Student Leadership, Part II

Last week I shared details on the responsibilities of my Choral Vice President and President, the top positions on my program’s student leadership team.  I call this team the Choral Council, and all of my students are familiar with it as they see the student leaders hard at work throughout the year.  If you missed Part I, catch up on it HERE.  In that first post, I explained that the Vice-President – who automatically steps in to the President’s position their Senior year – has to complete an application to help me decide who fills the position.  The Vice-President role is the ONLY position that is chosen by me.  The rest of the jobs are voted on by the chorus students.  Scary?  Absolutely.  However, after expressing to the students how important these jobs are, they have never taken this process lightly.  Once people are voted in and start working on the choral council, the rest of the students can never accuse of making a bad choice, or “playing favorites”, because they did the voting without any interventions on my part.  This process has proven to be really successful.

I’d like to share with you the other positions on the Choral Council that the class votes on:

Secretary.  This is such an important job with so many responsibilities.  This person can be your greatest resource in keeping your rehearsals running smoothly.  Train this person to take on some of your administrative tasks so that you can focus on the teaching!  In my program, the secretary takes attendance each day.  They have a notebook with the class roster (bonus: they are ready to take attendance for the substitute teacher when you are gone!) and can check attendance while you are running warm-ups.  They are also responsible for assisting all of the other council members with their jobs when needed, so they should be organized and great at taking initiative.  They need to help you get information out to the students, which can happen through announcements on the white board, group texts, social media, or bulletin boards.  Of course, at meetings, they should keep minutes and records throughout the year.

Treasurer.  This student will never be solely responsible for money, but they can be a great help to you as you deal with fundraisers or class orders throughout the year.  I will often have this student help me count money from fundraisers as they are turned in, or write down who turned in what as I dictate it to them.  Often, I am just appreciative to have a second set of eyes to check my adding and subtracting.  The students are always great at choosing someone who does extremely well in their math classes.

Librarian.  No joke, I would be lost without the librarian!  When I stepped in to my role at my current school, I was so discouraged by the chaos that was our music library.  There was very little music and if you wanted to find anything, you had to sort through stacks of music to see what was available.  With the help of some outstanding students over the years, we have a great organizational system in place now.  When you walk in to our library, it is clean, organized, and titles are now very easy to find through our catalogue system.  To keep it this way, I need just a few organized students to keep tabs on it throughout the year.  Your librarian will help you pass out new music and take up old music, ensuring that every piece of music has a home.

Public Relations.  The students love this job, and it can do so much good for your recruitment process.  The public relations officer must keep a running inventory of pictures, programs, and moments throughout the year.  They should help brainstorm new ways to recruit new students, and then help carry out those new ideas.  Who can relate better to the recruitment of students than current students?  They should also help in designing t-shirts and scrapbooks at the end of the school year.  Don’t ask them to take all of the pictures throughout the year.  There is no doubt your students are taking plenty of pictures every week (selfies, anyone?), so have your public relations officer go to your students for copies of their pictures.  This helps to ensure that all of your kids are represented in pictures at the end of the year.

Each of your choirs or classes should vote on students to fill each of these roles so that you have these helpers in every class.  Have students nominate one another (or even themselves) and share with the class why those nominees would be good for the job.  Then have the students vote by a show of hands (after you have sent nominees out of the room) or by secret ballot.

Finally, be sure to have each section of your choir nominate and vote on a section leader.  The section leader will be responsible for leading sectional rehearsals when you schedule them.  This can also be a great person for you to go to and ask how things are going, check to see what areas of weaknesses are happening, and address other concerns.  If you want students to rehearse with their sections while you are out, meet with the section leaders prior to your absence and give them a list of rehearsal goals and assignments to complete while you are out.  Let them know you will be checking in with them when you return to hold them accountable.  Again, if the students choose their own section leader, they are more likely to respect and follow that student when they step up to lead a rehearsal.  I have found sectionals to be an excellent use of rehearsal time in my class as it allows all of the students to be working at once while I am able to move from section to section to listen and fix problem areas.  This also forces students to use the skills you have given them to rehearse on their own (in other words, without someone plucking out all of their notes at the piano – gasp!).  This can strengthen their sight reading skills and listening skills so much, and it makes it more difficult for those shy and quiet students to get lost in the shuffle as it’s tougher to hide in smaller groups.  Sectionals really creates an opportunity for more individualized teaching on your part.

My goal for the coming school year is to do an even better job of utilizing each of these roles to be more efficient with my rehearsal time.  As I said in my previous post, not only can these students help me to do my job with more success, but they can also learn valuable skills that will serve them down the road as an adult.

I have been considering adding some roles to this list, so I would love to hear what other student leadership roles are used in other programs.  Have I left something out?  The more help I can get from dedicated students, the better our program can be.

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