Numbers…Ugh!

Today was a good day until I started doing some number-crunching.  Actually, this all really started near the first day of school.  As I was looking over my rosters, I realized that I only had 40 students in band in grades 7-12.  This was disappointing – I’ve already talked about this here.  But today, as my colleague in the orchestra department and I were discussing our elementary schedules, it occured to me that I may not have as many elementary students as I once did.  I had remembered that a few years ago that I had done some number-crunching to prepare for a meeting I was going to have.  I remember that I was proud of the increase in the number of students that were in the band program.  So, I dug out that old paperwork.  What I found was, to say the least, depressing.

My first year at my current school was 2004-2005, and that year, I had approximately 40 students in elementary band, grades 4-6.  In the 2005-2006 school year, I had about 68 students.  And, in 2006-2007, I had 137 students.  Sounds great, right?  Well, last year, I started with about 80 students, and really probably ended the year with about 65-70.  And, based on what I’ve seen for this coming year, I think I’ll be lucky if I have 60 all together.  What is going on here?  I don’t think that I have been doing anything differently.  I know that I haven’t lost that many kids up to the middle school, because I consistently have small groups of 10-12 kids in 7th grade every year.  So, why is this happening?  And why does this problem not seem to affect the orchestra program? This year, the elementary orchestra will include over 100 students.  What’s different?  We recruit the same time and do instrument sign ups the same way, so why does she have so many kids, and I do not?  I have to admit that now I am beginning to point the finger at myself.  My confidence level is low!

Here’s the scary part: What are most administrators, teachers, and parents concerned about?  Not the quality of music or even the quality of instruction in the band.  They are only concerned with numbers.  And, what am I losing for some inexplicable reason?  Numbers.  I found a list of the 137 students that I had in 2006-2007, and I decided that I would see how many of those students were still playing their instrument.  Out of 137 students, only 14 are still playing in the band program! Help!  I am looking for answers.  I am completely dumbfounded.  I think I am a good teacher.  Are my expectations too high?  Do I make the band students work too hard?  Do they not like it?  Am I not enough fun?  Does it have to do with the fact that I can only see these students once a week because of the scheduling? I’ll admit that I want to re-vamp my recruiting process heavily.  But, these numbers have fallen without any change in the recruiting program at all.

I have no idea what to do, but something has to be done quick!  I think that I should meet with my elementary principals and see if they have any insight as to what may be going on here.  Any suggestions are very much appreciated.  I am really at a loss right now!