How Much is too Much? Planning Events and Opportunities for your Students
When it comes to planning opportunities for my students, I constantly struggle with how much is enough. I hear from my other colleagues about the cool things they are doing, and wonder if I am really doing everything I can.
My first year teaching I took my choirs to two clinic events that were held at the beginning of the school year. I had only been teaching for one, maybe two months, and I was taking students I had just started to build relationships with (who had ZERO respect for me) to a day trip that required them to be prepared and well- behaved.
Let’s just say it didn’t go well.
For starters, The event was hosted by the teacher who previously held my position. When you haven’t built a relationship with your new students yet, and then you are put in the same room with their old teacher, guess who they’re going to listen to? The answer is: not you.
Then, in the middle of the clinic I realized that I had ordered the wrong piece for my students by accident. I had ordered “ I Believe” arr. Mark Hayes, instead of “Believe” arr. Mark Hayes. To top it all off, the students were rude to my parent chaperones, and I had to write a referral for someone who decided it would be fun to hang their head OUT THE BUS WINDOW on the way home from lunch. You guys, it was bad.
I really had the best intentions. People always say “You shouldn’t make any big changes to the program your first year. Keep everything as similar as you can to make the transition easier on the kids.” That was my mindset. I found out my predecessor had always done this trip, and I, wanting to keep things as stable as possible, decided to take a bunch of 8th graders I hardly knew on a trip. I remember going into my principals office after we got back, and choking back tears after she cheerily asked me how the trip went.
It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but from then on I knew I wasn’t ever going to do a trip unless I felt ready to handle everything that came along with it. I cancelled all other trips for the remainder of the year and only took my sixth grade students to adjudication. Why? Because the sixth grade students were the only class that had any respect for me at that given time. I could trust them, when I couldn’t trust my 7/8th grade students.
Now I have several events that I attend with my students throughout the school year. Sometimes I do more, and sometimes I do less. It really depends on what’s doable for me at any given time. Here’s what we did this school year:
All-State Chorus Weekend
Students audition the previous spring via recorded audition, and students that make the ensemble learn notes/ rhythms before attending with me before attending the two-day event. Once there, kids work with clinicians, attend concerts featuring top choral groups from across the state, and conclude the weekend with a performance of their own.
Veterans Day Assemblies
One of my choirs, usually 8th grade, performs for two Veterans Day assemblies during the school day.
(Sorry for the crappy photo quality. It was dark!)
7/8th Grade Winter Concert
I have two separate performances at the end of the semester. Seventh and Eighth Grade students have their concert all together, and sixth grade shares their concert with sixth grade band. We had to split it up a few years ago because we were exceeding fire code with everyone all packed into our auditorium! It's nice to have sixth grade share with band, because it gives them an opportunity to see their friends in band perform, and learn to be supportive of everyone in our Fine Arts Department.
7th grade Chorus students performing at our winter concert.
6th graders, up-close and personal. I move the risers to the floor in front of the stage for their concert so band doesn't have to worry about moving equipment around us.
Phantom of the Opera
Our local performance venue, The Peace Center, has different concert/performance series going on all of the time. On a whim three years ago, we tried out taking a trip to see Wicked as an entire fine arts department. We bought a block of 50 tickets to start off with, and this year our department and our high school programs took a combined 200 students to see Phantom of the Opera! It gives me all the feels every time I watch the kids and their reactions while they are watching these musicals, often for the first time.
This is our all-county chorus. Teachers nominate up to 15 students to attend this two day event where students work with a clinician to learn and perform music. In the past, students have learned all of the music in the two days we were there, and many students love how cool it is that they are able to learn all of the repertoire in that limited amount of time.
Middle schoolers, IRL.
South Carolina auditions for all-state with student recordings. During the month of January, I take some of our class time to teach/ review the audition piece and then help the students make recordings to submit during February and March.
CPA Preview Concert
Two weeks before CPA (Concert performance assessment), I held a preview concert for the parents of my students that attended CPA. This gave the parents an opportunity to hear what the kids worked so hard on, learn a little bit more about the whole process, and gave us an opportunity to get some much needed feedback before our big trip! I brought in some colleagues to act as mock judges. They filled out adjudication forms for performance and sight reading.It was a HUGE help in preparing for our performance!
So I spilled coffee on my work laptop last weekend and fried it. (R.I.P. laptop). Unfortunately, my pictures and video from the preview concert were on that computer. IT is trying to see if they can save the hard drive. Until then, please enjoy this delightful meme. It's about sight reading, so that's related, right?
CPA (Concert Performance Assessment)
Our big trip! We begin prepping for CPA in January, and celebrate afterwards by spending the afternoon at Frankie's Fun Park. This year I took two groups: Men's Chorus and Women's Chorus.
After doing pretty heavy repertoire for CPA, 7/8th grade students are doing all musical theater for their upcoming spring concert. 6th grade is doing a nice mix, starting with Handel and ending with Moana. Stay tuned for concert updates!
New things I'm going to try next year
I'm finally ready to try adding clinics back into my schedule. SCMEA's TTB Clinic is schedule for October, and the SSA Clinic is scheduled for November. Thanks to some updates that are being made to the state clinics, these clinics will work better for what I am trying to do with my program in comparison to how they worked in the past. ( Oh, and I'm hosting them....so that makes it easier, too.)
Things I'm interested in figuring out how to do
I would love to send in audition tapes to get my Men’s Choir to perform the national anthem at some sort of sporting event. Seems like fun, and a great way to get my guys excited!
Solo and Ensemble. (Filed under things I’ve always wanted to do but always feel too stressed to do when I think about adding them to my calendar.) This always ends up being really close to our CPA date, and figuring out how to both at the same time makes my eyes roll in the back of my head. But, I did try it one time with mainly sixth grade students, and it was a good experience.
I want to make sure that my students have plenty of opportunities during the school year to travel, audition, and perform. But, I’m curious. What do you do during the school year? Do you have more going on? Less? Why do you choose to do these things? Also, if there is anything you would recommend adding, let me know!