Building Relationships…One Step at a Time!

You know how excited I am about my PLN!!!  Well look what the innovative, creative, and caring minds of the #compelledtribe have put together. Here is a collaborative post from fellow tribe members. As always I am honored to be part of such an authentic group of educators who make a difference for our nation’s children each and every day!


building relationships

It all goes back to relationships!

Relationships are the essential element in our schools. The old adage, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is true especially in today’s society when kids are used to so much choice in their world. Also, in today’s busy world, it’s important for teachers and school staff to make positive connections with students. We must be intentional and taking time with these relationships must be purposeful.

Members of the Compelled Tribe have teamed up to share practical ways for educators to build relationships with students. As connected educators we also embrace the notion that it is the power of the team that drives much of what we do. How do you build relationships with those that you serve? See the list below for ideas to add to what you may be already doing in the buildings and districts in which you work.

  1. Greet students at the door. Smile and call them by name. Tell them you are glad to see them.
  2. Ask your students to share three things about themselves. Let them choose what they share. Keep them on index cards to help make connections throughout the year.
  3. Know your students families. As important as it is to know the students, make the connection to home. Great relationships with your kids starts where they kick off their day. As the year continues and both the good and bad arise, having that connection will be crucial to getting the results you are seeking.
  4. Journal writing is an activity to get to know your students well and give students a voice in the classroom.
  5. Make positive phone calls home especially within the first two weeks of the school year.
  6. Genius Hour/Passion Projects really give teachers an opportunity to learn about student passions.
  7. Have kids make something that represents them out of Play-dough and share.
  8. In the first couple of days of school, learn the first name of every student in your first class of the day, and something personal and unique about them that has nothing to do with your first class of the day.
  9. Be vulnerable!  Let your guard down and show your students that you are a learner, you make mistakes, and persevere.  They will see you as a person, opening the door for a relationship built on trust. Share stories about yourself as a learner or challenges you’ve faced when you were there age and help them see what it took to overcome it. It’s easy to forget how much a simple connection can make the difference.
  10. Eat together.  Have breakfast with a small group of kids or join them at the lunch table.  Gathering around meal time provides an informal way to have conversations and get to know your students.
  11. Hold Monday morning meetings (We call them “Weekend News Updates”).  Ask each student to share about their weekend – good or bad.  Ask questions.  Be sure to share about your weekend too!  Occasionally bring in breakfast or make hot chocolate.
  12. Laugh with them. Frequently. Show them that school, and your class, is just not about learning stuff. It is about sharing an experience. Tell them you missed them if they were out.
  13. Keep in touch with past students.  Show past students that you do not have a 1 year contract with them.  The ongoing relationship will also model to your current students the value of a positive classroom community.
  14. At the elementary level — hold morning meeting everyday as a class and stick to the routine of greeting, sharing, team building activity, and morning message.  This is a sacred time to build and maintain a culture of risk tasking and building relationships.
  15. Send positive postcards home to every child. Have them address it on the first day of the quarter, keep them and challenge yourself to find at least one thing each quarter to celebrate about your students, let them and their parents know.
  16. Find their interests and what motivates them! Sometimes it may take a bit to break down barriers and build trust, but through being genuine and authentic with them this will happen in no time.
  17. Make personal phone calls to parents. Find one good thing to say about the children in your class.  It can be how they contributed to a class discussion or how well mannered they are in class or in the halls. For older students it can be how diligent a student is at learning challenging content.
  18. Share something about yourself that they will find relevant or interesting to extend your relationships with students.
