S-Steps To Success

By John Gardner

Super Size Poster
Super Size PosterAt the end of my first semester at my current school, I gave a “talk” at the Band Banquet Awards….. I’ve made some edits for outdated details and for a more general audience, but otherwise, it is what I said 11 years ago?

Context: Large, only high school in a county that includes students from 20-miles and long-distance phone calls away, some spending over an hour each way on school busses. Marching band is moderately small for the school size and behind some area powerhouse programs in terms of size, staff, equipment, all things financial and cutting edge.

S-Steps To Success 

#1 – Super Size

Get LoudThe FIRST thing we need to do is to SUPER SIZE this band. Size doesn’t equal quality, but it can impact the sound. To some extent, numbers translate to sound, crowd appeal and score. That is part of the reason the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) has different qualifying levels for the different class sizes.

We need to Search for Super Sizers. You can help. Be enthusiastic about your band. Enthusiasm is contagious. What YOU say to a middle school band student, or to any prospect, is often much more effective than what a teacher/director says.

Sideline ensemble people don’t have to be band members. Your friends who play piano can play mallet instruments. People who quit band in the past can come back. And then, without taking anything away from what it takes to be a percussionist, we can teach just about anybody how to hit something. And now that we’ve incorporated guitars, we offer an opportunity to some of your friends who are band members of a different type. Know someone with a dramatic voice? Perhaps they can perform the voice-over script.

Some sad news is that we have seniors  graduating. I wrote a note to you: ====> Now it is your turn. Locally, the good news is that this is the smallest senior class in a long time. Our 2012 graduation seniors were the largest group ever, which hurt this past year. We are poised for ripe for super-sizing.

You need to Stay to be Seniors.

I’d love to see the school or community have to deal with

  • a band that can’t fit in the band room
  • scrambling to get instruments and equipment for the participants
  • providing 5-6, instead of 2-3 busses

#2 – Sensational Sound

SECOND, you should Strive for Individual Success. If you become the best that YOU can be, then we can work to blend your individual abilities to improve the overall band. A super-sized band can produce more sound, but we need your individual improvement to enable us to play some of the more challenging music you’ve heard.

Study Seriously for Improvement. Consider Individual Study on your instrument. If you can pay, we have access to professional experts on almost every instrument. They absolutely make a difference. For less pay, we can connect you with some college students who are looking for some experience.  And if you can’t pay, let us know, because some teachers will make allowances for hard working students. For sufficient interest, we can explore periodic after school Master Classes for instrument-specific instruction in a group setting. And several of you are already taking advantage of some of the musical ensembles at the local university. Instruments need to go home. There are no shortcuts. Proficiency requires practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it certainly helps, and you can’t achieve perfection without it.

Your Individual Level of Musical Success depends on a combination of

  • your God-given musicianship
  • the training you receive
  • the equipment you use and
  • the commitment you have

#3 – Sizzling Show

FINALLY, we need a SIZZLING SHOW, and it won’t come cheaply. Sizzling requires specialists in music technology, creativity, art, design and construction, as well as dance, theater and maybe even drum corps.

We need Spectacular Music. That can including paying for licensing and excellent composing and arranging.

We need Stunning Drill Design. Some competitors pay three times what we are able for expert, on-site designers. We have had good drill design by someone in the area, even if he can’t be on site.

We need Superb Special Effects.

When I watched the state finals, I noticed some patterns from the top groups. Effect generators included specialized tarps, ramps, platforms, multi-functional backdrops (scene and costume changes), and some really interesting custom-designed and built theme-enhancing props. 

Most color guards had 2-4 costumes and 4-6 different flags plus rifles, sabers, wheels, sticks, and other theme-specific props.

With the props and the horn and body flashes, we need some theatrical expertise for our show. Marching band is not just about marching and playing any more.

We need Splendid Style, requiring splendid basics. We have to march better, to get it sooner and to push it harder.

We need State-of-the-Art Equipment. Most of the drumlines had 4-6 snares, 4 quads and 5-6 basses. If we want to do that, not only will we have to super-size the drumline, but we’ll need more drums. The front ensembles tended to have 6-8 mallet instruments and 8-15 people. Many of the sideline instruments were individually microphoned with sound controlled by a remote controller managed by a staff person in the audience. Most had new silver Sousaphones or shoulder Tubas. One had ten such tubas and five bari saxes. One of the largest, if not the largest band there, had 100% silver brass instruments (trumpets, mellos, trombones, baritones, tubas). Another had all silver brass except trombones, which marched in a separate block.

