10 Reasons Teachers and Coaches Make Good Fundraisers

By John Gardner

Make Money - Ask Us HowAt my first teaching position, I replaced the band director who went into fundraising. My fundraising rep was a former band director. Four years later I left to start a fundraising career. Of the fifteen reps in our ‘District’ — over half were band directors. The company owners were band directors who had broken off from another company run by band directors.

Why so many band directors in fundraising? Because bands are some of the most aggressive fundraising operations, and fundraising companies like those experienced with fundraising to sell fundraising. There were two recruiting pitches that got my attention.

“You know fundraising well from the customer side. Let us teach you the company/sales side — and you’ll be well equipped to talk to people who had the same needs, concerns and time constraints that you did.”


“Come to work for us and we’ll double your income.”

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Posted in Fundraising, How May I Serve YOU?, Income Opportunity, Job Search, Sales and Marketing, Small Business Tagged with: , , , ,

10 Tips for Business and Education Professionals

Email inboxBy John Gardner

Facebook post on my wall

“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.”


Thanks. I try to respond to most emails quickly. Comes from decades in the BUSINESS world. No matter what business you are in, including the business of education, answering email is basic courtesy-101.

From a business perspective

As a business owner, I am generally responding to a variety of email

VENDORS. (Educational equivalent = Administrators). You NEED vendors and their cooperation and quick responses can ensure that you continue to get the products, services and support needed. A vendor 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.

BUSINESS OWNERS. (Educational equivalent = Band Directors). Sometimes businesses who compete can also collaborate. For example, in the 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 Band Director should always respond quickly to another Band Director.


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Posted in Band as a Business, Business strategies, Communication, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Teaching, Virtual/Local Services Tagged with: , , ,

Be CARE-ful

Be CAREfulBy John Gardner

During a service call, when the music store rep asked how things were going and I commented about “drama”, his response, as someone who is in most high school band rooms in this part of the state on a weekly basis…..

“YOU are NOT alone. I’m hearing about drama everywhere.”

Why does it have to come up at all?

How much less drama would we have if everyone was just CARE-ful?

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 3.43.52 PM

You’ve heard the nursery rhyme…

“Sticks and stones can break my bones
But words can never hurt me.”

That is so very not true. There are way too many statistics to share about students inflicting self-pain, or worse — because of what was said about them in person and online.

Words can empower, or they can hurt…or kill. Here’s an Amazon book addressing that topic.

Also addressing CARE-fulness:

Click the link if you don’t know this childhood song, “Oh be careful little (eyes, ears, hands, etc….)

The GOLDEN RULE mentions doing to others what you would want them doing to you. -Matthew 7:12

No Bully Zone 061Most high school students will confidently announce their opposition to bullying. Not too long ago, a girl who had attended our school committed suicide because of at least the perception that people were picking on her. An apology cannot un-do a suicide.

AND YET… in a high school setting, it is far too common to hear about:

  • girls being called “fat” or “ugly”
  • lies and exaggerations designed as attacks to destroy reputations and relationships
  • people inappropriately labeled with all those “words” we are not allowed to say or spell out
  • body parts and sex lives described via social media

I DON’T GET IT….. especially when you consider that music ensembles must work together, perform together and win or lose together.

“Teens need to figure it out, though, because once they get out of school and into the workforce, what was high school “drama” can become “sexual harassment” – and as an employer who has read some of the legal mumbo jumbo about that — once those words come up, people start losing their jobs.” -John Gardner, Pres. QDP Corporation

A staff member in a rehearsal, put it this way:

“Make it positive, make it constructive, or make it never be heard.”

Here’s that song again…

“O be careful little eyes what you see / ears what you hear / hands what you do / feet where you go / mouth what you say…”
Yeah, just ….. be CARE-ful!
Band is Family
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Posted in Communication, High Schools, Marching Band, Parenting, Respect, Social Media, Teaching Music

Band Camp Prank: Marching Band and Fire Truck

I posted the picture below and got feedback asking how we did that…. so below the pic are some steps and suggestion.

Are your rehearsals always serious? This band, during band camp week, was complaining about the heat and wanted a water break. Not sure this is what they expected. Fire Departments need to have training exercises. We were happy to help.

