Finally today I got around to reading the October 2007 issue of SBO magazine. In between lessons I flipped through the pages to come across a strangely titled article by Kenneth Thompson titled Keep It Simple. As I skimmed the article to determine what exactly it was about I realized that this was an article that I really needed to read... Carefully!
Like many (most?) band directors I am never happy with my rehearsals. They are often too noisy, too disjointed, and at the end as I reflect on the day's events I can't help but wonder if I really accomplished anything of substance during the rehearsal. Thompson's article hits home in several places during his article, pointing out that often my band's playing deficiencies may be my own deficiencies as a classroom manager. Foremost among these soft spots in my teaching method would have to be pacing of rehearsals. In the article Thompson points out that the pace of the rehearsal is often in the eye of the beholder. What we as a teacher may see as being extremely fast paced may to a student seem very slow and boring. If we spend five minutes working with the clarinets while the rest of the band sits around we may feel like we are moving like crazy while for the other sections of the band they are just sitting there, losing their focus.
To combat this Mr. Thompson suggests doing something that we as band directors do not want to do. He asserts that we should not wait for each student to master a skill in class before moving on to the next, and that if we slow down to the lowest skill level student's pace we are in turn telling the other students that they don't need to practice because they can already play it! That is such a revelation to to many people but it also makes perfect sense. We are all told time and time again that we need to expect more from our students (especially our gifted ones) so that they push themselves to improve. Instead what do we do? We hold back 90% of the band to try to fix something that 10% are having issues with. Take the little things into sectionals or lessons, but push them during large group rehearsals. Sounds good to me... Now I just hope I can retrain myself to do it.