You’re watching someone else’s choir and think, “Why can’t my choir sound like that?” You brood in your jealousy and continue on with your teaching style. Life goes on and nothing changes.
Many of us have been in this situation. We are jealous and competitive toward other choirs and choir directors. However, let us stop and think about what our jealousy is doing to our students. Instead of begin jealous, why not brave up and ask that director what they are doing in their classroom? Better yet, ask them if you can go observe them teach. The more we as choral directors observe and collaborate with each other, the more our students learn.
There are many ways to collaborate other than observing a single teacher. Get involved in NCDA events throughout the year. These events are not only great places to observe fantastic teachers; they are places you can meet directors, share new ideas or even present your own ideas. I find that I learn the most from attending honor choirs. Sometimes that learning is in the rehearsal, other times it is just grabbing a cup of coffee and chatting with a fellow teacher I have not seen for a while. My favorite NCDA event is summer conference in July. This is where I get to see many of the teachers from the Eastern part of the state. This past conference I had the opportunity to observe Patricia Fox in her session about sight reading in the middle school classroom. Her session was interactive and gave me great ideas on how to make sight reading more attractive to middle schoolers. After the session, I emailed Patty and asked her if she would share her files with me. She was more than willing. Later in the summer, when I was brainstorming rules/expectations, Patty was one of the first people I emailed. She gave me her expectations, as well as a classroom management blog. These resources from Patty helped me to create the environment for my middle schoolers. Another resourceful NCDA event is Sing Around Nebraska. My first year as a teacher I took 10 fifth and sixth graders to the Kearney Sing Around Nebraska site. Our guest conductor was Thomas Young. I remember him standing up in front of at least 100 fourth, fifth and sixth graders leading them through warm-ups early in the morning. His warm-ups gave so much energy and inspiration to my students that we took them back to school with us.
So you may be saying “That’s all fine and dandy, but when in my busy life am I going to find time to do all of this?” Honestly, this is one of the biggest struggles as a music educator, balancing time. Here’s a secret; it does not have to be a lot of time. First, start with a message; facebook, text, snapchat, instagram. Message someone you haven’t talked to in a while, someone you met one time, or even someone you “fangirl” over. After that, get together with a group of people. They could teach in a similar grade level or not. More often than not, you will learn something. Then, go to as much as you can throughout the year and connect with people. If you aren’t good at randomly walking up to people, find a colleague that is.
The key is do; no matter how big or small a step. Invite someone to go with you to an NCDA event. The only way I knew about summer conference was because Dan Hutsell told me “You need to go to summer conference”. Sometimes the smallest steps lead to the greatest success. Don’t be afraid to make a connection. It might take you three times of meeting and talking with someone, but that connection could be the difference your students need. Remember it is not about our vanity but about our humanity to teach our students to the best they, and we, can be.