3 Types of Thriving Teens

By John Gardner

On three

1. Good Teens thrive BECAUSE of their parents

For one group, I give much credit to good parenting. These are the parents who are active and involved in their teen’s life. They’re on the PTO, in the band/choir/athletic booster groups, they come to watch practices, performances or games, they volunteer to help and they put up the money that most worth while ventures require. Some, are more behind the scenes supporting, enabling  and encouraging. Outside of school activities, the family is together a lot. Maybe there isn’t a lot of money for fancy vacations, but they find ways to do things together anyway. Single parents and those who have remarried can also do fantastic jobs. My heart goes out to those super parents who are experiencing what author James Dobson calls “the strong-willed child”.

Keep the faith and keep doing what you’re doing. The teen will figure it out eventually.

2. Good Teens thrive IN SPITE of their parents

A second group, and one that I especially admire, are those teens who turn out great “in spite of”  their parents. These are the teens who have every reason (mostly by example) to crash and burn, and yet, they determine NOT to follow the paths of their parents and instead, commit themselves to a better life.

I’m not faulting single, lower-income, laid off or otherwise challenged parents doing the best they can. My parents divorced when I (oldest of 5) was in 7th grade. My mother was a polio-survivor without a car. We didn’t have it easy but we had love and support — and we all survived.

I DO fault those who could, but don’t share or support the child’s enthusiasm for a worthy activity.

Your child knows, is hurt, embarrassed and deflated by your lack of support.

A high school clarinet student once tell me,

“My dad has never heard me play.”

You will only have that child in your care for a short time.

I was outside our band entrance door greeting students arriving for rehearsal. The car stopped and both student and parent got out. The girl ran to me, in tears, frantically exclaiming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” before running into the building. Behind her came the papa with the band schedule in hand. There was no warm, fuzzy response to my “Hi, how ya doin’?” Instead, he almost slapped me in the face with the schedule as he grunted, “How much of this schedule is mandatory?” After my response, “All of it.”, he mumbled something I wouldn’t print even if I heard it clearly. The daughter was waiting for me in the office, still crying, and apologizing for what she was sure I had endured. My respect and admiration for her attitude and work ethic skyrocketed after that.

A sophomore asked me for some personal clarinet coaching. Things were going great until she came in one day tearfully explaining she had to quit. She had gotten a job to pay for her lessons, because her parents would not, and when they learned how she was spending her earnings, they started charging her rent.

I continued her lessons anyway.

Another student came in from the parking lot to ask for some help with a flat tire. He called his mother while the other director and I taught him how to change a tire. To get to the spare, he had to unhook the huge woofer in the trunk. The mother and boyfriend arrived and, instead of thanking us for staying or trying to help, boyfriend starts screaming at the teen, “How dare you let somebody else touch my car. This isn’t over, kid.”

These are the students we find walking home after the concert, football game, or competition — because they know their parents will not come pick them up. Some get their own jobs to raise their own money to pay the participation fees, even earning money to go on the Disney trip.

3. Good Teens thrive because of who they are

Some teens naturally have what it takes for greatness. Natural greatness combined with good parenting is definitely a winning combination.

Thanks for reading.


Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Public Schools, Respect, Teaching Tagged with: , , ,

Email To Client about Content Marketing

By John Gardner

Customer Service - Lifting the WordsI get mind boggled by all the super-geek-speak about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to get what you say, who you are or what you do listed higher on search engine results. It is kinda like my conversation after taking my car to a brake shop because “it doesn’t feel right” and I hear (includes exaggeration for effect – but also several terms I heard):

“You’re almost metal to metal so I want to replace the pads for you. You don’t want the cheap ones, do you? I could turn the rotors, but they are already thin. Plus the calipers were hot after the test drive and the hoses were blue. There were some spots on the rear drums. Shall I replace all that at once or do you want to go buy a new car?”

I have a client who is admittedly neither a proficient writer nor a sales guru. I just read a spot-on article called, “Content Marketing Sales For Non Sales People“, which makes the case for using “content” rather than optimization-gimmicks to drive people to your site —  and was starting an email to my client recommending they read that article — and prioritize their “To-Do” list about building their brand with blog posts (or let me do it for them) ….when I decided to create THIS POST for others similarly situated.

