Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Some Endings Definitely Aren't Happy

You may recall that in my October 21st post I talked about how I took matters into my own hands with regard to my class' preparations for the CHORUS CONTEST (off-key fanfare, still sadly mumbled). I did so in response to desperate complaints from students, and I did so at the risk of damaging my professional relationship with the class' homeroom teacher, who I am supposed to assist. I also mentioned how, after she'd heard what I'd done, the homeroom teacher herself decided to take more direct action, even to the point of heading me off. Things still looked rather dark, but at least there was an important glimmer of hope.

The following week seemed to go rather well. I was asked to observe a few rehearsals (one such invitation ironically coming from the vocal music teacher), but for the most part the kids seemed to be confident they could work it out on their own. There was one all-7th-grade rehearsal on Thursday, when all five of the 7th grade classes took turns on the stage. My class was definitely overwhelmed in the volume department, but they still sounded good and in tune. The comments from the grade chief echoed that as well. There was really no reason why my class couldn't do well...if they could only put a bit more "oomph" into their singing. On Friday I observed another rehearsal, and I noticed the boys were starting to screw off again, but they knocked it off as soon as I came into the room. That unsettled me a bit, but I wasn't particularly worried. It was Friday, after all.

On Tuesday the 6th the homeroom teacher quite unexpectedly asked me to take care of the morning homeroom session. She seemed pretty bummed for some reason. I went up to find the kids rehearsing...or trying to, anyway. The boys were being uncooperative again. One word from me was all it took to shut them up and get them going, but it was clear their hearts weren't in it at all. After that I reported back to the homeroom teacher and was told about The Disaster. The day before, on Monday the 5th, the kids had had their last vocal music lesson before the CONTEST, which was now less than a week away. Unfortunately, many if not most of the boys had refused to sing no matter what the vocal music teacher had said. The teacher had then terminated the lesson and written a nasty letter to the homeroom teacher, who then responded by making the entire class write letters of apology. Worried, I used the excuse of a make-up test to grab one of the less motivated boys and have a little heart-to-heart chat. My fears were confirmed. The social atmosphere between the boys and the girls had gone from shaky to Arctic glacier. Including the Foundation Festival debacle that started this whole mess, the girls had been getting on the boys' case constantly since August. What's more, their attitude and manner of speaking had gotten steadily snottier. It was understandable, but it had gone way overboard, the boys were fed up, and whole endeavor was on the rocks.

Frankly, so were my feelings about the whole thing.

On Thursday the 8th there was another all-7th-grade rehearsal, the last before the CONTEST, and my class got their arses soundly whipped by the other 7th-grade classes. They knew it, too. The girls were upset, but the boys didn't seem to give a damn. The student leader (one of the girls, naturally) scheduled a rehearsal there in the auditorium afterward, but all of the boys immediately bolted. She and one of the conductors (one of the girls, naturally) came to me almost in hysterics and asked for my advice. Well, I started out by telling them a short story with a very obvious moral (which they got even before I finished). Then I gave them the following advice:

  • Try talking to the boys rather than at them. Let them know you are aware of their feelings in the matter and are concerned.

  • It will probably hurt, but you'd probably better apologize to them for having been so down on them so much for so long. Let them know that you really want them to cooperate as equal members of the team.

  • Talk to the boy part leaders beforehand and see what they think. If possible, see if you can get them to work with you as partners.

  • Get off your high horse, even if it probably seems justified.

There were a lot of curled lips and rolling eyes as I spoke, but the girls listened. After that they went off in search of the boy part leaders.

It seems they really did listen, too. The next day, Friday the 9th, they had another afterschool the boys' request. I didn't supervise, but apparently things went well. I talked to some of the boys later, and they seemed to have regained some of their enthusiasm.

Emphasize the "seemed". Basically, it was too little, too late.

