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Any advice on "dead-eyed" kids?(High school)

So, I'm going into my third year of teaching.  My "Come one, come all" choir is rather sizeable, but there is a large portion of kids each year who show up and it's clear from the second they're in, that they don't want to be there.  They have shut down on the first day, and from then on, it becomes more about managing their behaviour, which takes up rehearsal time.  I understand that there are kids you can't save, though I know I've tried.
In your experiences, have you ever found a management technique that breaks them of their jaded extremism and opens them up to the cool stuff that's happening around them?  Thanks guys.
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on September 5, 2013 10:47pm
Can you be more specific? Are these students who get put into choir against their will? Or are these students who chose to be in choir but are resistant to what you're trying to do?
on March 13, 2014 11:56am
When I first started teaching (I'm a third year director, too), I was an assistant director at a large high school with a very successful program already in place. It was a fantastic training ground for me, and for 2 years I was able to see a lot of things that worked when it came to inspiring kids and getting kids in even a non-auditioned choir to be excellent. None of the choirs at our school were auditioned, and the jr/sr choir travelled internationally, sang at state choral director conventions, and recieved high scores at most all state ensemble contests. Now, that success was not my doing, but I witnessed how it worked. 
Even if students don't want to be in choir in the beginning, you have to make them want to do it. You have to make the beginners see that it can be fun and exciting, and that learning new music is something they look forward to. Once you do that, you eventually have to challenge them to be good as a group, and that if they're going to do something at all they might as well do it really well. You have to push them, and challenge them while also knowing when it's time to pull back and just have fun with them. If you show that you want excellence, and you show them how to start achieving that, a lot of them will be hooked. Start small, give them attainable goals. When they reach those goals, you have to be the biggest cheerleader for them. 
Also, I find that having time with your choirs to talk about or do something besides choir music helps build the group's camaraderie and their desire to work together. If they feel like choir is a safe place where they are viewed as important, and can see that you as a teacher care about them as individuals, many times even if the music isn't that fun for them, they will buy in because they love the community. Start discussions with your kids about things they find important. Let them share their ideas or thoughts. Every kid wants to be needed. If you show them they are needed, they'll have more fun and they'll work for you. 
I am in NO WAY an expert, but these are some things I've seen be successful, and things I am doing now that I'm the only director at my own school, and I find that they work with a lot of kids. Good luck, hope your year is going well!
Leigh Anderson
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 26, 2014 7:51am
Leigh, I couldn't agree more with what you have said. Alex, I am a choir director at a k-8 school in Phoenix, Az. I have been teaching for four years and also have the same issue from time to time. I agree with Leigh, push those "dead-eyed" students just as hard as you do the other students who really want to be there. Kids like to put on a strong front, but deep down, they want to be pushed and valued. 
Camaraderie is extremely important in a choral ensemble. What I do from time to time is do some sort of community building activity. It lets the kids have fun but at the same time, get to know each other. Once I have broken the ice with them, I have found that I begin to gain their trust and we can begin to really work hard. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. 
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