Word Cloud Content MarketingI created this Word Cloud to give you ideas of possible blog articles. Each of those could be a question answered by a single article.

  • Send me notes, outline or rough draft – I can write the article and have you approve prior to publication.
  • Tell me if what you send is what you want posted (without edit) or if you want me to edit and enhance.
  • Include a picture (consider copyright). I can offer legally correct pictures if I know what you have in mind — or provide guidelines to do that for you.
  • Suggest links to pages on your website or to other sites that support what you are saying.
  • Don’t make it an exhaustive research project. You can follow-up later. Procrastination kills potential posts.

Be the expert. Let me manage your content.


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Posted in Communication, Consulting, Internet web design and ecommerce, Managed hosting, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Virtual Assistant Tagged with: , , , ,

Web-volution: Web Design is evolving

By John Gardner

s & h green stampsWeb-volution: Web Design is evolving.

When I first became involved in web design a decade ago, designing a site required a lot of expertise, expensive design and photo editing software plus an expensive scanner that could only be justified if used as a service provider. The designer had to write code in HTML and PHP and upload via FTP. For most, web design and hosting required expensive experts. It was an almost overwhelming environment, purported by the industry itself, that discouraged self-design. Even some programmers didn’t want to tackle web design.

Getting a web page cost hundreds (or thousands) in start-up design followed by hourly upkeep or ongoing retainers and maintenance for edits and updates. Those were the days of $40-$80-$125/hr fees. Avoiding those fees attributed much to the outdated and abandoned sites left for prospects to stumble through. High-priced designers are still out there, but they no longer control the market. YOU DO!

Web designers have been historically successful in preaching “custom” vs “cookie-cutter” to prevent your looking like everybody else. Sites had to “flash”, show spinning buttons and cool screen changes. But in the same way doctor-prescribed Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen and Naproxin Sodium became over-the-counter Tylenol, Advil and Aleve, which now compete with over the counter (OTC) generics, we no longer have to live with more expensive prescription-level websites.

If you don’t want to design and maintain your own site, at least go for the OTC rates because it is no longer the ultra-fancy specialized static design you need….it is dynamic and content driven functionality.


A static web site consists of seldom changed “pages”; (Home, Contact, Products/Services). Most would update the products/services page seasonally with marketing (phone calls, email campaigns, direct-mail marketing) encouraging people “visit” your site. But once they were there, why would they ever want to come back….until next year when you change it?


engages the customer. It asks questions, encourages responses and responds to customer desires and trends. Blogging is no longer controlled by the pajama-media. It is an opportunity for a business owner to interact with the end consumer enabling the owner to keep in touch and the prospect to feel important.

Prospects and customers can subscribe to receive update notifications via mobile or email, so they don’t even have to remember to come back or sign-up for an email newsletter or free e-book that also gives the business an opted-in email address. Prospects and customers can Tweet, Share, Like or Send your content to their connections. Commenting or replying to a blog post is the thing to do and presents exposure for the prospect and feedback for the business.

…can be updated by the client, including adding, removing or editing ‘pages’, posting, controlling responses and responding to blog inquiries, initiate discussions or create polls. The client can record videos and post them to the site; introductory videos, sales pitches, training and more. Areas within the site can be publicprivate (not on the menu…only those with the link should find) or password protected (pages with information for a specific group, or for paid subscribers.

…is easily updated and promoted across multiple media. Students and younger parents are more likely to click on a Facebook or Instagram update than to follow an email blog link. There are tools to assist with scheduling and cross-promoting updates to a variety of media frequented by those you are trying to reach.

…gives you valuable dynamic, dated and demographic stats to utilize. A local group facebook page targeting a small group, has about 150 fans, but has reached thousands because content can also show up on fans’ friends’ pages as well. The dynamic stats not only tell me how many people have seen material, but the demographics of who is looking and even which posts or updates attracted them the most.