This example built from two modified and stacked storage containers.

This example built from two modified and stacked storage containers.

If we’re going to get more and bigger stuff, are we ready for our own personalized semi trailer, like just about every other Class A band has?

We need a taller, safer rehearsal observation platform. It could be permanent or portable. Portable would enable us to move between the parking lot and the grass rehearsal areas. A design I especially admire is basically a garage (for storage of front ensemble equipment, podiums, etc) with inside access (prevents non-authorized us) to a platform on the roof. One school has such a building in between a grass practice field and a parking lot….so they can watch rehearsals on either surface from the same place.

Let me sum it up this way:

Let’s SUPER SIZE this band by searching for super sizers and staying in band.

Let’s develop a SENSATIONAL SOUND by striving for individual success and studying seriously.

Let’s field a SIZZLING SHOW with spectacular music, stunning design, superb style and closer to state-of-the-art equipment.

You give us what we need in people, equipment, work ethic and attitude – and we’ll take some major steps toward super-sized, sensational, sizzling success.

Thank you.

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How may I Virtually Assist YOU?

Person Holding Hire Me Sign in CrowdIn the worlds of small business and education, my life mission is to teach and work with achievers and to achieve with them.

I thrived in sales and management, started a business, hired and trained employees, developed, documented and supported software and know how to respond, communicate, encourage, organize, criticize and accept criticism. I ask questions to qualify answers, set and follow agendas, oversee or actively participate in meetings, hire, train and manage employees, teach students and interact comfortably, fluently and frequently with parents. I write business and educational contracts, handbooks and grants. I manage multiple domains, weblogs and social media accounts for myself and others, am fluent in PC and Mac environments utilizing programs and services including Office, contact management, email marketing, blogging, website design, Skype, music software and several iPad apps. I am Indiana licensed for K-12 Music with experience in grades 6-12 and at the college level. I play in a community band and in several university ensembles. I have performed in faculty recitals and maintain a private studio of clarinet and saxophone students. Within both the corporate and education world, from being on the top and the bottom, I understand, respect and work well within a chain of command.

As a teacher, I grew a marching band from 39-93 in 4 yrs, with 20% of the student body in a program that ranked 4th in state. As a business owner, I designed what became industry-standard software used nationwide. As Adjunct Music Faculty, I recruited and managed the largest of the wind instrument studios. In current high school, I helped increase band from 82 to 105 and attainment of first regional gold rating in a decade, initiated two new performance ensembles, digitized pep band books for use on student iPads, and increased communication via weblogs and social media.



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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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5 Considerations to Making a leap of Faith

Leap of faithby John Gardner

This graphic  illustrates a scenario we all face, individually, in business, in school as well as in music ensembles. Most of us, at least once, have been to the edge, looked down, looked across and pondered the possibilities. It is easy to say you want to get better, but how do you make that leap to the other side?

Realize that not everyone WANTS to get to the other side.

Many are satisfied with the way things are, represented by this marching band member attitude:

I am okay where I am. I am not last chair, I can play my part reasonably well, I can pass the playing test. I see those people on the other side…..so much pressure, so much work, and for what? Band is a good social group. It is a good place to find a date, to make friends, to feel connected. I enjoy the bus rides, the longer the better. The band parent provided food at competitions is good and I like the freedom during the down time to hang with my friends and watch some other bands.

You are, after all, standing on solid ground. It is safe where you are. You KNOW where you are and are in your comfort zone. You look over the edge and see danger. You could fall, you could fail. You could get hurt.

WANT it….with everything that is within you.

You hear the musician who plays the more difficult solo or watch the marching band put on a crowd cheering performance. You see the elation at the award ceremony and YOU WANT THAT.

In “The Return of the Jedi”, as Luke Skywalker finally stands before his ultimate enemy, the Emperor says to the young Jedi who is viewing and considering his weapon,

You want this, don’t you?

Know that small, safe, baby steps won’t make it.

