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Unique High School Leadership Question.

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by The_Terg, Dec 4, 2003.

  1. The_Terg

    The_Terg Active Member

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    I have an Important question for all of you:

    I am in a rather odd situation right now. Being student head of Theatre Tech, (with a rather unreliable teacher advisor) I have a large group of young techies to maintain. Due to some complications and misunderstandings last year, these techies ran 2 entire shows, entirely untrained. The shows came out terrible (but I was unable to interdict due to several other problems involving their parents and the Administration of the school.)

    This year, these techies act as if they have all the necessary skills to be in the tech crew. Unfortunately, so does the teacher advisor. THe teacher advisor knows nothing about tech (He thinks that feedback is a result of an overloaded amp, and doesnt even know what the word EQ means.......).

    My problem is that I cannot get the message across that these young techies DO NOT HAVE THE NECESSARY SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE TO RUN SHOWS! Its absolutely frustrating. No-one seems to acknowledge this fact, because no-one knows anything about our sound system or about theatre tech. I am essentially the caretaker of the entire system, because I know more about it than any other teacher or student. The young techies feedback constantly, give tinny and low-quality sound, use no common sense in terms of mixing (blasing music and effects over singers...) and dont even know what everything does. They know the bare essentials concerning sound.

    How do I go about convincing people, that these kids need TRAINING? I mean, their methods are downright dangerous at times! (I once found a mic cable sitting on the floor, that was plugged into a live amplifier that powers our main speakers.) I am seemingly powerless, but yet I am the only one that seems to know what they are doing wrong! ARRRRG!
     
  2. DMXtools

    DMXtools Active Member

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    Reminds me of me... about 37 years ago. Took me a long time to learn the truth behind the old saw "you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar." You're smart, you know a heck of a lot more than the other kids on the tech crew, but they don't want to listen to you. It's a matter of the approach - when you're right, you tend to be imperious about it - acting like a little dictator (at least I did...). :oops:

    What you need to do is change how you deal with others. They're there to learn, not just to do your bidding. Don't just tell them what to do, tell them why. Rather than insisting that you're way is best, persuade them. They're not your competition, they're your team. Coach them. They need training, train them. But when you do, it should never come off as "you're wrong and I'm right" but "that's okay, but I think it would be better to do it this way because..." and explain why.

    Point them to these forums and any other on-line resources you may have, so they can learn from others, too.

    John
     
  3. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    I once became the student TD after some politics once myself. Got quite the head on my shoulders too. Not saying you have a big head or the most noble of interests. I was the crew head. That's until the new TD came in. At first I thought she was off her rocker like the last one that was very not qualified, than she impressed and won my little war with her. She became my mentor early on after some very vocal battles to rein me in and gain control of my stage crew. Seemed to become able to sense what I was doing anywhere in the building and vocally yell corrections to me when the saw was bogging down or I was doing something the way I wanted. She ended up being a prime mover for the program to a higher level of tech and tought me a lot of things after I accepted her leadership and skills. She was not perfect and I probably have more skill than her now, but at the time when I was the crew chief and thought I had the job all sewn up, there was a whole new world ahead of me she let me learn from.

    Unfortunately for you, the school did not hire someone that knows what they are doing enough yet. And I stress yet because if they are there long enough and have their heart in a good place, they will learn. The catching flys with Sugar idea is good, also you spending a lot of bonding time with the teacher is good. He needs to know you really well, what you know and can be trusted as responsible for and you need to get to learn his leadership style and why he is taking the training thing slow. As a teacher I would assume there is some style even if not technically proficient. Hopefully he is not lazy or lame, perhaps it's just a new guy type thing, teaming up with him will help. Little to no other choices anyway. Once the two of you are on the same page, all is super.

