Phone calls home
- A phone call home is much better than an email. Call home to every student.
- Those who are doing well – tell their parents and express your happiness to have them in class.
- Those who don’t play the instrument at home – “Johnny seems to be struggling in Band and is having a hard time keeping up. He seems upset that he can’t play the instrument as well as the others. How often do you encourage him to play at home?” This is usually met with parents who feel guilty for not making sure their child does his homework. Word gets out through the students that you call home.
“Play” instead of “Practice”
I’ve gotten rid of the word practice. It sounds boring. What do you do outside with friends? You play. What do you do in soccer? You play. Video games? You play. It is fun to play. What do you do with your instrument at home? You play!
Encourage with “You Can’t”
Sometimes telling students that they can’t do something will work very well. They will be ignited to rise to the challenge. Saying it in a joking way adds to the fun atmosphere of the class and makes students work hard to prove me wrong.
Window Into the Classroom Concert
Schedule this during Fall Parent/Teacher conferences. It is a 30 minute, informal concert that walks parents through what a band rehearsal looks like. This has been extremely successful for me and the program, and parents LOVE it.
I have older students – 6-12th grade – come after school on a designated day to help coach my beginners. As with any sort of student leadership program, the benefits are boundless for everybody. I have more time to work one-on-one with kids, the mentors are learning more about themselves and their instruments, and the beginners are seeing role models as people they could become.
Other FUN things
- Students get to conduct the band through Happy Birthday when it is their birthday.
- Have students name their instruments… creates a bond with it.
When a student quits
I will intervene with emails or phone calls home trying to find the real reason (usually can be mitigated with an instrument change or heart-to-heart conversation). Citing recent and relevant research pertaining to children learning a musical instrument, actively participating in music-making, and how it positively affects their brains can work with many quitters.
If a child does decide to quit, I make sure to impart on them that they are welcome back at anytime. I remain friendly with them in passing, saying their name with a smile. They may come back someday.
The Bottom Line
Kids will mostly stay in the program if they know you care about them, if they are achieving success, and are having fun. We have to create the right environments for all of that to be true everyday.
See “Resources” page for suggested readings that discuss these topics more in depth.