  19. Tell a story from a time you were their age. This approach allows students to see teachers as they once were and make connections easier to establish and maintain.
  20. Create a unique handshake or symbol for each of your students.  Use it when you greet them at the door or say goodbye.
  21. Eat lunch with a group of kids throughout the week. They will enjoy a time dedicated just to them. (And you will enjoy a peaceful lunch!)
  22. As a school, hold monthly celebrations to recognize students and educators their accomplishments.
  23. Take pictures with students. Print. Write a special note on the back to the student.
  24. At the end of a term or year, write a thank you to students telling them what you have learned from them. Be specific and honest – authenticity goes a long way. Try to make the note handwritten if possible, but email works well too.
  25. Each day write two students a personal  note about something that you have noticed about them.  Go into some detail and be specific. Keep track of who you reach out to over the year and try and reach as many students as you can. The time you spend doing this will deepen connections and pay off 10 fold.
  26. Have dance parties! It is so fun to let loose and get down with students. Students love seeing you have fun with them, and the saying goes, “The class that dances together, stays together”.
  27. Play with students at recess or during a free time. Climb the monkey bars, play kickball, or tag. Students will never forget you connecting with them on the playground.
  28. Hang out in the hall to give high fives or to have quick conversations with students. Relationship-building can be squeezed into any time of the day.
  29. Notice students having a bad day. Ask questions without prying. Show that you care. Follow up the next day, week, etc.
  30. When a student is having a rough day, ask if he/she has eaten. We are all more unreasonable when we are hungry. Keep a supply of snacks on hand (ex: breakfast bars, crackers, etc).
  31. Go see students at their events: sports, theater, dance, volunteering. Meet parents and families.
  32. When a student stops to say “Hello” and has a friend in tow, introduce yourself and be sure that the guest feels important.
  33. Stop class from time to time with a comment such as, “Hey, everyone, Katie just asked me a great question. I think you’ll all benefit from this. Katie, could you repeat that for everyone?”
  34. Sing “Happy Birthday” to students; send birthday emails (I use “Boomerang” to schedule my birthday emails each month).
  35. Say “I missed you yesterday” when a student has been absent. Be sincere.
  36. We have to make time to grow relationships with our students. This time can not always be in a planner or a calendar. Sometimes, this simply means just being there for your students.
  37. Mail them a postcard for their birthday. They are always amazed to receive personal mail!
  38. In a leadership position, learn as many names as you can. Greet students by their name as often as you are able.
  39. Music! Bond with your students over music. Play soft classical music while they are working. Incorporate music/songs into special events or lessons.
  40. Classroom: Start a compliment jar. Share comments at the end of class or randomly throughout the day. School: Do shout-outs during morning (or afternoon) announcements/news show.
  41. Smile and make eye contact.  “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”.  Something as simple as a greeting in the hall with smile and eye contact conveys both warmth & safety.  Try it tomorrow.  
  42. First day of math class have them choose 10 numbers that are significant to them (3 for number of cats, 1 for brothers, 20 for number of hours they work, etc.).  Everyone shares out.  You will learn lots about all your students in one day.  
  43. Cut them some slack every now and then.  “What were you doing?  What should you have been doing?  Can you do that for me next time?”  We all make mistakes.  
  44. Hold class celebrations and have students develop unique cheers for various accomplishments…these can be anything from a sports team victory, to being selected for something, to earning a grade, and they need not be school related.
  45. Allen Mendler’s 2×10 strategy for challenging students. Spend 2 minutes per day for 10 consecutive days talking to a student about something not academic.
  46. Share your own goals, successes/failures. Don’t be a mystery to your students.
  47. After morning announcements have students participate in a daily discussion question.  Have a student read the question and set a timer for two and a half minutes.  Each person turns to a partner and answers the question then volunteers share with the whole class.  Each question, in some way, will help you get to know your students.