    When doing care taking on the equipment, make extra effort to coordinate with the teacher, tell him what you intend and get permission - it's just a courtosy thing, but it's also training for when you go away. Have him with you as much as possible so he also learns it. Might take some time before the two of you if ever are on the same page or agree on most things but with patience and tact it hopefully will work out.
    Don't act like his superior on sound or anything as said above but train him in the stuff you know while listening to what they know or think about it. Note that I'm not talking about the crew, just the teacher. For other student training, let him decide who him or you will do the instruction or when the little monsters are ready to learn. Perhaps the TD does not know what all the knobs do but he might know art when he hears it or something else useful that the two of you can coordinate with in the future. Probably won't be perfect right away but think of it as if a long term project. Ask if the two of you can work on or investigate the feed back problems together at some point so he learns what you do by seeing cause effect at the proper time away from the crew. Leadership thing. Takes a lot of tact to train someone and it's not going to help you much at the moment but years from now, it will probably be best that way.

    The best leaders are not necessiarially the most technical people. Get the leadership role on your crew in the bag with the teacher in the lead and perhaps the tech part will follow, or under his direction or coordination the tech will follow with at least you covering your end as it's head under him.


    Also, what helped my crew with a Master Carpenter that was not quite up to snuff once, was for me to be his birdie and stay out of the leadership thing. Had to bite my tongue hard a few times but it was for the best. Step back from being the student leader some if possible other than for tasks you are instructed to lead on and let the teacher become that and you be the whisper in his or her ear in a non public way. Let him make final deciscions. Direct all leadership type questions and similar things to his ears even if you know. Hopefully you can be as per part of the crew or his supervisor/assistant and in that way reinforce the chain of command until it begins to function better and the other students with both of your leadership - mostly his with you his direct assistant start to learn instead of asking themselves who to listen to or is right.

    I have the call sign of Rogue 1 on the walkie talkie. For the most part, when I was most using that title I was outside the chain of command. I was Very technically proficient and sent on special duties when not needed to be a #2 in the crew or just a sub crew chief. Perhaps by thinking of yourself as a rogue warrior outside the chain of command or crew but a part of it when needed, that might make it easier. Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue if it will reinforce the crew and it's chain of command, you a silent member but the whisper in the leaders ear.

    Being the birdie in the ear of the TD or advisor given the proper tact and timing for it reinforces the chain of command and helps the two of you get along much better. I use it at work as much as possible. I hate the shop manager, at certain times the feelings are mutual. Different departments - his is the shop and shows going out, mine is the electrics and equipment. Were he my boss I would be long gone.

    Tech people come to see me because I make deciscions and seem to know. Plus I'm less mean usually. Shop manager and I don't necessarially get along unless I do coordinate my ideas thru him and send questions his way that are things he should be answering even if I know the answer. Takes a lot of effort to not just answer questions or make deciscions but it's best that way. Sometimes the people asking are sent back to me for an answer he does not know or is not within his concerns or if it needs my figuring out or instruction. Often his ideas are less useful or thought out than mine, sometimes the opposite. But he is their boss and has the big picture under his responsibility. Thru coordination, the leadership thing works well. Once that functions well, instruction follows.

    Anyway just some thoughts if it helps on being that rogue tech person that isn't one of the masses but is also not completely incharge of them either. It works out hopefully. If not, the Master Carpenter was fired and later that year I took over. That meant I could no longer concentrate on the things I did well much less anything. Too much responsibility for others and keeping one step ahead. Good for the team but not much good for the details I used to cover. Hopefully it won't go back to you leading the crew because I'm sure you leading it with all the politics and stuff also did not allow you reasonable amounts of time to do the things you specialized in.
     
  4. The_Terg

    The_Terg Active Member

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    Ok, I can see that I will overall need to be more active in the learning process...

    a couple of things tho:

    Firstly, one problem with the said Teacher advisor is that he is Never there. He has no cellphone, and he leaves the school very nearly at 3:15. Although he IS head of theatre tech, and SHOULD be staying at every tech rehearsal, he doesn't. He hasn't stayed for 1 yet. So, getting the time to communicate with him has been hard. I only get about a 20 minute window each day to talk to him....

    I also thing that part of the problem lays with the fact that both the techies and their parents are extremely overpretective of their role in the tech crew. One day last year, I sat down during a tech rehearsal and told the techie that I would be mixing that day, and that perhaps he should watch me, and listen to what I have to say. I though that I gave a very informative lesson. I reminded him not to just - 'set and forget' your levels, told him the order of powering on the system (board, then amps) and demonstrated the proper laying of floormics. I was under the impression that he was learning, and happy with the experience that he was gaining.

