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

Losing Middle School Choir

Hi All, 
 
Currently I teach in a small school district (350 K-12).  My position has gone from teaching K-6 general/vocal to 3-12general/vocal.  
 
3-6: two sections for each grade 23min everyday
7-8: every day for 43min
HS: everyday for 55min
There is another teacher teaching 5-12 band and a part-time teaching K-2
 
I have told administration that the schedule above is too much and am asking them to find a solution that will lighten my load.  Their solution is to give MS choir to the band director.  We as a music department object to this proposal for many reasons.
 
The continuity of building the choral program will be diminished going back and forth between two directors from 6th to MS to HS.
The load put on one person to teach all MS music:  Fewer students will be able to participate in festival events(solos & ensembles) because one person must prepare ALL kids.  This year for MS festival our department had 2 bands, 3 choirs, 6 ensembles and 31 soloists.
Concern regarding retention and recruitment transitioning from MS to HS.  
 
 
My administration has asked for research about the pros and cons of the above proposal.  I would appreciate any experience you have that might be relevant to the success of a small school music program.   
 
Thanks!
on April 13, 2014 7:13pm
The most obvious solution in my head is to make the K-2 teacher full time and give them more of the elementary grades...but I'm assuming that the money is not there for that. How about team-teaching? Could the K-2 person add 3rd grade and still have an acceptable load? Could the band person take on 5th and 6th grade general music? Could 7th and 8th grade choir be combined? Could some of the 3-6 general music classes be combined?
on April 14, 2014 3:15am
Hi Steve,
 
I thought I might chime in and offer my two cents...
 
I teach at three different private parochial schools, all TK (transitional kinder)- 8th Grade. For various reasons, budgetary and time constraints, I have three different time parameters I must work with. I might add that all require teaching songs for their school mass.
 
At my Monday-Tuesday School, I see each of the grades for 50 minutes each teaching the fundamentals and choral pieces for their mass, with an after school choir on Tuesdays from 3:00-4:00PM.
 
We just won a trophy at a competition over the weekend. Clearly, the time allottment is working well and all classes are excelling.
 
On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, at the second school, they have budget for only 30 minutes for each class. Though beginning in January the principal collapsed grades 6,7 and 8 into one 30 minute session. At first I panicked, as it does not leave room for much, but I do my best and they are learning their songs. I am introducing some exciting pieces for them to work on so they are happy to attend class!
 
On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, at the third school, I have a 45 minute block of time, but because of my schedule, we set it up this way combining these classes:
 
TK (by themselves)
Kinder/Grade 1
Grades 2/3
Grades 4/5 (this works becuase the vocal range of the boys is the same)
Grades 6/7 (this works because the vocal range of the boys is the same and I must work with them to build their confidence in voice)
Grade 8 (by themselves)
 
My thought as a choral teacher is that the nature of continuity and style being delivered by the teacher is of great importance to the choral group that if at all possible the combining of classes may prove to be a great tool.
 
I often feel as if I'm running a marathon, but when you are teaching many children, I find having them come to me in an auditorium or hall to be the best possible scenario.
 
Good luck!!
on April 14, 2014 4:03am
For the right person, a part-time job might work out and take over some of the responsibilities.  Or an assistant? 
on April 14, 2014 7:16am
Thanks for the replies so far.  
 
To clarify:
 
I am proposing that the part-time K-2 be moved to full time K-4.  That would make my load 5-12 and, I feel, be the best scenario to build the program. 
 
Administration is wanting to take MS vocal and give it to the band director making him do ALL MS.  
 
Thanks again for the replies and information!
 
on April 14, 2014 8:58am
Every grade gets to have music class 5 times a week?  Wow.  I only get to see each of my kids once a week for 45 min-1 hour.   If you only taught each class 4 times per week, would that be enough to lighten the load?  I know, I know - I shouldn't be advocating for less music time for the kids.  But it seems like you have so many other musical opportunities for the kids to try in addition to their general music class, that maybe the answer is in a little bit less general music.
 
Maybe you only lighten the amount of general music classes for middle and high school kids, since they have the performing ensembles to be a part of, too.
 
As for the proposal your admins gave you:
I don't know how you feel about MS choir in general, but I think it's really important for a VOCALIST to teach that group, since it is a big transition time and a lot of kids drop out of choir if their voices change and they think they're not good singers any more.
 
 
on April 14, 2014 9:30am
Several times a year, due to school assemblies, I have to change my schedule for K-6 music classes.  I can't simply skip the classes that would have had music during the assembly, because music periods are also the teachers' prep periods.  The only way I can reschedule those classes is by doubling them up, so I will schedule a 3rd grade class, for example, to join a 4th grade class for that day.  With two classes in the room (50-60 kids), this makes it impossible to do things like Orff ensembles and folk dancing, but is wonderful for singing--it's like having extra choir rehearsals.
 
Perhaps each day you could combine two of your 3-6th grade classes.  In other words, on Monday teach 3rd, 4th, and combined 5-6th; and the next day combine 3-4th.  You could rehearse special pieces with these "combination choirs", and work on partner songs or two part harmony with each grade practicing its part during their separate class and then on combined days, work on singing the two parts together.  A great benefit of this for school spirit would be the cooperation and friendships between grade levels.  Perhaps combining 7-8th and HS as a choir could be done one day a week.
 
Combined classes are also an opportunity to show educational music videos like composer biographies, YouTube videos of adults and students playing and singing the same pieces your kids are working on, musicians around the world, instructional videos for ukulele, etc.
 
