Monday, September 28, 2015


Lessons Learned From Garry | Pics from the Classroom

Lessons Learned From Garry by Mike Steffen

Greetings, Friends! As the busy first semester speeds along, I wanted to share with you all some lessons I learned from a mentor, Garry Anders, early on in my teaching. They are phrases/concepts most all of us have heard before (which many of you probably put into play quite often), so I simply share them as gentle reminders as to how we can get the most from the students with whom we work. Since Garry passed away this past summer, I thought this list of reminders would be a fitting way to honor his legacy.

Click to learn more about Garry's career and life.1) They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
So true, right? We all know that if a student trusts you and knows you care for them, they will work harder than ever to meet your expectations in the classroom. Finding out what makes them tick, what makes them unique can be key to helping you bring them into the fold, giving you the opportunity to help them grow as a musician and person.

2) Take time to observe educators you respect.
In the hustle and bustle, this one is an easy one to put off. That being said, I hope you will take a day this year to go observe another music educator in your area and/or invite a younger teacher to come spend the day with you. What we can learn from one another through observation and discussion simply cannot be matched elsewhere.

3) Find ways to brag on and lift up your students.
There are so many ways to do this! Recognition at school board meetings, blurbs in the local paper, school announcements, random positive calls to parents, a bulletin board in the room with student achievements from the year, etc. Everyone loves to feel special! Help them see that you are proud of what they are doing and who they are becoming.

4) Save your energy for the good stuff.
There are many, many great things happening in your classroom each day! However, classroom discipline can bog us all down. Clear boundaries and appropriate consequences (delivered without anger) for bad behavior, paired with clear expectations and heaps of praise (delivered sincerely) for positive behavior will help you save your energy for the good stuff!

5) Be careful not to put a cap on their growth.
Who says middle school kids can't learn all 12 major scales? Who says freshmen shouldn't be able to march in step? Who says a jazz band can't memorize their music like the marching band? They don't know what their limits are unless someone tells them. Be sure to aim high with your expectations, they might just surpass them!

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. If you knew Garry, then you know the Missouri band world lost an influential voice in the Summer of 2015. In his forty years of music education, he influenced countless students and colleagues through his humble, hard-working approach that always put the kids first. Click here to read more about his career and life. Keep doing what you're doing; you are making a difference!

Mike Steffen
Educational Representative - Palen Music Center
Springfield, MO
[email protected]

Mike Steffen grew up in Grandview, MO and holds Music Education Degrees from Missouri State and University of Missouri - Kansas City. He served as a band director for five years in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District (KC area) where he taught band in grades 5-12. While he was there, Mike worked with the LSHS Golden Tiger Marching Band, directed the Concert Band, and directed the middle school program. Most notably, he was instrumental in the development of the Lee's Summit High School Jazz Program which had an active, well-respected big band, two student combos, and placed many students in the All-District Jazz Bands each year. Prior to that, Mike taught middle school band in Pleasant Hill, MO. Mike loves playing the saxophone, is married to his high school sweetheart, Miranda, and is the proud papa of three beautiful girls - Melody, McKenna, and Mae!


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