Reply To: First Year Teacher in Urban School District

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In addition to the positive suggestions from LeAnna, my biggest suggestion, and maybe one you are already doing, is to learn all of their names. This may seem like a daunting task with large classes and being a first year teacher, all of them are new. I would see if they have a yearbook from last year? you might find most of your students and their photos in it? I f there is no yearbook, you could also photograph each class and get other teachers to help you label student’s names. Time spent in the evening memorizing names can save your patience during the day. I have found that one of the most powerful tools in teaching is knowing a student’s name. Once you know that, find opportunities to “catch them doing something good.” That way you can praise them in front of others and get some positive energy in the rehearsal. Even better than that, set up the relationship with your students by greeting them by name outside of class when you see them. Also, I would always stand by the door and greet them as they come in. Make sure they understand that you know them as individuals and not just as a crowd.

Another thought: Make sure you are not continually teaching from the front of the classroom. The dynamic in the rehearsal can be profoundly changed by moving about the room. If you usually teach from behind the piano, pick up the music, get a pitch pipe or find a student who can give starting pitches and move closer to the singers and teach the music in short phrases. When students are not paying attention don’t try and change behavior from a distance.

You can change things for the better.

Jamie Spillane
NAfME Choral Eduction Council