Building Confidence

By Stephen Mulvahill, Paisley IB Magnet School

At one of my service sites, I assist with chorus classes for 7th to 10th graders. My first week or so on site, things were pretty rough. The chorus teacher was new to the school and had been handed mostly chorus classes instead of the expected orchestra classes. Several of the students in different sections had been “dumped” there and were in a habit of acting out in class.

There was also an extreme range of levels within sections, from complete musical beginners to students who had sung in advanced chorus multiple years. For the first few class sessions, there was a strong lack of motivation as a result of so many obstacles. A lot of the students were unwilling to sing at all and felt they couldn't. I wasn't even sure some of them would be able to match pitch, and it was hard to see what direction the class would take over the course of a semester.

I did everything I could to assist the teacher in building enthusiasm and confidence, and we turned warm-ups and solfege exercises into games. Gradually, many of the students who were unwilling to participate realized that they were capable after all, and became more willing to try new things. One class, a section of seventh graders that has had more discipline issues than any of the others, has progressed from almost complete non-participation to now singing music in two parts.

Many of the same challenges from the beginning of the semester continue, but I know that for some of the students, a foundation of confidence has been laid that wasn't there before.

October 02, 2017