Are your rehearsals always serious? This band, during band camp week, was complaining about the heat and wanted a water break. Not sure this is what they expected. Fire Departments need to have training exercises. We were happy to help.

Additional pictures below.

My father was a 32-yr fire fighter and I spent much of my childhood around the firehouse. Some things you may not realize:

  • Firefighters are community minded people — many are coaches for summer league sports, but genuinely interested in helping students.
  • The 1000 gallons of water carried in a pumper truck needs to be flushed/recycled periodically.
  • Firefighting professionals need practice – training in controlling and directing high pressure water flow. What better target than a bunch of teenagers.
  • Most have a cool sense of humor.
  • There is a hierarchy of command and approval in a fire department.
  • You can’t just park or hide a heavy fire truck just anywhere.
  • Consideration has to be made as to where that 1000 gallons of water is going to go.
  • Instruments, electronics, wallets, some eyeglasses, etc…. won’t deal well with that much water.
  • Without a legitimate way of opting out, which can’t really be announced in advance, you are taking some risk with parents….
  • Consider the effect on thin, white t-shirts.
  • Solicit help from a couple highly-trusted parents. (towels, etc)
  • We’re talking about a huge amount of water and a significant amount of wet.
  • What happens next?
  • Don’t just call 9-1-1.


Plan it for the end of a day. You’re not going to get anything done afterward. But also, consider that your students are going to be incredibly wet….. and putting them immediately in their parents cars might not be the best idea either. Consider having some fun and games …. or snacks after.

Have a backup day — obviously you can’t do it on a rainy day.

Coordinate with the Fire Department. Ensure you’re talking to the right people. It will take at least the person in charge of a particular fire house to oversee the specific event and he may need to get approval from higher-ups. This is not a normal request they get. Allow time for some inter-departmental communication and approval. 

Where? My original intent was to hide the fire truck and have it shoot water over the corner of our high school onto a totally unsuspecting group of teens. That didn’t work. The FD informed me that the truck would tear up any grass and also that there would need to be consideration of where the water would go, aka a drain. Unfortunately for us, that meant parking the truck in the middle of the school parking lot with no way that the students wouldn’t at least see it before something happened. So how do you get 100 students to get close enough to a fire truck? Keep reading.

Get school approval. At least inform your principal what you are doing so that if he/she receives phone calls, there will at least be knowledge of the event.

Protect the electronics, wallets, etc.

  1. You must convince students to remove cell phones, iPods, mp3 players, etc from their pockets. Also wallets and anything else that a lot of water could damage. How do you do that without telling them why? Keep reading.
  2. You must keep all that stuff safe. Have a way to guard it.

The Prank

The day before.

Some of you are starting to get red (burned) out here….including through some really thin t-shirts. It is supposed to be hot and sunny tomorrow and I’d like to ask that you consider wearing something other than a thin, white t-shirt.

Call a couple trusted band parents and ask if they can bring a collection of old towels. In case they are going to borrow from someone, ensure them that nothing will happen to damage the towels. If you must, and you can, tell them what is going on.

The day of.

Make sure everything is okay with the FD.

If you happen to be outside, be sure to have a reason to come inside for a few minutes prior to the arrival of the fire department.

  1. The music isn’t going well and you want an impromptu inside rehearsal or sectional.
  2. The marching isn’t going well and you are going to take them inside and give them the what for.
  3. You’ve noticed a problem with electronics and want to deal with it.

Find a place to line the band up in a parade-block type setting where they cannot see the truck. We planned behind a corner of the building.

Put on your mean face…..and throw a temper tantrum that goes something like this:

Ok band, it is time for some fundamental marching. Set you instruments down in the grass over there. And while you’re at it, put all cell phones, watches and electronics with your instrument. I want none of that on the field. Don’t worry, these parents will watch your stuff until you have marched this block all the way around the building. How many times around depends on YOU!

There will be a lot of questioning and maybe even some complaining. Remember, you must get all the electronics out of their clothing.

