The Winter Months-When the Rubber Meets the Road in your Middle School Choral Music Classroom

January and February can hit a middle school chorus teacher square between the eyes.

The dark, cold days can be trying ones.  It isn't easy motivating children to sing when they are struggling with the difficulties of getting back into the daily rigor and routine of life.  If our classroom management techniques haven't been as strong as we would like, we are now dealing with the after dark winter day.

The symptoms are the same for all of us who teach middle school children.

They range from testing of rules and boundaries to a slacking in the work ethic.

So, what do we do?

Here are three rules that work for me:

Rule #1:   We must praise individuals in public, correct individuals in private.

Praise often individuals often.  I throw Starbursts at children and call their names when I see them demonstrating great singing posture or great leadership.

For every negative behavior issue you experience with individuals, pull them aside separately and away from the class.  Avoid embarrassing the child.  Share with your student what you are seeing.   Ask questions.  What is causing the change in your work?  Then, listen.  Sometimes you'll be shocked at what the child is experiencing.  When you've finished listening, tell the child what you expect in the most respectful way possible.  Create a relationship.  Help them know that your expectations are high, but do your best not to be harsh.

Rule #2:  If the behavior or performance issue involves the entire class, proceed with caution.

For example, let's say you start to notice "follow the leader" behaviors that disrupt or distract from your teaching.    For example, one child gets up to get a tissue, and stands in the corner for a long time...followed by another child...then another...

Nip the behavior quickly and firmly, but not harshly.  "If you have a runny nose, get your tissue on your way into the room.  I don't like the walking back and forth.  Thank you."  Then, move on and keep singing.

The reason I say "proceed with caution" is because middle school children don't respond well to long lectures.  It sucks the life force from them, and it doesn't encourage them to want to sing.

Rule #3:  Stay connected to your own spirit.

Are you having fun with your students or have you lost your way a bit?  Do you enjoy the songs you are teaching for the upcoming adjudication?  Are you staying connected to your sense of humor and sharing laughter with the children each day?   What new song are you introducing on Monday morning that they are going to love?   Are you making eye contact with children when they walk into your room?  We learn a lot from that!  Do you have some clear performance goals that are coming up soon so the students and you have a specific reason to work that day?

These are a few of the things that I think about to make sure I'm staying on top of things during this time of year.  This time of year is when much of the important teaching about choral technique occurs. They are precious, important days...before the spring fever kicks in and the 8th graders start checking out!

Have a great week!

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