Unchanging Standards in every Middle School Classroom

In my grade book today, I posted the assignment description that is list below.  I did it because, in my district and in turn at my school, there is a movement toward not holding children accountable for missing deadlines for due dates.  

I disagree with that approach, and I wanted to make it clear.  

I am absolutely in agreement that every effort should be made to help the middle school student realize that if they make some effort at some point to meet a deadline, they will get some credit for that. However, dismissing the importance of meeting a deadline is not something that I support. 

So, I wrote this:

Students were required to turn in their chorus shirt sizes and $20 for the shirt or a request for sponsorship.  They had four days to meet the deadline to receive 100%.  If they were unable to afford the shirt, they were told repeatedly that we can sponsor them, but they still had to turn in their shirt sizes like everyone else along with a note requesting sponsorship so that we could order them the proper sized shirt.  Reminders were sent to parents and students via "Remind" and via my email list on which I have a majority of parents in my program.  All were invited to participate in "remind" and the email list via the syllabus.  Most signed up.  Some do not, but I know that every effort was made on my part to help the child succeed by requesting parents to read and sign the syllabus. Students who are using the shirt of an older sibling were told they must still turn in a note telling us that information in order to get a 100.  This was due by 9 AM Friday.  Parents were here daily to collect $, shirt sizes  and sponsorship notes starting Tuesday.  We collected two more days passed the due date as well.  Cash or money order were the acceptable forms of payment, and of course sponsorship notices were encouraged for those in need.  

Every effort was made.

As teachers, most reasonable people would agree that it is important to teach the standards of responsibility and accountability.  This is a standard that does not ebb and change with the educational fads of the moment, and is one that will serve children well for a lifetime.  When they realize that NOT meeting a deadline is important, they are more likely to start meeting deadlines, and as a result, they are more likely to succeed in their endeavors.   When one misses a deadline for a bill payment, one is held accountable.  We are most often given a second chance with a penalty.  And if we don't pay the bill, we ultimately lose access to the service.  

I follow a similar philosophy with my students, and it is one of the most important reasons my program is as successful as it is. 

My 333 students are always given a second and third chance about which I remind them often.  It is also up to the parents to help them seek it.   I am their teacher, but I am not their parent.  My approach to quizzes is the same.  When a child fails, I give them chances to raise their grades by coming to me for tutoring during homeroom time.  No special transportation is required because the children are already here at that time.  Most will seize the moment.  However, some will not.  It is the nature of human beings, but I always want to feel 100% that I've worked to reach them all, so that is what I do.   

People change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.  

This applies to children as well as adults.  

Thank you for your support in helping our children succeed by meeting the unchanging standard of responsibility and accountability.

March 16, 2016-  After posting this, I found a blog post that speaks well about this subject.  Give it a read...especially if you are a teacher in Georgia!  Click here!
Creator of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners!
My YouTube Channel with teaching tips and teaching examples for the middle school chorus teacher.

Why I Participate in Spirit Week - Musical Interpretation

At the middle school where I teach, the week of September 28-October 2 was spirit week.

Some teachers hate it.  They feel it can be disruptive to the learning environment.

I feel just the opposite.  

I think it enhances the learning environment.

...and this is coming from a choir teacher whose in the final stages of preparing his 333 choral students for their fall concert is October 7th.  In the picture below, we are working on our flashlight choreography for Dweller of the Cave by Teresa Jennings.

I took that picture while wearing these.

They walked into the room on a very gloomy Monday, and that is how I looked on "Shades" day.  

They can't help but smile...

It literally brings their spirits to life...their little hearts awaken.

And on "Neon Day", I certainly didn't mind looking foolish.

I shouldn't be set loose inside "Party City" on the Sunday before Spirit Week.  :-)

It seemed appropriate to use Spirit week as a time to work on Interpretation in the songs they are singing for their concerts.

On Monday, we talked about the deeper meaning of the songs.  I let them tell me what mood they thought they should convey, and I let it get as silly or as deep as it needed to get...guiding them when necessary.  I told them I wanted them to sing from the heart and to try to let go on the technical imperfections.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we worked on the technical aspects of Interpretation.  ...Perfecting the art of performing a crescendo without accidentally going sharp or causing the tone quality to suffer, for example.  Those are not easy things for middle school beginners.   We learned about how important it was to be technically strong in order to deliver a truly artistic performance that is sung from the heart.

...and on "Pink Day" while teaching the lesson, I was wearing this.

I asked them if it was difficult to take me seriously while I was teaching.  They laughed and nodded yes.

Laughter is such an awesome thing to hear in a middle school classroom.   Sharing laughter with them helps us bond.  It helps them want to work with you, and it makes your job fun!

...And let's face it...if they want to make our lives miserable, they can!   I think we've all been there.  

Participating in spirit week keeps my own spirit awake. 

It's so easy to get caught up in the teaching only the technical aspects of music.   As middle school choral music educators, we have to stay connected to the incredible power of a truly artistically moving performance given by our students, and we have to work to figure out every way we can do get it out of them.

...Because it's magical.

Check out my blog!
Creator of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners.
My YouTube Channel with teaching tips and teaching examples.