When kids quit….. :-(
January 29, 2014 at 6:16 pm #34700
Well I don’t know if anyone out there feels totally like crud when kids quit but boy I do! Does anyone have any ideas on how not to take it personally when kids quit? Especially if they don’t speak to you first and the counselor’s just let them drop without even letting you contact parents. I feel like I must be a really bad director when they quit…and it’s hard not to! I feel like I’m teaching really well and try very hard to make it fun for the kids. I try to be consistent in my discipline and keep things upbeat as much as possible. I feel like we are playing really great music…. Any support would be helpful….I teach middle school…7-8-9….January 30, 2014 at 11:55 am #34705
I am right there with you. I lose sleep over kids quitting. My wife had great advice just last week dealing with this. She said “ya that sucks but look at all the good the rest of the class is doing” Keep your head up and focus on the success you are having. Recognize those in class. I was in the very bad habit of continually talking about my disappointment in those who have quit. Not a good feel for those who are working hard. Also, do not give up on those kids I have had many ask to return the next term, when the realize how much they did love our classes.January 30, 2014 at 12:14 pm #34706
I teach grades 4-9. in 4 & 5, all students are required to be in the band, so I get to know all the kids in those grades. Starting in 6th grade, they can choose to stay in band, join the string orchestra, or join the choir.
I do get a little down when kids who I’ve been teaching for two or more years decide to leave, especially if they were good players. But I look at it from their point of view–they just want to try something different, or maybe band just wasn’t for them. I do get the thought, though, that maybe the reason they left is because they didn’t like me. So I make the effort to still talk to them when I see them during the school day, and generally speaking they are happy to socialize with me. So I feel good about that.
I was the best saxophone player in my school system all the way from grades 4-12. But in grade 12, I had become enamored with singing, so I quit band and joined the choir. I’m sure my band director was shocked and sad, but it had nothing to do with him–I just wanted to try something new.January 30, 2014 at 12:35 pm #34707
I’m right there with you…it’s so hard not to take it personally. However, the reality is that there are kids who are going to quit, and it really has nothing to do with you. I’ve taught at all levels for 24 years, and am in my first year back teaching elementary beginning band. Last year’s teacher had a SLEW of quitters…that was a problem, and most likely did have something to do with her. This year, out of around 200 kids I’ve had 12 or so quitters. I think it’s almost impossible to not have quitters, the question is what your percentage is.
What I do is try to remain focused on the other kids, who LOVE being in band. I was walking a 5th grade class up the other week when one girl, who is in a specialized academic instruction class and very low, turned to me and said “I just LOVE band, it’s my favorite part of the day.” Well, just remember that for every quitter, you’ve probably got 10 times as many kids who would say something like that! Keep those positive thoughts in your mind and you can’t go wrong! These kids will remember us forever!January 30, 2014 at 12:38 pm #34708
OH and to reiterate what the other director said earlier, focus on the positive with the kids. I had a point where one class of kids (where we had the most quitters – 3) said one day “everyone is quitting band.” I immediately quashed that thought by reminding them we had over 140 in that band and that only 5 or so students had dropped. You can really save those waffling kids by putting the positive spin on.February 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm #34794
I look at it this way: some kids just aren’t “band” kids, just like not everybody likes or can play baseball or bowling.February 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm #34919
My band played a concert last Friday, and afterward a student came up to me from the audience. He was a sax player last year, but quit this year to be in the choir instead. He said, “I miss being in the band!”March 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm #35407
Been teaching a long time. of course it is troubling to have any kid quit. I do think that your emotional energy would be better served by focusing on who stays and making a positive educational experience for them. Remember the kids sitting in the room “did not” quit. Focus on them.March 4, 2014 at 7:09 am #35408
For what it’s worth, I used to lose sleep and beat myself up any time a student quit our program. What could we be doing to make them want to leave? How do I keep every kid? Did I do something wrong?? etc, etc.