If you stand on the edge, look down and take a step, you will fall. The gap is wider than that and will require a running start LEAP.

Practice and Prepare to Perform!

Olympians don’t just show up at the games. Basketball players spend hours behind the scenes practicing boring free throws and doing exhausting repetitive fundamentals up and down the floor. The ice skater doesn’t decide at the start of the performance that a quad would be a good idea.

There is no short cut to success. You must be willing to pay the price.

The ice skater going for the quad is literally a “leap of faith”. There is never a guarantee of success, but repetitive practice, falling down, getting hurt, figuring out what went wrong and working harder to get better…..are necessary ingredients to establish confidence and competence to make the jump. A phrase I have used in rehearsals,

Like the ice skater who misses the quad, missing notes (steps, sets) in performance can hurt.

A good cartoon by Tone Deaf Comics illustrates part of this idea.

One more time

Commit to go….and then GO!

No more standing at the edge. No more looking down. No more considering the consequences of failure. Back up, focus on the other side, set your mind and then RUN hard at the edge. When the Israelites were crossing the river Jordan, the waters did not part until the priests feet touched the water, the point at which they demonstrated both faith and commitment (Joshua 3:14).

Once you commit to go, you have to “go all out”. Know where you’re going, practice and prepare, commit and go.




Posted in High Schools, Marching Band, Music Department, Music Performance, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , ,

Band Director Responsibilities

By John Gardner

A few years ago, I was tasked with putting together a list of responsibilities of the head director at my school. This is a generic approximation of the band director position in a moderately large high school.

Band Director Hours

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Note: 150+ extra trips to the school for over 700 hours, equivalent to 18 – 40hr weeks.

Although there is some overlap, the above chart does NOT include the 180 school days of time/teaching.

Stack of hatsMajor decisions

Show Theme / Colors / Logo

Show Shirts; including color, design, vendor.

Basketball Shirts; including color, design, vendor.

Summer Parade Shirts; including color, engraving, design, vendor.

Color Guard Outfit(s), Flag design + performance props

Marching band uniforms; color, style, material, accessories, company, when + financing.


How many

Which ones

What class / Contest Classifications, i.e. Scholastic, Festival, Open, BOA, MidStates


Overseeing all contest logistics

Marching Band, Winter Guard, Indoor Percussion

Photographer for Band Pictures

Major Trip. 3 Hotel nights. Last trip cost @$83,000. Includes decisions about who could go/not go based on payment levels. Refunds? After trip collections? Also 22hr bus travel and night-time hotel supervision during stay.

Show Props. Organizing, overseeing design, construction, implementation.

Assembly of carts for front ensemble.

Music and design adjustments and rehearse and clean a Class A competitive marching show.

Recruiting, hiring, funding drill designer, music arranger, Color Guard choreographer, specialty coaches and field instructor.

Communicate/coordinate with the middle school directors.

Overseeing Instrument Purchase Plan and Repair Contract for the Corporation

Seating Charts / Part Assignments

Parade Block

Marching Band inside

Pre-Game Marching Assignments / Select Music / Write Drill

Marching Drill Assignments

Multiple Fall and Spring Concert Bands

Basketball Bands (2 bands x @6 games ea)

Music Selection

Multiple Fall and Spring Concert Bands

Fall Marching Band for Holiday Concert

Jazz Band for 4-6 performances

Spring Concert Band Tour


Band office work

Retrieve/file music.

Take care of reeds, oils, sticks, and other supplies students purchase.

Make minor instrument repairs. Coordinate more significant repairs with the music store rep, including pickup, return — and keeping students/parents informed of status.

Reserve buses for all band trips; parades, contests (see above).

Complete Facility Use paperwork for each time during the year that you need the gym or auditorium for rehearsals and performances.

Collaborate instrumental purchase plan with other directors and the corporation’s financial person

Register and arrange payment for all competitions, plus acquire field trip approval and buses.

Maintain grade book.

Write weekly schedules / TWIBs. (This Week In Band), plus daily Band Camp or rehearsal schedule.

Write and publish band handbook.Register for all contests, parades and festivals.

Keep attendance records for school plus rehearsals, performances.

