- March 29, 2019 at 7:38 am #589338
I teach 7th and 8th grade chorus (separate classes) and there has never been an audition/screening process in order for students to sign up. 80% of my 7th grade chorus students come from my 6th grade general music classes, with the rest being transfers from band and orchestra. I average about 80 students for that class. The numbers for my 8th chorus usually drop off to about 60.
The closest that I’ve come to screening is to gently persuade those students who show good behavior and attitude to sign up for chorus the following year (whether it be 7th or 8th), and hope that any disruptive students will instead take a general music class with me. Sometimes it works and other times (like this year) it’s a disaster because the behavior students end up signing up as a joke or some other irrelevant reason.
The administration has a philosophy that any student who wants to take chorus can do so, no matter what their past behavior issues have been (every year is a fresh start). I’ve asked them to reconsider this approach and at least let me suggest screening alternatives for students who I know will be a problem…after all I’ve had them for two years in GM classes. I told them that I will work with all vocal abilities, as long as the students are going to participate and follow the rules.
As we all know, it only takes a handful of disruptive students to ruin a group and make for an extremely long year. This is where I’m at now. I’ve tried every trick in the book to get these kids to contribute and they could care less. Admin won’t change their schedules and there’s really no meaningful consequences for their disruptive behavior, just a lot of lip service. So I end up moving them around, to the back of the room, or right next to me to try and mitigate the behavior issues. But it is truly day to day survival right now, and it’s so simple to fix if they would just let me screen out the troublemakers. It truly is maddening! And the students who really care and want to sing well are the ones that suffer.
I’m sure there are middle school directors out there who experience the same thing. Do you get to approve your chorus students? Is there an audition process? How do you deal with poor behavior students whose main mission is to wreak havoc? Will your administration change their schedule? It’s the age old question: Why is it OK to allow a few students to disrupt the learning process for the rest of the class
Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated!March 30, 2019 at 10:49 am #589395
Michael A. GrayParticipant
You might need to sit down and talk with the Administration on this one. How do they square their blanket policy with the individual needs of the students? It’s always nice to say that everyone needs music (it’s true) but not everyone gets that need fulfilled the same way. A large performing group requires more individual maturity than a smaller ensemble that’s easier to police.
You might need to sit down and talk with the Parents, too. A disrupting kid may not realize that news of their actions will get back to their loved ones. Does the kid need a daily report? Does the parent need some suggestions about rewarding their kid for good behavior? Do you have councilors? And what about the community of parents? The culture of a booster club can do wonders for the kids and watching Administrania.
And what about the other Students? What’s their feelings about all the disruptions? Do you have some natural leaders? Do enough of them care enough to pull as a team? Even without saying anything, peer pressure is a powerful force…
And, while we are sitting down, what about You? What are you doing for your mental health? Do you have family, friends, heros? Don’t ever forget: the kids (even the disruptive ones) really do need someone who loves music and what it can do for people. They need You.
Hope that helps!
Michael A. Gray
http://www.graymichael.comMarch 30, 2019 at 3:10 pm #589422
That is an appallingly huge group of middle schoolers for one person to organize to do anything at all. Can you tell the administration it’s just not working with such a large group and offer suggestions for them to choose between? 1. Give me some control over who is in the performing group so I can head off behavior issues and dangle the carrot of participation to everyone. 2. Split into multiple smaller groups so that behavior can’t get out of hand. 3. Hire a classroom assistant for me. Since option 1. doesn’t cost them anything, they might go for it when seeing the other alternatives you are asking about. On the other hand, depending on the people and the budget, offering to create a new program might be something the administration really finds exciting, (it lets you frame the problem as an opportunity), and it would still give you fewer students to wrangle at once and perhaps some control of who is in which ensemble.
To help support your case, what is the largest student/teacher ratio at this school for academics? For after-school sports? What is the average ratio? What is yours?
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