MY OUTLOOK: John Smith

How long have you been a teacher?

I’ve been teaching 43 years total, 33 years with Edmond Public School.

John Smith, Band InstructorWhat year did you start teaching?

I started in the fall of 1969.

What do you teach?

I’m a band instructor at Cimarron Middle School and Memorial High School. My personal instrument is the trumpet.

What is your favorite part about being a teacher?

Personally, I feel that playing an instrument is one of the most enjoyable things one can do. Passing that enjoyment on to students makes teaching fun. Teaching is never boring, because each class has its own particular personality, regardless of which instruments are involved. Watching them “learn by doing” is one of the strengths of band. Everything they learn will be used every day. Nothing becomes obsolete.

How did you get into teaching?

The neighborhood that I grew up in had a large number of kids. Some were older than me and some were younger. I noticed that there were times when I could help some of them learn how to do stuff they didn’t know how to do. That’s when I first thought maybe teaching would be a good thing to do.

What is your favorite teaching memory?

My favorite memories come from dealing with students with great character traits. I attribute this to their parents, beliefs and life experiences.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned as a teacher?

One greatest lesson has been learning to not react to a negative situation and also to realize that there is a good solution to almost every situation. A lot of students go through a “goofy” period, but a year or two later, they have become caring and more responsible individuals. This is a favorite observation. 

How have things changed from when you first started teaching?

The only thing particularly different is technology. That has been a mixed blessing. There have been changes creating new challenges for students, but the students seem to be pretty much the same.

John Smith, Band InstructorIs there anything that helps you most while teaching?

The band boosters at Edmond Memorial are the greatest group of parents. They have made parts of my job so much easier, as well as physically less work. Not only for me, but they have been so supportive of the band over the years that they have become referred to as the Dream Team Parents.”

How has technology changed the way you teach?

Technology has helped with the entering and organizing of students’ grades. Parents now have access to their child’s grades at any time. This has gradually developed over the past several years and is significant.

How do you work to reach students who don’t seem as interested in learning what you are teaching?

Students who don’t seem to be interested are usually waiting to see if they are going to have some success before they make up their minds. So I watch to see which things they are able to do and then plan a simple situation where they will be able to “shine” in front of everyone. Sometimes it works quickly. Patient repetition over time may also sway them.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in pursuing teaching as a career?

Learn your subject area well. You are not going to be your favorite teacher. You have to find a way to do it well as yourself.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

I enjoy playing trumpet in the Henderson Hills Church orchestra. Also, my wife Grace is a teacher with Edmond Public Schools Indian Education and is an alternative teacher at Boulevard Academy. She plays the flute in the Henderson Hills Church orchestra as well.

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