I’ve come to realize that no matter what you do, kids will quit. Even if you paid them money, kids would quit. It’s all about percentages…what percentage of your group quits each year? We had 16 kids quit our beginning band this year, however that amounts to about 15 percent…which for beginning band, I think is an awesome number. (many places lose around 50%)
At the HS level, we usually have 10-15 drops each year out of almost 200 kids. Without fail, these are the “right” kids to drop.(bottom 5% of the band, usually with an attitude problem) That’s the other important factor…are you losing the “right” kids? I’ve found that when you beg/plead kids to stay in band, they think you owe them a favor the following year…and many times end up being a problem anyhow. In addition, when the right kids drop, you are usually only losing bodies not musicians. If you start losing your best kids, then you have a problem.
Having taught in both a small rural school and 2 different huge suburban schools, it’s much harder in small/rural. When a group or click decides they are going to drop, it starts to spread like wildfire. Makes for a tough situation, but you can only control so much.
Don’t beat yourself up. If the top kids are dropping your program, take a look at what you are doing. Are you teaching to the bottom? etc etc. If the “right” kids are dropping, don’t sweat it. It will all work out in the end.January 13, 2016 at 8:17 am #77435
I realize it is nearly a year after the last post, but I wanted to chime in.
I had a bunch of really talented sixth graders talk about dropping chorus for second semester, despite the fact that it is a yearlong class. Like many of you, I was incredibly bummed – to the point where I was asking myself, “Does what I do REALLY matter?” I sat in that mindset during my planning, until finally – after saying a prayer, it dawned on me: the kids who want to be here are why I teach. This simple conclusion changed my entire outlook – so much so that my students later were like, “I’m so glad you are happy again.” (I had been stressed about other things, as well.)
I also wrote a note to myself and put it where I would see it every day. The note reminded me to focus on the kids who want to be there and to smile more – because life is better when you smile.January 25, 2016 at 10:44 pm #78575
Sadly, we can’t keep all of our students involved in music or any one aspect of music like band or choir.
I had a private student who recently decided to stop taking lessons all of a sudden, without talking to me prior to at least give me notice so I would know what was going on. I had texted her mother to see what was going on and apparently playing the clarinet had been giving her pain and discomfort in her jaw for a while, so she wanted to try something else and put clarinet aside.
The hardest part of this was that in reality, we can’t just say, ‘No, you can’t quit, you have to keep coming to lessons/band/choir”. We don’t have the power or authority or even the right to say that to any student, regardless of age. We can provide them with alternative options to quitting but if they aren’t convinced, well then that is all we can really say besides good luck with your other endeavors.
If the student had decided to talk to me about the discomfort she was feeling in her jaw from playing clarinet, then she and I could have dedicated time in our lessons together to working on this problem and the problem could have been solved in say a month or so depending on how much she was willing to work on the issue in her individual practice time. But she did not talk to me so all I was able to tell her and her mother was that if she is interested in any other instruments she can let me know and I can help point her in the right direction to another teacher and that if she ever feels the desire to give clarinet another try, she has my contact information and can always let me know and we can pick back up where we left off.
Just try to not let a student quitting bother you, some things are successful but not all of them are. We just have to learn from things like this for next time.January 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm #78665
As others in this thread have said, it is impossible to retain every student that signs up for band/orchestra/choir, etc (as much as we wish we could). Rather than dwelling on the students who have dropped music, though, it is more important to focus on the students who are still in the program. These are probably the dedicated ones, the students who will most likely stay in the program for the duration, and the ones who genuinely want to be there and enjoy making music. Of course, if students are quitting in droves, a revision of one’s approach is probably necessary. However, if it is only a few students every once in a while, try to not take it personally. I like the approach snedekerj282 takes by making the effort to still talk to the students who left and leaving oneself open to communication, should the student ever wish to return.
It will always be difficult to watch a student leave. Especially when no reason or prior notice is given. But it is important to not take it personally because in the end, it is not about us. It is about the students who want to be there and want to make music, and those students deserve the best educational experience we can offer. The best we can do is maintain good communication with the students and their parents, learn from the experience and move forward.
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