  48. Halfway through the year, have your parents and students fill out a feedback form.  In my classroom, these forms look different.  Allow them to evaluate you so you can keep what works and change things that aren’t working.
  49. In your summer introduction letter, include a letter asking parents to write about their children in 1,000,000 words or less.  Keep the assignment voluntary and open so they tell you what is most important to them.
  50. Don’t be too busy to truly listen.  Listen to understand, not to respond.  Are you starting a lesson when a student interrupts and tells you they are moving?  Take the minute to hear them out.  That time will mean more to the student than the first minute of the lesson ever will.
  51. When students get stuck in class, teach the other students to cheer them on.  We do a simple, “Come on, [Name], you can do it,” followed by three seconds of clapping.
  52. Teach students call and responses to uplift each other.  When a student responds with something profound and someone loves it, that student gets to start the cheer.
  53. When you check in with groups to give them feedback or see how it’s going, make sure you are seeing them eye-to-eye.  If they’re sitting, don’t stand.  Pull up a chair next to them.  If they’re sitting on the floor, sit down on the floor next to them to avoid standing over them.
  54. Give honest feedback even when it may not be positive.  Your students will appreciate that you expect more out of them than they’re showing.
  55. Create a “You Matter” wall.  Take fun pictures of each of your students.  Print each photo and put each student’s photo in an 8×10 frame.  Hang them all on your wall under a “You Matter” heading.  At the end of the year, send the photos home with students.
  56. Tell them what was hard for you when you went through school and how you worked to overcome the challenges.  It shows they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
  57. Defend your students in front of other people.
  58. Take risks so students feel comfortable doing the same.  Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  59. Create something that is unique to your class.  For us, it’s a house competition.  It’s something that connects my past students and current students.  It’s also a family bond that only the students who have been in my class understand.
  60. Apologize when you make a mistake.
  61. Cook together and then you can eat family style in the classroom. Some fun and easy crockpot meals: applesauce, vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings. Then, make cupcakes for dessert!
  62. Every so often, take the pulse of your building according to students. Convene a volunteer roundtable with student reps from various groups (athletes, scholars, quiet, loud) and ask them for critical feedback about topics you are working on. Some ideas I’ve seen discussed in this format include schoolwide incentives (assemblies, sledding event, etc.), dress code, and discussing recess options for winter.
  63. During your informal walk throughs, saddle up right next to students and ask them the purpose of the lesson they are involved in. Why do you think the teacher is asking you to work on this? You’ll be more than surprised with the honest feedback.
  64. Bring board games back! Add a few games like Checkers, Uno or Chess to your lunch table options. See if any students are willing to play a game or two with you and others.
  65. Use sidewalk chalk to decorate the entry of your building with positive messages to students. Have teachers help you write and draw the notes!
  66. Leave nice notes on post-its for students on the outside of their lockers. Recruit other students to help spread the kindness throughout many lockers!
  67. Forgive them when they make mistakes. Remind them that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Don’t hold grudges against misbehavior and don’t allow other adults to hold them either.
  68. Make time for dismissal. Tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow and share high fives on the way out!
  69. Notice which students still don’t have money to pay for lunch. Help them out when you can. Treat them to a snack they don’t usually get to purchase at lunch time.
  70. Find special projects that need to be done around school and recruit the most unlikely helpers.
  71. Remind your students you and your staff were all kids once too. Have your team bring in pictures of themselves as children (at the ages you have in your school). Post them and have a contest allowing students to guess which teacher is which. Those 80s pictures are the most popular!
  72. My favorite question to ask my students or any student I come in contact with is what are you into lately? This opens communication with your students and let’s them know you are interested.
  73. Allow students to do a job shadow. Give them a peek into what you do and how you make daily decisions.
  74. Host an ice cream social for students that meet certain goals.

