What Goes Around…

bballMy student teacher, Mr. Z, played on the teachers’ team in this year’s Faculty/Student Basketball game during our final pep session of the year.  He is fast, tenacious, and, most importantly, young, which means he can keep up with the 8th graders on the court.

Sad to say, but our teachers lost this year.  We were beaten for the first time ever by an 8th grade team lucky enough to hit two three-pointers.  Even so, with the clock running down, the score was 6-5 and the teachers had the ball with every reason to think we could pull off a come-from-behind victory.  Mr. Z went to the left while Mr. D threw up a long three-point attempt that missed from the right.  The rebound happened to go right into Mr. Z’s hands.  But as soon he made a move toward the bucket for an easy lay-up and a win, Ashley, a member of the 8th grade girl’s team, flagrantly fouled him.  And there was no whistle!  Every student in the crowd knew what had happened, but it was too late.  The clock ran down and the 8th graders flooded the court for a huge celebration.  Our long string of victories was brought down by a blown call.  Oh well… life goes on…

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The next day Mr. Z called the 8th grade General Music class to attention.

“I hope you remembered that we have a quiz today,” he said.  There was general acknowledgement, with only a few surprised looks.

“So, please take out a pencil and put away any notes you have out.  And be sure to write your names on the papers I’m handing out.”

With that he began moving around the room distributing tests.

“Mr. Z, you forgot me,” said Ashley.

“What’s that,” Mr. Z asked, turning toward her.

“I didn’t get a quiz,” she said politely.

“Oh,” he replied, with a mock look of surprise.  “I wasn’t sure you should get one.  I mean, how do I know you won’t cheat on it, like you cheated in the game yesterday,” he asked with a hint of a grin.

Ashley looked stunned, and then put her head down and broke into a big smile.

“Here,” he said, handing her a paper.  “But I’m watching you…”

A Band Director’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

By your grace I am a teacher.  Thank you for placing me here at this school to make a difference in my students’ lives.

But I can’t do it on my own, so please help me.

Help me not to miss any details of things that need to be done, and help me not to be lazy.

Please help me be patient, kind, and wise; and help me handle discipline problems effectively, to be as gentle as possible, and as firm as necessary.

Help me be a friend to those who are lonely, and a father to those needing guidance.

And please help me provide the best band program possible for these students, because they need it.  Help me always remember that the program is here to serve the students, and not the other way around.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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*You may also wish to read “A Band Director’s Prayer for His Students”

Having a Bad Day

Derek was having a bad day.  He was barely responding to my questions, and not following directions.  When I asked him to make a change to the crash cymbal part he was playing, he moved very slowly to the back of the room to get his music.  This, of course, irritated me because he was holding up the entire class and bringing our rehearsal to a grinding halt.

“Can you move more quickly, Derek?” I asked.  “Why don’t you have your music at your music stand?”

“I’m sharing with Trenton,” he said.

“But,” I explained for what seemed like the hundredth time, “I’ve told you before to always have your own music out so you can make notes in it when needed.  This kind of delay is costing you participation points,” I told him, feeling my frustration mounting.

“I don’t even want to be in Band!” he snapped.

“Why don’t you wait in the hallway?  We have one too many drummers, anyway,” I popped off, instantly regretting it.

This wasn’t the first time in 20 years of teaching that I have spoken carelessly.  And, sadly, it probably won’t be the last.  But I have always had the policy that if I mess up like this in front of the Band, I will apologize in front of the Band.  So…

“I’m sorry, Derek.  That was inappropriate, and I shouldn’t have said it.  Now, will you please wait for me in the hallway?”  Derek headed for the door.

Turning to my student teacher, I asked, “Mr. Z., will you please lead rehearsal for a few minutes?”  He came right to the podium and took over while I, too, headed for the door.

Once in the hallway, I asked in a quiet voice, “What’s going on today, Derek?  I know you occasionally have an off day, but you aren’t usually like this.  I don’t believe you want to quit Band after three years.  Is there something you want to talk about?”