Now line up. Shrink the interval to 2-steps. Two steps across, two steps front to back. You’re going to be so tight that a mis-step is going to be problematic….so you need to focus, listen to commands and get everything else out of your mind, GOT IT?

As you march around the corner, they will see the truck, but if you are sufficiently convincing, they will be concentrating more on calming you down with absolute compliance. Consider starting and stopping them a couple times.

As they get in range…. STOP and correct alignment or something. And then…

(click any image to enlarge)

Afterwards, allow them to go back to get their stuff…..have the parents who were guarding it hand out some towels. Consider a few minutes of activity in the sunlight to also help dry out the clothes a little. You may hear comments like:

I don’t get this wet when I jump into a swimming pool.

Thanks for reading.

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

10+ Ways To Improve Volunteer Booster Meetings

Boring Presentation

From a small business or band director perspective, I WISH I had a meeting room with wall screens, a meeting table and high-backed chairs like in this picture.

By John Gardner

Everybody who likes going to business meetings – raise your hand! Exactly. In this “Band as a Business” series, I will share experiences from my small business experience running a fundraising distributorship and cross-compare similarities to running the “business” of a high school band.

As the owner/operator/manager at QDP Corporation, I had weekly staff meetings, but was always aware how much that 30 minute meeting cost me when I considered their combined wages. That was my main motivation to increase organization, efficiency, effectiveness – and brevity. Now, much of that could be done with email, blog notices or through collaborative documents. Googledocs, Word and Open Office all allow for team input. Officers and directors could collaborate before the general meeting to ensure good communication flow — and that the main decision-makers are on the same page.

I’ve been both a participant and an officer in Elementary PTOs, show choir and band parent organizations. I was both a VP and President of the Band Parent Organization I now serve as a director, giving me a unique set of perspectives from which to share.

Corporate meetings are often boring, but are generally organized by and participated in by people trying to impress a boss, get a raise and a promotion — or to just keep a job. People attend (mandatory) and participate as paid, evaluated employees. I didn’t see so much of that in my small business, but did when I worked in a national company.

Booster meetings. When it comes to church business, leagues, elementary school and high school extracurricular group meetings — participants and leaders are more prominently energetic, enthusiastic, absolutely necessary strong supporters volunteering their time and talents to give their children the best possible experience. Most are there for all the right reasons. Most of the challenges of thriving booster meetings are attributed to untrained volunteers.

PTO Today Magazine describes the youthful inexperience of many who are first-time leaders in running an organization, often at the elementary school level. By the time they become high school band/choir/sports boosters, many have served on a number of boards and in several groups. Even so, inexperience in organizational leadership can undo the best of intentions. Other than magazines like PTO Today, there aren’t a lot of “training” opportunities.

Hopefully I am not describing YOUR group, but in my decades in elementary PTOs, swim teams, baseball leagues, children’s choirs, church meetings — and more recently as a high school choir and band parent (including VP and Pres positions), I would list the following as the more significant typical negatives many volunteer groups encounter:

  • Poor attendance. Two main reasons: 1) Many just don’t like meetings, but will probably help when asked,  and 2) some meetings go too long — so parents stay home and wait for someone to ask them to help. In the business world, you can at least make meetings mandatory….not so with volunteer groups. People are busy, time is valuable — and they need to know that you are not going to waste theirs.
  • Disorganized. Meetings are poorly promoted and people don’t know what will be happening or discussed because there is no agenda, or a sketchy agenda distributed at the beginning of the meeting — to late for collaborative refinement.  Officers are absent, reports are missing and communication is lacking. There is no excuse for a booster meeting with a handful of attenders.
  • Inefficient. Since there is no agenda or plan, the discussion regularly goes off topic, “chasing rabbits”.
  • Timeless. When will it start? More importantly, when will it end? You know your meeting is rambling when people start leaving.

We had a pair of booster presidents who operated on the “60 minutes no matter what” philosophy.

“Ok directors, you have six minutes – GO!”

In an article entitled “Make Meetings More Fun” for the August 2013 issue of PTO Today magazine, Liz O’Donnell lists several suggestions. PTO Today is a magazine that focuses on elementary school parent groups, but several of her ideas would work for high school groups. The quoted bullet-ed items are hers. The others, and the comments, are mine.