The list will grow as our experiences and our connections grow. Feel free to reach out to any of the Tribe members listed below to learn more about the power of our team and how our tribe constantly supports each other in our teaching, leading and learning.



Compelled Tribe Contributors:

Jennifer Hogan, The Compelled Educator  @Jennifer_Hogan

Jonathon Wennstrom, Spark of Learning  @jon_wennstrom

Craig Vroom, Fueling Education, @Vroom6

Allyson Apsey, Serendipity in Education, @allysonapsey

Sandy King Inspiring The Light @sandeeteach

Gary Kidd Reflections and Rants from the Asst Principal, @hinotewailer

Jacie Maslyk    @DrJacieMaslyk

Jodie Pierpoint  Journey In Learning @jodiepierpoint  

Jim Cordery   Mr. Cordery’s Blog  @jcordery

Allie Bond   The Positive Teacher @Abond013

Angie Murphy ConnectED to Learning @RoyalMurph_RRMS

Karen Wood @karenwoodedu

Lindsey Bohler @Lindsey_Bohler

Starr Sackstein @MsSackstein

Debbie Campbell The Curious Educator @DebraLCamp

Michael McDonough M Squared at the Microphone @m_squaredBHS

Barbara Kurtz @BJKURTZ

Stephanie Jacobs @MsClassNSession

Michael Todd Clinton Motivated teacher blog  @MotivatedThe

Cathy Jacobs @cathyjacobs5

Reed Gillespie Mr. Gillespie’s Office @rggillespie

Molly Babcock Sweet Tea and a Live Oak Tree @MollyBabcock

Lisa Meade Reflections @LisaMeade23

Keep up the collaboration!



Competition Vs. Collaboration

Our topic for the #Compelledtribe is Competition Vs. Collaboration.  Although I am inspired by this topic, it is always challenging for me to formulate thoughts that I think the reader might connect with.

As a child, I was competitive. Not in the way you might think, though.  I did not compete against others for awards, championships, or medals.  I was not an athlete. I competed against myself. The idea of always pushing myself to improve, work harder, study more, was instilled by my mother. I think this was due to our home situation as well as cultural beliefs that surrounded my family growing up. Things like, “You are responsible for your own actions. Don’t ever bring shame upon the family. You will be judged by your actions,” were common threads of conversation heard in my home as a child. By today’s standards, these mantras may sound dated, even harsh to some, but those are the ideals I grew up with.

As a parent, I am less strict than my mother but there are still similarities in how I parent my own children and who I am now is a direct result of how I was raised. I think my competitive spirit is good because it pushes me to improve my own practice everyday.


So would we say that collaboration is the antithesis of competition? I don’t think so.

This year I run my administrative meetings differently than last year. Last year, I was using them as informational opportunities only. They were boring and lacked collaboration, competition, communication, or even conversation. The meetings were me talking and my administrative team listening (kind of). As I have grown through my PLN, regular reading, and recognizing my own competitive desire to improve myself, I began to approach my work differently.

This year, our administrative meetings are working meetings. The team receives their agenda ahead of time in a shared Google document where admin can review, reflect, and read resources before we come to the table. I always include a “problem of practice” that encourages competition and collaboration.

One example of this is my desire to improve staff attendance in our district. We need to model for our students that school is important, that we want to teach our students, and that being together matters. If teachers are not present, students will not be either.

At every monthly meeting, I share the percentage of teachers present for the month prior. This is competitive because each Principal can see who which school demonstrated the best attendance. I always acknowledge the winning Principal with a gift card for him/her and by granting a free “dress down” day for their staff.

Then the collaboration begins.


The winning Principal shares the strategies they have used to improve staff attendance.  This has resulted in buildings sharing ideas with one another and inspiring each other to do better.

Competition and collaboration CAN co-exist and can improve everything we do. This applies to education, fitness, health, parenting, and just about anything else you can think of.  I have also observed that the more open we are to collaboration, the more growth occurs for the individual and group.

I have also encouraged collaboration in the classroom, amongst teachers and students. Sometimes in education, we are still fighting an antiquated system, reflective of days gone by.

It is our responsibility as educators to maximize the potential of our talented teachers and students by embracing collaboration and creativity. It is only through these efforts will we see improvements in education that our students deserve.


It’s amazing what we find around us to inspire our thinking and our motivation to improve our life’s work.  Recently in a Voxer discussion with a Women in Educational Leadership to which I belong, we began discussion podcasting and vlogging. Both of these formats are new to me. Although I am an experienced, comfortable presenter, the thought of recording my words or videotaping myself was somewhat intimidating. However I successfully completed my first podcast.

