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Contest Evaluations Should be Both Postive and Instructive

By Bill Duggan, President of TMAA | Tuesday, November 20, 2012 11:00 AM

Greetings from TMAA!  I hope you are having a productive fall.

Most of you are well into a new school year and I hope your experiences thus far have met or exceeded your goals and expectations. I also hope our retired members are fishing, hunting, birding, traveling or whatever makes them happy.

I suppose many of you had the pleasure of judging marching contests throughout the state this fall. I know you were impressed as I was with the quality of our marching bands and how they continue to raise the bar year after year. I’m certain the performances of our choirs, orchestras, and concert bands in the spring will be equally impressive. Congratulations to the UIL State Marching Band winners: in 3A, Argyle High School directed by Kathy Johnson and in 5A, Marcus High School directed by Amanda Drinkwater. All of the bands at the State UIL Marching Contest were outstanding, and these two were particularly special.

As we prepare for the concert season please allow me to reflect on two very vital points. First, let’s think about the importance of rewarding evaluations. I enjoyed reading Robert Floyd’s article in the November Southwestern Musician, regarding students’ expectations in a learning environment. He quoted a study by Gene Budig and Alan Heaps entitled “Students and Teachers Talk about School Reform and Student Engagement.”  These researchers found that, “Students crave a variety of instructional technique, and they consider it part of a teacher’s job to make learning engaging.” 

I immediately began to think about how our UIL comment sheets have evolved over the years. TMAA and UIL have worked together to develop and implement adjudication expectations that engage the participants and make the contest experience more rewarding. As I recall, the comment sheets I received at my first UIL contests would be considered coarse and negative today. And, although I suspect there was plenty to be negative about, commonly even First Division performances received primarily a list, often measure by measure, of what was wrong with the performance. The comments occasionally contained a few suggestions for improvement but rarely was there a mention of anything positive.

Today, we all realize that comment sheets are much more effective when they contain a mixture of positive remarks, specific suggestions or techniques for improving weaknesses and minimal comments in a negative context. Today our challenge is to create UIL contest evaluations that the students, teachers, administration, and the community perceive as being positive and analytical but at the same time instructive. I am proud of the continuing work of UIL and TMAA to achieve this goal and refine the adjudication process.

Another increasingly omnipresent phenomenon that wasn’t even in our vocabulary a few years ago is Social Media. Smart phones, iPods, You Tube, iPod’s, notepads and notebooks allow us to be in constant communication. Face Book, Twitter, texting and similar applications encourage us to communicate our every thought to the world. I find it interesting that we worry about identity theft, carefully protect our checking account numbers and social security numbers, routinely shred personal documents before discarding them and in every way possible take steps to guard our privacy; yet, we share intimate details of our lives to anyone who can read. People broadcast personal thoughts, school experiences, favorite restaurants, politics, personal photographs and in many cases we never even know who is reading our posts.

As this kind of sharing becomes commonplace, adjudicators need to remember that the comments we make on UIL sheets are meant for the use of the groups we adjudicate, not the rest of the world. Certainly any thoughts about a performance, a teacher, awkward or unfortunate performance situations are not to be shared via social media. Furthermore, even without your knowledge and consent your comments may appear on YouTube and make you famous, or infamous, as the case may be. The bottom line is - never forget that what you say in a critique today could easily be out there for the world to hear or read 24 hours later. And casual comments you share in a social medial setting could be available for public consumption almost immediately.

I hope you are able to attend the TMEA convention in February. Many of you will attend the TMAA workshops, and I encourage you to take advantage of every workshop and clinic you can work into your schedule. Enjoy the many concerts as well. Exposure to the best our state has to offer is a great way to continue learning and growing. Hope to see you there.