Posts Tagged ‘middle school teacher’

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,



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


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.”


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!”


Finally today comes this story from my student teacher (see “Mr. Z” at, 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 Is It With Lockers?

Not long ago I told you about Ethan’s magic locker (see it here –  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  “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.

Back to School

Summer break is over, so it’s back to school and back to BandLand.  Backpack Middle School has been in session for one week now, and all things considered, it went pretty well.

The start of a new year is always challenging:  new students, new classes, new schedule, hectic pace.  And it is early to bed, early to rise.  During the school year my day starts a little before 6:00 am, which I know is not that early.  It just seems early because it can be difficult to get to sleep early the night before.  And I go home the first few days of each new year with a tired, sore, or strained voice.  It takes a few days to get my “teacher” voice back.

This was the start of my 20th school year, and it went unusually smoothly.  But there have been many changes to my job, and it hasn’t been easy to adjust to all of them.  For one thing, our school lost two more staff positions this summer.  Rather than replacing two retiring teachers, our administrators reduced our school day from eight periods to seven and lengthened the classes accordingly.  With the change came the loss of one band class as the two Cadet Band classes were combined into one.  So I now teach three band classes and three general music classes each day.

The schedule change also means I will no longer be able to group 6th and 7th grade band students by ability, but only by grade level.  In other words, a struggling 7th grader will be put in the Concert Band whether or not he or she is ready; conversely, high achieving 6th graders will be placed in the Cadet Band with beginners even if they are capable of advanced work.

There are a lot of changes coming regarding our teacher evaluation system and the institution of a new merit pay system.  Since many questions remain unanswered, I feel a cloud of uncertainty hanging on as I wait to see what will come.

On the bright side, the band enrollment numbers are up a little over last year, with both bands showing great potential.  And the students of my general music classes seem to be generally respectful and cooperative, though I did have to remove two disruptive students from class this week.  Once they had tested their boundaries and found the limits, however, their behavior improved.

There were mornings this week when I was less than excited about the work load facing me, but I was also reminded many times why I love to teach.  For instance, there was Ashley, who has obviously been practicing her flute this summer.  And there was R.J., who seemed completely disinterested in music class – until we started learning how to play guitars.  And there was Melissa who welcomed me back to school with a hug and high five.

And on Friday, James came over to my desk to show me the scrape on his shoulder.

“How did that happen?” I asked him.  “And make it a good story,” I added.

“Well,” he began, “I was playing basketball with some friends…”

“You were involved in a high speed chase,” I paraphrased.

“And when I jumped for a rebound…” he continued unfazed.

“You mean… when you cornered some Russian spies,” I reinterpreted.

“I fell down and hurt my shoulder,” he finished with a grin.

“One of them shot at you, and the bullet grazed your shoulder,” I finished.

“Something like that,” he said, grinning.  “I just wanted you to know in case I have trouble holding my trumpet in band today.”

“Don’t worry.  As far as I’m concerned, you are a national hero.  Thank you for your service to our country.”

Pencils and Education Reform

The following “Letter to the Editor” was published by the Indy Star in December, 2010:

The results of a 2010 Associated Press-Stanford University survey show that 68% of adults blame parents more than schools for the ills of our education system.  This and other recent writings may indicate a shift in the education reform debate toward a desire to hold parents more accountable for the success of their students in school.

But how?  As a middle school teacher, I would like to suggest a starting point:  Let’s stop providing pencils to students who don’t care enough to bring their own pencils to class.  Let me explain.

For years I have loaned pencils to students who are too lazy or apathetic to bring this most basic supply to my General Music class.  But the more I have done for them, the less they have done for themselves:  first pencils, then paper; then I tell them every word to write down in notes they will never study.  Meanwhile, other students who could be moving ahead are instead getting bored and aren’t learning anything.

Well, no more.  For any student who wants to learn, I provide the best lesson I possibly can.  Those students who come unprepared will not be required to do anything more than sit quietly, refrain from disrupting class, take tests, and fail.

This is where our communities come in.  If teachers everywhere follow this approach, inevitably some parents will complain to their schools’ principals when their students are failing.  Principals need to know that their communities support them.  If we want our sons and daughters to be taught challenging, worthwhile lessons, we need to get involved.  We should tell our principals to hold the line and insist that students take responsibility for their education.  Otherwise, for the sake of lazy or apathetic students, teachers will continue enabling irresponsible behavior and dumbing down lessons in a vain effort to ensure that all students pass, whether they want to pass or not.

Rob Shaver



It has been two school years since I enacted the policy described above.  In that time, the number of students who show up to my class unprepared has dropped significantly.

I have also tightened up my policy on work that is turned in late, with a resulting increase in the number of assignments being turned in on time.

While I still have too many apathetic students, it seems reasonable to conclude that low expectations benefit no one.