Words of Wisdom for 2014 and Beyond

As we reflect upon the previous year and make resolutions for the new one, I am taking stock of what has worked for me in my years as a teacher. Here are some things I have learned:

1. If you can’t say it in 2-3 sentences, call. Don’t e-mail.

If it is a parent addressing a concern/complaint, then this will suffice: I would be happy to discuss this with you further. I can be reached at (#) or please reply with your phone number and the best time to reach you.

If you know that this may be hostile, then request a meeting and have an administrator or guidance counselor present.

No matter what, if you are ever speaking with a student, parent, colleague who is upset, always remain on an emotional level lower than them. This will help keep the situation from spiraling out of control.

2. People before paper. My students know that I will always be busy when they approach my office, but I will always stop and give them my attention.

3. Save your rotator cuff and refrain from standing while playing the piano! Many conductors have the issue of a torn rotator cuff from overuse/misuse. This is one move that will help greatly.

4. Choose repertoire that will make a difference with your students musically and emotionally. Choose pieces the YOU are excited about and that your students will enjoy. Get to know your students’ taste and what intrinsically motivates them. Know them well enough musically that you choose music that they will feel successful on.

5. Remember that over the course of your career in high school choral music, you will grow and mature. Your students will continue to be the same age. This was hard for me to grasp in my early years of teaching and I was let down by the poor choices some students would make. Maybe that’s a no brainer for many of you, but it was a light bulb moment for me!

6. Stay fresh with your repertoire, warm ups, concerts. Think outside of the box! Ask your students for input and try not to get into a rut. Even after 18 years in the same high school, I still challenge myself and my groups to come up with different ways of doing things so no one can say “that’s the way we ALWAYS do it!”

7. Show your appreciation OFTEN to those who make your job easier: custodians, secretaries, administrators, and parents. I e-mail my head of maintenance thanking him for his assistance with our coffee house or another event and copy his supervisor and my principal. Acknowledge all involved at the end of concerts or events where they have provided support.

8. Surround yourself with people who bring you JOY. Avoid the negative gossipers in the faculty. You don’t need that negative energy in your life!

9. Make eye contact with each singer in the course of the song. Truly connect and know they are looking back. When you connect with one singer, you connect with the entire choir and it is felt by your audience.

10. Connect with your students. Take the time to know something about each student and show your interest in their activities outside of choir. Ex.: Join choir members to go support your students in a game.

11. Take advantage of what ACDA has to offer in ways of workshops (Janet Galvan in June!) and summer conference (Steven Sametz in July!). You will come away with new ideas and a refreshed spirit.

I wish you the very best that 2014 has to offer. If you would like to contribute YOUR bits of wisdom, I would love to continue this list! E-mail me at notes2lausi@comcast.net.

— Laurie Lausi