This Gets Easier, Right?: Teaching Choir in the Second Year

November 10, 2016 Melody Potratz

“Well it’s your second year so it’ll be easier this time around,” is a sentence I heard a few too many times this summer. I’m sure it was meant as encouragement but I can hardly begin to explain how very incorrect that statement is. Bear with me as I try. 

Sixth grade is throwing me for a loop. Last year, there was a definite honeymoon period for the first five or six weeks before they became more comfortable and a bit more rambunctious. This year? No honeymoon period. They were obnoxious right out of the gate. I love them, but they test me often.  I humbly admit that I don’t always handle it well, but let me also say that I think we can all agree that in middle school, there are very few guarantees. There is an element of surprise in every day, and that doesn’t change from year to year. One day, you might have a kid fall asleep mid-phrase while singing. The next day, you might crack and start laughing when, after playing starting pitches and while giving the breath, a student loudly announces that his legs are really short. During one class, you might lose your temper because your students can’t keep quiet for more than fifteen seconds at a time and, in the next class, you might tear up when a student hands you a flower to put in your hair and tells you that choir is the reason she wakes up in the morning. Some days, you laugh at a poop joke for a solid three minutes. 

This year has been an ongoing process of trial-and-error. Instead of “Music Appreciation,” I have a piano class this year, now with twelve students instead of five which presents both space and equipment challenges. Logistically, it’s a bit of a nightmare, but we’ve established setup and cleanup routines in which students stack the classroom chairs, position powers strips, take out and put away keyboards and stands, re-position chairs, etc. There are several kinks to be worked out, but like I said... trial-and-error.

Instead of only one ensemble for seventh and eighth grades, I have an auditioned “select choir” as well. It is no exaggeration when I say that there is a night-and-day difference from last year. Both of my seventh and eighth grade groups are hard-working, fun, and sound like sweet little angels. Last year, I dreaded the second half of my day. This year, I look forward to it. My select choir in particular has actually moved me to tears on more than one occasion. They decided last week that I am Mama Po and that “Mama Po knows best.” It’s fitting, I think. I’m young and single, yet it feels like they are my kids. I can’t wait to show them off at our first concert in December!

About the Author

Melody Potratz

As the daughter of a piano teacher, Melody grew up in a musical home and began her music studies with piano lessons at age four. She joined a children's choir at her first opportunity in fourth grade and sang in public school choirs until she graduated from high school in 2009. She earned Bachelor of Music degrees in Piano Performance and Vocal Music Education from the University of Idaho where she was an active member of the collegiate chapters of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity and the American Choral Directors Association, serving as president of both chapters in her senior year. Melody is currently teaching middle school choir and piano in Post Falls, Idaho.

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