Derek’s attitude changed completely.  Instead of being difficult or defiant, he was respectful.

“Me and my sister gotta go to CPS today to talk about our mom,” he said.  I had to think for a moment, but I realized CPS means Child Protective Services.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“My mom’s been doin’ drugs, and now CPS wants to ask us about it ‘cause she’s been doin’ drugs in front of us.”

It’s still hard for me to believe there are kids – a lot of them – who have to grow up in these kinds of situations.

“Well,” I offered, “there probably isn’t much I can do, but if there is, please let me know, even if you just want to come by and talk.”

Derek nodded.

“In the meantime,” I continued, “you can stay out here in the hallway if you want to.  I would understand.  But I’ll bet you would rather rejoin the rehearsal.  Let’s get your mind on learning this music and doing your best.  It will help you get this other stuff out of your head for a little bit.”

He nodded again.

“And, Derek, I really am sorry for my comment.”

“It’s o.k.,” he told me.  “I’m sorry for what I said, too.”

“No problem.  Let’s go back to class.”

Eggs & Gas

My friend Wayne pointed out that if you rearrange the letters of the word “Listen” you get the word “Silent,” which is what you need to be in order to listen.  Excellent advice.  Here is some of what I have heard at Backpack Middle School lately.

~~~~~~~~

After a BandLand rehearsal a few days ago two girls were having a lively conversation in which they kept finishing each other’s sentences.  Amazed, one of them turned to me and said, “Wow, Mr. Shaver.  It’s like we can read each other’s minds.  We must be psychotic or something!”

~~~~~~~~

During another rehearsal, I was feeling frustrated with my 6th graders because they wouldn’t respond to my conducting.

39e3f_funny-pictures-kitten-hates-your-swearing“You need to watch me more,” I said.  “I’ve been conducting with really big gestures, but I’m hearing only the slightest differences in your playing.  It’s sort of like driving my first car – a VW diesel station wagon.  Even when I pressed the pedal all the way to the floor, the engine only went “putter, putter, putter,” like it didn’t have any fuel in the tank.  So, come on – get some gas in your tanks and be more like sports cars!”

To which Violet smiled and said, “I have lots of gas.”

~~~~~~~~

Two boys in my 7th grade music class kept making wisecracks, trying to get people to laugh.  After they had ignored several of my warnings to settle down and get quiet, I asked them to wait for me in the hallway.  A few minutes later, I joined them for a talk.

“Look, Gentlemen, I know you were just trying to be funny.  And, actually, some of your comments almost made me laugh,” I said, and they both kind of grinned.

“But, every comedian knows that timing is everything, and this just isn’t the right time,” I continued.  Upon hearing the word ‘comedian,’ Robbie brightened right up with a big smile on his face.

“When I grow up I want to be a comedian!” he said, but seeing the look on my face, the smile quickly vanished as he softly added, “…but not today.”

~~~~~~~~

Another of my music students could have been listening more closely when I told the class about Amy Beach, one of the few women composers of the 1800s.  He came up a little short on the next quiz when he wrote “Sandy Beach.”

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Jon, an 8th grade trombonist, was invited to last month’s school board meeting to receive a certificate of honor for making this year’s Jr. All-State Band.  This was a big deal for a student from a small country school like ours.

His father, being a county sheriff’s deputy, was on duty that night, but managed to come by the meeting to watch.  While waiting in the audience, his cell phone rang with what sounded very much like the theme song from the old TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” to which someone wryly remarked, “Must be official police business.”

~~~~~~~~

Two boys were doing some friendly trash talking in the hallway when one said to the other, “Don’t mess with me, man.  I know where you live.  And my parents own your house!”

~~~~~~~~

“Where’s the new banner, Mr. Shaver?” asked Caleb.  He had seen me working on a banner the day before that said, “DON’T BE LAZY!”  Now he was looking around the room to see where I had hung it.

“Oh,” I grinned, “I didn’t feel like putting it up…”

“Ah…” he said, raising his eyebrows and smiling. “I get it!”

