A Word to the Wise…

| September 26, 2011 | 0 Comments


Now more than ever, an instructor’s words, actions, and reactions are constantly being evaluated – not only during rehearsal, but also in cyberspace.   As role models and educators, color guard instructors walk a unique tight rope;  we work in the professional realm of education (which has clear standards of teacher/instructor conduct), yet the extracurricular informalities may present challenges not present in the typical classroom setting in terms of structure and motivation.

It is sometimes unclear to new instructors what are appropriate and inappropriate ways to motivate and encourage young performers.  In many cases school systems lack an organized method of training for extra-curricular sponsors and coaches. Oftentimes supervision and training for marching band support staff is left to band directors who may have varying levels of experience with staff supervision and management.

Because we operate in a land of our own in which rehearsals and team interaction often seem far removed from outside observation, it is very easy to feel as if you can speak, write or act in whatever manner you feel appropriate for a given situation.  But this couldn’t be more wrong!

Please, recognize that there are potential and costly pitfalls in this assumption that could damage your program, your professional reputation, and the color guard activity as a whole.

Words and actions can easily be taken out of their unique and – mostly likely – appropriate circumstances and reflect negatively on you as the coach, on your students  and on your program. The pitfalls exist in the reality that not everyone knows your personality or your intention.  However, the responsibility lies with you to take precautions and be mindful that a slip of the tongue, even in jest, can have insurmountable consequences.

Considering this, here are some items that instructors must always be aware of…..

  • Don’t say or do anything that you would not want broadcast via cell phone video or over the Internet.
  • Always teach as though every child’s parent is sitting in the rehearsal with you.
  • Remember that 14 years old is STILL really young, and self esteem is so very fragile in the adolescent years.
  • Instructors are expected first and foremost to build self esteem, not break it down.
  • Screaming as motivation is NEVER an option.  There are so many other ways to get your point across more effectively.
  • Never give individual critiques that may be harsh in nature or embarrassing in front of the entire group; do this in private during break moments.
  • Remember that anything you write on the internet can be read by anyone at any time – Facebook pages are public domain.  Consider carefully and choose words wisely before writing a post – make a rule never to ‘vent’ about specific coaching frustrations on the internet.
  • Find out if your school system has a social networking policy for teachers and staff.  If not, create a policy for yourself.  Determine if, when and how you will connect with parents and students through online channels.
  • If you choose to connect with students via social networking be sure not to post anything too personal or inappropriate for this audience.  Even what may feel like a simple “vent” may run into unintended consequences when read by the wrong person.  It’s all too easy to click “friend” and then forget who is reading your status updates or seeing your photos.  Utilize strict privacy settings, especially if posting personal photos that might be questionable with regards to your status as a role model (or better yet… avoid posting those photos at all) – for instance don’t allow “friends of friends” to see photos if that might somehow make your personal photos visible to students and community members.
  • If you manage an online site for your team make sure you are following the school guidelines for posting online which may include rules regarding the use of student names and photos.  Password protection may be an important way to protect your team online.

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Category: Instruction, Professional Development

About the Author (Author Profile)

Chris Casteel is an adjudicator with the Winter Guard Association of Southern California (WGASC). She was an instructor in the activity for approximately 20 years before moving into adjudication. She teaches Language Arts and Writing at a middle school in San Marcos, CA and is also a mentor teacher for the school. She holds a BA degree in Education, a California Teaching Credential and a Masters degree in education. Thanks to Chris Casteel for sharing her ideas and for WGASC for allowing the republication of her articles on this website for instructors outside of the WGASC circuit.

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