There is Always a Way
As we close out this series on choir culture, we must remember that our choirs are an ever-evolving mix of students, situations, abilities, and yes – obstacles to conquer. We owe it to our kids to face the obstacles that plague our choir programs with grace, class, and with a growth mindset, truly embracing the philosophy of “keep the students first and everything else will take care of itself.” A few years ago, I was faced with a difficult task of recovering from a reduction in staffing. Our choir program had hired a half-time associate with 240 students. We grew to 320 students but lost our second position due to budget cuts. Fast forward one semester…
Honestly, I was burned out. I was ready to leave the profession (and interestingly enough, it was in year 5 – the end of the period where over half of teachers leave teaching). I was looking at other options, but to survive I had to take a hard look at the obstacles I was facing: too many kids, not enough support, stress, etc. I had always had the mindset to do what is right for kids, but sometimes it was also about doing what was right for me…so I could be in the right place to do what was right for kids.
If you find yourself facing obstacles, start first with a look at yourself. Are you doing something to exacerbate these problems? Could you make changes to improve the situation? If it is not something you can change, you have two options: fight it or learn to live with it. If you choose to fight, choose your battles wisely. You can only go after so many obstacles before you’re the squeaky wheel. The path of least resistance is to define a new norm. Some examples could be:
- Adopting a new schedule at the school
- Doing more with the resources you have
- Learning to say “no” more often
- Learning to say “yes” by embracing leadership and delegation
- Getting better organized to use down time to its fullest potential
Regardless of the route you choose, seek first to eliminate the emotion, then work to analyze the problem, and then find the answer. If obstacles cannot be overcome, seek to find situations where you can bloom where you are planted. No job is perfect, but you also need to find your own environment where you can create a choir culture that truly reflects your philosophy and vision.
In the end, making a conscious effort to be positive through each obstacle and knowing there is always a way can make your classroom environment one that is positive and student-centered. We won’t always have every solution to every problem, but we must try for kids. They are a reflection of us and it is our job to not shield them from the obstacles they will face in life. We instead can model the way by showing them how to be grounded, yet passionate. They won’t know it now, but our influence will stay with them in situations they could never realize.