It is definitely time to get in to some of the nuts and bolts of my classroom. I am really excited to share some posts on the successes I have had in my program in hopes of sparking some ideas for others to use in their own programs. As I said in my introductory post, I find it incredibly helpful to sit and share with colleagues how things are done in different classrooms, so I hope you will find this useful and will in turn share what has worked for you.
As I started brainstorming what I wanted to share first, I was stumped. It was the end of June, and my mind was in vacation mode. I told myself I needed to wait until August when I was teaching again, but the writing bug in me argued otherwise. After a couple of hours spent with a notebook and a great big cup of coffee, I was easily able to list some of my most favorite activities and organization methods. The best part of this was that it got me to thinking of ways to improve on what I already do, so I was able to get in some planning for the new school year coming up. Coffee to the rescue – a common theme in my life.
If I had to choose the one essential procedure I have in place in my program from year to year that has proven to be most helpful to me, I would have to go with my student leadership structure. It took a few years to tweak, but now it runs smoothly and makes my life much easier. I am so incredibly grateful to have had fantastic students step in to the leadership roles that I had in place. They took on a great deal of responsibility that allowed me to focus more on teaching. Who doesn’t want that?
I call it my Choral Council. It includes the following positions:
- Public Relations/Historian
- Section Leaders
Today I want to focus on the President and Vice President roles. I’ll start with the Vice President or Co-Vice Presidents if you have multiple qualified applicants that you want to use. I have had several years in which I used two Vice Presidents and two Presidents and it has worked out very smoothly. I’m so glad to give two deserving students the opportunity, so I don’t feel that you have to restrict the position to only one person. Students are eligible to apply for the position of Vice President in the Spring of their sophomore year. They complete an application that I created in order to help me get to know more about them and their leadership qualities. Once they are chosen to be Vice-Presidents, they are committing to then become President their senior year. They are made aware of this commitment when they request an application. Vice Presidents spend their junior year assisting the Presidents and shadowing all that they do so that they know just what to expect when they step in to the President’s role. The President is my go to person, always. If I need help with something, the President is first to be called upon. The President has plenty of specific responsibilities, such as assisting a substitute teacher when I am not there, warming up a choir before concerts while I work with other choirs, planning the spring awards banquet, and making sure that the rest of the Choral Council is running smoothly.
I am including a copy of my application. If you would like to see it, click here —-> Application for VicePresident . Feel free to tweak it as much as you’d like to meet your own needs.
So far, not a single one of my Presidents has disappointed me. It is still amazing to me that so many of my kids have taken on a two year commitment to the Chorus and fulfilled their responsibilities with such enthusiasm and dedication. I once had a President who often said to me, “I’m a step ahead of you, Mrs. Wyatt.” And the scary part is that he actually was! He had been in the program for four years and was familiar with my routines and procedures. While my brain was juggling lesson plans, fundraising deadlines, attendance sheets, e-mails, and plenty more, he would see one thing he knew needed to be done and do it, therefore taking one more task off my plate.
By having them complete an application in which they have to present well thought out questions, you can typically see which students want this opportunity and are serious about it. Not only is this a great help to you as a Director, but this is an excellent training ground for the student. My students have learned to take initiative when planning the banquet and they have had to learn how to work with their peers in leading rehearsals and council meetings. They are gleaning life skills and having fun along the way. They take so much pride in their title and they strive to impress their Director and fellow singers.
Another perk of having Vice Presidents in place means that if you have a big job for your President, you know they have someone to enlist for help. It also creates a seamless transition for students to move in to the President’s job. This way you are not re-teaching someone what you need from them as President every year. The students teach each other from year to year. It also gives the Vice Presidents a standard of success to meet or – hopefully – surpass.
Do you have that one student in each class you go to each day for help? Have you given them a title? I would love to hear your version of my Chorus President. In my next post I’ll go in to detail on my other council members. They are the ones that help keep my class schedules running smoothly on a daily basis.
This past spring, my Presidents gave me a good laugh. It was our spring concert, and they presented me a gift at the end of the night to say thank you. They got on the microphone to share with the audience how they appreciated me, which was incredibly humbling and meaningful for me. Then they held up their gift: chocolates and a plant. The chocolates needed no explanation for me–just more proof of how well my students know me. But the plant was a first. The Presidents then shared with the audience how I love to breathe and how I spend so much time talking about it in the classroom. They went on about all the breathing exercises I make them do….so maybe they are listening to me a little? So when they saw the plant, which had a label that read “Air Purifier”, they knew for sure I would love it since I love to breathe. Um, thanks guys?