February 5, 2008

Okay. I’ve had it.

Today, my band conducted a sit-down strike in class. It was the simplest form of protest they could have managed. They simply sat on the floor, continued to play as normal, no unusual activity otherwise.

Their greivances: I’m too hard on them, and my grading policies are unfair. We discussed this at length.

I’d get really dramatic, but I’m wasted. These kids. Excuse me…my kids. Our kids.

Essentially, they felt they are being mistreated, and want something done about it. Fair enough. They also think that my decision to simply wait until they are done talking is not fair, because they just want to play. They also think I should let them select what music they are going to play.

Pardon me if this sounds belittling, but what do they know anyway. I didn’t go to school for five years to just hand over all the important music decisions to a bunch of second- and third- year music students! Besides, I just want them to sound good and do well. Is is so much to ask that they trust me in my decision making processes?

I’m not mad at them, I’m actually very proud that they stood up for something they thought was unfair and were willing to discuss it in a mature and listening manner. What smart children our students are! They even did the research to find out what the law says they can and can’t do in a protest. It was peaceful, mostly well-organized, and definitely part of taking hold of their own education! What more can we ask for in something like this?

Tomorrow, I’ll give my official stance on this. Right now, I’m trying not to have a nervous breakdown over the fact that they were protesting me! Okay, well, not me, but after all the struggle of just getting them to shut up, it seems like it is very personal. I’m working hard not to. Even the principal said it’s hard not to with something like this.

So, here I go, off to write an essay for the first time in a while. I hope all goes well tomorrow. What a teaching point, but what a pressure point.

P.S.- I can’t help but remember that this IS Black History Month. How apropos.



  1. What kind of band director did these kids have before you were there?! Sounds to me like they were used to a very laid back band environment. I think you’ve been doing the right thing setting specific rules and procedures and enforcing them. Sorry you’re having to go through this, but it seems like you’re handling it well.

    My husband (also a band director–what a pair we are!) had similar experiences his first and second year of teaching, mostly because of the major differences in both personality and teaching style between he and their last band director. It was a horrific experience for him, so much so that he almost left the profession because of it. To make a long story short, he ended up giving teaching a second chance in a new district, where he is now in his fourth year and beloved by all. His program is outstanding and still gets better every day. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

    Don’t give up…I can tell how much you love music and want to pass that on to your students. Things WILL look up.

  2. You’re not being belittling by asking what they know that you – an educated, licensed professional teacher – don’t. You’re there for a reason, and they may not LIKE your policies, but you have something to teach them (maybe just that, often, we have to do things we’re not thrilled about having to do). You can respect their grievances and still stand your ground, and I think that’s precisely what you should do.

    Let me know if there’s anything at all I can do to help…

  3. I’m not a teacher, but isn’t that a lot of the complaints that students have? They lose a lot of their rights when they walk into your room because you are getting paid to Tell Them What To Do. I mean, at a certain point, can’t you just say, well – that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m dropping everyone protesting to a C average and you all will need to work up back to an A?

    Shoot, I mean, I really don’t think they should have any leverage beyond what’s accepted as human rights, potty breaks and the like. If they “don’t like your policies” they can go ahead and take shop. Honestly.

    I think I’m just as worked up as you. You just handle in more diplomatically and this is why you’re a teacher.

  4. I agree with C. You are there to teach them. They elected to take your class and they agreed to follow the rules at the beginning of the year. I know you can’t change their grades just for disagreeing with your teaching style but you can give them an ultimatum. You agree to consider they’re prefrences in music but they need to respect the fact that you DO have more knowledge about educating them in music than they do. You KNOW what they need as a group to do well and you KNOW what peices of music are best for the entire band and not just sections.

    The generations to come will have and do not have respect for any one based on how much they know or how much they can teach them. It is only about whether or not they agree with you or like what you do and how you do it. Respect is based on what they get and not what they give.

    Good luck to you my friend we are all behind you 100%!!! 🙂

  5. Wow. This goes back to my comment I made yesterday about how kids are pretty much handed everything on a silver platter.

    They will be in for a big surprise when they enter the real world. I’m with C too, and I’d have to say you can’t just lower their grades for the hell of it, however, if you assign work and the work isn’t being done, then that can lower grades too. Don’t give into the little bastards …. rock on dude.

    Rock on.

  6. *edit* I mean to say … Don’t give into the little bastards, they may one day be president …

  7. Hell, he can change grades I’m thinking. If a teacher gets pissy at the college level, buh bye participation grade which can be as much as 30 percent of the grade.

    And protest = no participation.

  8. *hugs* Sorry I’ve been absent from reading lately. Busy, busy. I’m glad the students had an organized protest. It does make them smart; however, you have the right to teach them. It’s your job. They need the fundamental building blocks that you teach for them to become great musicians.

    One time, back in Jr. High, I recall Mrs. M telling a few of our chatty girls that if they didn’t want to sing, they could get out of her classroom. By them talking and flitting about, they are disturbing those that have the desire to learn and thrive from you.

    I wish you the best. Not much left in this school year, right?

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