Barnegat Pride Podcast

Here are the steps I utilized:

  1. First I downloaded the Opinion app from the app store. This was recommended to me by @AllysonApsey. She indicated it was easy to use and that I could upload music. I was excited to get started!
  2. In preparation to record, I wrote my speech first. I was nervous to “ad lib” and wanted to be sure that my word choice was varied and I could practice before recording. After writing my podcast, I was ready to record.
  3. Using the Opinion app was easy! This app allowed me to record audio directly from my phone, cut and edit clips easily, and add music! I recorded my audio twice because I wanted to make sure my vocal inflections on certain words helped convey the message I was sharing.
  4. I chose to add two different music clips. One as an introduction and one after I finished speaking. Adding clips was simple, but since I do not typically store music on my phone and I wanted certain music clips, I downloaded one additional song to add to my podcast. This step was my biggest challenge because I wanted the ability to fade music clips before I began speaking to improve transitions but was unable to do so. I am hoping to improve my podcasting, as this was my first attempt!
  5. After creating the podcast, it was easy to complete the prompts and post and share my first podcast.

The other reflection I wanted to share today is a something that I think I have known all along, not only about myself but about others as well.

Adobe Spark (8).jpg

I KNOW that when I can work with inspiration, clarity, focus, and positivity I am more productive. I inspire others and those around me feel the effects of joy and creative energy. This year I will strive each day to remain #hopeful so that I may inspire others and also that I remain open to the inspiration I receive each day from the #compelledtribe and other members of my PLN.


presenter_badge_2017This is a challenge for me. Anyone who knows me knows that brevity is not my strong point. In fact, sometimes it takes me much “talking out loud” to revise, change, or come to a final decision.

The #compelledtribe has challenged all of it’s members to find one word for 2017 that we can focus on. I need to identify the one word that will drive my actions, behaviors, decisions, and initiatives. For the last week or so, I was pretty determined that my one word would be “committment”.  I figured it fit everything that I needed in 2017.  It worked for committing to fitness, health, time with my children, time for me, my goals at work, and my other personal goals such as committing to blogging and being present on Twitter.

I feel like I was very present on Twitter from January 2016 through about May or June. Then I hit some obstacles and I was not participating in as many chats or reading blogs. But what I found was that (in early 2016) the more connected I was with my PLN, the more effective I was at work.  I was also more inspired, passionate, and positive.  Although I wear many hats at school, I truly feel that my role as “head cheerleader” is absolutely necessary.  It is imperative that teachers, aides, administrators, secretaries, custodians, and drivers know that I appreciate their efforts and that they matter to me immensely. Their efforts do not go unnoticed and I am always grateful for the people I work with.

#Committment was okay. But it didn’t speak to me.

My children have been watching this video on YouTube over and over again….

..and it’s no wonder.  With over 67 million views, it is truly inspirational. This duo appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2014.  As my children walked around the house singing this song over and over again….it struck me…

#OneWord2017 for me is #hopeful

Hopeful for so many reasons.  I’m thrilled that my #oneword was inspired by music and by teenagers. For me there is nothing more sacred than students who inspire and who have the strength and courage to do what they love.  Their story embodies what I truly believe education should be. We need to guide students and embrace them. We need to support teachers and encourage them. We need to be hopeful.

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” ~Brad Henry

So as we begin 2017, let’s ignite imagination, instill a love of learning, be hopeful to achieve all we set out to accomplish, and commit to each day’s challenges with dedication and kindness. We do this because teachers and students deserve our very best!

Happy New Year!






As a member of the #compelledtribe, we were charged with a theme.  That theme was unity.  True to form, I thought and thought and thought.  I drafted, then destroyed.  Then tonight, I was inspired!

There are so many things that tear us apart: thoughts, beliefs, emotions, politics, questions, opinions, feelings.  Those same things can unite us. But I realized tonight that unity comes through many opportunities.  For me and my two children, the unity came through music.

“Mom, do we have to go?”, Katie asked.

“Yeah, Mom.  I get it’s a concert but if it’s for old people and it’s old people music, we’re not gonna like it.”, Gavin added.

