- March 24, 2010 at 2:38 am #253187My chorus is a co-curricular class of 50 8th grade boys and girls (14 boys and 36 girls).Many are into weekend activities such as soccer and cheer.I recently found out that some of them are not attending a very important competition coming up that they have known about from day 1.A couple of them have told me – even a mom e-mailed me – that he/she will be attending a soccer competition that weekend.We are currently on Spring Break.The last discussion I had with them before Break was about “TEAM”Trying to help them understand how much we have ALL been counting on each other participating in the competition, I reversed their thinking to how much their “other” TEAM would miss them if they chose not to attend that competition – ESPECIALLY if he/she did not tell coach!Each member is counting on the other member to do his/her job.I entered them into Group I. Had I known some of them would not be in attendance, I would have lowered their group number. I’m certain they have known of their ECA dates for a long time, too.We talked about responsibility – at least letting me/us know he/she would not be at the choral competition.Finally, with Chorus being a year-long class, if the student chooses to not sing at the Saturday Choral Competition, what are some ideas about how to grade that absence.When we return to school next week, I will discuss this with them again. Those who know for a fact they are NOT singing that Saturday, I will have them sit out and not sing. With only 10 more rehearsals until Competition, we need to work on the weaknesses that show up with folks missing.
I do not want the students in attendance at the competition to be “surprised” when some are not there.Again, the students have known the exact competition date for months.I want their choral experience – especially at this age – to also be a positive life lesson in responsibility and accountabiity.THANK YOU for your thoughts!March 25, 2010 at 9:14 am #253277
Dean EkbergParticipantYou mention at the start of your message that this is a “co-curricular” group. I’m not sure what that means. Different schools define that term differently.If the “curricular” part of this involves academic credit and a grade you’ll need to tread very carefully to avoid huge unpleasantness. Unless your syllabus or other such document clearly spells out what the attendance/participation policy is, and exactly how grades are calculated, I would advise against getting into a discussion about lowered grades. You’ll never win that argument when parents and administrators get involved.If this choir is considered more as a “club” than a “class” I’m afraid you will have to choose between appealing to their sense of pride and loyalty to the ensemble over their sense of pride and loyalty to the conflicting event, and withdrawing from the choir event. You will have to make a judgment call about wether or not the group will be successful with some of their colleagues playing soccer instead of singing. How many absentees do you anticipate? What would be the impact of a decision to withdraw on the group?I certainly share your concern that the ensemble not be surprised by the absentees. You might consider spending some time with the soccer kids sitting out so that the group will get use to the smaller ensemble that they will become for this event. If the soccer kids are really great kids who are caught between to sets of adults, you might even consider having them serve as “rehearsal adjudicators” with an assignment to identify strengths and weakness in what they hear while they are sitting out. That might ameliorate the situation so that you are providing an alternative way for them to help the ensemble, scoring some points with the coach so that you might be able to draw on that “credit” sometime in the future. That might turn out to be a “win/win” situation. (If these kids are jerks who are just blowing off the choir event, then ignore all my thoughts about alternatives. You know them far better than any of us out here in cyberland.)Good luck with this. I certainly appreciate the position in which you find yourself.Best,Dean EkbergMarch 25, 2010 at 11:24 am #253290
John HowellParticipantBarbara: Let me echo something Dean said, and emphasize how effective it can actually be–and NOT just as an “alternate assignment”!He wrote: “you might even consider having them serve as “rehearsal adjudicators” with an assignment to identify strengths and weakness in what they hear while they are sitting out.”The two summers I directed The All American College Singers at the Disney parks (summer ’78 and ’79) were the first time they had experimented with “swing” couples. That is, at Disneyland I had a cast of 12, but there were 10 tracks in the show, and we selected one couple to be “swing,” which meant they prepared to go in to replace anyone else in the show of the same gender. (The following summer at Walt Disney World I had a cast of 14, with 12 tracks, but that year we auditioned and named specfic swing couples for each park, and one memorable day when we had only 8 people on stage because of illness or injury, it was my swing couple who saved the show by moving from one track to another and covering everything, including all the solos!!!)But while that has become common in theme park shows, the rest of the program has not. Once the show was up and running, a DIFFERENT couple would swing out each day, and the first couple of times it happened their specific assignment was to observe the show from the front and give notes to the other performers. In effect, with a cast of 12 I had 12 assistant directors/choreographers and everyone was helping each other make the show better.