MANAGED HOSTING / VIRTUALLY ASSISTED. It is getting easier to create and post to media. However, most people running small businesses (been there, done that) are too busy with the day-to-day operations to give adequate attention to promoting what they do. Consider working with someone (LIKE ME) to help you get the word out.

I am ACCEPTING Guest Posts

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Posted in Business strategies, Consulting, Income Opportunity, Internet web design and ecommerce, Monetizing, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Virtual Assistant, Work from Home Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

When you don’t have the time to do it all yourself

Don't try to figure out what all the words on this word wall mean. Let me go to work for you instead.

Don’t try to figure out what all the words on this word wall mean. Let me go to work for you instead.

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Posted in Sales and Marketing Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

E-L Syndrome, Is YOUR Ensemble Infected?

By John Gardner

E-L SyndromeSeveral years ago, I joined a small, non-audition community band with a handful of clarinets, including a sweet elderly lady who sat behind me. Usually I can identify sources of sound, but I could never hear her. At some point, as we got to know each other and she discovered that I taught clarinet, she asked if I would help her with her music. We set up a time for me to go to her house.

It was in that first lesson that I experienced the “E-L Syndrome”.

I periodically tell my band the following story.

Read more ›

Posted in High Schools, Music Performance, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Is Selling In The Schoolhouse Really That Unique?

by John Gardner

School hallway and lockersIs Selling In The Schoolhouse Really That Unique?

I have over 30 years of sales experience, but there would be lots of places I would be very uncomfortable or unequipped to call on. I don’t have proper security clearance to visit military or government facilities.

My business partner, who worked in a high-security military-servicing facility, once called me because he had forgotten a brief case he needed. When I asked how I would find his office, his response was, “You will never see my office. You won’t get past the guard house, not to mention the outer rings of this building. I will give your name to the gate guard. Follow his instructions.”

I would not be comfortable calling regularly on police departments.

I made a fundraising sales presentation once to a PAL (Police Athletic League) Board, and was the only one in the room not wearing a uniform or a gun. When I tried to crack some humor, as the local contender, by saying that, “You all know where I live.” – nobody laughed.

I have no idea what the good or bad times are to approach someone at a large department store, and would be intimidated (I think) making medical or pharmaceutical sales. I can’t talk car parts with auto dealers or mechanics.

But I DO understand the education business. I’ve taught IN schools and called ON schools for decades. Education sales is unique, or at least semi-specialized in terms of practices and expectations.

Unique Working Environment

Problematic Perceptions

Not everyone can succeed in sales, but of those who can, there are additional hurdles for those who want to sell in the schoolhouse. Some are haunted by their poor behavior or academically challenged high school experience and thus intimidated by the idea of walking into a school and talking to teachers like the ones who used to send them to the principal’s office. Walking into a principal’s office could stimulate history-based hyper-something. And a fear of speaking in public can be heightened when that public is mostly teenagers.

Professional Atmosphere and Academics

All teachers have at least a Bachelor’s Degree. Administrators and half the faculty will have a Master’s. Secretaries and Treasurers have been formally trained. The main secretary at the local high school probably has a business degree and/or is a certified accountant. The nurse is certified, if not registered. Within the school corporation, staff are referred to as “Classified” (custodians, cooks, aides, bus drivers, etc) and “Certified” (faculty). Communication that goes to all is often headed: “Faculty and Staff” or “Certified and Classified” staff.

Educationally Correct Communication

As you write email, design promotional materials and craft proposals, consider that you’re dealing with teachers, who are not impressed with poor grammar and bad spelling. Keep correspondence short and to the point. Educators have lots to read, so hook them early or lose them quickly.

Formal – until told otherwise

Don’t use first names without permission. My superintendent always calls me “Mr.”, so I dare not call or communicate with him on a first name basis. My principals use both with me, but I ONLY use “Mr/Mrs” with them. Teachers will likely be okay with you calling them by first name, but NOT in front of students. The three music teachers in my school are on a first name basis when the door is closed, but always use “Mr” in open areas where students are around. Teachers will probably introduce you to students as “Mr/Mrs/Ms”.