“How do you know what you like unless you try it?”, I asked.

Sighing, “Mom, you’re just saying that because this is something YOU want to do, not something WE want to do,” said my son.

“Well, we do plenty of things that you enjoy that I’m not particularly fond of.  The least you can do is go in with an open mind,” I said.

To my surprise, they did.


Part of that occurred because I put my “teacher hat” on. Everything became an inquiry. Where do you think the auditorium is? What do you think “will call” means? What kinds of music do you think they’ll play? Who can find row S, seats 2, 3, and 4? Do you think they will do other things besides play instruments? What kind of music do you like? What instruments do you think they’ll play?  (Whew!  Was I working it?!)

My kids were excited and for good reason. We attended a concert at a nearby high school but the performers were professional musicians. They were the Dallas Brass. Not only were they exceptional. They were also funny, involved the audience , and invited both middle school and high school students to join them on stage as well!

It started to dawn on me partway through the concert. Unity. Right before my very eyes. Band members breathing in unison, following the tip of the conductor’s baton as if they shared just one set of eyes, instruments in beautiful intonation, rhythms in sync with each other and an audience unified by the joy of music. There were times we were sang in unity (yes, the entire audience) and other times were danced, clapped, or cheered as the bang began swinging together!

My kids tease me because I get emotional.  I used to be a music teacher and can’t wait to do it again. Once you find something you love, it is truly a part of you.

If you run, there is unity in the way your body moves – the balance of your body, the length of your stride, the evenness of your breathing.

If you cook there is unity in the kitchen – measuring ingredients, chopping with precision, and finishing with beautiful details.

If you love DIY, there is unity in symmetry of design, detailed planning, and polish in finishing touches.

Pick an analogy. UNITY is everywhere…if we allow ourselves to see it, accept it and welcome it into our lives.

Life is too challenging to worry about the negative. Don’t do it.


“So what did you think?”, I asked.

“I loved it mom! It was awesome! Juan was my favorite! When can we do this again?”, my children said.

Ahhh…the joy in the unity of my family, whom I cherish. I couldn’t be more thankful for life’s small opportunities to celebrate our unity as mom, son, and daughter.

Validation…I Make a Difference!

It has been awhile since I have composed a blog.  I have no good reason why.  Yes, I have little time.  Yes, I am busy.  Yes, my job is challenging.  Welcome to the real world.  These are the constraints many of you work under each day.  I have no good excuses….but tonight something extraordinary happened!

During the public session of our Board of Education meeting, the administration does a presentation called the Barnegat Brag.  This is a curricular presentation that we have been doing every month for about two years to celebrate curricular initiatives, showcase student achievement, or introduce a new program.  Our public has seen everything from musical performances, to recognition of essay contest winners, to how the summer Jumpstart Algebra program helps struggling math students prepare for the year ahead.

Tonight was no different.  Our Barnegat Brag was about our Summer Professional Development Program.  These are presentations given BY teachers FOR teachers.  In short – turnkey professional development.  However it is done in a relaxed setting (summertime, casual dress) but not in a casual manner.  Teachers (and administrators) apply to present.  They must state their goals, learning objectives, and what participants will be able to do after attending the workshop.  This summer we had twenty-eight teachers present and four administrators (myself included).  The amazing news is that we had over FOUR HUNDRED registrations.  Some teachers registered for as many as fifteen workshops – all on their own time, all during the summer when they could be relaxing on one of our beautiful New Jersey beaches!  When the staff returned to school in September, I rewarded teachers who attended workshops with gift cards and even a “denim dress down day” for one entire school.

Then something REALLY special happened.  The Director of Curriculum and Instruction reminded the Board, public (and me) that I challenged him a few years ago to take on this task….the task of creating a Summer Professional Development program FOR teachers BY teachers.  It has grown tremendously! (I also recently challenged him to host an Ed Camp in our district.  THAT was amazing!  Maybe that’s another blog post…)

I often forget what I have inspired or motivated the staff to accomplish under my “vision”.

