Sunday, October 7, 2018

Life is Difficult in Middle School Choir Class

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 explain...
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. 

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