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Finally today comes this story from my student teacher (see “Mr. Z” at http://wp.me/p2fXmE-cm), as he told it to some BandLand students:

250px-White_chicken_egg_square“I wanted to boil an egg for supper last night,” said Mr. Z, “but I don’t have a stove or oven (or TV or computer) in my apartment.”

“Bummer,” said a student.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Z.  “Anyway, I do have a microwave, so I used my phone to Google, “Boiling Eggs in a Microwave,” and followed the directions.  I put an egg in a bowl of water and set the timer for eight minutes.  At about the five minute mark I bent down and looked through the window to check the egg’s progress, but just as I did this, the egg exploded!  And I don’t mean that it just went “poof” inside the microwave.  The force broke the glass tray under the bowl, and actually blew the door open in my face, sending broken glass, boiling water, and bits of boiling egg everywhere around the room!”

Pulling his sleeves up a little, he showed the students a couple burn marks where the egg had stuck to his skin.

“I even have a little burn on my eye lid,” he told them.  “And since I was barefooted, I got a small cut on my foot when I stepped on a piece of broken glass while I was jumping around the room!”

“What did you do?” someone asked.

“I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up the kitchen.  There was even egg on the wall behind the microwave.  Then I took a shower to clean myself up.”

“Mr. Z?” asked Caleb, “Don’t you know that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet?”

What’s in a Name?

“SO, WHO IS JUDGE #3?” she bellowed.

We all looked toward the door of the judges’ meeting room to see a rather large, black high school student with a big smile on her face scanning the people seated at our table.  We had gathered there for last minute instructions before going off to spend this Saturday evaluating middle and high school students who were hoping to earn medals for their musical performances.  This young lady, who had volunteered to work as a judge’s assistant, had come to show Judge #3 to her performance room.

I don’t think I was the only one startled by her boldness; most young people would have been shy about interrupting a group such as ours.  She was not.  On the contrary, her outsized personality dominated and brightened the room.

“Mrs. Stanley hasn’t arrived, yet,” replied the head judge.  “We think the snowy weather may be slowing her down.”

“No problem.  I’m happy to wait,” the young lady said.

One by one, the other judge’s assistants, high school volunteers all, arrived to show us to our performance areas.  I had been assigned to judge the upper level piano solos in the auditorium.  I would be listening to more than 40 students, most of whom were hoping to qualify for the State Festival to be held a few weeks later.

My assistant’s name was Lizzy, though she would only be with me for the morning; another student would be taking her place.  Lizzy was a senior and a member of the high school choir.  Her plans included attending Purdue University where she would receive a partial tuition waiver because her father worked there.  In addition, she had already been awarded a fairly substantial scholarship because she was a very good student with a 3.8 gpa.

Lizzy’s job this day was to keep the students organized who were waiting in the lobby for their turn to play.  She would also be double checking my math on the score sheets I would be filling out, and running paperwork here and there.

After about two hours of this, I heard that voice again.

“ALRIGHT, LIZZY.  IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO GET GOING!”

Looking over my shoulder, I saw the young lady who had greeted all of us early that morning.  She was strolling toward us down the aisle of the auditorium.

“You’re leaving so soon?” I asked Lizzy.

“She needs to go warm up for her performance,” said the Voice.

“Yeah.  I’m singing a solo in a few minutes,” explained Lizzy.

“Very good,” I said.  “I hope it goes well.  Best of luck to you.”

Turning to the Voice, Lizzy asked, “Are you here to replace me?”

“Oh yeah!” she said.  “I’ll fill in for a few minutes until Alex comes.  He’ll be taking over for the rest of the day.”

“Thanks, a bunch,” said Lizzy.  “By the way, you’re also performing today, aren’t you.  What are you singing?”

“A negro spiritual,” she answered.

“What?  You aren’t supposed to call it that,” Lizzy said with a laugh.

“Why not?” she said, with an even bigger laugh.  “I’m allowed, and that’s what it is!”

“What is your name?” I asked.

“Chaquita,” she answered, but I hadn’t quite been able to hear her.