    However, a little later, I learned that just about all of the parents of the young techies complained directly to the administration (Its a very tight knit community around here. Too tight knit....). They said that we bossed them around, and that the techies were under the impression that they would be running that show. Now, in all honesty, I was nowhere near bossy. I can't speak for my fellow techie, who was having some difficulties dealing with the lighting people, but the young sound kid was very pleasant and OK with me mixing. I was very confused, but still tried to sit there and give him instruction. Several complaints later, we werent allowed to tell them what to do, at all. Administration's order. I just had to sit there, hoping to god they didn't blow the speakers out, or shock themselves...

    The situation was radically different with the first show of this year. When we all met in the beginning of the year, the TEacher advisors solution to our problems was that we all just claimed the shows that we wanted to run. This seemed to me to just make the problems much worse. Then, the first show was to be done in the newly furnished, new sound system of our middle school auditorium - A sound system that not even I had a chance to use. Natrully, I need some mixing experience on this system to become proficient on it. However, I was unable to, because it wasn't my show. They mixed it horribly, mainly because I didn't have the availability to tune the equipment properly.

    The problem is, I HAVE been letting the Teacher decide when 'the little monsters are ready to learn,' and he has not decided. They have been rolling out with poor shows, and the Teacher thinks it's the equipment!
    Let me try and put it into perspective - I had an arguement with him on the last performance about feedback. I told him that if we raised the gain of the system any more, we would feedback because the sound produced by the speakers would be bouncing off the back wall, right into the floormics. His arguement was that feedback was a result of 'putting too much strain on an amplifier!' ARgg
     
  5. DMXtools

    DMXtools Active Member

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    Did your teacher-advisor volunteer for the job, or was it assigned? Sounds to me like the latter...

    The only consolation I can offer is that one of these days you'll graduate and move on to a college where theater technology isn't just drama club, it's actual classes, with teachers who DO know more than you and with fellow-students who are there because they really want to learn, not just because it's something to do after school.

    Good luck...

    John
     
  6. The_Terg

    The_Terg Active Member

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    *Groan*

    It's alright for the most part, i'll live. Actually, several other parents are rallying for my support. Many of the 'theatre friendly' parents have already suggested people as replacements, but these suggestions haven't reached the administration yet.

    Atleast I get the reign of all High School shows and assemblies....
    That, and I got a job with the company that installed the sound system in both of our auditoriums.
     
  7. sparkfairy

    sparkfairy Member

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    For the problem of him not being there all the time, do you have a set tech schedule? If you do, then it might help to give him the schedule and tell him that that's when the crew meets, not tell him to be there or anything, but give him the subtle message that he is expected to be there. Is a psychological thing.

    As for new techs, my advice (for what ir's worth) is to appear as competent as possible, not scorn them or belittle them, and just let them make their own mistakes then gently give advice on why it didn't work. This way, they will see for thenselves that you know what you are doing and might start coming to you when problems arise for them. Act like you are all an equal group and maybe they won't feel threatened and challenged to show that they can do things by themselves.

    Hope it all works out for you!
     
  8. wemeck

    wemeck Active Member

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    Keep your head up Chief! For three years of High School my life was made hell by five girls merely a year ahead of me in school. They tormented me for years. We would occasional get a Special Education student or a student who was timid and nine times out of ten I would have to work with him. Break them, in show them the ropes and deal with the treatment from the girls. Many other students came to crew and left because they could not handle the abuse. Well one day the girls graduated and then it was a different world.

    You are going to have to survive no matter what you do. So take it day by day and whatever you do. Do not put yourself in a position where you will get in trouble.
     
  9. wemeck

    wemeck Active Member

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    one more thing. If push really comes to shove with these people and your hard work and talents are nolonger appreciated. Then find something else at school or you can do theater in the community theater arena. Community theater is really cool because the adults depend upon you and the more responsible you are the more they take a liking to you.