If you interact with students, follow the lead of the teachers around them to decide how students should address you. When I was in a choir room and a student called me by my first name, the teacher interrupted and told the student, “his first name is Mr.”. Assume formal until instructed otherwise. Listen carefully to your introduction. That is your name. If you are introducing yourself to students, go formal first.

Polite and Appropriate

Do what your mama taught you. Sir and ma’am are good, especially with administrators. Avoid slang. ‘Yes’ is better than ‘yeah’. Talk about students, not kids. Be careful if mentioning someone’s appearance, especially a student’s. Teens are hyper-sensitive about how they and others think they look. “Hot” is inappropriate for student or teacher. I grew up hearing phrases like, “You dress in the dark?”, but that could be the result of wearing the only clothes available. Trying to compliment a student’s look can get you labeled “creepy”. Until you know them, just don’t talk about appearance. There is often a back story that you don’t know.

It is sad that you can’t even assume things like “mom and dad” or “parents”. In my classes I have guardians who are single moms, single dads, grandparents and foster parents. I have students from non-English (or barely) speaking parents, some with deceased parents. Until you know who you are talking to and his/her home situation, speak generally or generically.

You will encounter students with piercings, tattoos, wild hair colors and shocking clothing choices. You are likely to encounter guys dressed like girls or girls like guys. Don’t ask why the tattoo, or if the piercing hurts, or anything. Avoid the drama.

Don’t give your opinion on couples, because you’ll see all kinds. Don’t assume that pretty girl has a boyfriend. You have to earn your way into those types of conversations and that is a difficult task to accomplish quickly. Some never let you in, but don’t go in uninvited.

Politically Neutral

Avoid politics. An educator may be polite enough not to interrupt, but you can unintentionally forfeit business by offending someone with a political joke or comment about a position or candidate.

Remembering that all educators are college graduates, avoid an uninvited comment about a college team. In my building, you’ll find passionate supporters (and haters) of Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Kentucky and Michigan. If you walk into my office wearing the school logo of the team that just beat my team, ummmm. Yeah. Don’t do that.

Cultural Sensitivity

Classrooms, schools and staff are increasingly multi-cultural.

When a freshman band student came to me complaining about an upper classperson’s performance-related critical comment, I told her that, unless the upperclassperson was excessive or out of line, that she needed to listen to what they were saying.

The next thing I knew I was in the office student-charged with ‘racism’.

Be careful what you say.

Economic Sensitivity

Studies are showing that poverty has as much impact on school and student success as race. Education Week, in an article by Sarah D. Sparks, claims that “school poverty – more than race – affects students’ college-going”. City-Data.com reports that the local poverty rate is 15.7%, which means that 62 high school seniors would struggle with $70 yearbooks, $400 class rings or professionally photographed senior picture packages. Salespeople talking to students should not use words like “only” when describing cost.

Our marching band shoes cost $36, and we have several freshmen each year who will go through our boxes of “used” shoes to find a pair.

Environmental Sensitivity

“Green” is huge. If you can package what you’re selling in an environmentally friendly way, you increase your success potential. Put your fundraising orders in ‘recycled’ or ‘biodegradable’ plastic. Or instead of using virgin boxes, take back the boxes you delivered in and reuse them somewhere else. What historically looked ugly or cheap now makes you look environmentally conscious. Green Child Magazine lists “10 Eco-Friendly Fundraisers”. Josten’s (class rings and graduation supplies) promotes “sustainable products”.

Language Sensitivity

Teachers and administrators discipline students for bad language and won’t tolerate it from you either. Have you heard of zero tolerance? You might get to apologize if you have a language slip with a teacher or administrator, but if you cross that line with or in front of students, you are done and out of there.

Smoking, Drinking, Drugs, Weapons, Fighting, Bullying

Zero tolerance. In an age when elementary students are suspended for holding a gun-shaped pop tart, or shooting by pointed finger, or when a student taking an aspirin (or a teacher dispensing one) can face disciplinary action, you should consider the school as a sterile environment vice-wise.

Smoking. In most business or industry, even if you cannot smoke at the work station or in the office, there is a break room where you can, or you can step outside during a break. Not so at schools. In most cases, the entire campus is smoke-free for everyone at all times. If you smoke in your car on the way to an appointment, consider what your clothes will smell like when you get there.

