GETTING THE JOURNEY RIGHT
written by Gary Rupert, Leadership Coach & Cultural Strategist for ||:Leaders Creating:||
The goal for any band should be growth….everything else is just a consequence of how much or how little growth has occurred. But growth does not just happen….it must be intentional. As band directors, we must till the soil, plant the seeds, nourish and water them, and give each plant the necessary support to grow.
Developing young directors are often asked to consider two questions: What do you want your students to know, and what do you want them to do? Both of these, are “end-game” questions. It is like asking the gardener what he or she wants the flower to look like at the end of the growing season. In both cases, the answer is a consequence of how much or how little growth has occurred. A saying that has been around since the 1970s that is applicable here is, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
Growth is that space between where our students are, and where we want them to be at the end of the experience. It is easily measurable by simply asking if you are better today, than you were yesterday. It is also a flexible measuring stick capable of giving a true assessment of every student, no matter the level at which he or she currently performs. Focusing on growth, we can predict what our students will know and can do by effectively managing their transition through four levels of development made famous by Prison Expert, Re-entry Coach, At-risk Youth Mentor, and author Kardell Sims in his book I Can. I WILL. I DO. I AM: Affirmations for Transformation:
I Can — at the beginning of any new experience, there will be some students who will enter it with the belief that they are unable to accomplish the task. The insightful director will till the soil, by eliminating, or at least minimizing, any real or imagined challenges the student may face. The idea is to help them see the possibility and not the challenge. As Henry Ford told us, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right!”
I Will — once the student’s mind is open to the possibility, the skilled director will plant the seed by developing a culture that will help the student’s desire to take root. It is important the student feels empowered to make the decision to move forward. A saying attributed to President Abraham Lincoln is, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
I Am — this is a critical stage because this is where we, as directors, must continuously water and feed the student’s desire. As we all know, growth takes time, and it will be easy for the student’s desire to wither away if he or she doesn’t see immediate growth or quits getting encouragement from us that they are on the right path. Author and New Thought Spiritual Leader Emmet Fox reminds us that, “You must not, under any pretense, allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind.”
I Do — This is the stage of empowerment; the moment when the student truly begins to grow. It is a time when we as directors must help them understand that whatever successes they are seeing, it is simply a result of their steady growth to that end. As author and speaker Jim Rohn reminds us, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.”
We are all familiar with the adage that life is not about the destination, but the journey. Success, whatever that means to you, works in a similar way (see more on this HERE). Too often, we see success as an end-game; a destination. The problem with end-game philosophies is once you have achieved it, or not, what comes next? Teaching our students to develop a growth mindset, ensures that they are focused on the journey. And if you get the journey right, the destination will take care of itself. The upside for us as directors is that if we teach our individual students to function with a growth mindset, the natural consequence that becomes manifested within our band will be something special.
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Gary L. Rupert was a music educator for 40 years and was most recently the Band Director at Smithsburg High School in Smithsburg, Maryland where his bands consistently achieved Superior ratings at local, state and national levels. He is a sought-after conductor and adjudicator in the areas of symphonic bands and jazz ensembles. An avid blogger whose daily entries are followed by people in over 57 countries, Mr. Rupert is the author of a daily inspirational book for students and teachers, “Today, No Every Day.” He is also a sought after speaker on leadership, motivation and creating a positive learning environment.
Gary Rupert has been named an Outstanding Maryland Music Educator, a Teacher of Excellence in both the Frederick and Washington County public schools, and has been twice nominated as a Disney Teacher of Excellence.
Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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