    The one caveat being, hopefully unlike your High School cast parties, these are adults with adult beverage products and tobacco products. So you have to be more aware and careful of your surroundings. My mom use to get all kinds of pist when I came home smelling of smoke. Regardless if it was second tobacco products or Fog residue.
     
  10. fishyswishy

    fishyswishy Member

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    I recomend becoming good friends with your admin. If you can interact with the people that really run the school they will understand better what you do and wont give you crap when it comes time to put the younger techies in line. at our school just this year somehow we got 8 new tech interns. not to say the least one was supposedly good with computers(HA, he can write my cue sheets) another was an actor, singer. and the rest i have no idea why they wanted to join us. well to start it off us two head tech directors have a very strong relationship with the all the upper admin in our school. if you dont get bad saying your principles first name to them then you know you have done your job. its a working relationship which has its large benifits it keeps them off our backs most of the time and leaves us to deal with taking care of what the director thinks things should work for us tech. in the last 3 weeks we have put in 126 hours on tech work out of that probably 20 were supervised by some sort of authority. but what you needs to happen with the lower level techs figure out who's there to learn and whos there not to. keep the ones that do and the ones that dont well keep em for your dirty work
     
  11. The_Terg

    The_Terg Active Member

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    You are all absolutely right. I'm not gonna die from a few bad shows that I don't mix for. I am searching for alternate means of connections, through a few parents and teachers. Essentially, I have no choice but to simply let them mix, let them work the equipment, and just provide information if they so request it.

    Besides, at this point, I have enough experience and praise from the higher areas of the administration, (the superintendent of schools :wink:) that the young techies are slowly becoming small fish to fry. I just cringe at the thought of letting them sit there.

    Really, the only thing that stops me from setting them straight and teaching them the right was is that they have all formed their own strategies for running sound and lights. IE, the sound tech has a tendency to simply leave the floormics and hanging mics up at a certian level the entire show. I have been trying to tell him that he will get more gain by only leaving a few on, but he has the tendency to ignore me.

    It's just exruciatingly annoying.... (but I could be mixing SO much better!.....)

    I'll live.
     
  12. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    "Several complaints later, we werent allowed to tell them what to do, at all. Administration's order." - The_Terg

    I’m sorry I stopped reading this sound thing. Sound is not my field so I did not read further posts. Sounds like it got very political very fast. What a shame when the parents are involved like they should be but their little starlet is not given the due respect they should. After all, they are the most Prima Donna in the world are they not? Terg man, you know how to hold a conversation well, this forum needs more like you. My parents had the opposite to being involved going for them. They used to ground me from doing shows, or in other words I would simply not come home or sneak out. Jumping from a second story window was not beyond me if the show had to go on. Yea, they saw me at times but that’s a long story. In any case, sounds like your wisdom of stepping back and just letting them do it was wise. Let the bustards ruin the sound for their shows. Sometimes it’s just not worth it. SunSu is well worth reading especially in something like choose your battles an pick them well. Those posting replies have it all right, pick the shows you work on and even if it’s crap for the rest, you are a source, if they choose not to use you, than there is not much you can do or get upset about until they are ready to learn. They might eventually, than again they might not. Not for you to worry, you at least have an ear.
    1.
    "The problem is, I HAVE been letting the Teacher decide when 'the little monsters are ready to learn,' and he has not decided. They have been rolling out with poor shows, and the Teacher thinks it's the equipment!
    Let me try and put it into perspective - I had an arguement with him on the last performance about feedback. I told him that if we raised the gain of the system any more, we would feedback because the sound produced by the speakers would be bouncing off the back wall, right into the floormics. His arguement was that feedback was a result of 'putting too much strain on an amplifier!' - The_Terg

    As I said at least hopefully, you can try as you can to connect to his artistic sense and even “investigate” the problems together and apart from the crew but short of that, your main goal is that he gets it before you leave. Think of it in the long term. Yea, xxx show sucked but in the long run, what art can he learn technically to create with your help? That’s the goal. Sure he thinks it’s the equipment, and perhaps part of it is, what were you taught by some major sound expert? Perhaps it’s both or some of either. In any case the goal is still for both of you to read off the same page.
    1.

