Rethinking My Approach, Part 1: Classroom Management through Attention to Individuals

In another post, I wrote about how one of my schools performed a particularly poor Winter Concert. That experience has forced me to reflect on my teaching techniques and rethink some of my basic approaches to working with those students.

Over the next few posts, I’ll write about some of the biggest issues those ensembles are facing (and they’re big ones!) and how I’ll address them. I’ll share some thoughts about my classroom management here.

The Beginning Band at this school is one of the biggest I’ve ever had. While that’s great for my numbers, it means that I have very little time to give individual attention to each student. Consequently, those students probably think I’m a madman, frantically trying to cram all I can into each 30 minute lesson. They probably aren’t getting the encouraging/nurturing praise and relationship building they probably need from me.

No, I don't teach guitar, but this is the best image I could find!

Therefore, my goal for the new calendar year is to offer a minute of personal attention and praise to each student in that class at some point within the first two weeks of January. My hope is that if each student individually knows that I value and care about him/her, then the overall morale of the band will improve.

I also think that I need to offer another minute of admonition about appropriate behavior and personal responsibility to my more troublesome students. While these students certainly need positive reinforcement, I also want to make sure they are aware of how their behavior affects the rest of the class. Likewise, my hope is that disruptions will decrease if each student individually understands how I expect him/her to behave.

Also, I’ll try and keep the “praise minute” and the “admonition minute” separate conversations. I don’t necessarily want my students to think their value rests entirely on their behavior.

Does any of this make sense? Can you relate? Any thoughts?

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6 thoughts on “Rethinking My Approach, Part 1: Classroom Management through Attention to Individuals

  1. Good on you for making education personal! After all, we don’t teach music, we teach the students, right?

    As for the “admonition minute,” having never met your students, I’ll trust you on this one, but the way it sounds here strikes me particularly funny because we’ve been taught to consider first the cause of the students’ behaviors. So, a minute spent after class just checking in and asking if everything’s okay might reveal that Johnny gets a rough start because of kids on the bus or that he didn’t get to play his favorite position in baseball during gym class. I can’t wait to try that one this summer to see how well it works.

    Let me know the results you get using your new strategies!
    -Greg

  2. Thanks for the insight! I taught public school music for 25 years and found that large ensembles work best when they feel ownership and pride in their organization. Even though we are very concerned with the individual student, they are concerned about belonging to a successful and busy organization that they feel proud to be a part of. Take a look at good coaches of sucessful athletic teams….Those kids work hard for a coach that can help them be a winning team. They love a good coach that is fair and knows what he is doing. When they have that confidence…they can relax and trust him. I think that the special moment with each student can backfire and kids will not trust it and the motive behind it. Leave those special touches to the private one on one teachers. You are the manager of a large ensemble and the approach has to be very different. Just do your job…and they will respond!

  3. Greg: Boy to I have a story to confirm your concept! Yesterday one of my percussionists missed music class again. Since I had only seem him once since coming back from Winter Break, I asked one of the other students to go get him. When I started in on my usual lecture to him about attendance, he interrupted me and told me he missed class on Monday because he was at his brother’s funeral.

    Is that not the very definition of what Stephen Covey calls a paradigm shift?

  4. Today I gave my longest ever lecture to a class about behavior. It seemed to me that my musical instructions were being ignored, so I gave some management instructions, which were also ignored. When I finally had the classed attention again, I sorta let them have it. I did not raise my voice, but I called them out for their disrespectful, rude actions.

    I would LOVE to follow up with some positive feedback for them next week. Your thoughts are inspiring to me, Steve.

  5. Pingback: Success! Redemption! « Music Ed Lounge

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