My Hope At The Start Of A New School Year And A New Marching Band Season

debaseinstallAdvocacy, Coaching With Intent, Marching Band

I have a hope for the children of our nation. This hope comes from a person who has worked with children and worked for children. Mostly though, this is not coming from Shelba the guard instructor or professional in adolescent development. This hope is coming from a parent. I am a parent of a 6 year old and here is my hope for a new school year and a new marching band season.

You are a staff member at the local high school marching band. You are a band director, an instructor for the percussion line or part of the guard staff. You are a consultant that comes in once a week and teaches the brass. You write the drill. You are a choreographer. You are someone who will touch the life of a young person in a profound way and whether you like it or not, the hopes of the parents and children are entrusted with you and this is why.

The parents who raise children in the 21st Century are not existing in a time that they grew up in or that you grew up in. Their children are in a world that was virtually unimaginable 20 years ago. The children grow up in a world where information is at their doorstep 24/7. They have access to information and media all day, everyday. They have access to the world and guess what…the world has access to them. Think about that. As a parent, you live in a time where the world can access your child just by the click of a mouse. They have been raised to fear mankind because of words like stranger danger and cyber-bullying. Bullying is a crime. Hazing is a crime. Sexting the wrong person is a crime. The wrong Facebook message sent in the fit of the underdeveloped adolescent mind, can get them expelled from school. Fear is the lifestyle of a parent in the 21st Century. Through a media culture of 500 stations, Netflix, and YouTube, children have exposure to every form of sex, violence, and abuse known to man and they have access to all of that with a smart phone in their pocket. The culture our children live in is a culture of, “I want it now,” and guess what…they didn’t create it. We did. Just look at the fame of reality television stars.

Then there is school. Standardized Testing is the equivalent to a four letter word to a parent. What if they don’t pass? Is my child’s future doomed? Many schools are set up as literal meat grinders and parents are at a loss as to how to navigate the system and how to be the supportive person their parents were. They fight to get their child in an “A” school. They put their children on lists for charter schools…a system set up to pit parents and schools against each other. The system does not allow for our children’s teachers to teach creative thought. By the time their child reaches 9th grade, their first year of marching band, the parent is worn out. They have been fighting for their child’s education since they were told their child had to read by the time they were 4. It’s a race and the parent’s are exhausted. They are financially spent.

As a parent you can’t win. If you spank your child  you could be called an abuser. If you don’t spank your child you are a loser liberal parent raising a spoiled brat, who is destroying the future of our country. You can’t leave your child alone anymore, because of the fear the media instills in you that your child will either burn the house down or someone will break into the house and molest them. Sports and activities are expensive. Parents are told on a daily basis through social media how bad children are today and in turn, how bad they are for raising them in this world of “too much.” Saving for college is almost impossible. Paying for childcare almost killed us. We see our children’s future and we are scared. It’s a dog eat dog world and our children are the chew toy, by a political field selling our children to the lowest bidder.  As a parent, we only want our children to have a fighting chance. We aren’t asking for them to win every trophy and we aren’t asking for them to become the next Steve Jobs. Our hope is that they don’t become the next reality television tragedy or the next statistic of teen pregnancy, drug addiction, or school drop out, because no one cared enough to say, “You can do it. You are smart. You are creative. You are NOT this test.”

So here is my plea. Here is my hope. It is you. You the staff member of the local marching band. It is you the coach. We need your help. We want our children to go on to that practice field and be shown love through discipline…with a side of compassion. We want you to hold our children accountable, but we also want you to allow for creativity. Feel free to come down on our children when they don’t pull their weight for the team, but make sure it is a fair game. Give them a voice in the creative process, even if it is only in a routine they make up for a song played in the stands at a football game. Show them that school is fun, because marching band is a part of it. Be their mentors. Seek to find the gem inside them, without coddling them. Listen to them as they share their fears of their future. Know that not all children are respectful and disciplined, but most are. Keep an open mind and don’t become distracted by the one child who refuses to play by the rules.

Be empathetic to the parent who works two jobs and still manages to have their child at every practice and shows up to every performance. Be patient if a parent shows up late to pick up their child, because their boss wouldn’t let them leave work early. Thank the parent who raises funds, even if all they could sell was a few candy bars. Support the parents who run the concession stand. Work to understand the situation of a child who can’t afford the fees, but desperately needs music to give them hope. Here’s the thing. We need you to help our children see that not everything in the world is fearful and some things like music and dance can be pure. Show them that playing music from the soul and dancing from the heart can be the future that was not shown to them while they were being forced to regurgitate facts for a state test. Every once in a while, turn the the parents in the stands and say, “Thank you for all you do and all you have done for our children.” Believe that most of the parents are doing their best and are working from a sense of love, but also a sense of fear for their children. Work together with the parents. Seek to find a middle ground. Teach the parent’s the importance of their role in their child’s musical development, but don’t trash them if they don’t put the effort in you were hoping for. You might not know the entire story. Remember, some parents won’t understand the value of the marching band, but most will.  Show our community that the teacher, the parent, and the child can work together for the future, in this world where teacher and parent aren’t always on the same page.  We as parents are somewhat jaded, by a system that seems to work against us…much like the teachers. We are looking for hope that our children will leave their career as a student with a new found love for learning. We are hoping that music will give them that fire.

More than anything though, don’t give up on the children. The one who needs you most might be the one desperately trying to quit. You might be all they have. Your band program might be the only thing keeping them in school and could be the difference between diploma or drop out.

We are all in this together and together we can make school a place where the community comes together for the future. I believe in this. We can do it.

Have a great school year and a great season.