“Did you say ‘Chaquita?’” I asked.

“Just call me Kylee.  Everyone else does,” she said.

“Why is that?”

“’Cause ‘Chaquita’ is hard to pronounce, and it’s SO black,” she answered, smiling.

“I think it’s pretty.  Do you spell it with ‘Ch’ or ‘Sh?’”

“Good heavens,” she laughed again.  “It’s spelled with a ‘Ch.’  ‘Sh’ is so ghetto!”

“Well, Chaquita, what year are you in school?” I asked.

“I’m a junior.”

“Do you have any plans yet for when you graduate?”

“I’m thinking of studying law in New Mexico.  They’ve already offered me a scholarship to sing in their choir,” she told me.

“Wow.  You must be pretty good.”

“I’ve made it to the fourth round of auditions for “The Voice,” she said.  “You know, the reality singing competition on TV?”

“I’ve heard of it.  Congratulations!  When is the next round?”

“I’m supposed to submit a video recording by tonight, but I’m not sure if I’m going to make the deadline.”

“Well, I hope you do.  You sure have a dynamic personality, and you seem very comfortable with people,” I said.  “Maybe I’ll get to see you on TV someday.”

“Just watch for Kylee Armani.  That’s going to be my stage name.”

At this point we were interrupted by a student waiting to perform his piano solo, and with the busy schedule we had to keep, I didn’t get to ask her any more questions.  Though our conversation had been brief, she had made a lasting impression.  I heard some excellent performances that day, but Chaquita’s was the most memorable, and she hadn’t even sung a note.

What Is It With Lockers?

Not long ago I told you about Ethan’s magic locker (see it here – http://wp.me/p2fXmE-a7).  Now comes this story.

The other day an 8th grader named Peter stopped me in the hallway at Backpack Middle School and said he couldn’t get his locker open.

“No problem,” I told him.locker  “What’s the combination?”

“22-28-38,” he said.

So I tried it for him and, sure enough, it wouldn’t open.  I tried it a second time, but no luck.

“I’m stuck.  I don’t know what’s wrong,” I said.

“Here, Mr. Shaver,” said Mrs. Crowder, who had seen what we were trying to do.  “I have a key.”

“Oh, good.  Thank you.”  I said, opening the locker.

Seeing the inside of it, Peter started laughing.  “My bad,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“That’s not my locker,” he answered, with an embarrassed smile.

Guns in Schools

lego-laser-tank1

(picture credit: finnslego.wordpress.com)

According to the CBS Boston local news website, a five year old school boy recently made a toy gun out of Legos, then ran around his classroom pointing it at other students while making shooting noises.  So the school made the boy’s mother sign a paper saying that if the child did this again he would be suspended.  According to the superintendent, the school has a responsibility to create an atmosphere of respect in which students “feel comfortable and not intimidated in school.”

You can read about it here:  http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/01/29/hyannis-5-year-old-threatened-with-suspension-for-making-gun-out-of-legos/

A few questions come to mind:

  1. Why was the student allowed to run around the room?  Would it have been o.k if he had been walking?
  2. Why not just take away the Legos? Or require that students have a license to play with them?
  3. Could this have been the offending student’s (misguided) way of making the other students respect him?
  4. What should be done if the student trades in his Legos for a “hand gun?”  You know, what if he points his finger and raises his thumb to make a gun?

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This morning as I was greeting students in the hallway at Backpack Middle School on their way to first period, one of my 8th graders came along with his hand in the shape of a gun.  Personally, I think he was simply pointing at something down the hallway, but these days we can’t be too cautious.

“Stephen (not his real name),” I called, waving for him to stop and come see me.  “What are you doing with that gun?  You know that is supposed to be left in your locker during school hours.”

He looked down at his hand, then back up at me.

“Next time, I’ll have to confiscate it and turn it in to the office, and your parents will have to come into the school to get it back for you.” I told him.  “Now, holster that thing before someone gets hurt.”

So with a grin, he stuck his hand in his pocket and went on to class.

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