What’s best for kids?

So, what IS best for kids? I’ve been at this teaching thing now for nearly 30 years. What constantly amazes me is how it could possibly be this long that I’ve been teaching but it is what it is! I am also constantly amazed how every few years we get a barrage of the latest, greatest thinking in education. My truth, however, is that it’s always just a different way of saying the same things we’ve always said and thought.

Right now it’s S.T.E.M. 50 years ago, when I was a kid, it was “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.” Different ways of saying the same things, just a new way of saying it to keep up with the times!

About 10 years ago school administrators started using the phrase “what’s best for kids.” I always laughed when an administrators that would throw this phrase out at me whenever they were making decisions that affected what I was doing in the band/choir classroom. My standard response would be something to the effect “Gosh, coach, I’m glad you’ve finally come around to my way of thinking! Maybe now you understand why I do what I do and how I do it!!” (all said with a very sincere facial expression, of course – we don’t want to be disrespectful!)

Say My Name!

Of course, one of my favorite teacher phrases was the age old question “What’s the principal’s first name?” and the answer was (and is) usually “Coach.” Things like this may also have had an impact on my longevity in a couple of positions I’ve held over the years…I’m going to be somewhat politically incorrect now (as if anyone would expect me not to be?)  and quote Dr. Bill Cosby next.

“Now, I told you that story to tell you this one!”

This is where I get serious about what I do and what I expect of the people that work for me so hang on!

Uh-oh!! Crash helmets, everyone and NOW!

Doing what’s best for kids means putting the best interests of the kids we teach ahead of all other concerns. I really mean that. So much so that if I honestly feel that the best interests of a kid we teach would be better served elsewhere I’m going to say that to the parent of that kid even when it means a loss of studio income!

It’s also the reason that we never place undue pressure on kids to make a choice between “us and them.” It disturbs me deeply when we hear of kids being told that they can’t study something anywhere else.

It bothers me when kids are pigeon-holed into having to do things only one way such as having to take additional classes just to take a private lesson. It’s sad to think that some teachers or studios would actually resort to implying that there might be consequences you’ll have to live with if you are disloyal!

To those who would do so to consider the emotional harm this inflicts on kids and stop doing it!

Kids want to please the adults, teachers, coaches, etc. that they deal with and forcing them to make choices. Using veiled threats or implying that they may not get to do something special or take something away from them is just plain wrong! Parents – What would you say to the principal, coaches and teachers at your school if this happened there?

What’s really important here?

I walked away from a job (more than once, I’ll freely admit) because more importance was placed on “numbers’ rather than “product.” I’ll also tell you that being on the other side of the fence as a business owner that has to pay the bills provide a different perspective but I always come back to my foundation of “what’s best for kids.” That means that I also care about our clients getting full value for the tuition they pay us.

I’d rather tell a parent that little Johnny or Betty isn’t making progress because they aren’t practicing outside of their lesson and let them make the decision on whether they’re getting value for the tuition they pay or not. I just don’t believe in our teachers being high-priced babysitters – it’s an exercise in frustration for everyone involved.

This goes back to being told two years ago that it wasn’t my place to tell a parent their kid wasn’t making any progress and that they should consider stopping lessons. Of course, I was promptly admonished that it wasn’t my place to counsel a parent on whether or not they wanted to continue to pay for 30 minutes of practice time and not actually learning anything! Turned out that to my employers it was more important to retain the student (read “keep them paying”) because as long as they were paying for the time who were “we” to tell them not to! Man, there’s just something fundamentally WRONG with that!!! Of course, some people might just attribute that to being a ‘disgruntled former employee…’ (It’s O.K. to laugh now!)

I Don’t Care About Your Money…

That’s not who I am. Sure, I want my studio to be successful and financially solid and secure, but I’m not going to do that on the premise of simply selling time. We choose to provide a quality product and provide true value in the form of obvious student progress and achievement. When our students achieve something we celebrate their accomplishments and recognize them for it – not just handing out an award because you showed up for your lesson! We really like to put our students and their family’s need ahead of pretty much everything else!

When people are rewarded just for showing up what does that teach? Does it teach the intrinsic value of working hard to achieve and foster a desire on the part of the student/worker/whatever to actually up their game? What does it say to the others in the room – “it’s OK to just show up and it doesn’t matter what kind of job you do!”

Horse Hockey! – Col. Sherman T. Potter

I’ve watched with amazement how some performers are recognized with a superior rating when they can’t even make it through a 32-bar song without stopping and starting over several times! To me that’s maddening and it cheapens the intrinsic value of that superior rating award by implying that the kid who didn’t put forth much (if any!) real work and practice and performs poorly is just as good as the kid who practices an hour a day, has their material memorized and well rehearsed and really lights up the room when they perform.

For all of these reasons, we CHOOSE to be different. TMSOW recognizes top students by placing them into honor ensembles, special showcase performances, and bringing in top educators to work with our brightest and best. Gosh, we’re sorry but to get the “goodies” we really kind of expect you to work for it here! We’re not going to give it to you like Mickey Mouse says “because we LIKE you!”

Hey, not only do we LIKE you, we want and really expect our students to work hard and be the best that they can be on any given day. We believe that there’s more value in that than in spending our time handing out points so you can take home a prize. OUR prize is the pride of accomplishment, knowing that you’ve worked hard and become better for having done so!

Isn’t that what every parent really wants for their child? If that’s what you really want, then come and be a part of what WE are! Not only will we make you feel great in the process, but your kids will be all-around better kids for the experience and better prepared to step out into the world!

Hold on thar! – Quick-Draw McGraw

Now, here’s my truth! You know what, when your kiddo accomplishes something we’re going to recognize it! It may be a candy treat after a particularly good lesson, a certificate of achievement, your kid’s picture on Facebook and Instagram when they complete a book, or being recognized as student of the month. We recognize accomplishment here, but we don’t give you stuff just because you showed up!

Finally, and I’m going to be brutally honest here: NOTHING is more important to us than your child’s emotional health. For that reason, we ask every prospective student if they take instruction in music, dance, tumbling, martial arts, cheer, theatre, etc. at any other establishment. We have NO problem with students taking lessons at other studios, but we are also going to be candid and tell you that we don’t want to enroll you here if it is going to place you or your child in the proverbial “no win” situation. We hope that you will understand why we are taking this position.

Kids first. All other considerations are WAY down the priorities list.


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