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In My Shoes

Trey Reely | April 2018

    It is ironic that we will never fully understand what our school colleagues in other subject areas do on a daily basis; we work on the same campus with them for years, but much of what they do remains a mystery. We might hear what students say about them (and who knows how accurate that is), catch a snippet of their philosophy in a teachers’ meeting, or maybe gain some insight in the teachers’ lounge. We may even get a direct glimpse of their teaching here and there, but we would have to observe them 24/7 all year to truly understand. 
    It is like we are all living in parallel universes with administrators living in another one all their own. Administrators typically see little of their charges in action because they have scarce time to spend in teacher classrooms, thanks to disciplinary and bureaucratic matters. This is unfortunate. In the fall, their exposure to band is typically limited to watching ten minutes of rehearsal, tolerating a pep rally or two, and half-listening to a halftime show while mixing with a patron or chasing an unruly student who just threw a hotdog at the cheerleaders.
    The idea of not truly understanding what our colleagues go through has made me slow to criticize others. For instance, I do know enough about an administrator’s job to know I would never want it. I am too structured. The very thought that what I was going to do on any given day could be regularly blown out of the water and suddenly replaced by hours of disciplinary and parental unpleasantness makes me shudder. If I wanted to hear all the complaints an administrator has to hear from every corner, I would apply for a customer service job somewhere and answer from a cubicle. The list could go on, but you would have to talk to an administrator to get the full story, and like I said, even then you would not understand.
    The band director’s universe is a little different in that our handiwork is displayed on a regular basis, and band directors often receive encouraging comments more often than a typical teacher. However, it does not mean anyone really understands what we do. In fact, because of our greater exposure, some get the mistaken impression that they understand what a director has to do to pull a successful band program together and therefore feel free to offer ill-informed criticism or suggestions. I do not believe I should be free from criticism (although that would be nice), but it rankles me when the criticism is nitpicky and void of any acknowledgment of the many time-consuming responsibilities, both great and small, that I have to do to keep the program running successfully. I want to scream, “After  all the work I’ve done, you are bothering me with this?” However, I don’t; I just die a little more inside.
    Just in case someone wants to put themselves in my shoes, I’ve put together a record of a typical Friday game day during marching season using data from my Fitbit activity tracker. (I’ve rounded numbers off for ease of addition.)

Before-School Routine
    Walked around the house. (150 steps)
    Returned to the house from my car to find and retrieve the car keys. (100 steps)
    Went back into the house from the car to find my smartphone. (100 steps)

Morning Duty
    Located and corralled students from outlying areas. (425 steps)

First Period Prep
    Traveled to and returned from copy room to get papers sent to printer from office computer. Glitch in system. Nothing there to print. (350 steps)
    Sent files again. Returned to copy room to get needed paperwork. (350 steps)
    Repeated this process throughout the day, including a visit with technology coordinator. (1,200 steps)

Second Period Beginning Band
    Took student to office for hitting another student with music stand. (250 steps)
    Walked around while teaching. (200 steps)
    Hurried to restroom between classes. (300 steps)

Third Period Junior Jazz Band
    Walked around during rehearsals of Funky Monkey and Boom Boom. Took three trips to shake a cord connected to a bass amp to get it to work. (200 steps)

Fourth Period Beginning Band
    Walked around while teaching. (200 steps)

Fifth Period Marching Band
    Walked to and from practice field. (2,000 steps)
    Patrolled field during fundamentals. (500 steps)
    Walked up and down stadium steps to observe band. (500 steps)
    Ran toward drum section when they dragged the tempo. (200 steps)
    Returned to the stadium after rehearsal to retrieve my marching band notebook and megaphone. (2,000 steps)

    Walked to the cafeteria and back to my office. (750 steps)
    Returned to the cafeteria to get a forgotten fork, then returned to office. (750 steps)

Sixth Period Senior High Jazz Band
    Walked around during rehearsal. (200 steps)
    Walked to my office to retrieve an extra bass guitar folder for player who left his at home. (25 steps)

Seventh Period Guitar Class
    Walked to my assistant’s office to ask for help with Airplay that was not working on AppleTV. (50 steps)

Eighth Period Junior High Band (Canceled for Pep Rally)
    Walked to and from gym for pep rally. (800 steps)
    Represented faculty in relay involving running with eggs on a spoon. (400 steps)
    Paced around during pep rally. (100 steps)

Drive Home
    Prepared for the game. (200 steps)

Return to School and Start Pregame Preparation
    Walked to the field. (1,000 steps)
    Visited press box to talk to announcer. (150 steps)

Game Time
    Greeted the visiting band with band council during first quarter. (1,000 steps)
    Monitored students around the concession stand during third quarter. (300 steps)

Post-Game Shutdown
    Returned to field for missing drum carrier. (2,000 steps)
    Checked that doors were locked. (200 steps)
    Turned out building lights. (300 steps)
    Walked to car. (200 steps)
    Returned to bandroom to retrieve sousaphone with stuck valve. (200 steps)
    Turned out light in teacher’s lounge after noticing it while getting into my car. (150 steps)
    Returned to car. (150 steps)
    Returned to band room after a desperate text from a student who left his chemistry book in his locker. (400 steps)
    Took the sousaphone with a stuck valve to the local repair technician. (100 steps)
    Ate at Taco Bell. (100 steps)
    Arrived at home and wound down. (100 steps)
    Walked in a circle to get my total steps up to a personal record of 18,000 steps. (75 steps)
    Fell into bed.

    Even if someone walked 18,000 steps (about 9 miles) for one day in my shoes, that is still only the physical aspect of the job. Maybe someday there will be a smartphone app that can quantify the stressful psychological steps of the day. Even then, no one else would really get it. You just have to be there.