  • “Start with an icebreaker”. We do this at the beginning of a band camp to build teamwork. Do the parents in your meeting know each other?
  • “Invite a Guest Speaker.” About the only guests I’ve seen in meetings are the fundraising representatives giving a never-ending commercial for their company or products. [Note: That is the business I am in.]. For a band parent meeting, WHAT IF you had:
    • a college music professor talking about how to audition for scholarships
    • a guidance counselor talking about preparing for the SAT
    • a business owner talking about how to prepare for an interview (students and adults)
    • the music store rep talking about instrument maintenance, repair or why that instrument purchased in 6th grade is now hindering a proficient performer.
  • “Have an agenda and stick to it.” School boards always announce an agenda so that people can go to the meeting for a particular topic. There is usually a line item on the agenda for “public comments” – so people know they will have an opportunity to speak. In his article, “No Agenda, No Meeting, No Exceptions“, David Portillo says exactly that. If you don’t have a reason to meet, don’t.
  • Recognize Achievers. Did you have students make the honor roll, set a record on a sports team, receive a scholarship, get elected to student council? Can you recognize those who participate at solo contest, receive special rankings or state qualify? What about those in extracurricular ensembles and activities?Do you have Boy Scouts who have achieved “Eagle” or a Girl Scout earning the “Gold” award? If you announce on your agenda who/why you are recognizing, you 1) will get relatives and friends attending, 2) encourage others to do things so that they too can receive recognition.
  • “Give Stuff Away”. Door prizes, awards for sections or classes who have the higher involvement. What to give away: previous year show shirts, leftover fundraiser prizes (or products), coupons or gift vouchers from businesses who want to support what you are doing — and benefit from the publicity.
  • “Make It A Meal”. Snacks, desserts, coffee & pastry….or maybe the food committee wants to try out a new food idea for future use on a band/choir trip. Call that fundraiser who has been trying to get to your meeting and ask for cookie or cheesecake samples, or invite that local restaurant that wants to provide something for your next banquet or fundraising dinner.
  • Welcome, involve and inspire newbies. Are they comfortable asking what they fear may come across as a ‘stupid’ question? Do they feel like an outsider or do they perceive cliquishness in your group?
  • Follow A Format. Not everything needs discussion in the open meeting. Table new topics until you can get more information and assign an individual or committee for a report later. If people want to announce an idea, ask them to “get on the agenda” by notifying the president. Assign blocks of time to a topic and then reschedule continuance or otherwise remove from the general meeting. Long-winded topics usually result from lack of details in advance and can be solved by tabling until those details are available.
  • Show Respect. High school parents are busy. Their band student is probably also working a job and involved in another sport or two. Siblings are involved in elementary or middle school activities — and they are asked to participate in those parent meetings too. Chances are both parents work, and if it is a single parent, he/she is already frazzled with un-shared pressures and responsibilities.
  • Schedule, Announce, Promote. Send home a flyer or publish information on the group facebook, twitter or website page.

Additional suggestions

  • Get training. Perhaps one of your parents is a business or corporate owner/manager experienced in running meetings — and could meet with officers and director(s). NOTE: Write it all down so you can share it with your replacements next year.
  • Create job descriptions and notebooks. During my first year as VP of a band booster group, I was frustrated by the number of times I ran into variations of, “Oh, the VP takes care of that.” The next year, when I took the Pres position, one of the things I did was require all committee chairs and officers to create their own job description – base on what they had been doing, and to keep all notes, calendars, reminders, to-do lists, etc IN that notebook.
  • Have an officer’s meeting before the general meeting. Best would be earlier than “just before”, but even that short time together, especially if it follows some pre-meeting collaboration, can be very effective and increase efficiency.
  • Let the director run the meeting. Teachers are professionals; planners, organizers, communicators and teachers. They attend lots of education-related meetings and have had lots of opportunity to learn from those experiences.

Thanks for reading. Need any help?

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Posted in Band as a Business, Business strategies, Consulting, High Schools, Show Choir, Small Business, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , ,

10 Reasons To Hire Band Students

Hire MeBy John Gardner

Band  students make better employees and employers find the payback for working around rehearsal and performance schedules is a win-win for the business too.

