Contributing editor Brian Anderson has collected funny, infuriating, and touching stories from colleagues for this new bimonthly column, which debuted in our June online issue and appeared in our pages for the first time in August.
A $10,000 Fuse
One morning the Activities Director interrupted Mr. Reed’s band class and asked him to step into the hall.
Activities Director: “The color guard was practicing in the gym this morning. Is that correct?”
Mr. Reed: “Yes, why?”
A.D.: “Well, they ruined the brand new $10,000 sound system we put in the gym.”
Mr. Reed: “What do you mean, ruined it?”
A.D.: “They must have turned up the volume too loud and destroyed the system. You’d better hope for your sake that it can be fixed, otherwise that money may be coming out of your pocket.”
Mr. Reed went back in to finish the class period, but it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than this current problem. Immediately after class he walked down to the gym, meeting the Principal along the way.
Mr. Reed: “I am so sorry about the sound system. We didn’t mean to cause any problems.”
Principal: “You didn’t. It blew a fuse.
Mr. Reed: “I was told we ruined a $10,000 sound system.”
Principal: “No, we put in a new fuse. Cost us 99 cents. It works great.”
By this time the two of them were in the gym.
Mr. Reed: “I was told that our Color guard girls had the volume up too loud.”
The Principal then turned the volume so loud they had to cover their ears, then turned it down.
Principal: “Sounds like it works fine to me. It was a blown fuse. Nobody’s fault. The system is fine. Enjoy your day.”
On the way back down to the Bandroom, Mr. Reed met the Activities Director.
A.D.: “I talked to the sound system repair guys, and they said that you ruined it. It isn’t going to cost $10,000 to fix, but we may need to take some money from the band budget to pay for it.”
Mr. Reed: “Like 99 cents?”
Mr. Reed: “I just talked to the Principal, and he said the only problem was that it blew a fuse. They replaced it and it works fine. Total cost: 99 cents. Would you like to apologize now?”
The Activities Director stormed off and never did apologize to Mr. Reed.
Tam-Tam Time Out
The band would bring a tam-tam down to the gym for basketball games. Whenever one of the home team’s players would hit a three-point shot, a percussionist would hit the tam-tam, which would ring for a long time. It became quite a hit with the crowd, so the band continued the tradition. One game, during the band’s third-quarter refreshment break, the unattended stand for the tam-tam lost its balance. The flat striking surface of the tam-tam landed on the hardwood gym floor creating a deafening sound that stopped every movement in the gym. After the tam-tam was retrieved and play resumed, Mr. Reed was instructed by his administration not to bring the tam-tam to any more games.
You Can’t Measure Complaining
At his first parent-teacher conference as an educator, Mr. Reed was approached by an angry parent. She was upset with her student’s grade in band as it was the only B in an otherwise straight-A report card. She demanded to see the principal and learn from Mr. Reed why her student had not received an A. While bright and talented, the student had been uncooperative in class and was a constant complainer. Mr. Reed had used this poor attitude as the justification for the lowered grade. It was only a few minutes into the conversation with the parent and principal before Mr. Reed realized that using attitude as a portion of the grade was not going to be acceptable. The grade was eventually changed, but the parent never forgave Mr. Reed and allowed her student to quit band at the end of the year. The silver lining from this incident was that Mr. Reed realized his assessment system must be based on measurable educational objectives and used this approach for the remainder of his career.
The Only Option
The Activities Director requested Mr. Reed come to see him.
AD: “I’ve got a problem I want to discuss with you. We have the state football playoffs coming up, and I ordered chartered buses rather than our school buses for the football players.”
Mr. Reed: “Okay, so why do you need me?”
AD: “Well, when the softball team went to state, I sent them in school buses. And, ever since our Title IX lawsuit a few years ago, everything has to be equal. If I send the football players in chartered buses, the softball parents will be mad and we might have problems.”
Mr. Reed, sensing an opportunity: “I see what you mean, and I can help you. I think your only option is to give the chartered buses to the band.”
AD: “But then the football parents will be mad.”
Mr. Reed: “Yes, but do you want to get sued again because things aren’t equal? I think this is your only option. You have to give the chartered buses to the band.”
That is how the marching band traveled to the state football playoff game in chartered buses while the football players rode in school buses. There was some grousing among the football coaches, players, and parents, but no legal action was taken, and the band students had the time of their lives riding in style.