By David Duarte | Director of Bands, Washougal High School, WA

A teacher’s influence on their students can be profound. Surprisingly, this could be positive or negative. Many external demands in today’s teaching environment, such as professional learning communities, benchmarks, and assessments, can sometimes divert our attention from the needs of our students and program. In addition, a teacher’s administrative demands can sometimes blur the lines between other classroom needs, such as the environment and the emotional tone. As educators, we must empathize with our students to meet their needs for a successful lesson, plan a productive rehearsal, and promote an environment that stimulates practice and inspires them to return for more. Through teacher guidance, the ultimate goal is to create a classroom atmosphere defined by the expectations and actions of students. Personal experiences have evolved from taking over band programs where there is a need to build or maintain quality whether you are starting a new job or have been in the same place for years. The environment created in the classroom can greatly affect the product produced and help with high expectations to better understand the students’ needs by doing what is best for them.

Culture Before Content
To be a teacher is akin to being a salesperson. We sell a product where there might not be any demand. How does one shape an entire music program’s belief? It is essential to recognize that we are responsible for all students in our program, regardless of their abilities. Without an established tradition of excellence or practice, it may become difficult to achieve the desired results.
When students walk into the classroom, do they warm up independently? Do they start working on a clear tone? Do they start running through technical needs in various patterns in different modes and key
centers? If the answer is not “yes,” why is that? Without trust between students and teachers, solutions can remain a mystery. Engagement is crucial, and personal belief can help. We are not enforcers, simply guides. I recommend that you not use a power system in your classroom to influence your students’ attitudes. A thriving culture must include everyone and showing power or even anger can have the opposite effect when used as motivation. Every student uniquely approaches interaction. However, we cannot assume that students are encouraged and motivated to learn and master the materials we offer.

Social-Emotional Influence
Whether negative or positive, the way you make people feel will stick with students and serve as a lasting impression. As a result, the learning experiences of our students now include more social and emotional learning. Get to know students and their learning methods and how comfortable they are in class. Students aren’t always whom they seem to be. The stress, anxiety, and peer pressure that many of our kids experience in the classroom makes it difficult for us to judge their attitudes objectively. As educators, it is our responsibility to provide an environment where all students can thrive musically and socially.
When it comes to performance classes, it can be helpful to be innovative about how students can achieve their goals. For example, specific people may prefer to perform for the teacher rather than create a video for classroom submission, and vice versa. First, however, it is helpful to get this information from students to help them develop a sense of comfort with classroom expectations to perform.
In a performance class, the overall environment is just as crucial as the expectations of playing. When expectations are high, a sense of belonging is compelling for students. The classroom environment may have a more significant impact on learning and teaching than most people realize. Clear expectations can enhance the process. Rehearsals could be easily improved and more productive by soliciting input from students. It’s up to you to create an atmosphere in the classroom that best suits who you are.

Shared Vision
Creating a shared vision with students can facilitate a teacher’s expectations for the classroom. For example, imagine that the expectations for warming up, practicing, and performing are present in a rehearsal without saying a word. Would you feel comfortable that your students could learn in your absence? Is the room set up when you get back? The key to any rehearsal is to find a way to enable children to take responsibility for the process.
In the end, what is essential for a successful classroom should be important to you and the students. A program’s success could be influenced more by a student’s social and emotional well-being in the classroom. Using this sense of security and empathy to promote a classroom culture will help you determine how to help your students learn most effectively and ultimately allow your students to perform with high expectations.