Guest Author Series #1: Why Do I Teach?
Author: Scott DiTullio
Profession: Director of Bands, Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District, PA
I recently co-wrote an article with Dr. Susan Creasap from Morehead State University, for the NBA Journal. As I’ve reflected more on the subject and have talked to more college students about what I do, I wanted to share some thoughts with you also.
Why do I teach? As I sit and listen to the news every night and hear about all of the violence, I often ask myself the same question. I hope I am making a difference in my students. I want to instill in them, the great opportunities that I had as a student in school. My music teachers were always the ones that went above and beyond their daily duties. They were still in the buildings well after everyone left for the day. I do the same for my students, as most others are out of the building by 3:30, I am always one of the last teachers to leave (5:30 or later). I’m always trying to give my students the extra incentive, the extra push, or the motivation to excel for excellence at all they try to do, not just music.
Second, I’m not a “teacher” to my students. I am a motivator, a counselor, and then finally a teacher. I am the one that will motivate them every day to do more than just ok. I want and encourage them to work to the best of their ability and then some. How do I know when they get there? I can see the intensity in their faces, they come back tomorrow and the next day, and you can see how hard they are working! My family often says to me, “I thought you went to school to become a teacher?” My response is, “I did.” In the world of music, we get to know our students more than any other teacher in the district. We eat many meals together and travel to many events. In that time, I can tell you that I’ve eaten more meals with some of my students than they have with their own parents. They come to us for advice on many subjects, from school, to their relationships, to family concerns. We become a surrogate parent, as they seek advice, we try to steer them towards a sound solution to their problems in a caring way. I’ve had several students come back to me over the years and say thank-you for your talks. You always seem to know what to say or make us look at things differently. Once we get through motivating and counseling, we finally get to teaching.
The more I talk to college students and ask what they think the life of a Band Director is like, I’m in shock. They all believe that they will walk into a perfect job and not have to do anything more that the usual work day. When I start to describe my experiences, they look at me and say why do you do that. As I’ve stated above, teaching has been an awesome experience for me. I love going to work everyday! I love working with kids and having them being excited about music! My goal is not to produce music educators, but to produce students that show an appreciation and respect for everything they do in life. When I finally get a parent telling me that I’m still playing my flute after being out of school for fifteen years, I have been even more successful. Better yet, when they tell me they are stating to play again because their child is playing! We instill a love in the students we work with, even on those bad days when we want to bang our heads off the wall.
I had a conversation with a college student a few weeks ago that was really alarming to me. He said his father was applying for a new job, because he was tired of fighting for the program. I’ve been there I know what this is about, but we all have to be advocates of music programs! Not just our own programs, but everywhere. We as educators need to help inform our communities of what is happening. Being active in the community helps, but just playing at Friday night football games is not the answer, or better yet, worrying about only the competitions that we are participating in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, publish articles about your program in the newspapers, or create a web-page. The more people know about the program, the more they will support the program. We all know that it is better to be Proactive than Reactive. To me the Proactive approach makes every program successful.
A great article for everyone to read is Dr. Stanley F. Michalski’s “Reach For The Top” (www.keynotesmagazine.com), we need to Publicize the program and communicate with administrators, teachers, and the community. Sure, most communities only see your marching band, but we can make sure they see our entire program. For you your program to be successful, make sure you are out and promoting the program. Educate your community and music can help your community become of the top best communities in education.
About Scott DiTullio:
Scott DiTullio holds a B.S. in Education (Music Education) from Clarion University and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. He has also completed the K-12 Administration Program for Principals through California University of Pennsylvania. Scott is the Director of Bands at the Allegheny-Clarion Valley Area School District. At Allegheny-Clarion Valley his duties consist of General Music, Jr. High Band, Sr. High Band, Jazz Band, Marching Band, Jr. High Honor’s Band, the Falcon Brass Quintet, and Pep Band. He taught for nine years at the Clarion-Limestone School District where he served as the Director of Bands for grades four through twelve.
Scott DiTullio performs on trumpet in professional venues from Pittsburgh to Erie and as a soloist with many jazz and dance bands. He is a member of The Corner Brass, a brass quintet in Clarion County, the Clarion University Jazz Band (lead trumpet and section leader), performs as a local soloist in many churches, teaches private trumpet lessons, and serves as the district chairman for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 3 Jazz Festival. He also serves as an ESS Clinician for the music education software programs Smart Music and Finale.
[tags] scott ditullio, teaching, music, band director, band, teaching music [/tags]
Scott and Joe,
I enjoyed reading the article. It truly is amazing what we give to our students each and every day – and not realize it!
During my 12 years at Mercer, I have come to appreciate the many different kinds of learners that walk through the rehearsal door. Some are highly motivated students who want to be challenged at the highest musical level possible. They are great to have around as they continually remind us to raise the bar and expect more (as opposed to PSSA’s and NCLB which continually lower the bar and hold the good kids back). Others like the social aspects or our ensembles, the sense of belonging. They have a respect for the art they create, but perhaps do not have the ability to excel at a high level. In so many cases, our ensembles do more for them than they do for the ensemble. The common thread between these two groups must be a love of music, a respect for each other, and a respect for the performances they can give. They must look out for each other, and they must learn to follow. “Law of the Jungle” posted in my office as a reminder of how this social animal operates.