Make Accompaniment and practice mp3’s for individuals and for playing test practice

Write, transcribe, transpose music to fill in special parts for marching, concert, jazz music

Grant writing School Policies Compliance

Oversee school budget, complete paperwork for both deposits and withdrawals and pay vendors

Design and print programs for concerts and banquets.

Determine and create awards, plaques and other recognitions for end of year awards banquet.

Maintain “needs” list for when someone asks, for grant-writing, or when opportunities arise

Publicity: Newspapers, school announcements, website, email blasts, etc.

Maintain online calendar for rehearsals, performances

Scan, post all pep band music for download to student iPads

Maintain social media sites: web/blog, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, instagram, google+, etc.

Maintain band data base with home and cell phones and email addresses for multiple parent/guardian families plus students with separate contact info.

Design reports/seating charts (marching band, 5 concert bands, combined bands, graduation band) / parade block assignments/drill chart assignments/pre-game assignments/squads/basketball band assignments…or labels for music folders, shirts, mailings.

Organize a pre-solo/ensemble contest practice recital

Organize free piano accompanists for students unable to pay

Classroom Activities

Schedule, conduct and analyze playing tests or challenges. Assign seating for ensemble balance.

Update daily classroom announcements: Include standards, birthdays, calendar updates and enough jokes to keep students watching. Music accompaniment a plus.

Keep classroom presentable and clutter free for use by a variety of classes, ensembles and outside groups

Find ways to meet state and/or national standards without sacrificing the performance expectation overload

Create, distribute, collect health forms and ensure 100% compliance and that forms travel with the band.

Specialty Ensembles

Supervise some of the auxiliary ensembles; drumline, sideline ensemble, winter percussion, color guard, winter guard

Approve creative recommendations for specialty uniforms, flags, props, etc and oversee construction.

Collaboration with other Staff

Coordinate with choir director for rehearsals involving students in both groups

Sharing instrumentalists with show choir backup ensemble, school musicals

Share room and equipment (i.e. keyboards, megaphones, uniforms, instruments) with other teachers, classes and groups

Guidance Counselors for student scheduling and to encourage promotion of the band program

Attend meetings

School required faculty meetings, including mandatory training, department collaboration

IEP and other school meetings on behalf of individual students

Band Parent Organization, including Executive Board, Officers Only and General meetings.

Fundraising projects

“Director Reports

Collaborating with individual fee collection

Dealing with personality clashes and chaperone issues

Overseeing special committees; i.e contest, uniform, major fundraising

Design teams (drill/choreographer, music, uniform/equipment design) for marching band, winter guard and indoor percussion shows

School mandated parent/teacher conferences

Meetings requested by students or parents

School Board meetings involving related budgets and programs

Make emergency judgment call decisions / calls when a student is injured or having medical issues in rehearsal or away at competitions.

Select Drum Major(s): Includes training, practicing, recruiting judges and providing selection criteria

Organize conducting, college prep or leadership classes/seminars

Organize overnight trips (i.e. Disney). Select travel consultant, solicit board approval, promote/oversee payments.

Solo and Ensemble

Promote/Recruit Participants

Attend Solo/Ensemble festivals at District or State.

Encourage and organize solo and ensemble participants, recruit pianists, ensure adequate practice and provide most participants free individual coaching sessions

Assist in individual (participation fees, pay-to-play, fair share) collections.

Write letters of recommendation for scholarships, college/job applications

Assist with auditions for area honor bands and specialty groups

I’m confident this list is NOT exhaustive, and would love to add to this list with other activities/responsibilities you experience or know about in your school.

Thanks for reading.


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Posted in Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

“Challenger” – an emotional marching band show


Music, Voice Over and Show Design by Michael Petek
Drill Design by Jon Bay
Color Guard Choreography by Rachel Cook
Percussion Score by Josh Schneider
Prop Design & Construction by Band Boosters

Michael Petek, Director of Bands
John Gardner, Assistant Director
James Court, Music and Marching
Doug McElhaney, Music and Marching
Matt Walter, Music and Marching
Rachel Cook, Colog Guard
Alex Walters, Percussion
Grant Ebert, Student Teacher
Russell Degitz, HNHS Principal


It is fitting to design a show about the Challenger Shuttle disaster on this, the 30th year anniversary. Like other major events; Pearl Harbor, President Kennedy Assassination, 9-11… people old enough to remember know exactly where they were and how they heard about Challenger. 

