Stadler, Waldorf, and my recent dinner conversation

Do you remember Stadler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show? You know, the two old cranky but lovable curmudgeons from the balcony. They never met an act they didn't hate and a character they couldn't heckle. They hid hearts of gold behind a caustic tongue and despite their acerbic nature, they were as much a part of the muppet family as anyone.

I recently had dinner with a group of colleagues that I very much respect and admire on both personal and professional levels. They are accomplished teachers, good people, and fun to be around. That is, until they started to channel their inner muppet.

Somewhere between the appetizers and the main course, the conversation turned to young teachers and the future of music education. For almost twenty minutes I sat silently while they went back and forth bemoaning the lack of preparedness and work ethic shown by their younger counterparts. As you might imagine, more than one sentence started with, "When I was a young teacher, I ALWAYS made sure that I....(insert random complaint here)" and ended with, "... these young teachers today NEVER do that!"

As the discussion continued, I grew more and more uncomfortable with the conversation and it's lack of relationship with anything remotely resembling the truth. Not wanting to upset the apple cart, I did what I am NOT normally inclined to do, which is to keep my opinion to myself. Until...

"What do you think Scott?"

(Before you read on, you should know that I REALLY DID try to restrain tongue. My better self made a VALIANT EFFORT to muzzle my mouth. But alas, my inner demons and true self shone through.)

I blurted out...

"I think you guys sound like Stadler and Waldorf, heckling from above not appreciating what is happening below you. As far as I am concerned, young teachers today are MILES ahead of where I was when I started."

In college I didn't do any of these things university students do today, for instance:

  • I didn't study breathing
  • I didn't tech a band prior to student teaching
  • I didn't march drum corps
  • I didn't teach private lessons
  • I didn't attend honor band rehearsals or band day events
  • I didn't get any exposure to student leadership training
  • I didn't have any software training in music or drill writing
  • I didn't attend my state MEA conference
  • I didn't attend Midwest, Grand Nationals, or any other prestigious event

I continued...

"In addition, let's not also forget that these kids are going INTO college better prepared to begin with. As high school students, we now have better private teachers, better community ensembles, better pedagogical materials, and more opportunities to participate than ever before.

Teachers today start college further ahead because they performed from better method books, and individual practice software. They continued to excel through college ensembles that push the envelope and spent their summers marching or teaching young people. None of those opportunities existed when we went college.

Maybe new teachers aren't as good as you were, but they are WAY better prepared than I was. They're not perfect, but neither were we.

Teachers are BETTER prepared than ever before! And, I think the trajectory of our profession is nothing but up, as long as we support and KEEP these young teachers in this profession."

(awkward pause)

"Whatever you say Fozzie!"

Ouch... That hurt.

In that moment, I could feel my inner Waldorf coming out! Anyone want to join in and be my Stadler?

Have a great week.