The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flashbacks to Marching Band

Recently, a graduate from my high school posted an open question on Facebook, "You know you went to Fairfield Union High School if...". When curiosity finally got the best of me, I began reading the comments, many of which were from classmates I haven't seen or heard from in years. And since I was one of several graduates who returned to my high school after college to begin my teaching career (in my case as the band director), I became intrigued by what my former students were writing about me and my teaching colleagues from the 70s and early 80s. My former students now range in age from 45- 56.

I have to admit, what I've read has been fascinating. I feel like an evaluation of my work has been occurring all over again. Here's a sampling of what they recall:
·         I was tough and demanded the highest form of discipline.
·         I worked my students hard.
·         Students knew they were expected to perform and excel at a high level.
·         We held marching band practices in rain, snow, excessive heat, and bitter cold.
·         We were a family.

My former students remember incidences that I've long forgotten. But they remember the way I handled them as well as the people involved who became part of the school’s folklore. I remember some of the complaints and occasionally worried that perhaps my teaching style and rehearsal methods were too extreme. But time shapes our memories, in this case very fondly. Despite the love of music that they learned under my tutelage, it was the sense of discipline, work ethic, and pride that they valued even more. Many have described ways that those characteristics have carried them to success in their varied careers.

I wasn't their only teacher, of course. Facebook fans are also reflecting on the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of many other teachers and the pranks they pulled as part of high school. They remember how their teachers walked, talked, dressed, smelled - and cared. The smallest things made lasting impressions. It doesn't take much reading to discover the teachers that the students liked and who they didn't.

The point of my writing about things such as this in this blog is to remind afterschool professionals that you, too, will someday be fair game for an informal evaluation by your students when they become reflective about their time with you. You probably won't discover their feedback about you via Facebook, but rather, some kind of communication media we can't even imagine today. After all, for my former students who are reflecting about me, the slide rule was high tech for them when we shared those special high school years.

Never waver from your values. Set high expectations. Kids will rise up and meet them. Communication is essential. Listen. Smile. Dress professionally. Show that you care. Have fun.

Kids are always watching. The realization that my former students  now respect (for the most part) what we collectively did to become a successful marching band creates a sense of pride within me that is worth more than any amount of money.

Paul G. Young, Ph. D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association

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