By the time they are old enough to get a job, band students have learned the value of hard work. They have spent hours in the heat learning new skills under the watchful eyes of seniors, section leaders, staff and directors. They have been corrected, challenged — and have learned to pay the price. They have seen the benefits of dedication and are willing to commit to a job. Band students won’t quit the job because the manager gives them criticism because they understand that is what makes them better. And they learn that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.

Band students understand dedication, commitment
and that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.

At the age they are joining marching band, teens are battling with balancing the reality that they are not quite adults with the increasing desire for freedom, responsibility and individuality. Some rebel against parents, push back against teachers and are super-sensitive to peer-criticism. And yet, marching band requires they give up individual freedoms for the good of the cause, makes them earn responsibility and tells them they have to look, act and behave like everybody else – uniformity.

The first time they are thrust into a fast-paced, pressurized workplace environment, teens from the general school population will be more likely to throw a tantrum, quit — or get fired. Not band students.

Band students understand the value of,
and respect for chain of command

Students are together in lots of different classroom mixes, but only for fifty minutes on school days for a semester or two. Band students can be together for 10-15 hours Monday through Thursday, plus 3 hours for a Friday night football game and 14 hours for a Saturday rehearsal/competition. Couples break up, personalities don’t mesh, they come from different parts of town and with different family and economic situations — but they learn to work together, a skill many non-band teens and a lot of adults never develop.

As I talk to teens (and even many of their parents), one of the most common reasons to quit a job is because of relationships with co-workers. Band students will be even more frustrated with the mediocrity and lack of cooperation and weak work ethic they will find in the workplace, but they will commit to making it work.

Band students know how to cooperate
and collaborate with those from
different backgrounds and capabilities.

In a part-time work environment there will be competition for hours, raises, promotions and responsibilities. The tendency is to look out for self and to heck with the other guy. Students compete within a band but they want everyone to do well. They compete with other bands but will wish them good luck as they pass on the way to the competition field. They will applaud for other bands – even those that beat them. Band students are team players and they understand sportsmanship.

Band students learn good sportsmanship.

By the time they’re ready for that first job (students usually turn 16 during sophomore or junior year), band students have already learned patience as marching band staff is teaching or fixing drill; perseverance and endurance through extreme temperatures, long rehearsals and so much more we teacher types throw at them.

They understand, through the system of seniority in most bands, that they will need to prove themselves and demonstrate strong work ethic to earn leadership positions or, when they get a job,  a raise.

Band students learn patience,
perseverance and endurance.

There is often a penalty for arriving late to a band rehearsal. When I was in a marching band, it was a lap around the field per minute late. Some bands use push-ups — or job assignments. Arrive late today and you get to take the water to the field tomorrow. And because there are always new things happening in a rehearsal, missing is never an option. Some bands will make you an alternate for an unexcused absence. So when band students get a job with a schedule, they are there — and on time.

Band students learn the value
of attendance and punctuality.

Bands rehearse scores of hours per minute of marching band show. Stretches, running and endurance exercises, fundamentals (yes, they already know how to march, right?) and then sets of drill over, and over. Do they get tired? Absolutely, but they understand the price of success and that there are no shortcuts to achieving it.

Band students learn that there are
no shortcuts to success

Most years, prior to the final competition of the season, we allow seniors to talk to the band. They say a variety of things, but there are two predominant themes: 1) Band is family, and 2) band taught them responsibility with accountability.

Band students learn
responsibility and accountability

Where, outside of public education, is the focus on making the student (or employee) feel good about themselves at the expense of excellence? We read about schools eliminating valedictorians and class rank or even grades, so lower achievers don’t get a negative vibe.

When my child was in first grade, the education fad of the day was a program called “writing to read”, where the emphasis was on the child being able to read whatever they wrote. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc…. were not corrected. Teachers emphasized that a child reader would have a higher self-esteem.