Several judges from our competitions this Fall have mentioned their recollections and emphasized the “emotional” component of this show. They compliment the respectful and appropriate presentation of the story.

The show’s major components are called “Lift Off”, “Malfunction” and “Pioneers”.

Lift Off

Prior to the Opener, the audience hears sounds from both the Shuttle launch command center and President Reagan:


At this point the band positions around the Challenger for “Lift Off”.

As the opener begins, the countdown is presented, timed so that the band turns around to face the audience for the first time — and the Lift Off theme is introduced:

Count Down


About two minutes into the show, as it was about two minutes into the flight, suddenly a huge bass drum and gong hit symbolize the explosion.

“Obviously a major  Malfunction”

The band turns again in the area of the shuttle, scattering like the pieces we saw on TV, and pointing upward as the front ensemble and drumline play under the announcement about the “major malfunction”.

The minor and somber middle section of the show reflect the reaction and response.


“They were pioneers”

But then, in his address to the nation, President Reagan called the Challenger 7 “Pioneers”, and the third section of the show is an upbeat, almost celebratory representation of a nation going forward after disaster.

And then, after a final portion from the president’s speech,…

“…to touch the face of God.”

…the show concludes with a “tag” that pays respect before bringing back the faster, happier lift off theme.

Posted in Marching Band, Music Performance, Personal experience, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , ,

Teens and Technology

I was in front of a group of about 50 high school freshmen that had moved from the bandroom to the auditorium stage to take a picture of the group to be used in a school program. Without a visible clock, and not knowing how much time ’til the bell, I asked,

“Can someone tell me what time it is?” The first response was, “May I look at my illegal electronic device?”

Out of the 50 students, guess how many of them were wearing a wristwatch. ZERO! In fact, they took it as one of those things that dates my generation that I would even ask.


This is an updated, modified article I wrote for a fundraising blog three years ago about using fundraising prizes with high schoolers. I’ve tried to update some of the technology that has changed even from the original post. Feel free to correct, update or inform me in your comments…..


I was taken aback the first time a student made a Facebook comment asking the question “Why do they still teach us cursive when we don’t use it in high school?” Many school corporations HAVE dropped cursive in elementary school. That question includes a less than completely correct assessment of writing in high school, but he has a point. Even those very few students who don’t have access to a computer at home DO have access at school. With the library, multiple computer labs, at LEAST one computer in every classroom, and a 1-1 iPad for every student, there are few times that students are in a position to have to write with pen and paper. Unless they are writing a paper during 4th period that is due 5th, most will opt to use a computer because they can edit better. But even then, many can PRINT better than they can WRITE in cursive.

Just before Christmas break, I gave each student in concert band a Christmas card with a short, personalized, cursive note. One student brought his to me and asked me what I wrote…. I do have sloppy handwriting, but his comment was,

“I don’t read cursive.”

Today’s teens have never seen a phone with a rotary dial or a TV with a rabbit ear antennae on it. They’ve never played an LP record. I was using an LP in a class and some students helping set things up asked me, in all seriousness,

“Do you put the needle on the inside or the outside?” 

Teens are staying steps ahead of most adults. While adults were getting comfortable with email, teens were texting and messaging on Facebook. When parents started getting on Facebook, teens moved more to Twitter, Tumbler and Snapchat. Teens will communicate with adults (at least they still humor me into thinking so), but they don’t want parents and teachers watching their communications. So whenever parents latch on to a technology, teens move on to a new one.

They can multi-task much better than parents, listening to music via earbuds while texting (even one-handed on a cell phone still in their pocket), tweeting and chatting — all while the teacher thinks they are researching for that book report and listening to associated YouTube videos.

They do all their research for school online rather than in the library and have never typed on even an electric typewriter, learning “keyboarding” rather than “typing” skills.  They don’t surf the “world wide web” — they are “on” the Internet. They don’t own a stereo sound system as most of their music is on MP3 players, iPods, iPads, and/or smartphones.

