Friday, October 7, 2011

Crunch Time, Decisions, Manatees, and the Ironic cause of Exhaustion

I feel like I'm waterboarding kids and getting paid for it... Yet no one complains about the work.
I have marched my students, especially the Middle School band, so persistently that I'm noticing deltoid enhancement in a few <100lb 7th grade trumpet players. Either the 4 foot 4 kid is taking steroids or we've worked hard.
But it shows. None of these kids had ever marched before and during first few weeks when we marched in the confines of the track I found it nearly unbearably embarrassing. But we worked and worked both on our music and our marching and miracles began to appear.
Friday September 30 the MS Band marched in the homecoming parade while the HS kids did their thing. They rocked it. No it wasn't perfect but I felt such overwhelming joy at the skills they had developed and were showing off. You know that one trombone player in every band that can't play work crud and doesn't understand the whole left-right-left-right concept of marching: ya that kid, anyway HE DID IT!!! They got sloppy in their playing after the 5th time through in the parade but we had already passed the main crowd. I was incredibly proud.

That night at the football game the HS band joined us and to say the least they were not focused on doing well. I knew as we got ready in the band room that they weren't ready to do the game. I had students just up and leave the pep band, several got in a fight in the parking lot. Most of the bad behavior was the HS students. The MS kids did their best, but they mostly have 2nd parts to the pep band stuff. To say it shortly: they sucked, badly. Both in behavior and music.
My AD caught me in the 2nd quarter and asked why the band didn't sound as good as it had at previous games and if I would come give a statement to the sheriff on my kids who had been ticketed... All I can say was lack of focus. They know their expectations and have done fine in the past, but by then I had already sent 4 kids home because they couldn't demonstrate appropriate behavior. We called off pep band at halftime (usually they get the 3rd quarter off and come back for the end) and went in to the school where I gave a speech where I nearly screamed and cried in the same sentence. I felt a really odd combination of anger/embarrassment/disappointment. My superintendent and I talk a lot and he says that band directors, more than most teachers, are so vested in the ensemble that when the kids make bad decisions we feel like we failed, when really the kids just made dumb decisions.
Now we face the last 10 days of work prior to our big marching competition. Crunch Time. They've shaped it up again, just homecoming night was a fail. My MS band has out-worked and out-marched the HS, but the HS still can play better. Hopefully it'll average out come Saturday Oct. 15th.

We have had repeated issues with a lack of instruments. My HS Band has 18, MS has 29, 6th has 26, and 5th has 22. Thats what, 85 band kids in a district with 300 students K-12. Massive growth. But maybe a dozen of the students own their own instruments. About 87% qualify for free lunch so we provide their instruments. I ran out long time ago and we're a little too creative in sharing and doubling. I've invested in a lot of disinfectant spray for mouthpieces and the admin, against my recommendation, purchased a few $99 chinese flutes/clarinets that are JUNK. But whatev'. So logically I've been applying for grants, haven't succeeded yet, but I'm not quitting. Thus my big decision... the board and admin have asked me to prepare a proposal of sorts on the standing requirement for all 5-6th graders to be in band. My current inclination is to remove that requirement. I'd rather have a beginning band of 10-15 kids who give a flying crap about band than deal with the circus of 8 drummers who refused to play anything but drums because they didn't want to be in band in the first place. Still facing that decision though.

I do have a lovely mentor that the district assigned to me. They try to give you a mentor from a similar subject, but the choir teacher doesn't give off that mentor vibe. So my mentor is the MS Science teacher. Random, I know. But she is great. She's observed me a time or two and I've always left our meetings a little more prepared and motivated. She stinks at spelling and emailed me once by saying that I was her manatee. I find it funny. Manatee, he he he.

Finally, today I nearly was late to school. My 1st period class was in the room when I arrived literally with one minute to spare. I was embarrassed. But here is the thing. My nightly routine is this:
     8pm-ish Put Lydia and myself to bed
     11pm Quiet, feed, change and put Lydia back to bed then myself
     5am Quiet feed change and put Lydia back to bed and clean up the house and get ready for work. I don't go back to sleep.
Last night Lydia slept through. She didn't wake at 5, or 6, or 7. I woke up in a panic at 7:50 wondering if  my kid was dead. She was happily asleep, but I was late for work. I re-hit the internal PANIC switch and clambored my way to school. Apparently my child is no longer a natural alarm clock. I think it is ironic that I had a full nights sleep but because of no breakfast, no prep time, etc I feel brutally exhausted. Epic fail.
And thats the story from Franklin where all the women and strong, the men are harvesting, and the children... don't get me started on the children.