Just How Important Is Excellence? Personal by Joel Wagner - December 13, 2008July 1, 201011 I love competition. I thrive on competition. I love being able to get a group of kids to create a powerfully musical performance. These are tremendous things. But I have come to realize that this is not the most important thing we can do. If we lose sight of why we are in education and focus solely on winning (having the most kids pass TAKS, getting more kids in the all region choir, having an undefeated volleyball season, or whatever), we miss out on an opportunity for some of the greatest education we can provide. As a band director, I struggle to ensure that my pursuit of musical excellence does not overtake my desire to provide a high quality education for my students. It seems to me that I must reevaluate my teaching methods from time to time. As a competitor, I naturally want to win. As a result, sometimes I step on toes in the pursuit of the goal. I may upset other teachers or parents or even students because I know what must happen, and don’t want to stop until I have done everything I believe needs to be done to allow us to get to that place. But what does that teach the students? Sometimes, I stop and think about the message that sends to the students. It tells them that I have an agenda and want to get it done. But I think it also tells them that I am selfish, and that I think my goals are more important than their feelings. I assume it sends similar messages to teachers and parents. Administrators and supervisors like results, but it is too easy for me to allow the quest for results to overtake me. I need to be nicer. I need to be more considerate. We have a Christmas Concert this Thursday. The band is not ready. But they are ready enough. I need to relax and have fun with it, while still making as much progress as possible. How often do you find yourself having to step back and refocus? Do you think that’s often enough? Joel WagnerJoel 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.