The progression continues from desktop to notebook/laptop, to tablet/iPad and smartphone. They don’t use film cameras, but instead, take “selfies” and videos with their smartphones. They’ve probably not even heard of Beta and have probably never used VHS and Cassettes. CD’s, DVD’s and Blue Ray is giving way to streaming.

In a wired (or wireless) classroom with computers, they are looking up links and keying in their journal assignments while the teacher is showing a Powerpoint video or giving information or lecture. One teacher who has such a classroom told me,

“I have to get used to the idea that not having their eyes when I talk to them is not a sign of disrespect, but rather a result of their multi-tasking capabilities and functionality.”

In the context of things we seasoned veterans ASSUME, let me suggest a few things to consider in the area of prizes for kids.

Outdated Prizes

NOTE: One of my pet peeves in fundraising are some of the ridiculous prize programs. Vendors find incredibly cheap (price and quality) trinkets from China and create colorful brochures to entice students to sell.  They continue to have outdated prizes and this article was written for THAT industry about fundraising prizes. Some of my examples:

WRIST WATCH: Read the beginning of this article. And yet, nearly every prize program out there includes wrist watches. Maaaaybe in elementary school, but dismissive at the high school level and maybe even for middle schoolers.

stop-watchSTOPWATCH: I recall telling students that the stopwatch was always one of the most selected items in the level. NOTE: Cell phones now include a stopwatch.

CAMERA. Again, cell phones have both a camera and video capability.

MP3 PLAYERs. Cell phone again.


BOOM BOX. Once gigantic. Now the response would be, “Boom What?”

CD’s / CD PLAYERs / CD HOLDERs. Have you been to a store that sells CD’s? They don’t exist much any more. Where Wal-Mart used to have rows of them in categories, the local store now has one small section with all CDs lumped together. WHY? Because teens are downloading the songs they want for $1. Only us old folk are still buying CDs.

When I have offered to make practice CD’s of music the band is working on or of solo accompaniments, students ask if I can make MP3’s or put on their flash drive so they can transfer to iPad or cell phone. Many of them don’t even have a way to play a CD anymore, unless it is through a desktop computer at home.

Coke phoneCORDED PHONES. I used to use novelty phones as a prize; coke can and coke cup phones, piano phones and more. They used to be popular as a way for students to get a phone in his/her room. Today they will laugh, even at the novelty phones.

ANYTHING VHS OR CASSETTE. I have an embarrassing collection of dual cassette AM/FM radio boom boxes that I can’t even give away. If an upper end video recorder requires a cassette version of a tape – FORGET IT! Any recording device worth having now uses either hard drive or SD card for storage, or it can stream or download from the Internet.

PDA6PDA. To teenagers, PDA is in their school’s student handbook as “Public Display of Affection” — and it also stands for the “Parental Drug Association”. In other words, PDA is not a good acronym to use in a school setting. Those Palm Pilots were (and still are for old people) referred to as “Personal Digital Assistants“, the proper new form of a PDA is now more commonly referred to as a “SmartPhone”.

Most phones now include all the capabilities that were in PDA’s, cameras, video cameras and MP3 players.

The $200 iPod I purchased my wife three years ago now sells for $24.95 on Amazon/eBay sites.

Current Prizes for High School Student Motivation

CASH. Still the best. Be creative with it. Play games with it. When I’m introducing a cash prize program,

“Have you ever been in a fundraiser with one of those prize programs that offer you rings that turn your finger green….. or stopwatches that work for 2 days before they break, or posters that your parents might like, but not you??? “

Then….as I pull a string of dollar bills out of my pocket…..

“This is what I use. Most stores will accept it. So, instead of offering you junk that you don’t want or doesn’t work, I’ll just give you some of THIS stuff and you can take it to the store and trade it in for what you really want.

GIFT CARDS. The best would be an iTunes card as that is where most teens are going to download their music…..but a card to Walmart, Amazon or any other place that INCLUDES the ability to download music would be a hit. This could also include pre-paid phone cards that could allow someone to add minutes to their pre-paid phone.


SUBSCRIPTIONS to anything that helps their networking, interconnected, wired and communication rich lives.


Thanks for reading,

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Posted in High Schools Tagged with: , , , , ,

I’m Guilty of this Tech Habit. Are YOU?