After those first couple of times, their assignments were to spend the day working in other parts of the park, letting them learn the nuts and bolts of entertainment operations from the inside and from the ground up. And of course after a while the illnesses and injuries began to pile up (and Disney was adamant about not allowing performers on stage without a doctor’s clearance, unlike many other theme parks), so we needed the swing couple on stage replacing those who were temporarily hors de combat.
But the MOST interesting thing was that by the end of our summer season at Disneyland my cast was still excited and highly motivated and giving their best in every show, and when we saw the videotape of the cast in Florida we were shocked by how down and listless they seemed compared to our cast. That was just one result of having someone different as your partner every day, because that kept the dynamic of the show and the excitement level up where it belonged right up until closing day.
Clearly that doesn’t translate directly into your situation, Barbara, but it does show how a carefully planned response to your present problem can be turned into a VERY positive result. (When life gives you lemons … !!)
All the best,
JohnMarch 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm #253321Hey Guys!THANK YOU for your insight! We return to school this Monday, and I certainly want to present to EVERYONE (checking in with the administrators first, of course) our game plan.I REALLY like hearing you speak of having the non-participants participating by helping the group become the best they can be!I actually had thought of that myself, too, but am very pleased to hear it from others!As important as ANY performance is, I want them to see the big picture here – responsibility, accountability, honesty and values.IN the big picture, 10 years from now, our scores won’t matter. What WILL is that this all becomes a positive experience – for everyone! Even those who are not invovled with other activities that day, hopefully, will see how best to handle the situation.kYou’re right, Dean…there have been times when being a co-curricular activity has been a positive, yet, also, a negative!Your statement: If the “curricular” part of this involves academic credit and a grade you’ll need to tread very carefully to avoid huge unpleasantness. Unless your syllabus or other such document clearly spells out what the attendance/participation policy is, and exactly how grades are calculated, I would advise against getting into a discussion about lowered grades.Our chorus DOES involve a grade and IS an academic credit.My syllabus DID explain that Performance Participation is 40% of their total grade and how grades are figured.The last thought I left with them before Spring Break was that I was NOT interested in lowering their grade and that I would speak with our principals do what’s best and fair for everyone.I reminded them of the commericial on most sports shows: (something like) “For the thousands and thousands of college kids involved in sports, after college, they will “major” in something else! (Life!)Middle school is a time to learn not just to make choices but HOW to make them…the good – the bad – and the ugly.I’m rambling.THANK YOU BOTH for responding!Keep the kids in your prayers!THANK YOU!🙂March 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm #253363
Jeff WallParticipantHi Barbara. From your last clarification, it seems that this class is for academic credit. Performance is the expectation of the class and should be treated just as a final exam would in their Math or English class. We must, as music educators, maintain the same academic viability as the “core” courses if music is ever to be taken seriously as a necessity in adolescent education. If you do not penalize students for missing a performance, then you set a nasty precedent for your future performances. If the choir is part of their fine arts curriculum in school and the dates have been set in syllabus form and/or in the form of a letter home to the parents, I would hold them responsible for it. Unfortunately, our job as music educators is also to educate parents. School is school and extra-curricular activities are just that….extra.In my opinion, missing a scheduled dress rehearsal or performance is grounds for failure of the academic course, but remind them that you do not give grades…They earn them.Best wishes,JeffMarch 27, 2010 at 11:23 am #253412BINGO!It’s not rocket science!Here’s another “kicker” haven’t mentioned:Before semester break, I had the kids AND their folks sign a paper where they could check their desire to stay in chorus or opt out.I told them I would certainly not hold a grudge; I would not ask them why (’cause I probably already knew and didn’t want to put them in an uncomfortable position); I realize the class may not be what they thought it would be, and finally, outside performances may conflict with their own personal schedules.All 51 – but one – AND their folks – signed up for second semester.I reminded them of that when I spoke with them before Break.They have asked questions about Competition all year – with excitement!They wanted to compete at the Group 1 level.I have given each of them a copy of the judge’s score sheet so they would know and understand how to prepare.NEVER did I imagine an ECA would be an issue with all this positive support from THEIR end – including parents!All in all…we will compete – we will do our best with what we have – and we will return “home” proud of ourselves!Lessons will be learned by the students, their foks, and maybe most of all – by me!Thank you all for your insights!I appreciate a website like this where “discussions” can be held and people can share their thoughts, experiences and play Devil’s advocate for one another.Thank you ChoralNet!This has all been very helpful!🙂
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