Drinking. Teachers can’t leave for lunch and get a glass of wine with their lunch. Detection would likely mean termination. Don’t come in smelling of or under alcohol influence.

He owned a small, family-operated music instrument store in the town just 10 miles away from where I taught. I drove past that show on my way home from work, so it was convenient for both vendor and customer. There were rumors of the owner’s drinking problem, but I had not seen or experienced it and he had always done right by my program, so I remained loyal longer than many….. until the day he staggered into my band room and propped himself up against the door for stability. I asked him to leave and informed the principal, who promptly banned him from the campus.

Sad, because the replacement store was inconveniently 40 miles away. The local shop went out of business because my school’s decision became the norm.

Drugs. A teacher cannot give an aspirin to a student with a headache and students, unless nurse-approved, cannot carry medication with them. On band trips, we have designated parents carrying inhalers and signed parental permission. Students who have regular medication to take during the day (and an alarming number of them do), go to the nurse’s office to take it.

Weapons, Fighting, Bullying. A weapon would result in automatic expulsion (kicked out for at least the semester). Fighting and bullying would follow the normal discipline policy. Even with a license and the Second Amendment, it is illegal to have a firearm on school property. For a teacher, that means it can’t even stay in the car. That would go for you too.

Protective and Perception

Handshakes and high five’s are okay but otherwise, DON’T TOUCH. A photographer positioning a student for a picture is okay, but a speaker interacting with a group of students grabbing or hugging is not. Many students are extremely sensitive to any touch, and teachers are generally very hesitant, even after getting to know the student. As a guest in the building, you have not earned that permission.

Schools are mandated, expected and trusted to protect students. Don’t transport students without permission.

A 16-yr old student failed to get on the school bus. Shortly after parents realized it, there were administrators, custodians and teachers literally running to different areas and potential hiding places around the school and campus.

After unsuccessful searches by local law enforcement, an all-call for help went out to the community. Hundreds of students, parents and community members, every administrator and even the superintendent met in that Walmart parking lot to be divided into teams to focus on different parts of the city.

The student was found safe.


Sales trainers are all about emphasizing the importance of getting the sale on the spot. Handle the objections and go for the close (jugular). But there are few times the person you are contacting has authority to make a final decision. Most decisions in the school house involve a group or require approval. If you gather your information correctly, you will know who to meet and greet and when to unload your presentation.


Loyalty can work for you eventually, but until you earn it, respect it. Never bad mouth a competitor. If you do a good job of earning business from people who like and trust you, you will be able to keep their business by taking good care of them. As you encounter prospects firmly connected to a competitor, be polite, positive and respectfully persistent. Things change. Be the one they come to in that eventuality.

Get this and the rest of the 50-page eBook for only $2.99.


Posted in High Schools, Personal experience, Sales and Marketing, School Security, Selling in the Schoolhouse

Times Have Changed: Open Schools of Yester-Year vs Secure Schools Today

by John Gardner

Robot and shieldTimes Have Changed…

Open Schools – yester-year

My first teaching job was in a small, rural school with less than 500 students in Grades 9-12. I was the only instrumental teacher, responsible for Grades 6-12. My high school band program had as many as 93 students in it. In that small, rural community, the Band Boosters were loyal, energetic, and mostly from a farming background …so project organization tasks were generally my responsibility. I was the decision-maker for almost all things band, knowing that I had the solid support of the boosters. Sales reps for fundraising, uniform and music stores knew to come to me.

The openness of the schools was not a safety issue, but presented a sales problem. Sales reps would step inside my band room during a rehearsal, expecting me to ignore the dozens of students to hear a sales pitch. I made the following arrangement with the high school office and principal:

If I have someone coming that I want to talk to, I’ll instruct them to come directly to the band room and I’ll leave their name in the office with the secretary. If they come to you, please send them down. If they come directly to me, I’ll see them.

If someone finds me and I DON’T want to talk to them, I’ll ask them to check in at the office. If I send them to check in, or if they come to check in and I haven’t given you their name, I don’t want to talk to them and you should have them leave their information and call during a plan time to make a follow-up appointment.

