Today I wanted to share a story with you and tell you about a technique I learned for developing a great music program that is respected throughout the school.
This story goes back to my very first week of teaching. As with all new year teachers, the first few days are utter chaos with little time to do anything other than keep your head above water. On the third day I got to use my “designated half-hour lunch” period to actually eat my lunch.
I flew down to the faculty lunchroom and entered. There were several groups of faculty quietly sitting around the room eating and visiting. There was one totally empty table in the center of the room so I promptly sat down and put my brown bag lunch on the table. I noticed several of the faculty giving me disparaging looks, shaking their heads, then going back to their conversations.
Within a minute or two, eight very large male faculty members wearing school colors, whistles on lanyards around their necks, each with a clipboard burst into the room. They all descended on the center table where I was seated and told me to move somewhere else as they had to discuss the afternoon’s big game and I was in their way.
That was my introduction to The Coaches' Table. They didn’t seem to realize who I was and how much my musical talent and boundless intellect added to the school faculty ;-)...
They soon devoured their lunches and departed the room, en masse, just as they had appeared. A fellow teacher I ended up sitting next to whispered softly in my direction – don’t ever sit at The Coaches' Table again, then hurriedly left back to class.
That was a real lesson and one that actually goes all the way back to biblical times. I think it went something like: when attending a wedding feast don’t sit in a place of honor lest you may be asked to move down and become embarrassed if someone more important has been invited. I was definitely asked to move down and I was definitely embarrassed!
Needless to say, that was not a good day in the faculty lunchroom for me. Right then and there I decided to devise a plan to be invited to The Coaches' Table.
The plan was really quite simple. I first learned each coach’s name, where they went to college and what sport they excelled in. Then I found out exactly what coaching assignments they were doing at our school. That research took all of about one hour. Then I attended several games and meets to see how we were doing. That took a lot more time, but well worth the effort. I always came up to the coach and team after the event and congratulated everyone, regardless of the outcome. I would also drop a note in the coach’s mailbox the next day commenting on a unique play or technique that worked well. In the lunchroom on occasion I would stop by the coach’s table and give a pat on the back of a winning coach the following day.
It took about a month and about ten hours of my time, but one day….. I got invited to sit at The Coaches' Table. Just me, a music teacher and eight athletic coaches, in the middle of the room. I was the envy of every other teacher in the building.
I soon used a similar technique with the math department, social studies department and yes, even the science department. By the time we reached the holiday break, I was comfortable and accepted by each and every faculty group in the entire school. It took some time and effort, but it paid HUGE dividends in the following years.
Soon I had the popular school athletes, AP students and lots of school government members in my select music classes! You can’t believe the power it gives your program to have those students participating. You not only have the top students in classes, but the endearing support of the other faculty members. It really goes a long way when you have to negotiate with the administration for a new set of choir risers or to make sure all of your program stays intact.
Trust me, this really works!