It's been far too long since I have posted a blog entry. Life can get so busy, as we all know.
This evening, in my October Newsletter to the parents of my TWO HUNDRED and SEVENTY middle school choir students, I decided to up the level of transparency. I decided I needed to really let them know. To honestly let them know how difficult my job is when it comes to managing student behavior. Here's what I sent...
Middle School Choir Class Environment...
I referenced this in the September Newsletter, and it's also the reason for the paragraph above this one.
This is really important: I need you to know that I have
the single most difficult classroom management assignment in the
district. In an attempt to up my level of teaching transparency, let me
All parents need to realize how CHALLENGING the middle school choir
classroom environment is. There are so many factors that make it more
challenging than a standard classroom environment and the number ONE
factor is simply, numbers. My smallest class is FORTY students and my largest class is SEVENTY students. A class with twice the students of a typical (25-32) sized class is not twice as hard to manage (behaviorally), it's EXPONENTIALLY harder.
Behavior management (also called classroom management) is the single
most difficult aspect of being a MS choir director and is also the one
thing I devote the most time to in class (come visit, you'll see) (it's
also constantly discussed in the Choir Director Facebook groups). Even
good kids tend to misbehave occasionally when they are in groups this
large (again, come visit, you'll see). Another factor impacting behavior is that choir directors typically DO more than other teachers. We play the piano constantly. We read music constantly.
These things force us to have our eyes somewhere other than on the
students in front of us. This makes things very challenging when it
comes to behavior management because we actually do NOT have eyes in the
back (or, top) of our heads. Another factor potentially
impacting behavior is that in my room kids are approximately six inches
from the kid sitting next to them (not three feet across an aisle like
it is in their other classes). This can make it much more tempting to
talk, touch, poke, etc. a neighbor. Another factor is the distraction that the iPad presents.
We read our choir music on the iPad (Green choir room!). I tell the
kids this is practice for when they are driving one day and they hear a
notification on their phone. They can choose to wait until an
appropriate time, or they can look at their phone while driving. We all
know that distracted driving is a SERIOUS issue. Please help me teach
them to stay focused and not be distracted by games/images/websites when
we are supposed to be looking at music on the iPads.
In a perfect world, due to the size of my classes, we'd have three or
four adults in the choir room at all times, including a full time
accompanist. Unfortunately, financially this is simply not an option.
If your child receives an SRC referral from me, please don't be
upset. This is an opportunity to learn from a mistake in a challenging
environment. Please do not try to get them out of the consequence as
that is an important part of the learning process. We actually WANT
them to make mistakes so they can learn from them during these formative
years so that they, hopefully, DON'T make mistakes when they are
older. If the adults in their lives attempt to swoop in and bail them
out, not only will they not learn from their mistakes, but it will
undermine my authority as Head Coach of the Creekside Choir program! As
mentioned above, behaviorally speaking, this is the most challenging
hour of their day (and it's my ALL DAY). Please discuss this with
them. We've been experiencing some pushing of the limits lately. Ms.
Merrill and I are working on helping them learn that chatting with a
neighbor is actually disrespectful if it happens while the teacher is
attempting to teach, or while we are working on music. And let's
remember a couple important facts as we help our adolescents learn how
to function in large groups and in society in general...
1. Just because you're the only one that got caught doesn't mean you're not guilty
2. Attempting to use the phrase, "everyone was doing it" as an excuse is actually an admission of guilt
People who know me know that I absolutely LOVE my job and I absolutely ADORE my students. It literally breaks my heart to have to occasionally use the SRC system to administer discipline, but sometimes it's absolutely
necessary. Again, please try to understand and be as helpful as you
can as I attempt to help our youngsters learn how to navigate life in a
challenging work (we WORK on our curriculum just like Math class, or a
job) environment. And again, please come visit. It will shed
tremendous light on everything I said in this lengthy paragraph.