Buildings were open, all doors remained unlocked during the school day. There were usually signs at the door instructing visitors to come to the office, but there was no one enforcing that request. Strangers in the hallways were not questioned or confronted.

When I started selling to schools in the early 80’s (pre-cell phones, wifi, Internet, voice mail, etc…..), gas was cheap and long distance was expensive, so the way of the day was to go “belly to belly”, as Tom Hopkins told us in sales training seminars. I developed good relationships with my customers. One of my favorites was with a choir director at a small, rural school. He was a smoker (yeah, right?), and his standing instructions were….

You know my plan period and that I’ll be in the boiler room during that time and lunch. When you come to see me, just come in through the boiler room. If I’m not there, come on down to the classroom.

We made multi-thousand dollar decisions sitting at the janitors’ picnic table next to the noisy on again, off again boiler.

I never used that arrangement with prospects, always presenting my credentials to the main office secretary, even when I had an appointment with someone in the building. Not everyone operated that way, however.

I hired an experienced sales rep who came from a national fundraising company that actually trained and instructed reps to enter through the delivery doors rather than the front office doors — and to make their way around the building gathering info as they go. This rep was successful, so I rode with him for a day to observe and learn. We would find an open door, or wait for someone to open one for us, and then start down the hallway toward the back of the building (common location for music departments). He would stop a student in the hallway and ask for directions to the band room. There would be an empty classroom with the teacher working at his/her desk and he would use a Columbo-style sales-trick to get the director’s name.

Hi, I’m here to meet with your band director (pause) ummmm, oh, that name…. (pause)…

Twice that day, we were thrown out of buildings (as we should have been). I had to invite this guy to find another job, because he was using my company name and was operating in a non-professional, unacceptable manner. 

That kind of operation would be more difficult today and, sadly, people like him are part of the reason for some of the changes.

Secure Schools Today

Safety, Security and Getting In

After the 1999 Columbine shooting, schools went to a policy of locking all but the main entrance door as soon as classes started. The local high school has 45 doors, so at the first class bell, all custodians go to assigned areas to lock.

New school building designs put windows from the office to the entrance, and some older buildings have remodeled to move an office to just inside the main entrance door.

Most schools lock even the main entrance and have an intercom with a camera. Visitors activate an intercom with the secretary who makes a visual check before buzzing the door unlocked. Visitors must come to the office, sign in (including time and teacher they are going to see) and affix a “Visitor” badge or sticker in plain view.

At the local high school, you can enter the outside door into a secure area where you check in via computer under the watchful eye of a secretary behind a glass. The camera is also watching. The secretary can see what you enter on the computer and ask more questions — and if approved, buzzes the inside door that takes you into the school hallway. As you exit, you ‘check out’ at the same computer station. Failing to do so leaves the school with your information, which can result in a search of the building, blocking you from a future log in — or both.

Teachers notify the office of expected visitors, and when someone comes in asking to visit a particular teacher, the secretary calls the classroom to confirm before allowing the visitor to continue.

It is no longer okay to walk into a school building and wander the halls. Administration and custodians carry walkie-talkies, both for communication and security. Faculty members, especially in larger schools wear ID badges on a lanyard and stop and question unknown people in the hallway.

Cameras view every entrance, corner and hallway – and officials watch large screen panels showing multiple views. Cameras are motion sensitive and time-stamp recorded. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 84 percent of high schools, 73 percent of middle schools, and 51 percent of primary schools reported that they used security cameras to monitor their schools.

Security can include uniformed or plain clothes police. Our local high school has a not-in-uniform “resource officer”, who is active duty police – and he wears a badge, gun and handcuffs on his waist.

Teachers can call in or broadcast various “codes”, including “Intruder at Door xx”. The school will go into immediate lock down, including individual classroom. Education stops. Law Enforcement responds in force.

You don’t want to walk into a school uninvited or unexpected.

This post comes from the 50-page eBook, “Selling In The Schoolhouse” that I wrote from my perspective of a high school teacher and a sales professional selling products and services to schools.

