Classroom management is directly related to our ability to form relationships. While clearly the relationships in our classroom are critical (and we’ll talk about those in a minute), relationships outside the classroom form the foundation of our “village,” and our success.
To begin, let’s look at who is in our village, and how can we strengthen these relationships.
Other Band Directors
Think about the other directors in your feeder pattern, both on and off campus. Do you get along? Can the students tell how the directors feel about each other?
When things are running smoothly in your feeder pattern, it creates…well, harmony for the students! Do you see other directors socially? Do you gather to celebrate the year’s successes? Perhaps you should. Consider giving a band shirt to all the directors in your feeder pattern (even elementary music teachers) as a gesture of goodwill and cooperation. You might even inquire if there are events on their campuses where you can help out.
Teachers should be wonderful resources for each other. If a student loves band and is misbehaving in Science class, we can help to serve that teacher by speaking one-on-one with that student to help them make better behavior choices. If a band student is failing math, we can help to get peer tutoring for that student. Let’s think about how we can be of service to our campus colleagues.
We need to form and maintain strong relationships with our administrators on campus. Need ideas on how you can do this? Administrators appreciate us handling our own discipline issues. You might try to solve some discipline challenges first before you hand them off. Another way we can forge bonds with our administrators is to be visible in serving our campus. Are there committees that could benefit from our time and energy? Perfect! Feeling brave? Perhaps you could volunteer to chaperone a dance.
Let’s face it, when students join band, we need their parents to join, too! You can plan a calendar full of fun events for students, but without parent support, you can’t make it all happen.
It’s easy for parents to unplug at the middle school level and become a little more distant as their child gains a more independence. Be sure to tell parents that BAND is the place for them to plug in and remain involved in their child’s musical life!
Invite the whole family to your concerts and trips when possible. Get to know the younger siblings, too! Look at their hands and lips and “predict” which instrument they’ll play in your band someday! Cultivate relationships with your band parents. Ask for their help, say “thank you,” brag on their children, and take every opportunity you get with them to make a positive connection. Our principal quotes a parent comment from a recent survey: “It’s not the ‘professionalism’ the parents want, it’s the ‘personal touch.’”
Of course, our most important village members are our students. We can build positive, meaningful relationships with our students by showing that we care about them. Ask about their soccer game, tell them how proud you are of them for a recent math test grade, give them a high five! Greet them with a smile in the hallways. School may not always be a happy place for them, but we can always give them a safe place to belong in the band hall!
Here are some proven ways to enhance relationships with your students and other members of your village:
- Establish and/or reinforce your routine. If you don’t create a routine, your students surely will, and it may not be a good one!
- Share quick and easy classroom rules. A professor once told me about “The Three P’s”, and that every rule we think of can fit inside of them: Be Polite, Be Prepared, and Be Prompt.
- Start building relationships! Make a positive phone call home today. Reach out to a colleague for advice. Show a student some extra kindness.
Classroom Management Specifics
Reflect on this quote we heard from Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser: “Praise in public, criticize in private.” Following this advice will save your relationships with students over and over again. Don’t embarrass the students in front of their peers. Speak with them one-on-one.
One very effective discipline strategy we use is called “The Handshake Thing.” Let’s say a student has forgotten his horn for the second time this week. I’ll pull the student into the office and say: “Tell me why you think I asked to speak to you.” The key here is to wait for their answer. If they voice the problem, they begin to take ownership of it.
Next, I ask them to explain how they plan to fix the problem. If their plan is sound, I praise it, and restate it for clarity.
The next part is crucial. I ask if they are a person of their word – a person who can be trusted to keep a promise when they make a promise. I’ll tell them I’m prepared to “seal the deal” and shake on it, but only if their word is good. Then I stick my hand out, and as we shake I say “Tell me, what are you going to do again?” Then I always compliment them on their promise and tell them that I’m looking forward to tomorrow so I can see the promise in action.
I always suggest giving students a chance to make it right. Not everything deserves a detention. If you’re at that step, try this. Fill out the slip completely, but add an “out” on the slip too, like: “If Suzy brings her music for the rest of this week, this detention will be dismissed.” That way, the student knows you’re serious, and how they can resolve the issue.
If the students enter your classroom noisily, tell them to go out and come back in the right way. If they come in causing a ruckus, your rehearsal probably won’t be terrific, so you might as well begin again.
Don’t hold grudges. They’re kids and they’re learning. Move on and give them another chance (and another, and another)!
Do you have sayings the students know? Some of our tried and true sayings include:
- If you know better, you do better!
- Band is about “us” and “we,” not about “I” and “me.”
- I’m talking to everybody including you, not everybody except for you.
As music educators, we have one of the best jobs on the planet! We get to teach students life lessons through music. We get to form relationships with all sorts of people and many of us will be remembered with love by not only our students but their families, too.
During our short time with each student, we plant the seeds and hope the life lessons we teach will remain with them forever.