A Question for Brass Experts

I had a thought today when I was teaching my beginning trumpet students.  They have been stuggling with buzzing and producing a good tone.  I believe that they have a handle on how to buzz, since I have them do that for me without the mouthpiece.  Here’s where my question comes in…I know some brass players have to angle their mouthpieces down in order to get the most effective buzz.  How do I know when to direct a student to try that technique?

On a somewhat unrelated note….Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about for some time.  When do you decide to try to switch a student to a different instrument so that they may be more successful?  Do you have students that you find are struggling on one instrument, and then switch them to something else? When do you determine that you’re going to do that?  In other words, how much time do you give the student to be successful on their instrument before moving them somewhere is that you think they may have more luck with?

The frustrating part…

I am particularly frustrated this afternoon with teaching.  I wish I taught at a school that made AYP.  Then maybe I could actually just focus on teaching music to the best of my ability.  At my school, we have not made AYP yet in the 5 years that I have been here.  This means that we are dangerously close to having the state come in and basically tell us what to do.  This scares me because one would assume that if your school isn’t passing the state standardized tests, that your arts programs would probably be one of the first things to go.

My concert is December 4, and I only have about 12 rehearsals left until the concert.  Why so few you ask?  Oh, that is because we have choir and band the same period, and we must share the kids.  That means that I only have 2 rehearsals per week (3 every other week).  Oh, and by the way, since we aren’t passing the state test in reading, I am supposed to be teaching reading strategies during my class.  Oh, and I have to have my students do writing assignments every 2 weeks as well!

I am sure many of us face these same challenges every day. I know that it is probably foolish to think that the grass is always greener on the other side. Maybe it is foolish of me to think that all I want to do is teach music! What frustrations are you facing?

Now the PS – I began this post directly after school today. Now, coming back to it some 4 hours later, after having spent a wonderful evening with my family, I have calmed down. These are still frustrating issues to me, though. I can deal with the paperwork and other tasks that I have to do daily that take up my time, but when I am in front of my class, I want to teach MUSICis it really going to be my responsibility now to teach reading and writing too? I hope that I am only part of a small number of music teachers facing this dilemma. Is there anyone else out there in the blogosphere being ask to teach something other than music during their classes??

Of course, on the other hand, it’s just a job

Catching Up

I have not posted much in a while, and I’m going to make an effort to post more regularly, even if they are just short posts, in order to avoid marathon posts, like this one could turn out to be.  Anyway, here are some of the things that have been on my mind and going on as of the start of the year (in no particular order):

– If you have been reading past posts, you know that I have been struggling with getting numbers up in my elementary program.  Things have gone remarkably well here at the beginning of the year.  I started on the first day with about 60 kids signed up, and now I have about 78.  These extra 18 students simply have been showing up and saying that they want to play, so that has been really good.  But, lately, I have been thinking about how to get the elementary students motivated to practice.  Now, I do have a rewards system with “band bucks” where students who practice an hour get 1 “dollar” from me.  They can then use that dollar to buy things like music pencils, erasers, etc.  This works well for some students but not many for some reason.  Maybe I just don’t make a big enough deal about it.  But, I have been thinking this week that maybe I would institute “quizzes” for the students.  What I have thought about is telling them that they will have a quiz on an assigned excercise for next week, and simply grading them out of 10 points.  My thinking here is that this will help to make the students accountable for practice time.  I just feel like I have far too many students who do nothing all week, and then we wonder why they can’t get passed number 15 in the book the whole year.  Any feedback/thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.

– Also somewhat related, I have been considering the possibility that I rely too heavily on the “method book” to teach elementary lessons, rather than just using it as a tool.  Maybe my approach to teaching elementary has been all wrong from the beginning.  Perhaps it is better to teach these students what I think is best, and simply use the method book as a resource, and not necessarily the curriculum.  Thoughts?

– Please hear me out on this next one.  Sometimes I feel like I need to remind myself that this is “just a job.”  Now, before you jump down my throat for saying such a thing, let me explain myself.  I know that all great teachers think of this as much for than “just a job.”  I do as well.  But, I think having a child has changed my perspective quite a bit.  I have to admit that my family is now the most important thing in my life to me.  There are many days that I find myself at school thinking about getting home and seeing my family.  But, what I find is that I still am very motivated to do the absolute best that I can when I step in front of my students.  So, here is what I think I mean when I say that I have to remind myself that this is “just a job.”  Sometimes, I let the BS that I have to deal with really get to me.  We (those of us in education) all know what I mean….all of the stuff not related to teaching music.  When I start getting bogged down with the administrative directrives that I don’t necessarily agree with, high school drama (“she’s being mean to me!”), etc., I find that I just have to tell myself that this really is “just a job.”  This helps me to let all of that unnecessary baggage go, so that when I am home, it does not weigh on my mind and have me pre-occupied when I’m with my family.  (I think that is also partially why I haven’t blogged in a while…I simply do not want to think about school when I’m at home.)

-Finally, it looks as if we will be extending our football season once again this year.  The team is 7-1, and has been looking good.  I predict we play at least 3 weeks into November.  I have to admit that for the first time since I’ve been in this position, I’m not really looking forward to it.  I don’t know if it’s because I’d rather be home with my family, or because we have been in the playoffs just about every year since I’ve been here, but I’m ready for the season to be over.  It probably has something to do with the afore-mentioned “high school drama” too!  But, I really do wish the team good luck….deep down, I probably do want them to succeed.

-PS – Don’t remember where I heard or read this recently, but a good thought nonetheless.  Someone said something to the effect of “We do not teach subjects, we teach people.”  I like that – sometimes it changes my perspective on handling certain situations.