Selling-in-the-Schoolhouse-Cover-50-percentOrder the 50-page eBook,
“Selling In The Schoolhouse”
for only $2.99

Posted in Personal experience, Sales and Marketing, School Security, Selling in the Schoolhouse Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Should You Do What you Love, What You’re Good At or What Pays Well?

Love Good At Pays Well Infographic

What would you say about yourself in those three yellow circles? As a high school music teacher, I find myself talking with teens about their college plans and life dreams. From so many directions, students hear much about going for what pays well, even if it is not what they really want to do. That is hard to argue with, and I usually don’t. Sometimes I talk about where I have been — and currently am on this graph. I encourage you to do a similar self-analysis.

Here’s my short self-analysis. I’d love to hear yours.

What I’m Good At?Clarinet, Teaching, Communicating, Organizing
What I Love?Working with Teens
What Pays Well?Neither of those, but fundraising (job I left education for) is ok.

So I’m moderately good at teaching music, and I do love working with teens, but those don’t pay well, so that combination does NOT put me in the WIN  area, but more in the Happy but Poor.

About three decades ago, I left education to go into the business of product fundraising. That can (and did) pay relatively well. I can’t say that I was “Rich But Bored” — and although there is satisfaction in helping groups meet their goals, to get to do things, get stuff and go places…. but it still was NOT in the WIN.

A decade ago, I had (and took) an opportunity to return to education to teach on both a high school and collegiate level, while also maintaining a fundraising distributorship, now in the background and not the forefront. I’ll keep tweaking those overlapping circles and urge you to do the same. Part of that tweaking includes organizing my experiences to share.


Selling in the Schoolhouse Cover 50 percentI’ve written an ebook about “Selling in the Schoolhouse“, based on my decades experience as a product fundraising sales rep and business owner. If you are in an industry that calls on schools, especially if it involves working with students, you will get a unique perspective of a certified teacher AND an experienced sales professional.

The book is in PDF format and organized with a Table of Contents and Index so you can look for specific types of information — or read it for a moderately in-depth look into working inside the schoolhouse. For $2.99 you can’t go wrong, right? And thanks for your support.

It is somewhat sad when I hear talented musician-potential students talking about having to give up band — or to go to college to major in something “that pays well” vs something they’re good at or that they (or I think they would) love.

There are a lot of miserable rich people in the world. Stuff doesn’t bring you happiness. It can help, yes, and I’d never turn down wealth — but I wouldn’t sacrifice happiness to have it. Just sayin’.


John Gardner

John Gardner

Posted in Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

We need more than teachers. We need Life Coaches: #7

CandleBy John Gardner

#7 We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.

From a panel of students who came up with a list of 20 things the nation should know about education, this topic was #7 on the list. See the entire list and get the rest of the story from “The Innovative Educator”.

In a letter from a former student from my first teaching job, Dr. K.C. included in her note a quote I highly value, that

“It was about more than just music.” She credited her band experience as one that prepared her for medical school and LIFE.

High School is about more than just the individual academic subjects. It is about preparing teens for life. For many, the next step will be college, in which case they need to be academically prepared. Others will graduate and go into the job market and/or to start and raise families.

If it were only about pouring vast amounts of knowledge into sponges ready to soak it up, we could do education by video. Think of the savings in having to pay for all those teachers. But education is more than knowledge. It is about life and students will respect and listen to a good life coach.

Take band as my example. A very small percentage of band students will major in music in college. I hope that they learn a love and appreciation for music that they can use for the rest of their lives. But in band class, in addition to music, they learn, among other life skills:

  • Time Management. Ours is a busy schedule and they are not excused from all their other homework. They learn how to manage their time and their priorities.
  • Teamwork. We have ‘sections’ as smaller teams within the entire team. Band is a team event. Our collective performance is based on the individual participants. Everyone has to learn to work together.
  • Chain of Command. One of the most valuable “life skills” learned is the understanding, respect for and cooperation within a chain of command. They learn how to work with individuals they might not otherwise associate with. They learn to work together even with people they may personally dislike.

Some people lose several jobs because they haven’t learned these skills.

A coach does more than teach just the sport or academic subject. Listen to the players on any good team and they will credit the coach with being there for them for much more than the game. That’s what I’m talking about.

