Usually I let my kids fight their own battles. I tend to listen to their problems and then advise them on what I think they should do about it. Every once in a while, I feel the need to get involved such as the time that my daughter was bullied by a teacher.
Such was the case recently with my teenage son. My son is 16, so at this point I really hope that the lessons that I have taught him stick. I have always tried to teach my children that if you work hard, you will not necessarily get what you want, but you will get what you deserve.
A couple of bits of information first: our school district’s high schools are grades 10-12. My son is a music fanatic. It’s what he wants to do with his life. He wants to learn as many instruments as he can and become a brass expert. He’s not into girls (or guys, for that matter), or anything else that a typical teenager is into. He loves music. If he could practice 24 hours a day, he would. Now, the way Drum Major works at our high school is that Sophomores are allowed to try out to be Junior Drum Major for the next year. They are then automatically Senior Drum Major. Knowing all of this, my son has made it clear all year that he would be trying out for Drum Major in the spring. He spent hours practicing and filling out the questionaire, became section leader and spent as much time with the current drum major as he could.
When the 4 finalists for Junior Drum Major were announced my son was not among them. We were both shocked at this decision by the band director. The director had eliminated all brass players claiming that the section was weak. My son informed me that he honestly would not pick any of the 4 that were left to be drum major because they were either too meek and mild or just not leaders because they were not committed to band. My son and I sat on this information for about a week. I told him that if he wanted to fight for the position then he should and I would support him. He chose not to, but I could tell that it was continuing to bother him. That is when I decided to write the director an email. I wrote the following:
Over the past several days I have struggled with the decision to march into your office or write this letter. After speaking with another parent last night at the Music Boosters meeting, I decided to write, so here goes.
Last Thursday, you crushed my son’s spirit completely. His faith in doing the right thing, working hard for what he wants, trust in his teachers have all been decimated. I have always tried to instill in him that if he works hard he will get what he deserves. Your decision to exclude all brass from the running for drum major is baffling to me. It is one student; one that will not make or break an entire band. However, a bad leader can break a band. If you were going to make that decision, then why let them get their hopes up in the first place? Why let them hope all year long? Why let them train with [current drum major]?
You know that this has been a goal of [my son]’s from the very beginning of the year. He has spent countless hours practicing what [current drum major] has taught as well as hours on the questionnaire. He has also spent countless hours outside of regular time with [current drum major], learning from him. In comparison, one of your finalists spent about 10 minutes on the questionnaire and barely practices on their instrument, let alone anything else. Isn’t a drum major supposed to be a strong leader and good example for the other students? [My son] has already proven his leadership skills as section leader is Jazz. Given how week and unreliable [junior drum major] is (I know this from S & E experience), I would think you would want a solid Junior drum major. I would also think that you would want someone who is fully committed to band, is one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave, who wants to make the band better.
It would be one thing if [my son] was put up against peers that were actually real contenders, but to be discounted just because he is a brass player is just wrong. Out of the four finalists, [my son] has said that he would not vote for any of them as they do not have the qualities that a drum major should have. He has also said that the position is basically a popularity contest. As a teacher, you should be above the popularity issue and really should not be letting the students run your program, which is the whole point of you having a veto.
[My son] wants this, wants to continue music after high school, wants to teach. Music is his passion, proven by the fact that he will be showing up for Jazz Band next year, even though he will not be officially enrolled in the class due to Running Start restrictions. This would have been a stepping stone for him to start on that path. You have now put those future plans in doubt as he is questioning why bother even trying for anything. I hope that you take all of this into account in the future and be aware of the feelings of your students rather than crushing their hopes and dreams.
As you can see, I was one pissed off mama bear. Seeing my 16 year old son cry over something that he has worked so hard to achieve will do that to me. I let my son know what I had done, but because he was so down about the situation, he had no hope that it would help.
Two days later I received and email from the director stating that my son and another brass player were going to get the chance to try out for Drum Major. I was not actually expecting anything to change, was actually expecting to be ignored completely, so was pleasantly surprised. For me, this was a giant mama bear victory. For my son, it was the best day of his life. I even got an “I love you” out of it!
I guess the purpose of this post is, if all your mama instincts are telling you to get involved, DO IT!