I neglected myself and – I’m ashamed to say – at times my family. I became extremely burned out. When I left that school for another in 2005, I promised myself I would never let that happen again! I set boundaries, I took better care of my health, I left for home at the end of the school day.

As my own kids grew, I found myself starting a marching band and devoting more and more time to my work. I didn’t mind. My responsibilities at home had changed, I had more time, and I saw what a difference marching band was making in my students’ lives. I had overcome the possibility of burnout!

WRONG!!!

I succumbed again. It wasn’t quite as bad as the first time, but this time I didn’t recognize the signs until I heard a presentation by Dr. Frank Tracz of Kansas State. He shared the burnout link with us that you will find below.

I left my position for a new one teaching middle school with no marching band. Sometimes – not always – one must leave a position to regain balance. That’s a whole blog post of it’s own.

Are you burned out? Take this Burnout Self Test from the good people at Mind Tools to find out. If the results come out positive, make the changes necessary to prevent burnout. You’ll be glad you did.

I just took the test again recently. Even though I am not burned out, I am in the danger zone – probably because of Covid. I address those thoughts in a recent podcast HERE.

Episode 180 – Have you thought of leaving the profession – Hang in there

Committed to Teaching Band

It has been a crazy year for teachers! Even though I KNOW I am where I am supposed to be, I still found myself looking at job postings at least 100x the last year. Listen in as I share from my heart about my calling and how those of us with a high EQ can navigate our crazy feelings.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

11 Ways to Lose (and Keep) a Band Student

11 Ways To Lose (and Keep) A Band Student

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 23 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.

Episode 179 – Job Hunting Tips

It’s that season, where band teacher jobs are listed and many people change schools. Make sure you change for the RIGHT reason. Here are some tips that helped me a few years ago when I changed positions.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

James Divine – Youth Success Speaker

Poverty
Abusive Father
Homelessness
Sexual Abuse

I’ve lived through all of these. I had to overcome them as I realized that I could have a better future than what my life had dictated. I love sharing my story of experiencing all these things, but more importantly, sharing the steps I took to overcome and leave these events in the past where they belong.

In the past 20+ years, I’ve shared this message with tens of thousands of people to help them change their mindset, overcome their past, and move to their best future. You can count on me to be humorous, interactive, and an engaging speaker, full of insights and stories, and music, and humor, and different characters even.

I have been teaching middle and high school students for more than 20 years. I know their struggles. Their pains. Their insecurities. I was exactly like them. I suffered from “I Can’t” syndrome, but finally found the process to break free. I wish it was just a little magic pill, but it’s not. It’s a process. I’ve helped hundreds on their own journey.

Now I’m a veteran, husband, dad, teacher, musician, author, and grandad! Contact me today and let’s discuss your needs.

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 76 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 an Italian 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 in June of 2016, 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.

Episode 178 – 7 Things They Don’t Teach You in College

College is great, but we don’t learn everything we need to know there. In this episode, I share seven things I wish I knew BEFORE I started teaching. Learn from my experience.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 177 – Help! I’m retiring/leaving and don’t know what kind of job to do

There is life after teaching band. It MAY be something still in music, but it may be something totally unrelated to music. You have many options!

To get my free resource 40 Ways to Make Money as a Musician send me an email at jamesthedivine@gmail.com.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 176 – Take Care of YOU

You are not going to be the best teacher you can be if you don’t put your needs first – physical, relational, spiritual. When you take care of you, you are more equipped to serve your students. Everything in life works under the pay now or pay later rule.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 175 – Creating a Great Culture

In this podcast, I share some great tips and ideas that you can use to create traditions and develop a great culture in your band. You must be intentional in this. The traditions you create will often be the memories that students think of years from now. You have the power to create a terrific culture!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 173 – Easy Ways to Incorporate Reading Into Band

What do you think when your principal tells you she would like for you to incorporate reading into band? Do you inwardly groan? Do you dread the thought of giving up an entire day of music for reading? It doesn’t have to be that way.

In this episode, I interview reading expert Dr. Danny Brassell. He shares tips and strategies to incorporate reading WITHOUT taking away from what you are doing musically. We should incorporate reading – and history – and music theory – and lift unheard voices – but we can do it seamlessly and as part of what we are already teaching,

Danny hated reading as a kid, and now he promotes reading to others. Find out more about Danny and get a free book when you go to www.readleadandsucceed.com.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Tube Socks, Giants, and a Teacher’s Trust

Have you ever had a teacher say or do something that had a huge impact on you for your entire life? I have had many of these opportunities.