NOW this is the Law of the Jungle—as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the snake that slithers the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back—
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
Teacher is such a misnomer in our profession. You mention motivator and councilor. Let us not forget musical role model, because it is somtimes easier for them to excel musically when they can see it in someone else first. And many times it has to be us = for there is no other option. Wherever our strengths lie as a musician, we should take opportunities to display that for our students.
We are Advocate for our communities. It is dissapointing to hear your conversation with that one student. I enjoy a good fight – and as far as music education is concerned, I will continue to waive the flag and lead my students and my community. We are sometimes the only source of culture for our community and we must except that mantle of responsibility.
It is refreshing to hear your perspective and that you still have a great love and passion for what you do. As I stated earlier, students will do it themselves when they can see it in someone else first. Music educators everywhere would do much to advance the quality and commitment of their groups if their students see the joy that our profession can bring.
Scott – thank you for teaching, and reminding all of us why we should teach. I wish you well as your school year comes to an end. Joe – Thanks for bringing Scott to this forum and giving all of the opportunity to see a great role model in music education.
Travis J. Weller
Director of Bands
Mercer Middle-Senior HS
It is so appropriate that you write such a post at the end of the school year when many of us are asking “Was my sacrifice this year worth it all?”.
The answer is a resounding YES! One of the biggest problems we have in our profession (music education) is that teachers succumb to the “grass is greener” syndrome. When you “give up” and move on to another job, you are frequently trading one set of problems for another, and even more sad is that you end the relationship you have worked to build with your students.
I have now been at the same job for 6 complete years- and am just NOW seeing the rewards of hard work begun years ago. The relationships that I have built with my students have paid off in the form of trust- trust that enables them to believe that they can do anything…
This was the most successful year ever, and we are losing many talented musicians- but rather than losing hope, my remaining students are vowing to step up. THIS IS WHAT TEACHING IS ALL ABOUT!
Thanks for your great post.
Director of Bands
North Port High School
Scott, Travis, Owen,
About seven years ago I had to make one of those “life choices”. I started a company called JP SYSTEMS Incorporated (Network Installations for Business) and long-story-short, it “took off”, really took off! I had been with the college for about four years and was struggling with the “grass must be greener” syndrome that so many of us seem to have no matter where we currently work (Dead-on Owen!).
The company was so successful and growing so fast that I was forced to make a choice, leave the college and go “beyond full time” with my corporation or stay at the college and make an academic career of it for the long haul. In the end, I choose to stay in academics and move my S-Chapter corporation to the side-burner. A choice I am truly proud to have made as it was not one that was based soley on money, else I’d have gone the other way.
Although I still do some minor things with JP Systems Inc., I find the fullfillment brought about by “Mentoring”, “Challenging”, “Motivating” and “Shepherding” the students to be worth the the investment and energies of myself and my time. I truly enjoy my students and upon graduation I want to take the teacher-student relationships and foster them into a colleague-friends one. Like many of you, I am privledged to call many of my graduates and former students also life-long friends and colleagues.
If we only truly inspire one person a year to go beyond themselves and ahieve what they all are able to ahieve, we’ve succeeded. I know that as music teachers, many us inspire entire classes. I’ve even been insprired by some of my students!
Music programs in the schools integrates and instills so much more in the minds of the students than what the world sees as “music education”. The discipline, emotion, passions, mental epansion and working social environment provided in our classes will and does spill into all other areas of the students life. A teacher teaches, a good teacher inspires the student to not only learn the materials being presented to them but also to strive to their full potential even in areas outside of the curriculm being taught!
There are a few tale-tail sings of a good teacher: One, they are able to make the complex things simple and easily understood by their students; Two, they are constantly learning not only from continuing their education but also from the very students they teach. Three, they truly have the well-being of their students in mind and WANT to see each and everyone of them succeed to the best of their abilities.
Scott, this was a great post it will make so many of us think about “Why We Teach?” and become better for it! Thanks for sharing!
Joe, Travis, Owen and Scott,
I am basically an old retired public safety officer who transplanted here to NW PA some 8 years ago. A spectator and appreciator, rather than a musician, I have always enjoyed “live” music and yes, I-too see these hard-working craftsmen (and ladies) being replaced more and more by electronic noise. However, soon after relocating here and joining my new family, it was my great honor and pleasure to become friends with the musical mentor at C-L H.S.of my stepdaughter, Nicole. That exemplary instructor and warm human being is Scott DiTullio. He (and I can surmise the rest of you as well) believes in his charges, and strives to keep them comfortable while they learn to play, then learn to love, music. I thank all of you for your continued hard work, and sincerely hope you inspire more teachers like yourselves from the ranks of your students, as well as great “live” music musicians.
As for that “grass is greener” business, sometimes the grass where you are employed has lost all its “art roots” and you have to move on to find solid, green ground upon-which to plant your feet and work at your chosen field. I applaud your efforts and I am enjoying this site as well.
C. W Elliott,
Sorry, I haven’t gotten back to you! I’ve been meaning to… Thank you for your kind words and I agree with you about teachers, you forgot one thing though, we need more informed and supporting people like you to keep us going! I sincerely appreciate the time you took to join our conversation and support Scott. Please pass the word and don’t be a stranger! :wink:
If we had more people like C.W. education would be more fun on a daily basis. CW, is a great parent and continues to be a great supporter of the ARTS! I feel truly blessed to be able to call CW, a friend! His support over the years was what kept me going on most days!
CW – keep up the great work! Not only do we need you, BUT THE KIDS NEED YOU TOO!!