36th year of teaching

Preparing for the final concert of my 36th year of teaching

On Friday I turned in my paperwork and officially completed my 36th year of teaching. So, what have I learned?


Administrators make a world of difference.

For 28 years I worked with administrators who, for the most part, were indifferent to what I was doing with the band. I remember telling an administrator about a great weekend the band had and he replied, “No one comes to this school for band.”

Compare that response with my current situation. For the last 8 years there have been 3 administrators at just about every performance. And, the principal enthusiastically introduces each performance. At my former school, the administration always had an excuse for not attending.

It literally puts a spring in your step when you have administrative support.

Stick with it

If you are a young teacher, you’re probably not that great at your job. Sorry. But, I have good news! You’ll get much better!

I remember watching an experienced band director rehearse a group when I was a young buck. I looked at one of my fellow directors (he was also a young director) and said, “I can’t even hear the mistakes that he’s fixing!”.

My ears got much better over time. Malcolm Gladwell postulates that it takes 10,000 hours of concentrated practice to become great at something. There’s a lot of wisdom there. You’ll need to work at teaching well.

I’m still working at it!


There’s more to life than teaching.

I can hear my education friends yelling, “Heresy!” “We’re changing lives!” “The kids deserve all that we have!” One of my least favorite titles of an educational book is called, “Kids deserve it!“.

Ok, let me explain. Here’s what kids deserve. Kids deserve to be loved. They deserve good parents and a family that cares for them and loves them. They don’t deserve your family’s destruction or your exhaustion.

The kids deserve a well rested, healthy teacher.

When you’ve reached the end of your life, your students will not be at your bedside. Do you think your former students will bathe you and take care of you if you become an invalid? They might attend your funeral and say some nice things. Then they will go home. TO THEIR FAMILIES!

The students have their own families. You are not their family. Shocking! I know.

I remember telling band students years ago. “Don’t call me at home. There is no such thing as a band emergency!” I would add, there is no such thing as an educational emergency. Give the students your best and then go home.

I’m not saying that you should stare at the clock and run out the door. Let’s talk about that next.

Celebrate each day

Enjoy every day as much as possible. I am concerned about teachers who are always counting down. “Two days till the weekend.” “30 more days till spring break!”

If you’re in education for the holidays, please get out! I’m not kidding. Get OUT of teaching. The kids definitely deserve to have someone better than you counting the minutes or days to get out of the classroom.

We all get tired. I’m not talking about that final countdown that the exhausted teacher enjoys. I’m talking about the teacher who is longing for the weekend on Monday morning every single week.

Teaching is an honorable profession. You get to mold the character of the next generation. You’re teaching a lot more than your written curriculum. The kids are looking to you as an example. Don’t give them the impression that they should live for the weekends.

You do realize that the weekend is 2 days and the school week is 5, right? Like teaching, or leave it! You deserve better!


You have to choose to get better. Attend workshops, read books, watch other great teachers.

Have you ever watched a tomato grow? A blossom appears, then falls away exposing a small green circle. Over time that little green sphere grows larger until one day you notice that it is changing colors. Eventually the green turns to a deep red. If you don’t pick the tomato, it will fall to the ground and decay.

Your teaching is like this. You begin filled with the flower of youthful vitality. But, that can’t last forever and when the flower falls away you realize that you are very small and undeveloped. Over time you grow.

What makes the tomato turn red? It turns red because it has stopped growing and is starting to die. If you want to become a better teacher next year, you’ll have to make plans to grow.

I plan to attend a 3 day seminar this summer to improve my beginning band teaching.

Summer is a great time to rest and grow! Rest. But, have a plan to improve your skills.

Celebrating my 36th year of teaching

One response to “36th year of teaching”

  1. Great thoughts, Sir! There is nothing like the expertise gained from decades of honing your craft.

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