Guest Author Series #3: Why Do I Teach? Reprise
Author: Scott DiTullio
Profession: Director of Bands, Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District, PA
Thanks for reading and posting about my article. I guess when Dr. Creasap first asked me to respond to a question a few months back, that it really did get me thinking about “Why I Teach.” As I have continued my personal education, I’ve become a better teacher. I remember sitting in all the undergraduate methods courses and saying to myself, I’m ready to take the next step, get me in front of the class. I truly feel that energy and excitement comes from having great teachers, which were excited about what they were doing. I was fortunate to have those great teachers from elementary through college, without them, I’m not sure I would be where I am today.
I still remember the talk with my father when I said I didn’t want to go to college that I wanted to be like him and work in the mill. Well, his strong advice or do I say words of wisdom were, “You are going to college, I don’t care what you do, but you will get an education. Whatever you do after that is up to you.” As I’ve said to him on several occasions, without that little butt kicking, I’m not sure what I would be doing today. I’m not sure what I want to finally do when I do grow up, but until then I love what I do on a daily basis
As Darren said, “it is not always greener on the other side”. I have to agree 100%, but sometimes it is better, or it can be worse. There are always battles we are going to fight, but we must know which battles are worth fighting. As I’ve completed my second year at ACV, I can tell you the experience has been unbelievable. It was difficult leaving my first job, but as I have always been told, there are always more students no matter where you go. For me, as I have grown as an educator, it has always been about my students and getting them to strive for excellence. This is why we all put in the crazy hours that we do. Look around the parking lot when you leave school today, you are probably still the last one to leave. As a musician I try to lead by example, so when my students see me performing, they can see that I do practice what I preach to them. They all hear me playing trumpet on a daily basis, as I play every morning at school. Some of them ask why I do it; others have come in and want to know what they can do to become better.
So what do you do with your bands for the last fifteen days of school? Spring concerts are over, you’ve collected the music, now what? Memorial Day is a marching band performance, so not all of my students will be participating (Marching Band is an extra-curricular program). I’m not going to “bore them to death with the music for the day.” Well, no better time to recruit for marching band than the last few weeks of school. Being an extra-curricular program, has its ups and downs, but when approximately half of the band students (Concert Bands = 120 kids) participate in the marching band, I can’t complain! (Well, I could, but no one will listen.)
So the last few days of school, we have been working on the show music for the fall marching season. It has been a lot of fun, as well as a great recruiting tool. The students have become more interested in the marching band and have committed to becoming members of the group. I’ve not seen kids this excited about coming to band, since school started in August 2006.
What does this have to do with the end of school? My principal comes in this past week and says, “Do you mind if I observe today?” (I think to myself, why can’t this be Senior High Band, we are still preparing for graduation, but no this is Junior High Band, sixty kids and almost the last period of the day! I hope this works today!) I respond with a sure, no problem. The students had the best rehearsal ever! They were so focused and on task, that it was scary! To my amazement, everything I asked for was immediately completed. I was in shock at the end of rehearsal. Six days to go, the kids are thinking about what they are doing for vacation and I’m getting observed. Needless to say, it was a redefining moment for me in my tenure as a band director. As my principal was finishing up after the class, his response to me, “That was an amazing class.” As I reflected on the class, I’m not sure who was more motivational, the students or me.
My students continue to work hard, even on the last few days of the year. They are all starting to see that their hard work and dedication can help them accomplish any goal that is put in front of them (not just in music). Joining marching band has become a great honor at my school. We are working hard to become the biggest band in our county; the students take great PRIDE in the band. It is great to see so many students wanting to become part of the organization!
As the school year is almost complete and I’m reflecting over the past year, I have to say “wow,” my bands have done very well (in my personal opinion). We’ve accomplished many of the goals that I started the year with. We went above and beyond some of those goals and some of those goals were just touched upon, so as I am planning for next year, some objectives/goals will be reviewed and some will be reevaluated with more review over the summer months.
Summer vacation is almost here. I hope all of you have a way to recharge as we plan and prepare for the next school year. Take some time for yourselves, your families, and most importantly, enjoy everyday!
Scott M. DiTullio
Director of Bands