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The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Advice for new directors

After teaching for 5 years, I have learned a lot. I was thinking with it being back to school time, it would be great if we could start a thread on tips for new directors...the things that we all had to learn by experience. I'll start.
1)Before school starts, make sure you know proceedures for fire drills, tornado drills, lock downs, etc. My first job, the first time there was a fire drill I realized I had no clue what to do! It was embarrassing to say the least. 
2)Make friends with the janitors and with the secretary. They are really the ones who get things down for you. Be nice to them!
3)Make sure the choral handbook you give to your students outlines everything so clearly that there is no room for interpretation! My first year I had an incident happen where I really could not give a kid an F for missing the concert because I didn't explain clearly enough in the handbook what the punishment would be. I had spoken it in class--but put everything in writing!!
4)Be detailed about your accounts! Document every single cash/check that students or parents give to you; keep every single receipt. It is so easy to get caught up in the shuffle and forget to document stuff, but you can get in big trouble for not having your money properly accounted for!!
5)There is a fine line between being approachable and relatable to the kids and being their buddy. Yes, I know you all know this. But it is so, so easy after a year or two to find out kids are walking all over you because you have been too nice. Please trust me on this. I'm embarrassed to admit that it happened to me. I learned the hard way that kids WANT you to be the authority. Really. They do.
Those are just a few to start with. Share away! 
on August 31, 2013 10:08pm
Angie, I agree with everything you said above wholeheartedly! Seven years down, and I still struggle with some of that stuff. At least it gets better from year to year. I think I FINALLY have a grading/behavior plan that works. Man has that been a trial! 
I'll add my $.02...
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Also, offer help to others, directors and any other subject teachers, when it's needed. 
- Positivity and smiles go a long way. 
- Identify the "bad apples" in the staff and maintain a cordial but distant professional relationship. Nothing can drag you down more quickly than a cynical colleague. 
- Remember that principals and administrators come and go. you'll have some great leaders and some real stinkers! 
- Remember that every child/young adult/adult you teach is likely the apple of someone's eye. You may not love them, but someone else does, and you need to be kind to ALL of them. It's really hard sometimes.
- Don't compare your program to other programs- especially in front of students. Teach students effective ways to critique other choirs using musical terminology. Don't make it about "winning". (I've learned this one the hard way)
Okay, so that was more like my $.04! 
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