By John Gardner

Teenage Family Using Gadgets Whilst Eating Breakfast Together In KitchenRecently, wife Joan and I were in our comfy front porch chairs, enjoying a pleasant late afternoon breeze. She had her computer and I listened to music via cell phone and headphones.

Komando.com posted this article about this bad tech habit.

Has your family ever had a meal like the one in this picture? In this pic, I’m glad they showed the dad on his computer. The old versions had the papa reading the morning newspaper. Remember?

I’ve seen a couple of Kim Komando’s suggestions before — as ways to break the habit. At home, around the table, just enforce an updated version of “no phone calls during family meal”. My favorite tip for restaurant gatherings is that everyone puts their cell phone face down in the middle of the table, and the first one to pick one up pays for the meal.

In defense of teens, college students and the younger generation that always seems to get the rap that they are texting rather than talking and using technology to avoid interaction, I came upon this pic…. Enjoy.

Newspaper technology

Posted in Communication Tagged with: ,

10 Email Tips for Teachers



By John Gardner


“I’m fairly certain that you’re the only high school band director in this part of the state that actually responds to e-mails from the public.”

Answering email is basic courtesy-101.

As a business owner, I am generally responding to a variety of email, but each of those types of email have an equivalent in the education world.

  • VENDORS. (Educational equivalent includes Administrators). You NEED vendor/administrator cooperation and quick responses can ensure that you continue to get the products, services and support needed. They can cut you off (fire you) and force you to look elsewhere for an opportunity to generate income.
  • CUSTOMERS. (Educational equivalent = Students/Parents). You NEED customers to survive in business. An unhappy customer takes his/her business elsewhere. A disgruntled student gossips or quits band. A Parent withdraws support, pulls the child out of the program or contacts an administrator to complain.
  • OTHER BUSINESS OWNERS. (Educational equivalent = Teachers). Sometimes businesses who compete can also collaborate. In my fundraising business, I will respond to a request from a competitor who needs some brochures that the vendor is temporarily out of, but I have on hand. And then, when one of my vendors is backordered on a product, I will ask a competitor if I can purchase some of their stock. A teacher should always respond quickly to another teacher.


DON’T ASSUME the sender will patiently wait for a response. They will be getting angry. If you are not clear on the question or comment, ask for clarification (that also gives you more time to contemplate a response). Never email in anger. If someone sends something that irritates you, let it sit for a while (maybe a day). Longer makes it worse. If you need more time, let them know that.

At least write and SAVE DRAFT for editing prior to sending. If it is not an over the top confrontation, consider confirming receipt and write that you will respond later.

CAREFULLY SELECT your recipients and attachments. Sending documents and pictures to unintended recipients can be embarrassing, harmful or even illegal.

If you have a choice between saying less or saying more, SAY LESS. I have a lawyer friend who always amazes me with how few words he can put in writing. If they ask for more detail or clarification, at least you know they read your note.

If you don’t know the answer, at least respond to acknowledge receipt. If you say you’re going to follow up, FOLLOW UP and/or send updates.

KEEP actionable emails where you can see them.

Once done, delete or MOVE to a file folder. Create multiple files; administration, students, parents, school forms, evaluations, etc.

If you keep everything in your inbox, you will lose it. Regularly empty your SPAM folder contents so that, should you need to look for an incoming email that may have gone there, you don’t have to look through all the tricky spammers who find ways to get their stuff at the top of the list. Be careful with sarcasm or joking via email. The recipient doesn’t have your tone of voice to hear or your facial expression to help with their interpretation. If you are kidding, use something like: lol, haha or jk.

BE CAREFUL what you write. It is out there forever.

If you have a verbal agreement with someone, CONFIRM IT so that you have proof. It also gives the other person a chance to correct or adjust a misunderstanding before it becomes a major issue.


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Posted in Business strategies, Communication, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Public Schools, Respect, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Teaching

3 Credit Card Processing Recommendations for Small Business

Credit Card Processing Word WallBy John Gardner

For years, we’ve paid by credit card at department and grocery stores, at restaurants and gas stations. Now that we are handing our cards to the order-takers in fast food drive through lanes — is there anyone NOT accepting credit card payments? Well yes, but it is getting easier for the individual or small business entrepreneur to bring it on.  Read more ›

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


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