Saturday night I tripped in a parking lot and was instantly involved in a spectacular fall. No, contrary to rumors, I was not attacked by ninjas nor did I lay down my Harley trying to avoid a Prius. I did however do a number on my nose and crack a piece off my kneecap.

Of course, we were on vacation at the time. When I arrived at the vacation destination Emergency Room I was greeted by a sign that read something like- We are committed to giving every patient very good care. I thought- Very Good? That is a B. One step up from average. I want Excellent or maybe Spectacular Care.

The ER Doctor, Radiology Personnel, and Nurses were knowledgeable, friendly, and competent. As far as I am concerned I was given excellent care. When I related this story the next morning at breakfast, one of my cousins said that he figured that some people would consider that excellent care included a personal assistant and silk pajamas in a favorite color. Another cousin voiced the opinion that probably hospital administrators and lawyers wanted to avoid raising expectations too far lest patients be disappointed or worse yet, sue them. I said- Define very good.

What would happen if I put such a statement in my syllabi? I am committed to very good teaching.  I personally don’t consider such statements useful and I think parents and students would say of teaching, just as I did about hospital care- I want excellence. In my syllabi, are statements of teacher, parent, and student responsibility. The following are teacher responsibilities:

  • Encourage and motivate students – demonstrate a love of music
  • Respect students’ opinions and value their creativity
  • Provide a positive, clean, comfortable learning environment reasonably free of distractions
  • Provide regular and well prepared lessons appropriate for the student’s level
  • Use materials which provide balanced musical growth
  • Provide proper equipment in good working order
  • Encourage open communication between students, parents, and myself
  • Provide appropriate performance opportunities for students
  • Provide appropriate listening and evaluation opportunities for students
  • Pursue personal growth opportunities in teaching and performing
  • Maintain active memberships in professional organizations

These statements are not totally my creations. I incorporated them into my policy years ago, basing them on articles I had read and sessions from workshops I attended. To me they are more meaningful than a mere statement committing me to the excellent or the very good. I use these statements of responsibility because I can lay out exactly what I will do for my students and families, as well as, what I will do for myself in order to be useful to my students.

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