The Many Roles of the Instructor: Keeping Performers Motivated Mid-Season

| May 9, 2008 | 1 Comment

WGASC judge Chris Casteel discusses strategies for keeping your performers motivated through the mid-season slump!

It’s really quite funny how just a few weeks ago we found ourselves in the role of frantically designing, teaching, editing, followed by re-designing, re-teaching and re-editing, and then even more designing, teaching and editing.  Phew – just thinking about it makes me exhausted!  Even better, at some point we took on the persona of a master salesperson as we endeavored to impart vision, excitement and ownership of ‘the show’ to our beloved performers.  I’m sure that we could all do well selling used Toyotas somewhere in suburbia.  Considering this, it never ceases to amaze me the multiple roles we play in each of our programs, and the fact that we somehow manage to cling to our sanity in the process!

So here we are, in the magical month of March; when performers know their show and are ever so slightly disengaging from the process.  The same month of March when we find ourselves anxiously wondering: “How can I make this show better?”  “What will take my show to the next level?”  This is the month in which our reality exists in the dichotomy between our desire for excellence and our performers’ realities of contentment.

The answer: Time to take on yet another role!  This time you get to be a motivational specialist!  But wait, before you feel panic washing over your psyche, rest assured that you will not be taking on the persona of a cheerleader complete with pom poms and a blow horn.  I bring great news – this new role will be relatively easy for you to transform into.  Mid-season motivation all boils down to this…Change your Rehearsal Routine.  When doing so, you may want to consider the following items as you prepare for your latest Emmy award-winning role.

Economize your Words:

Consider that your performers have heard you sell and teach the show for two (maybe more) months now.  In addition, the truth is that when teachers talk too much…kids zone out.  Obviously you are not going to stop talking to your students, but you can make sure that when you verbalize directions to your performers that it is focused and integral in the success of their show.

The other thing to consider in this is the less you talk, the more the performers will practice.  I know none of us can afford to stop the instruction rhetoric mid-season, but try economizing your words during one rehearsal and maybe, just maybe you might find your students working harder.

The Camcorder is your Friend:

There is nothing like seeing yourself up close and personal on film.  It is a bit mortifying and enlightening at the same time.  Use this as much as possible in rehearsal, and then take a portion of a rehearsal to review the tape.  Your performers will welcome a change of pace, and there is still great opportunity for instruction through the video viewing process.

Incentives, Incentives, Incentives:

Nothing will motivate your performers more than contests and prizes.  By this, I do not mean big dollar prizes.  You want to et as many prizes as possible so that everyone has the opportunity to ‘win’.  Really, it is all about changing the atmosphere of the rehearsal so the value of the prize is secondary.  Hype the prizes (even if they aren’t that great), the kids will love it if you are making a big deal out of them.

Now all you have to do is determine what areas of your show need the most improvement.  Example:If your group is not one to perform for the audience, create a contest that will decide who can ‘flirt’ with the audience the most during a rehearsal.  Once the winner has been announced, keep reminding them of their accomplishments.  The secret to this is to reflect on the various winnings in consecutive rehearsals; it will give each performer an identity.  In addition, the others will want to attain the same level of achievement as their peers.

Change the Routine:

At this point in the season, it’s really imperative that you change things up a bit.  Students like change and they like to be a part of making change too.  So, find ways that you can manipulate the schedule of your rehearsal.  One fun way to do this is to let the students bring in the music that the team warms up to.  Monday can be ‘freshman day’, Tuesday can be ‘sophomore day’, Wednesday can be ‘junior day’ and Thursday and Friday can be ‘senior day’.

Finally, as you undertake your latest, starring role, I leave you with this small morsel of encouragement:  It seems at times a topsy turvy Color Guard world we exist in.  We find ourselves running from season to season buried in the details and dynamics of our programs.  But your role is more than just a designer, teacher, motivator or technician.  In the big scope of things, you are often the steadying force in a young life.  There is nothing more motivating and engaging to a student than the knowledge that you care and are supportive of them.  So go forth, remain sane and embrace all that this great activity holds for you and your students.


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Category: Instruction, Rehearsal Planning & Management

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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