Saturday the 10th was THE CONTEST (ugly-sounding, off-key pipe organ fanfare). It was painful to watch. The groups that preceded and followed them, both 8th grade classes, looked and sounded great. As for my class, there were some valiant efforts here and there (mainly but not only on the girls' side), but overall they looked sloppy when they walked onstage, looked positively half-assed when the conductor called them to attention, and looked like they were waiting to get a root canal while they sang. As for the singing, well...nope. It did sound better than it had a week before; the tone was beautiful, the intonation good, the blend and balance spot on. But it still sounded like they were singing in the next room. The pianists kept their levels low but still wiped them out. Even with all that blood, sweat, bruised/bloated egos, and tears, in the end nothing much had come of it all. They wound up dead last by a considerable margin, mainly on the "stage manner" and "volume" scores, and it was no surprise.

The homeroom teacher seemed pretty deflated. I really wonder what she's going to do now.

If you can't take pride in what you do, it's better not to do it at all. Hopefully they all learned that, but I wouldn't bet on it, especially after observing the kids at their cleaning duties after school today.

Just for fun, I'll end this post with a fruit known as "yuzu" in Japan ("Citron" in English). Basically it's a type of orange. Doesn't it look great? Actually, though, it's best known this season as something people sometimes put in their baths to make them smell good and feel warmer. My daughter can't stand them.


  • "If you can't take pride in what you do, it's better not to do it at all."

    Is that like: If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you are with ...

    If you can't take pride in what you do, try doing what you take pride in. They really should be One and the same thing.

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 10:41 PM  

  • You've become quite bold lately with blogging about Ye Olde Academy, it seems.

    The picture of the yuzu is wonderful and makes me thirsty because the yellow is so vibrant.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 11:13 PM  

    Absolutely. But if you're not given a choice of activities, you should at least try to be able to be proud of the outcome. I have to say I was disappointed that my class was starting to show promise only to buckle at the end. Some kids really were trying, but the ones that let their social problems (or their own spoiled brattishness) wreck it all made it that much worse.

    As long as I don't mention names, show clear pictures of faces, present clearly-identifiable members of the faculty in a negative light, or reveal confidential school matters I am in full compliance with the Principal's requests. I think I've been a good boy. Besides, if I can trust my web trackers they haven't been spying on me lately.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:36 PM  

  • Oh, I forgot to mention. Yuzu tastes like a cross between a lemon and an orange, i.e. it's both very tangy and sweet. It's quite often sliced into very fine strips and served with salads. I really like it, but my daughter can't stand it. In fact, last night she accidentally ate a bit of yuzu in a salad at a restaurant and wound up puking. Poor thing.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:38 PM  

  • That's citron? I thought citron is the same as lemon, no?

    By Blogger Selba, at 11:57 PM  

  • In Japan isn't there also a leaf called Yuzu, that's put into salad? It's got zig zag edges, is slightly furry, and tastes sort of lemony/perfumy.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 12:50 AM  

  • Selba
    Citron (yuzu, at least) smells and tastes similar to a lemon but looks like a pale-colored orange.

    Yes, you're right! Maybe that's the one my daughter doesn't like, but she avoids both.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:49 PM  

  • For more information, try the Wikipedia explanation.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:52 PM  

  • oooh, no wonder your daughter doesn't like them if they taste like a lemon! have you tried putting them in diet coke? that's the only way i can drink a diet coke - if it has lemon.

    well... i can sympathize with the homeroom teacher. the students wouldn't listen to me when i taught here - both boys and girls. i hated it, and they took total advantage of me and my demeanor.

    wow... what great advice to the girls. have you ever thought about doing student counseling? it's something i wanted to get into but didn't because you had to teach for two years which meant that i'd have to get my teaching degree and then start work on a masters.

    i know music is your passion and i think that w/ your students and the school (along w/ the teachers), you're pretty much doing that already.

    i often think when i read your posts that the teachers are jealous of you and your abilities.

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 2:45 AM  

  • Yuzu I can live without. As a native Californian raise in the middle of orange groves, I find it a disgrace to the citrus family. Blah. K can put it in her bath if she likes, but never in my mouth. :p

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home