The May 2018 issue of Choral Journal includes a short article on the importance of relationships, specifically within the choral music classroom. Written by Jason Sickel, 2017 Kansas State Teacher of the Year, the author writes that “school choir directors are in a unique position since many of our students enroll in our choirs for multiple years. We have the ability to build strong and lasting relationships with students and colleagues.” This article presents ideas, tools, and activities that “might promote a culture of caring and an attitude of mutual respect and trust.”
An excerpt from the article is below:
There are two foundational practices that I incorporate from day one of the school year and challenge myself to continue throughout the year:
• Greet every student at the door for at least the first two weeks.
• Learn every student’s name as quickly as possible.
While both seem logical and almost cliché, it is true that students will never feel validated, accepted, and respected if you don’t call them by their first name after the first week of school. We communicate indifference and a lack of concern if we don’t learn names quickly. Greeting students at our classroom door sends a welcoming message and also allows teachers to get a visual reading on each student and assess how his or her overall mood might be.
Is it difficult to be at your door when you have just finished a class and the next one is about to begin? Absolutely! I find that I must stay quite well organized to ensure that each choir’s music is in order and my warm-up exercises are posted on the projection screen.
Although my evidence is anecdotal, I can tell you that when I do miss greeting the students at the door, the class seems to take longer to settle and get focused.
Here are other important aspects of my relationship-building process:
• Positive phone calls home. I find that if I don’t set a reminder on my e-mail or my cell phone, these calls don’t happen. I also find that when I do make a call, the result is so positive and uplifting for me that I want to call more students than I had planned! I also love it when students come back to school and tell me that they were very excited to hear that their parents had received a positive phone call from me. The ripple effect of this simple two-minute phone conversation can have lasting effects.
• The choir room is A SAFE PLACE. It has to be. End of story. Singing is one of the most vulnerable things we do. It is deeply personal, and it is inherently a part of our core being. Adolescents who sing with their peers must understand that no matter what sound emanates from their mouths, they, the student, are normal, accepted, and valued as a member of our ensemble.
Read the rest of this article from Jason Sickel in the May 2018 issue of Choral Journal here!
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