Being a Choral Director for Adolescents

Being a Choral Director for Adolescents

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1. What are the personal characteristics needed to be a choral director for adolescents?
Choral directors of adolescents need to be flexible and quick thinking. These teachers must combine the interpersonal skills of a counselor with the loving concern of a parent. The most important quality that these teachers need to have is a passion and love for kids. Often teachers do not have the temperament to teach younger adolescents and prefer to work with senior high students. Teachers of younger adolescents are important because they demand respect from their students and help to guide their students through many times some traumatic years. One of my best music directors had all of these traits and was in very caring about what was best for her students. As a session told me at conference, music teachers are teachers, guidance counselors, accountants, career advisor and magicians. We have to be there for our students in ways other teachers cannot imagine. We are creating a family in our classrooms.
2. What can happen to students’ self-esteem during adolescence, and for which gender does it appear to be a greater problem? Why?
Students’ self-esteem decreases throughout adolescence. Girls’ self-esteem is greatly affected by adolescence. Boys are more likely than girls to have a healthy self-esteem during adolescence, according to studies. Girls’ self-esteem gradually drops as they grow- up. One study showed that in elementary school 60 percent of girls and 67 percent of boys responded positively to, “I’m happy the way I am.” Then by high school the percentages declined to 46 percent of boys and 29 percent of girls when responding positively to the same statement (Phillips, 109). During adolescence students begin to identify more with gender roles. This will affect the dynamic of a choir. Boys are expected to cause the most behavioral problems while in choir. Then the girls are expected to sit quietly and wait quietly while the teacher deals with the boys.
Girls start to be influenced by their peers and by the media. Many times the message that they are receiving is that they need to look like everyone else and it is not alright to be different. With the hormone changes that the students are going through, it can make adolescence a difficult time. Many students think that their only way out of the struggles is suicide.

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Students need to be reminded that in time everything will work out and that adolescence will not last forever.
5. What is the emotional nature of most teenagers, and how can they be helped?
Teenagers tend to have extreme mood swings. Girls tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves, while boys hold those same emotions in so that they can seem “cool.” Girls will do anything for a teacher that they like, while boys will hold back participation. Boy-girl relationships will begin to appear everywhere. Students want to be a part of the crowed and want to fit in. Students can feel lost in that same crowed that they are trying to be a part of. In our choirs, students need to feel that we care about each one of them individually. Choir teachers can help students by allowing them to feel a part of the group, while still having the individual relationship they need with a teacher. The choral teacher needs to be as much of a teacher as a counselor and friend.
8. How should younger female adolescents be classified for singing parts?
Younger female adolescents should not be split into soprano and alto parts until at least ninth grade. Females voices are still changing so all female students should do vocal exercises in their upper and lower range. The students should be warmed up from bb to f2. It is alright to split girls into two parts but the teacher should rotate the students constantly between the parts. This way the students are not singing only the alto or only the soprano line.
In one of my sessions at conference they suggested letting the girls try both the soprano and alto part. Then allowing the students to choose which part they would like to sing. Of course the teacher would check to make sure the students were selecting the right part, it wasn’t too low or too high. Also, instead of calling it an alto or soprano line, you should call the lines part one and part two. This helps to avoid the students classifying themselves.
15. What is meant by the phrase “this too shall pass,” and why do teenagers need to be reminded of this often?
During adolescence student are experiencing physical and emotional changes, which can be difficult for the students to handle. At the end of a student’s first boy-girl relationship, it may be difficult for the student to see how they are going to ever get over that person. It is important for teachers, parents and friends to be there for the student to make them see that there will be other relationships and other friends. Some students consider suicide, which is a reason that students need to be reminded that “this too shall pass.” Students need to realize that they will not be going through these changes for the rest of their lives. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and for me that was graduation. Even after the students make it through adolescence they will still face struggles later in their lives. They will need to know how to face it and get through it.

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