It has been said that students, and people in general, will perform only as well as their superiors expect them to, be it academically, socially, or professionally. As a substitute teacher I have been observing the different behaviors of students in classes, and how the expectations of their teachers influence them. Here I will attempt to describe some of my observations. The names and the ensembles of the schools will be obscured for privacy.
In school “T”, I notice that one of the ensemble directors frequently makes excuses for the students “Bobby is having a bad day”, “Sally’s mom is sick”, etc. Often the continually disruptive students are allowed to remain in the music class, and do not receive disciplinary action as often as would seem necessary. The director has also acknowledged that some of the ensembles cannot play very well, and allows this to continue. In my observation, it seems that discipline in this classroom needs to be increased (or at least be consistent), and that the students need to stop making excuses for their behavior. I can sympathize with a student who has a parent with health problems, or who has other home issues, but that is not an excuse for performing at a sub-par level. Home life issues were never an acceptable excuse for me in school, and they are not acceptable reasons for acting out as adults. (Imagine if adults broke random rules whenever they had a bad day!) We are expected to follow directions and remain “professional” even when faced with other obstacles.
In school “K” the students are well behaved, but not particularly advanced musicians; I would say they are about average from the schools I have seen. This ensemble teacher makes it very clear that behavior rules are to be followed, and consequences are quick and severe enough that the students get the picture. When a student plays when they aren’t supposed to, this director asks “Was that necessary?” or “Was it your turn to play?” And the student can only reply in the negative. I feel that the discipline at this school is well-handled, and the teacher is well-liked. I do think, however, that the students could achieve more if they were pushed a little harder. Students are often capable of much more than we think they are!
At school “C” there is a high level of parent involvement, and students are required to keep up their grades or they will be removed from the program. The discipline is strict, and the ensemble teacher consistently delivers consequences appropriate to each action in a swift manner. The ensembles are playing above the average level, and are playing highly difficult music for middle school students. The expectations are high at this school, and the students live up to them!
Read this blog from NPR.org for more information.