From the InspireChoir Team

Inspired Student Leadership Traits, Part 3

In our final student leadership post, we will detail the last of the essential traits of student leaders:

  • Project management
  • Project planning
  • Reflection
  • Self-confidence
  • Setting & achieving goals
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Now that you have created opportunities for your student officers, aim to further enable them through project management.  Doing so teaches them valuable skills such as managing resources, organization, communication, negotiation, and problem solving.  In the choral program, project management can be something as simple as taking attendance to something as complex as organizing and executing a benefit concert or fundraiser.  With your initial guidance, project management by students increases buy-in and truly makes the project their own.  Other opportunities for project management can include room decorations, prepping binders for the new year, organizing social events, celebrating student and faculty birthdays, and more.  Related to project management is project planning, which sets the event in motion.  Directors should advise students on how to best complete their project as, in many times, allowing them to do it will skip vital steps that could lead to project failure.  A sequential method could look like:  1) forming the plan, 2) analyzing the situation, 3) modifying the plan if necessary, 4) setting goals and objectives, and 5) allocating/delegating tasks, time, and tools.

Reflection activities can be beneficial in helping students come up with new ideas through observation of concrete experiences (doing), reflecting (reviewing), conceptualization (learning), and experimentation (applying).  Once a project nears completion, strive to engage students in critical thinking opportunities in hopes of identifying problems, creating community, problem solving, and creating new ways to troubleshoot and/or anticipate future problems.

Self-confidence may perhaps be a cornerstone to success with student leaders.  If a student does not believe in him/herself, they are not likely to lead others.  We must learn about our students, know what makes them “tick,” and work to encourage students to think positively about their own pursuits.  By modeling confident leadership ourselves, our students will soon follow.  Self-confidence can be built in many ways in the choral classroom, including leading warm-ups, stretches, sight-reading, speaking about translations or meanings of text, calling and executing officer meetings, providing feedback, and more.

Though goal setting was discussed in a previous post, it is paramount to building a pathway for success with student leaders.  In short, aim to set measurable, defined, and observable short- and long-term goals with students.  At times, adults must help break tasks down into smaller parts, especially when students have trouble comprehending what is to be done, how to prioritize, or exhibit signs of stress.  To build confidence in goal setting and achievement, choose one small goal, write out the steps to getting it done, and then progress to larger goals from there.

Teamwork is the essence of the choral music environment, the result of coordinated leadership skills, including:  communication, setting and achieving goals, skilling members, controlling performance, setting an example, resolving conflict, listening, dealing with conflict, and showing compassion to others.  There is no quick fix to developing team, but as students learn to establish goals, delegate, provide direction, communicate, listen, and be flexible, the sense of team can be further developed.  It should not be beneath choir directors to engage students in team-building activities throughout the learning process, either as moments of levity, or as they arise when connected to music or other situations.  Many teachers incorporate team-building activities with success at the beginning of the year but fail to follow up as the year progresses.  The benefits to doing so can create a more cohesive, musical, and bonded ensemble.

Finally, time management is one of the most important skills of all.  We only have 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  It is how we use these hours that determines our success.  The organization of a choral program and its time management go hand in hand.  Teaching this important skill to our students (and also refining our own time management) helps students to be more responsible, effectively learn better and more efficiently, and most importantly prepares students for the demands of a fast-paced world.

Together, these traits can help students be better, more well-rounded leaders in the choral classroom and in society.  While not every trait will be developed during a student’s time in choir, cultivating these skills when given the opportunity can truly enhance buy-in, engagement, and build a sense of team and confidence within the ensemble.  Sing, Share, Serve!