The first year they are with me is critical for so many reasons. Of course, I am teaching them music literacy and singing technique, but I am, more importantly, teaching them what their job is in chorus class. What are the daily rituals? How do I get an "A"? What are the expectations after hours?
6th graders are coming to us from elementary school where they often had music for only once or twice per week. The expectations regarding commitment, work ethic and grading are completely different. We have to teach it all to them carefully, one step at a time, without yelling or screaming and with as much positive recognition of the correct behaviors as possible.
When my sixth graders leave me each day, I am definitely more exhausted than when the 8th graders leave because I want to make sure that I am on top of everything regarding daily rituals. Doing so will serve me well for two more years!
Here are some examples:
Example #1: I don't allow children to come into my room, put their books down and then leave to go to the bathroom. They have to do it on their way to my class. I go over the rule during the beginning of the year.
Inevitably, a child will put this rule to the test. When we are put to the test on one of our important daily rituals, we must remember this: Words are nothing. Follow through is everything. You can say something a million times ("You know my rule! You have to go between classes!"), but if you don't actually hold them to this rule, it won't matter. I always say "no" when someone tries to get me to bend this rule. Other children are watching.
Obviously, in regards to the restroom usage, there are emergencies, and we have to be smart enough and compassionate enough to know the difference. Middle School children must know that we care about them and that we will listen to them. They need structure. They need follow-through and strength from us. In fact, they thrive on it. As we get more experienced, it becomes clearer to us some of the ways children can try to take advantage of us. We cannot allow it. When they know that we are serious about our rules and procedures, and that there are swift, fair consequences for behaviors, almost all middle school children respond...regardless of their economic background or any other factor.
Example #2: You have a child who isn't participating. She is looking right at you and defiantly not participating.
Never give her an "audience". In other words, don't call her name out loud and insist that she fixes the behavior now or else! She would LOVE for you to do that, and she will have a great time not giving 100% while the children watch her "perform". You will lose! All you will get is high blood pressure and a few new wrinkles.
Do silent things. Use your eyes and quiet physical gestures that indicate she needs to sit up and sing. You could also use proximity. Go close to her and tell her quietly that she needs to participate. When she disrespectfully rolls her eyes at you, pull a "Frozen" and "Let it go!" :)
Then, right before the end of class, go very close to her and ask her to stay after.
When you talk to her after class, start with this: "Have I ever disrespected you?" The answer should be "No".
If the answer is yes, then you have some introspection to do. Be prepared to listen and learn. Apologize if needed while you work to help the child understand the importance of working hard in your class and giving it her all.
Once the child says "No", you need to refer to the behavior (rolling of the eyes, or whatever it was) and tell her this is not respectful. You must say, "I've never disrespected you, and I don't deserve to be treated the way you treated me. Do I?" If you've treated the child with respect previously, you will absolutely have her in the palm of your hands...that is one of the most important reasons that we must always treat our children with 100% respect.
I've taught for 23 years in 3 states in varied economic situations, and my experience is that ALL of them understand this sort of leadership and respond in the best possible way.
Forbidden Pattern from S-Cubed Sight Singing Program...a classroom management suggestion:
In my Sight Singing game, Forbidden Pattern, one of the rules is: In order for the class to win a point, there must be absolute silence when the teacher sings the forbidden pattern. If you don't stick to that rule, the game will turn into a discipline nightmare for you...especially with the younger singers.
When enforcing the rules, we don't have to be mean. We don't have to yell. Doing so will ruin the energy of the game. So, when they test us on that rule, we must find ways to be clever or funny or silly while still driving home the point that they must be silent to win the point. For example, a common thing that the kids want to do when the forbidden pattern is sung is to "Sh" each other or do some sort of physical gesture to remind people not to sing. This is not allowed. We want our students to be focused enough to simply be quiet in that moment. I usually call the point "even" when they warn each other in some way....no one gets a point. I do it in as "light-hearted" a way as possible, and I keep the pacing of the game going as fast as possible.
I've spend hundreds of hours recording and uploading the teaching videos for S-Cubed. There are so many classroom management ideas in those videos that can help you as you teach. There are so many that I cannot possibly write them down in a blog entry or in a power point. I urge you to watch those videos anytime you struggle with discipline or pacing of the game. Nothing that I do in those videos is by accident. The pacing is fast, ridiculous and the over-acting and the humor are all on purpose! As you play the game more and more over the years, you will get better and better at the intricacies of it, and you will find that it helps your relationships with the children and also makes you a better classroom manager!
I hope the program is working for you!