    2.
    "Did your teacher-advisor volunteer for the job, or was it assigned? Sounds to me like the latter....." - DMXtools

    1. Yep, know them assigned teachers well. What a shame that some teacher that once took an acting class is now qualified by way of teacher’s certificate to teach you sound. Pays them extra bucks and frequently they are not theater people with an itch to make art instead of just supervise some AV people. They post some stupid posters and artsy type things up on their classroom postiit boards but don’t invest the time in caring to learn reality beyond simple tech. We can’t all be Scott at Edward R. Murrow HS now can we? Than the schools can’t afford the sports team coaches. Terg, the trick for you is somehow diplomatically getting this instructor that is responsible for the program on your side in making art, and getting him involved beyond what is required but what is paid for. No matter the administration and support, it’s him that runs the program now and especially when you leave. If theater is art, than it’s your responsibility to pass it on to that which will be most be likely to be able to continue the art you are after. That’s most likely the person in charged of the program. If you think he is not worth it, than let it go but if not, you have to work it out still. No cell phone, 3:15 etc, there needs to come to a workable relationship. You posting crew hours might be an idea that might or might not work but with or without the admin that you have the respect of, don’t undermine him but pass on your skill if you care about those that follow.

    “As for new techs, my advice (for what ir's worth) is to appear as competent as possible, not scorn them or belittle them, and just let them make their own mistakes then gently give advice on why it didn't work. This way, they will see for themselves that you know what you are doing and might start coming to you when problems arise for them. Act like you are all an equal group and maybe they won't feel threatened and challenged to show that they can do things by themselves.

    Hope it all works out for you!” sparkfairy - you are wise beyond your posts - it’s worth a lot.

    2.
    It's alright for the most part, i'll live. Actually, several other parents are rallying for my support. Many of the 'theatre friendly' parents have already suggested people as replacements, but these suggestions haven't reached the administration yet.” - The_Terg “Do not put yourself in a position where you will get in trouble.” - wemeck I agree, don’t let this school theater become a battle, it’s art you try to do here not who runs what.

    if you dont get bad saying your principles first name to them then you know you have done your job. ... but what you needs to happen with the lower level techs figure out who's there to learn and whos there not to. keep the ones that do and the ones that dont well keep em for your dirty work.” - fishyswishy Man, I remember the days of letting the idiots fall to the side and was at one point on the level of being able to call the principal as per a first name basis, a goal as it were but perhaps not the prime goal in the long term for this theater.

    1.
    “I just cringe at the thought of letting them sit there.” - The_Terg And you should. Unfortunately you are still too much into this battle it would seem. You have proficiency and your hart into making professional art, but in a place that’s not ready for you yet. Welcome to the club many of us have been in. Again, going back to the rogue warrior thing, and as advised by others, teach what you can, attempt to coordinate where you can, but in the end become what you are while there and let the rest of the program go where it is when you are gone if they are not ready to learn from you until you are gone. Hopefully eventually they will stumble around and find your tech level but in the end it’s a no-win situation with or without you unless you and that director somehow magically get on the same page. Your name is already legend, ride it out and help where you can but after that, sorry but that’s possibly beyond frustration all you can do. College and respect and learning more for you. For them back to the stone ages. Imagine what happens when the TD complains and gets his way in someone coming out to tweek the system and that person tells him he is cracked and un-educated. Just keep that in mind every time he tells you what is wrong. Some day he will either be gone or realize his shortcomings. Not yet or now so short of your help, nothing that you can do about it but smile, yea, it’s feedback. He he. Yea, buy better equipment. You know there is that magical shield on better quality equipment that will allow you to leave the mic up all day, Darn you are right, this stuff is crap. My shows sound great but I’m just some kind of kook! If you want to fix the problems, I’m available but, after that, suffer bitch.

    Anyway, some ideas. Sounds like in visiting this posting now others have also helped with their thoughts quite a bit. Plus you know what is the end result. Not much you can do in the end beyond say publically that you wash your hands until asked and do your thing. Welcome to Rogue I.
     
  13. The_Terg

    The_Terg Active Member

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    8O Wow, that post is exactly what I was looing for. Now, let me finish reading it........ ;)

    Thankx
     

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