Working With District Initiatives, Not Against

A great number of decisions are made without us music teachers in mind, both at the district and campus levels.  When there is a new program or district-wide initiative, it is often done with another area in mind and, because we are all on the same team, we all must participate.  It is at this point we have a choice to make:

  1. We can succumb to negativity.  After all, when was the last time the English Department was told to change the way they operate because of a fine arts need?  The system stinks and I’m going to give my principal a piece of my mind.  Or, better yet, I’m just not going to cooperate and I dare someone to make me
  2. We can find a way to operate within the system. We can adjust the program or initiative to follow the directives of the administration while still contributing to the music program.

While choice #1 is sometimes our knee-jerk reaction, I propose we gain more for our students and our programs by choosing #2.  When I was a teacher, my district decided we would all participate in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).  Without going into the finer points, it meant that there would be regularly scheduled time for all teachers of a particular grade and subject (ex. All 8th grade English teachers) on a single campus to have time to coordinate, talk curriculum, teaching strategies and so on.  Because it was a district-wide initiative, we all were required to participate. 

At the time, I was a high school orchestra director…the only one on campus.  The band and choir directors already had regularly scheduled meeting times with each other.  So, our principal’s instructions were for all the music teachers to meet, which quickly turned negative.

Following the instructions we were given would have yielded little.  This was not designed for us.  By containing the PLCs to a single campus would not give us the perspective necessary to make the program work.  But, I saw that if I could get my administration to make an adjustment, there was a great deal of potential.  My principal agreed to let me and the rest of the orchestra directors in my cluster meet regularly.  We had principals stop by and listen.  Our time together had a positive impact on all our programs.  Soon, all the music programs in the district were following this model.  The best part is that our principals loved that we took the initiative to make our PLCs better and more productive.

I cannot understate the value of making a suggestion to your principal.  Keep in mind all the different directions your principal is pulled every day.  If you can offer a very thoughtful/reasonable solution to a problem, that gives them the feeling that you are taking another potential task off of their to-do-list.

One more point; How you make your suggestion is everything.  If I had told my principal that PLCs were useless to me and my program and to instead, give me time to meet with my cluster directors, I doubt my request would have been granted.  The fact that my proposal helped us work within the program showed that we were trying to be cooperative and not combative.

This is just one example of how to work along with your administration and yet meet the needs of your students and program at the same time.  Situations will vary, as will the district initiatives, principals, directors, and so on.  If you can approach these types of situations with an open mind, there will often be a solution that will help your students and make your principals love you.

Dr. Daniel Loudenback is currently Assistant Professor of Woodwinds at The University of Mary in Bismarck, ND.  Before that, he was Fine Arts Director for Ector County ISD in Odessa, TX.  He also taught high school orchestra and middle and high school band in West Texas.  His book, “The Young Saxophonist: A Supplemental Method for Class Instruction” is available through N-Tune Music and Sound.  Dr. Loudenback is a Yamaha Performing Artist and plays exclusively on Yamaha Saxophones. Learn more at www.danielloudenback.com

Related Posts:
We’re on the Same Team: Making your Administrator your Ally
Proactive Classroom Management – The Beginning of the Year (multiple instruments)
Cross-Curricular Applications in Band

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