Slow Down!

869482_traffic.jpgI realized some things today

  • There will never be enough time to do everything I want to do
  • There will never be enough money to do everything I want to do
  • There will never be enough people to do everything I want to do
  • The music will never sound good enough
  • Kids will continue to fail their classes, no matter how important I tell them that passing is
  • Parents will never be happy enough with everything I do in the classroom
  • I will never be caught up on paperwork

But ya know what else I realized?
That’s part of the enjoyment of the process. If I didn’t have anything to do, I wouldn’t be necessary. Meaningless tasks don’t bring fulfillment, no matter how lucrative they are.

So what am I doing?
I’m slowing down.

My teaching.
My movement.
My hurry.

It must stop. I must stop. I must enjoy my life.

That’s part of the enjoyment of the process. If I didn’t have anything to do, I wouldn’t be necessary. Meaningless tasks don’t bring fulfillment, no matter how lucrative they are. One of my 8th grade flute players came in this week and showed me her brand new cell phone. She has been through like three or four expensive cell phones in the last two and a half years. I told her that she needs to learn to be content with what she has. She told me she is, but her dad wanted her to get a new phone.

Then it hit me. I’m not content with what I have all the time either.

Sure I’m better than I have been in the past, but I still have a long way to go before I can truly say I’m content.

I went over to the other band director’s house today and we talked about school. He told me some things that really hit me hard.

He told me that he usually stresses about the bands, but he’s not this year. Not even mariachi. When they go to competition, they actually rank them, whereas concert band competitions are rated (Superior, Excellent, Good, etc.). This means the mariachi has the chance to get first place, or last place, or anywhere in between.

The fact that he is not stressing is huge since he’s not even there. He has absolutely no control over the bands, and yet he doesn’t worry. So it’s my turn to follow.

I’m slowing down. My teaching. My movement. My hurry.We have about six weeks of classes left until contest. Both bands can play through almost all of their music. I anticipate them being able to play it all by Wednesday. This means that they can all be practicing it at home and I can spend class working on overall band sound (tone).

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So there is no rush. If they miss a note, they miss a note. I stop, tell them they missed a note, and move on. Previously, I would stop, immediately begin talking fast and telling them that they were wrong.

Beginning this week, I will slow down:

  • Stop
  • “Trumpets B natural.”
  • Play again

I also plan to limit my words. The less I say, the more they play. The more they are engaged (as in any class), the more focused and on-task they are.

Another thing that bothers me is that because of my intensity, I tend to not listen to kids. I miss their explanations because I want them to be quiet so that I can get on with doing what I know I need to do.

But how important is doing what I need to do if everyone does it begrudgingly?
I understand that I don’t need middle school friends, that was part of my problem when I first began teaching. I somehow believe I have gone to the other extreme. Now it’s time to find the middle ground where I am strict enough to keep the flow of the class happening, while still not stomping on the toes of everyone who gets in my way. That will be my remaining challenge for the rest of the school year.

I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have commented and continue to comment on Not The Best Day Ever. I truly have taken many of the kind and corrective words you have shared with me to heart. If you haven’t read it, check out my latest comment there as well.If you haven’t chimed in, please do so. Also, I want to take this opportunity to ask you to invite one friend to read (and possibly subscribe) to this blog. I’d like to see if we can get to 200 subscribers by the time my spring break begins on March 15th.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

6 Comments on Slow Down!

  1. I agree. Slowing down is important. I can tell if I have been too busy. My housekeeping is lacking, which makes me uncomfortable at home. I also, tend to be more intense. I was recently reflecting on this after a cheerleading competition. I was very intense which has can negative effect on my athletes. It didn’t help that one of my athletes was an hour and twenty minutes late. The team had prepared for the competition since last summer. I just needed to chill out and enjoy the day because my demeanor will determine the demeanor of my athletes and could have a negative effect on the performance. We got third that day which was great! I have to be aware of my demeanor and let my passion for excellence and success be an encouragement to my students or athletes. I have to keep in mind that we compete because it is fun and that my athletes have a desire to do their best!

  2. As coaches and teachers it is so important to let our students/athletes know that they can do it. I know this seems so obvious, but as a former athlete who competed through most of my youth through college, I have been on the front lines of coaches and parents attitudes that have directly influenced the belief in myself. Students without a doubt feed off of the energy we put forth regardless of how we feel they perceive things. I was very hard on myself and I can say that though she was nervous at times, my college coach was extremely effective in instilling confidence in us that we could make things happen even if she and we all felt that things had not gone well the week before. It is those times that we all felt we accomplished something great even if the outcome was not a win.

    Clearly we do not know everything that is going on in our students/athletes minds. Some may act out or portray apathy in response to sheer and utter nervousness, you never know. The point I am trying to make is that consistency on our part is imperative for the success of our students especially during the more stressful times. Confidence breeds confidence and we take on challenges not necessarily for winning (though we try like crazy to do it) but for the sheer knowledge that we are capable of the work that would get us there.

  3. Joel, this post really resonates with me as a Spanish teacher. Additionally, I am a perfectionist, and so I talk a lot about what my students need to do, what they don’t do, correcting, re-stating, re-explaining, as opposed to allowing them to simply do. Your post forced me to reflect on the impact of my style, especially with students who are anxious learners, with LD, etc. I also need to slow it down for my own health and well-being.

  4. I went to the other director’s house for dinner this Thursday. He has now completed his third week back on half days and has been cleared for full days again beginning after spring break. He told me that he saw one of my students in Wal Mart this week.

    She never sees him in class, but she thanked him for coming back. She said I was frustrated with him being gone and was taking it out on the band. It’s true. I am much more peaceful now than I was three weeks ago! Him being back helps a lot, and my decision to take things much more calmly.

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