Thursday, October 08, 2009

Got Pointers???

I can't recall whether I've ever officially announced that I am now one of the children's choir directors at ye ol' paid church job. So. Yeah. I'm now a children's choir director. (You: Are you kidding?? You don't even LIKE kids! Me: I know! But I kinda have a soft spot for this lot.) My choir consists of about 15 children in grades K thru 2nd grade.

I came into the program as an adjunct, for no better word, last fall during Advent. It was sold as a temporary gig, but it became quite obvious that the program had grown such that a full-time second director was necessary. So I wasn't surprised by the invitation to stay on as an assistant for the remainder of the year. I rotated between two choirs following whatever schedule had been set out by the director for that rehearsal time.

The younger choir responded so well to me that the director decided to make this my full-time obligation this year. When I began as an assistant, I was terrified. But that didn't hold a candle to the idea that I now had an ENTIRE choir ON.MY.OWN.OMG! I had no idea how I was going to entertain, much less teach, these kids ANYTHING - nevermind a SONG or *gasp* songS. But these kiddos have a real love for music and absorb songs like a colony of sponges. In our first rehearsal, we learned not one but two songs and by week number two had them both down pat. So we've been adding motions over the last several weeks. I really couldn't be more pleased about that.

But here's the dilemma. I have some real behavioral problems in this group. I have a helper who is an absolute Godsend. But sometimes, like this week, there needs to be one of us for every child just to keep their attention focused on the task at hand and away from using their neighbor as a punching bag (yes, that goes for the girls too)! Those of you who work with kids this age (5-8) know what I'm talking about. So, here's my question to you, how do you do it?? Big question no. 1: How do you lovingly correct behavioral issues? No. 2: How do you enforce the rules? No. 3: How do you gain their attention and keep it?

If we can figure out some way to address the behavioral problems in a way that is deemed acceptable in a church environment, I think the attention problem may solve itself. Or I'm hoping it will. I don't recall having this problem last year with these kids. I'm not really sure what has changed. We have a few new faces, but otherwise the group is the same. Perhaps now that I've been there for a year, they feel more comfortable challenging my authority? Last night, I tried coming dressed in my "big people work clothes" in hopes that they might see me more as a teacher and authority figure. But that seemed to make no difference over the casual attire I'd worn for the several weeks prior.

One thing that may be playing a role is that we do not have a parent in this room this year. Just my helper who is in high school. And they see her more as their play-buddy from child care. So that could explain part of the problem. The one week we were fortunate to have a parent in the room, the kids did a little better. Also, the kids are coming from a "Bible study" just prior to choir rather than family dinner in the gym w/ their parents. Perhaps this study time is not structured enough.

Overall, what I would really like to see is a sense of respect for authority regardless of who that authority is - whether it's me or the other director or a parent. We just don't have that respect this year.

So ... weigh in on this. What do you think? Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

With kids that age, they can typically focus on one activity for only about 15 minutes, so try breaking your rehearsal into small chunks. If you keep switching them from one activity to the next, they'll be so busy that they won't have time to be bored or bad.
I do think another adult in the room would be beneficial as well. Ask the parents if they'd be willing to rotate the duty.

Heather S.

JanaRae said...

I'm wondering if Bible Study time is *too* structured, meaning that when they get to you, they're about to come out of their skins with so much pent-up energy. If that's a possibility, first, I'd ask if the kiddos could do something else a little more "free" and active before choir. If that cannot happen, maybe begin with some silly movement songs? Or maybe place stars on the floor for them to stand on such that they are not right next to each other, but three feet apart? (They'd have a target to stand on, and it'd be more apparent before someone turned into a punching bag.)