Monday, September 16, 2013

Attendance, Planning, and Time, Oh, My!

Parents - 

Though this post doesn't apply to all of you, I hope that many will find it to be in the helpful spirit in which it is intended.

This first issue applies to more folks than the second, and is something that may become more important as our Monday rehearsals move to the stadium this week.  Please make it a point to pick up your child after a rehearsal or performance at the time listed for the event.  We frequently end up with students waiting here well after 9 p.m. on Monday after rehearsal, and I don't like to leave them locked out of the building at night.  The same is true for when the band returns from events away from school - I usually publish an expected time of arrival back at school, and it's very cool if everyone gets picked up right around then.  As far as pickup points go, please plan on using the band room parking lot rather than the stadium or the front lot at East.  This allows me to shut down the stadium lights and return to school without leaving unsupervised kids, and also makes it easier to keep track of who is where in the building when they are not waiting in the front lobby for a ride.  Thanks!!

The rest of this post is mostly for parents of athletes, but it also applies in the event that you take your kids out of school for vacations or other family events, so you may want to at least skim through it.

Attendance at band performances is obviously very important for many reasons.  It gives the students a chance to show what they know, assess and evaluate their product, and work together for a common goal among other valuable learning experiences.  It is considered part of the class expectations; a performance is similar to a unit test at the end of a chapter of math, for instance.  Performing also gives students a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as they watch themselves continue to improve over the course of the season.

As the band has grown over the years, more and more students are participating in more and more activities.  This is great!  High school should be a time of getting the most out of your experiences, and being on the Cross Country team, in the band, and part of US FIRST or whatever else kids do should be a priority.  Sometimes, though, as the student, family, sports, and band calendars all fill up, we run into trouble.  I hope to help clear things up as far as procedures in the next few paragraphs to help avoid tough situations.

First I would like to explain my reasoning for asking for two weeks' notice for excused absences (those that do NOT involve illness or emergency).  When I know people are going to miss a performance it enables me to either cover a spot, find a sub (for a soloist, for instance), or do some "horse trading" to make sure we don't have people missing from the same area and making large open spots.

There are many Saturdays where almost all sports have invitationals - XC, tennis, volleyball, soccer, etc.  I honestly have very little idea who is in what sport, and I don't think the coaches really know who is in band, either.  So if I have several athletes in many sports (which I do, every year), there may be a situation in which I have many people missing from the same section!  When I know two weeks in advance, the coaches and I are able to make some deals: "I'll give you this trumpet player, but I need my horn soloist."  "Fine, but for Pumpkin Fest we have the Conference meet; may they all miss the parade?"  "Works for me."  And that sort of thing.  That way I'm not missing seven trumpet players and the coach can field a team of runners.

The same goes for family vacations, etc.  Knowing well in advance helps me make sure everything is covered.  It is more critical during concert season, when (especially in the percussion section) there are more specialized parts for 3-4 different groups.

In the instance of sporting events, the responsibility should fall on the STUDENT to notify the coach and director of conflicts.  This is certainly part of growing, setting priorities, and communication, all of which I consider valid outcomes for my class and being a student athlete.  My goal, however, is not to have a schedule for each sport, but rather a notification (via email or a face-to-face conversation) that someone has a conflict with the time of two events.  Having the schedule for ten fall sports does not really make it any easier for me; I don't know who plays what.  So if the kids check their schedules (my daughter's Cross Country calendar is on the fridge right next to her Orchestra one) and see a conflict, they should be talking to at least two adults - me and the coach - about that specific date.  If the communication comes from the parents, that works, too.

We also have a pretty good understanding between the arts and athletics of a sort of "hierarchy" system of determining where kids go if there is a problem.  Our goal is to keep the students and families OUT of the decision-making process so that we avoid anyone feeling pressured or coerced into making a choice one way or the other.  Here's how that works:
  • Students are expected to be automatically at the "higher" event - when the band has a performance and the team has a practice, the student attends the band performance without penalty.  The reverse is true as well, which happens on Monday nights quite a bit - kids go to their games on Mondays and miss the band's rehearsal.  Coaches know and understand that we have these Monday nights, and are very flexible about letting athletes leave when they are done to head back to band.
  • If there is a conference-level event vs. an invitational-style event, the conference wins out.  On Pumpkin Fest parade day, all Varsity tennis players are automatically excused from the parade for Conference, for instance.
  • In the fall the ONLY event that I consider sacred is our District marching festival.  This event has been held on the second Tuesday in October since I was in high school and had been left free from athletic contests for many years.  Since the realignment of athletic conferences happens far more than MSBOA districts, this is no longer possible.  I still require athletes to participate in the MSBOA event on this Tuesday.  (Though for a few years the District soccer tournament was that day as well, so we were back to the trading thing...)
  • Most students, thanks to their understanding parents, are almost always able to participate in both activities on the same day.  There is lots of uniform changing in parking lots and back seats of cars, but parents manage to get kids where they need to be and the coaches and I appreciate that!!
 I think that covers the issues pretty well.  If you see something that you think needs more clarification, please send me an email - kwalker@zps.org - and let me know!

Thanks to ALL of you who have driven your kids, other kids, and equipment hither and yon to make sure everyone gets where they belong!