Read my most popular post ever, 10+ Values Marching Band Students Learn

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Music Literacy: Across Academic Borders

By John Gardner

We are supposed to teach across academic-specific areas. WE DO:

  • We played music from the movie, “The King’s Speech”, music by Beethoven (historic, iconic, classical) and learned some of the HISTORY of the movie, i.e. WWII, the king’s stuttering problem and the artistic effect of the music behind the speech [only in the movie] as we watched that particular movie clip. That’s HISTORY and THEATER.
  • We played a piece called “Andante” which is an ITALIAN term indicating tempo, or speed. Andante is faster than Adagio but slower than Allegro. Many of the musical terms that we find in our music are a foreign language, historically predominantly Italian. Musicians must understand that fortissimo is louder than forte, which means they also learn the suffix ‘issimo’. Allegretto is a “little bit” allegro. Dolce is nearly the opposite of marcato and if you get crescendo and decrescendo backwards, you can ruin the entire effect. If the music page tells you to rallantando and you accelerando instead, you crash. If you miss a fermata or play through a cessura, you’ll be embarrassed. Not only are there vocab words, but there are abbreviations for them as well; f, ff, <, >, ^, //.  FOREIGN LANGUAGE.
  • Music is CULTURAL. One of our concert bands is playing a piece called “Africa; Ceremony, Song and Ritual…”. There are 26 different drumming assignments. We have reviewed pictures of African drums, watched/listened to video/sound clips and taken class time to understand how that complex sound is really not much more than several more simple rhythms layered on top of each other, often in compound meters of simultaneous duple and triple rhythms (did you get that?). The music calls for “native sounds” in one place and humming in another. If we were to correctly perform “Andante” and “Africa” in the same concert, not a single audience participant should have trouble determining which piece is European and which is African. That’s WORLD GEOGRAPHY. To play/understand Jazz music necessitates some SOCIAL STUDIES understanding of New Orleans and how the import of slave music morphed into a style of music that the whole world understands originated in the USA. There is an academically valid reason why much of jazz, especially originally, was not written down. HISTORY AGAIN?
  • Music notation is a LANGUAGE. Every mark on the music page has a name. Notes make phrases just as letters form words. Phrases go together to make themes as words make sentences and paragraphs. You must be MUSICALLY literate to read our language. THAT IS LITERACY.
  • Music is MATHMATICAL. When we read those markings, in addition to telling us what sound to make, they also tell us how to group them together rhythmically. It takes two sixteenths to make an eighth, two eights to make a quarter, two quarters to make a half and two half notes to equal a whole. MATH.
  • Music is EMOTIONAL. Performed well, “Stars and Stripes” will evoke a significantly different response than “Taps”, or the jazz version of “Sing, Sing, Sing”. Music is used at BIRTHdays and at funerals; to represent victory or emote defeat. It can make us cheer or cry. ….but ONLY if the musicians understand and convey the emotion in what/how they play. PSYCHOLOGY/THEATRE!
  • To talk DRAMA, we could discuss Marching Band or Show Choir.
  • We tune our instruments because we know that out of tune notes together make an ugly sound, the understanding of which requires a basic understanding of sound waves and frequency. PHYSICS. We lengthen or shorten the instruments to match pitch. Understanding vibrations, frequencies and how the length of the instrument adjusts pitch is SCIENCE.

There are volumes on how music enhances understanding in other subjects, especially language and math…. but that’s not today’s topic. MUSIC IS LITERACY. When we teach music, read music, perform music…. we are demonstrating academic understanding at least equivalent to a variety of school subjects.

In an article adapted from a Research Project, (http://www.musickit.com/resources/forumart.html),

Music is, demonstrably, a language. It is in fact an extremely sophisticated language. It has its own “grammar” and a logic dictated by the harmonic patterns of various frequencies (pitches) sounded simultaneously and in series. We react to these patterns with marked physical and emotional responses. It communicates and in fact encodes and replicates harmonic events in time. Sounds, as we have known from at least the time of Pythagoras, have structure and mathematical relationships to each other…”

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