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Allowable conflicts with performances

I have tried to set a high standard for the kinds of things that would excuse a student from participating in a performance.  My policy has been that only other legitimate school activities (sports, usually), illnesses and family deaths would excuse a student from participating in a performance that has been on the calendar all year.  I am actually quite lenient with sports conflicts especially (I've learned not to wrestle with that beast). But I've been drawing the line at everything else, including theater productions outside of school. Some of my choir kids are naturally involved in different local musical theater companies that have nothing to do with the school. They've complained when I've zeroed out a performance grade because they decided that their tech rehearsal was more important than the choir's concert.  
My gut tells me that I'm doing the right thing by holding the bar high, but now that I'm starting to lose a couple of my better singers I'm struggling with whether or not it's good to be inflexible about my policy, but if being more flexible about exceptions wouldn't be a minefield of perceptions of unfairness, etc. I want to hold a high standard and expect that my choir students will prioritize performances over just about anythign else they've got going on, but I don't want to present a situation that drives away some of the most talented singers because of grading fears due to conflicts.
So I'm just wondering how the more experienced teachers on this board handle this issue.  What kinds of conflicts do you allow for performances and festivals?  And if a student has to miss a performance, do you allow them to make up the points somehow?
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on June 14, 2012 5:31am
The Director of this theatre performance has to also understand that a Performance trumps a rehearsal, even a dress rehearsal every day. Part of your job is to teach performers about how to make decisions and prioritize. The problem may be with this a-hole director who is giving your student a hard time about this. I agree the kid should not be IN this position. Especially when it's an easy formula: Performance - Dress Rehearsal - Regular late season rehearsal - regular early rehearsal. (In the Sports world: Championship Game - Game - Late Season Practice - Early Season Practice.)
on June 14, 2012 11:41am
Carl, Patricia & Colleagues:  I'm not at all surprised at the disagreements that have surfaced in this discussion.  I agree emphatically with both Carl and Particia:  a student should NEVER be placed in the middle; the grownups must ALWAYS work out the conflicts.
I know better than to say that my college students are any more busy than many high school students.  They are just DIFFERENTLY busy, and are faced with different kinds of conflicts including "mandatory" fraternity and sorority events, dorm and hall meetings, and an amazing variety of "special" events that are valuable to their growth as productive human beings but darned annoying when they turn up as conflicts!  And this doesn't even begin to list the family events, weddings, unexpected funerals or injuries or illnesses that require them to return home, or any of the OTHER myriad things that can come up in real life.  (Not to mention boyfriend and roommate problems!!!)
But too many grownups aren't grown up enough to put their students first.  Too often it's "my way or the highway."  We've heard from choral directors who take exactly that attitude, and we've heard about athletic coaches and theater directors who have it, too.  Some would consider me "too soft" on my students, but I can't help it that I treat them as individuals and not as interchangeable, replaceable parts.  What I DO try to do is get them to think ahead, keep a written calendar, see conflicts well in advance and do their best to resolve them.  But I do realize that some folks simply can't think that way.
All the best,
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