It might be wise to talk with the classroom teachers first and get their support for these changes to their music time once or twice a week.  My school's policy is that teachers who miss music due to an assembly can only reschedule according to my schedule.  My personal policy is to bend over backward to accommodate my colleagues, but usually I will only combine adjacent classes--3rd and 4th but not 3rd and 5th, for example.  I can usually offer a couple of choices, and sometimes it's on a different day, but it's very rare when rescheduling will not work.
 
Lastly, I'm puzzled that your administration would ask for research to defend your needs--as if you don't have enough to do!  Your experienced and expert judgment as a music educator should be all that is required, and you might tactfully bring that up.  They considered you competent when they hired you, and presumably they continue to employee you because your evaluations are satisfactory!            
on April 15, 2014 6:22am
It sounds like that, in this small setting, continuity in grades 6-12 is key.
 
If it were my program, I'd agree to that arrangement, and then, remember these important ideas:
 
Your classroom is your oasis.  You get to decide how difficult you make your job each and every day.  You get to decide how many outside festivals/solo ensembles/Allstate chorus/Honor's chorus groups and how many extra overnight field trips that you and your children participate in.  You get to decide the volume of the music you teach.  You can lighten your load without diminishing the impact of the education your children are receiving, and it is important to do so.  You can choose quality over quantity.  You can choose "working hard" over "over-working" regardless of your set up.  It's really up to you.
 
I know this because I've had to do it.
 
I run a middle school program of over 300 children.  When I began, there were 80 children in the program.  Easy-schmeasy.  
 
Over a very short time, my program grew exponentially.  I tried to make the class fun and the word spread.  I did musical revues they loved being a part of. and that I loved creating. I participated in Six Flags competitions.  I did our GMEA adjudicated festivals with all of my choirs.  I participated in Allstate Chorus. Quickly, as the program grew, my life was completely overwhelmed and out of balance, and I knew it wasn't healthy.  I also knew that the circumstances weren't going to change.  Occasionally, our district supplied money for an assistant for my classes that included more than 84 children in one class period, but that money came and went each year unexpectedly along with the assistant.  Since I realized I couldn't depend on the same funding each year for an assistant, I made a few difficult decisions to which I've stuck:  I stopped the Six Flags trips, and I rarely, if ever, sponsor children for some of the extra Honor's/Allstate events.  I didn't make a huge announcement about it.  I just did it.  When we make a big announcement ("This is the last time I am ever doing this"), the kids and parents get disappointed and they bad energy begins to creep in.  I continued to prepare the children for those events in class daily.  All of my students have the tools they need to make Allstate when they leave my classroom for high school, for example, if they decided to start doing that in high school and many of them do so.  All of my children still get an adjudicated festival experience through our GMEA Large Group Performance Evaluation.
 
I've kept doing the musical revue and participating in the GMEA large group performance evaluations and much more in my classroom.  The excitement and the learning continue for my students and my life is more in balance.
 
I am in my 22nd year teaching.  Making these important decisions has kept me sane, has kept me from becoming bitter, has kept my life in balance and has allowed me the opportunity to stay in this school at this job where I continue to teach over 300 children in chorus.  The chorus could be even larger.  It isn't necessary.  It isn't healthy.  My check doesn't rise if I teach 80 children in chorus or 380 children in chorus.  
 
As teachers, we forget that we are the CEO's of our classroom in so many ways.  So often, we get stuck on the approach of "My administrators say I have to do this".  Well, we all know there are many people telling us we have to do certain things.  As the leaders of our classrooms, there are many decisions that WE get to make ourselves.  Find them and make the decisions that will work  best for you.  If you are happy while you teach, your children will respond to that happiness.  If you are miserable, they respond to that too.  
 
If we run a strong program and serve the children, we will soon see that we don't have to do every single thing under the sun.  We can do a few of those things and do them really well.  The quality of the work is what will pay off for us.  
 
If we work hard to build relationships with our adminstrators and talk reasonably without defensive language, we can create the program that we want and the one that we need to educate out children to a high level, be proud of our work, yet take care of ourselves too.  We aren't good to anyone if we are sick all the time from overwork or, God forbid, if we are dead!
 
So, continue to work to find a solution.  There is one.
 
There is an Arts school in my district in which the entire school (grades 8-12) has the fewer students in the entire school than I teach in my chorus classroom each day by myself and most of the students at that Arts School are not even in chorus!  If I had that particular set up, I might decide to do more of the other activities I mentioned above, but in this setting that I currently have, I've decided to create balance that works for me and still educates my students at a level I'm very proud of!
 
More teachers should do it.  Find solutions that educate and create balance at the same time.  
 
Best of luck as you make this important decision.
 
Dale Duncan
My Sight Singing Program for Middle School Teachers:
My Blog:
My YouTube Channel with Teaching Tips:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 15, 2014 11:41am
Do I read this right: 
 
For 3rd graders you spend 46 minutes every day, taking all 3rd graders?  Looks like you serve as a play-time monitor to give the other teachers a break.
For 4th graders you spend 46 minutes every day, taking all 4th graders?
For 5th graders you spend 46 minutes every day, taking all 5th graders?
For 6th graders you spend 46 minutes every day, taking all 6th graders?   
 
Then for 9-12 graders, when presumably only those who want to sing are with you, you spend 55 minutes total for the four grades?  
 
If I understood your post correctly, something very wrong in your school.
 
 
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.