To have your vision validated is amazing. Validation – I Make a Difference!

Then, as the presentation was wrapping up, other staff members who were sitting in the audience said, “Don’t worry, Ms. Wood.  We’ll Tweet this and tag you.”  Six or seven months ago, teachers in our district would not have embraced Twitter or social media.  They didn’t even know what maker spaces were and how they could inspire students.  Only a few knew of genius hour and less than ten ever attended an Ed Camp.

How exciting!  These are things that I brought to Barnegat.  My vision was validated. Teachers and administrators are inspired by my innovation.(Wow!) They have also observed me fail publicly, get back up, and try again. I am humbled to work for the most amazing staff of educators.

The role of Superintendent is challenging.  It is often without thanks and with much criticism.  I realized tonight that the only thanks I need is seeing my vision embraced by teachers and enhanced by their talent and skill.




Haim G. Ginott said: 

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.

As I read and reflect on this quote, I shamefully share the following story.

I am a member of the #compelledtribe.  We have been charged to share our “my bad” story as novice educators.  Though I am not proud of what I am going to share, it is important. If others can learn from my mistakes, perhaps I can spare the heartache of students with inexperienced teachers. I was once that inexperienced teacher who hadn’t quite learned to honor and respect the needs of her students.
I was a High School Band Director and it was time to audition for “chairs”.   First Chair of any section was a coveted position.  It meant recognition, solos, and leadership amongst fellow band members. As a novice teacher, I was proud of the way I was going to handle auditions.  I knew all there was to know about auditioning, after all.  I was a teacher and a performer. It was very equitable.  Students were assigned a student identification number per section as well as a musical selection and some scales they would be performing.  They also received a rubric with expectations and specific points awarded for each performance category.  I was READY to assess them and determine who would sit which chairs for the beginning of the school year.

In addition, students received solo or small group lessons prior to the audition. I wanted each student to have the opportunity to be successful.  I figured if they were willing to practice and work hard for first or second chair, they’d be willing to strive for their best this year and be invaluable members to the band’s overall performance.

The day of auditions arrived and students were nervous and excited.  I was too.  It was my opportunity to be organized and run a very fair and equitable audition process.  “Blind” auditions commenced. I listened to every student who was interested in auditioning for a chair.  There were many.  I was a new teacher and they wanted to impress me just like I hoped to impress them.  I used rubrics and rated what I heard.

When the tabulations were done, I began aligning student identification numbers to individual students.  As I finished, I discovered “Jennifer” who was a senior and, from what I understood, always sat first chair.   But according to my results, she was NOT ranked first. 

To this day I am embarrassed by my actions. I completed the tabulations and posted the chair rankings on the instrument closet door, throwing caution to the wind.  My thoughts were, “Oh well.  I know what I heard.”  When the students arrived, “Jennifer” was hysterical.

She lost first chair to a sophomore. 

This caused complete havoc in the band.  What I had hoped would unify the students and gain respect for me, completely backfired.  My “process” was not effective.  Students took sides. Parents were angry.  Administration was involved. 

There were several options I could have chosen.  For a true, appropriate audition process, another music teacher should have listened with me, or even a third.  We should have listened, discussed, reflected, and agreed on each chair candidate as they were auditioning.  This also would have assisted in defending my process.  With the way I did things it was “my ears” against student performances.  Imagine the criticism of the new music teacher – me!

If “Jennifer” truly did not get the top spot, a meeting with “Jennifer” and a call home to her parents before the rankings were posted surely would have been appropriate. 

I lost credibility that day.  But more importantly, I crushed a student.  It was awful. 

I share this story in the hopes that novice teachers will learn. Maybe this post will find its way to “Jennifer” and she will understand what a foolish, inexperienced teacher I was and forgive my careless act toward a talented young lady.

Go forth and be cautious in your teachings,  for you have the ability to shape a child forever.

Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.   ~ John Wooden