Some teachers affect you in a negative way. I’ve had my share of those. Most of my teachers had huge, positive impacts on my life. My seventh grade band teacher was one of them.

I went to a rough school in seventh grade. Remember tube socks from the 70s? On the last day of school, it was not unusual to have some of the teens in the neighborhood surround the school bus – tube socks in hand – but with the addition of a large rock in the bottom of the tube sock. These teens would swing their rock-filled tube socks with the expertise of David swinging his slingshot at Goliath – except instead of using their rock to slay evil, they were intent on causing evil by smashing the windows of the school bus. I was a terrified 13 year old about to wet my pants.

Within the school I felt very safe. We were kept safe by a group of three security guards who were very tall – they seemed like Goliath to me in the heights they reached – and well-muscled – but the friendliest giants you ever knew! They made me feel safe. They developed relationships with students. I had my share of getting in trouble in seventh grade, but these giants loved me all the same…as did my band teacher.

The band teacher played saxophone like me. I can still see his face. I remember his encouragement as I learned saxophone for the first time. I remember his praise – his gentleness – his push for high standards – not just musically but morally too. I even remember when he lost his temper at the drummers one day, flung his conductor’s baton at them, only to have it bounce off the bass drum and come back and hit him in the head. We all had a good laugh, including him. I can’t for the life of me remember his name.

One day we were taking a trip to a local music festival where we would perform, receive feedback, and listen to others perform. Those of you who took band may remember this event as Large Group Festival. As our teacher prepared us, he reminded us that we were stopping for lunch and we should bring some money. He informed us that if we forgot our money, he would be glad to loan us some, but we would have to repay it. Then he said something I’ve remembered my whole life…”And if you don’t pay me back, that’s ok. It’s worth a couple of dollars for me to find out I can’t trust you.”

That teacher’s trust meant a lot to me – and it taught me an important lesson… Trust everyone unless they show you they can’t be trusted. Thank you Mister!

***James is a music teacher at a school very similar to the one he went to as a 7th grader. He is in his 23rd year of being an educator and attributes his success to all the wonderful teachers he had along the way. James grew up in poverty and abuse, but now shares his story of Your NOW doesn’t determine your FUTURE as often as his schedule allows. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. Get his book on amazon Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption.

Episode 172 – 5 Tips for Student Engagement in an Online Environment

Even though teaching may look differently for a while, you can still engage your students!

In this episode, I share five tips that have worked for me.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 171 – Marching Band is Needed Now More Than Ever Before

These are trying times! Even though I currently don’t teach marching band, I am considering starting one at my middle school (I started and taught marching band for a decade or more at my previous school).

Through marching band, we learn team work and socialization and leadership skills!

Also see Episode 47: How To Start a Marching Band

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

7 (Fun) Rules for Eating During the Holidays

  1. Start with a huge glass of egg nog. This is to coat your stomach lining to keep it safe. Home made fudge also works in place of or in addition to egg nog.
  2. When whoever’s cooking isn’t looking, grab a healthy sample of what they’re cooking. You want to make sure it’s safe for the family. Can’t let them see you because they’ll feel bad that they didn’t think of it
  3. Skip anything green or anything with more than 50% vegetables. No sense in using space that could be filled with meat or pie
  4. If in doubt about whether to pour gravy on something, pour extra on it. You can’t go wrong.
  5. Eat a double portion of all desserts. It’s tasty, plus double portion sounds biblical.
  6. Take a nap
  7. Repeat numbers 1-6.

And don’t forget to be thankful for all the blessings in your life.

YOU are a blessing in mine.

YOU make my life rich.

I love you.

Episode 169 – Why I Don’t Do Christmas Concerts

This is a replay of an episode I recorded in 2012. Excuse the sound quality. Many of you may not even be doing ANY concerts this year, much less a Christmas concert. In this very short episode, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on why I chose many years ago to not have Christmas concerts. Maybe this will give you an idea for the future, when concerts return and the pandemic is a thing of the past. Disclaimer – I do set students up in caroling groups and we go around the school, often with the choir. Easy – fun – very well received!

This is the last episode of 2020. I look forward to bringing you more content next year. I’d love to hear from you! Send me a question or comment at jamesthedivine@gmail.com.