We hope you found the viewpoints presented last week by our panel educators to be helpful. If you are taking your first look this week, welcome!
In an effort to provide some additional tools to aid in your success, we have posed questions to educators from across the country; each with different experiences, focuses, and student demographics. We will post new questions and responses each week, so continue to check back.
We also hope that you will contribute ideas born of your own experience by commenting and continuing the conversation. If you have a question you would like to submit, please message us with “Music Ed. Question” as the first line in the question.
Please see the attachment to “Meet the Panel”
“The parents of many of my students do not seem to understand the level of commitment required for successful participation in a musical ensemble. I give the kids a schedule of all performances at the beginning of the semester, stating the importance and make it clear that participation is mandatory. I also require a parental signature. Yet, two days before a concert, I seem to always get a handful of notes from parents that their child is unable to attend. How can I get them to better understand the importance of this commitment?”
Dr. Jeff Phillips: The commitment issue is getting worse every year. Take some comfort in knowing that it’s not just a band problem; I hear the same thing from employers (where teenagers will have 5 jobs in 2 years) and coaches. Having that signed commitment is the best start; the problem comes when the PARENTS don’t live up to their end. Too many parents are busy trying to be their child’s best friend and they don’t have the backbone to enforce “commitment” like those did a generation ago. The attitude that you can just try everything you want to and quit when you get “bored” of it is rampant in our society. Stick to holding students (and parents) accountable to what they signed! If your administration supports grades for performances, lower grades and/or have make-up assignments that involve more time than the actual concert. Explain to the entire group how absences affect others and that unlike another subject or even other sports, when you miss, you have an impact on the group. You may have a “right” to do your own thing, but as a member of a musical organization you have an obligation to the other members. This message has to be pounded in constantly. If anyone finds THE solution to this one, let us all know!
Monica Leversay: Helping parents understand the importance of commitment and dedication is not something that comes overnight. It’s more of a changing of mindset over time; especially when a program is in a place of transition and rebuilding from a poor experience with a past director.
If a community is saturated with athletics and the arts programs have never been of good quality or importance, it will take time to show yourself worthy of devoting time and energy toward it. Unfortunately, and especially so for a director taking over a new or damaged program, these mindsets are changed by displaying positive and rapid growth for the parents and community. Parents have to see their child performing with a smile on their face and enjoying the activity they have chosen to do. When the audience sees and hears quality, they are going to see all of the benefits that go along with music education and commitment to it.
Most of the time, you have to think of educating the parents just as much as educating the students about why your program is important. Consider the fact that most band parents are unaware of how music and music education affects the brain and learning. They need to learn, too! Post links to great music education articles on your band’s Facebook page or forward them on in your weekly newsletter to your parents for them to read. Communication is key! Keep in close contact with your parents and let them know how their son/daughter is doing and the excitement you see when they stay committed. But, most of all, instill this sense of commitment into your student’s day in and day out. Remind them of the time, effort, work, and dedication it takes to put into sometime before they see results. Show them videos of kids their age and professionals, alike. Start a boosters program for more parent involvement. And make sure your principals have your back when problems arise with absences. If the policies are stated in your band handbook, you always have a supporting backbone for reinforcement on your rules and standards.
John Bingaman: Having a face to face parent meeting at the beginning of the year is hard to replace. Parents respond differently when told about something in person where they can read the serious on your face and how important it is for the program. Part of our jobs as music educators is to educate the community as well. This parent meeting is the best way to do this. Have very clear expectations lined out including the consequences of missing. Get a zero for a performance will not affect some students and parents but for most of them, it will be a shock. Once the lined out consequences have taken their course, it will be easy to see how certain families respond. After a cycle or two of communication and follow-up with consequences, things will level out and your expectations will be clear to everyone which will influence the families that have no intention of pursuing band seriously to sign up for something else.
Dr. Russ Gavin: If possible in your area, include formal assessment into your performances. (By this, I mean give a grade for the concert.) This will impart the importance of being there on both parents and students.
Ryan Moseley: Just like any policy in your program, you need to create an expectation that the students and parents must follow (AND STICK TO IT!). I explain to my students and parents that being in band class but not attending the concert is like practicing for a game, but never playing in any of the games. Why would anyone do that? This usually creates an “AH HA” moment with parents.
In addition, talk with your principal to see if it is possible to count the performance as a graded activity so that there is some weight to your expectation. In my school, the performance is graded and if they do not attend the concert, they have to do a long make-up assignment equivalent to missing the concert. The majority of my students would rather attend the performance than miss and have to do the make-up writing assignment. Lastly, since you know the dates of the concert at the beginning of the year, communicate with the school Athletic Director and principal to see if the game dates or other school events can be changed due to the concert. The best approach is to be proactive and check the school calendar for any conflicts and address them well in advance of the concert. It will help to reduce your stress level around concert season.
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