Students who have gone through a feel-good system can hit a brick wall when they get to college or into the workforce. Good band directors instill in their students that a healthy self-esteem comes through achieving excellence. In that pursuit, however, the student learns to accept criticism from directors, staff, seniors and section leaders – and they are willing to pay the price to get the prize. Here is a post I wrote about Excellence and Self Esteem.

Band students learn that self-esteem
is raised by achieving excellence

Because of their extreme rehearsal schedules on top of homework and, especially with the responsibilities of a job, band students develop good time management skills.

Band students develop time management skills

You might also enjoy: Earning and Receiving Great References

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Posted in Income Opportunity, Marching Band Tagged with: , ,

My Advice For High School Graduates

By John Gardner

Pomp & Circumstance is over, diplomas are distributed and graduates are celebrating with Open Houses, a tradition new to me when I moved to this area. Parents spend days (weeks) preparing for food, getting the house ready or space reserved, sending invitations. The gathering consists mostly of the graduate’s family, friends and relatives — with an occasional teacher thrown in. I would love to contribute to the significant cash cache of these deserving teens — but instead I write a personal note and usually share pictures from their years in band, hoping that the words and pictures will remain after the cash is spent.

Here’s some additional advice:


Read more….

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Do it right the first time, or do this…


“If you don’t have time to do it right,
when will you have time to do it over?”
-John Wooden, basketball coach

An appropriate variation of that quote for high school students….

“Do it right the first time, or do this…..

This year…

Wednesday – Last Student Day
Friday – Graduation
Monday – Memorial Day

So school is out and many students experience two weekdays and a holiday before going back to school for several more weeks — starting at 8:00 am every weekday morning.

NOTE: Yes, there are other reasons (besides taking classes over) for summer school, such as:

  • freeing up a spot during the year (maybe for band)
  • re-taking a class to raise a GPA
  • just because you want to learn more about a subject

Those are all legit…..keep doing those.

But for most….summer is to retake a class students failed during the semester.

This happens…

every year

every year

every year

…and for years, I have debated when the best time is to discuss it.

DURING THE SUMMER, as the band is rehearsing and some of our students are starting each day at 8 am, there is absolute agreement on how terrible summer school is, but it seems too late to warn them about it. And next year is so far away.

BEGINNING OF EACH SEMESTER seems appropriate to encourage students to “do it right the first time”, but, of course, they are going to do that. Nobody is thinking summer school in August or January, except that they hated it the last time.

We try to talk to students struggling in classes and to make them aware that, when classes have to be re-taken, that counselors tend to pull students out of the arts or unrequired classes to retake those failed the first time.

When we have that conversation, almost without exception, the response is…..

“I’m re-taking that class in summer school.”

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

3 Types of Thriving Teens Graduating

By John Gardner

This year’s high school graduation will be the twelfth at my current school. There will be roughly 350 graduates total, but of those I know, there are generally three types of thriving teens graduating and who will be walking across that stage.

Teens who have thrived and are graduating…


1. …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 worthwhile 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”.

I see a lot of parental frustration at times from parents who are TRYING to do the right things; checking on their student’s grades, communicating with teachers, removing privileges for falling behind and/or rewarding good grades and progress. I have had numerous parents thank me for “staying on” their child. I usually respond that we’re a team….and that if they keep doing what they’re doing and I keep holding their child accountable from my end…..that we will get him/her graduated.

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

2. …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.

These students don’t complain, but you can see and sense their pain when they see their friends with families after a concert, for example.

These students are determined NOT to be like their parents, and they see education as the way out of that trap…. and so work extra hard, without support from home, to earn a chance at college or a better life.

…and they deserve it.

3. …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, Personal experience, Teaching Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Pre-Digital-Devices Fidget Spinner

My pre-band, pre-digital-devices fidget spinner may have accomplished something. Held on sides w/thumbs and spun w/other fingers. My parents and grandparents said I would spend hours at it. Isn’t that the purpose of the current electronic version of fidget spinners; to entertain and calm?

Nimble fingers help high-speed clarinet-ing?

#WhenYouDoNotHaveALotOfToys #ChildhoodImaginations

Perhaps I should have marketed the concept (anybody remember pet rocks?).


Posted in Parenting, Personal experience Tagged with: