Girls dressed in matching robes or dresses, boys with bow ties neatly tied. Lining the risers in our sections in size order, eyes ready upon our choral director.
The lights go down in the house and the audience, except for the front row, is barely visible, numbing the stage fright moderately as the stage lights come to blur whoever is left.
Our conductor nods to the piano player looks at us and raises his baton. Closing my eyes briefly, I take a breath and hold it, hoping that when I open my mouth the right sounds come out.
Who doesn't love to sing? You don't need to be any good to enjoy doing it. It feels good.
When I was in high school and even before that, I participated in my school's chorus and assorted specialty groups like concert choral and show choir. Despite my debilitating stage fright, I participated happily for years and even managed to love being in front of an audience.
Although I was never good enough to make it a career, it was something I always derived pleasure from and one that taught me really important life lessons that I utilize as a teacher.
As with anything that requires discipline, singing taught me that practice is essential if I wanted to be good. Whether it was our regimented daily rehearsals that started with warm-ups and moved through song after song, the practice never ended.
Everything worthwhile requires practice. No one is the best at anything the first time they try.
Fortunately, I loved to practice; not just in class, on my own, and my work ethic was demonstrated through that commitment. I've been able to apply that level of commitment to everything I do in my life.
Listening is another essential skill, I learned singing in a group. You have to be able to hear the people you are singing with to blend well. As a member of the singing group, making one sound together is what matters, not standing out on your own. As a teacher, we are a part of a community and in that community, we must blend, listening to the voices of all those around us, making each other better.
Approaching fear with a smile and head-on is another skill I learned. Getting in front of an audience terrified me, but doing it with my friends always made it easier. There is something about the support of your team or group that makes coping with fear that much easier. As teachers, there are many risks we need to take, and knowing we can lean on our colleagues and students makes it that much easier.
In addition to important life skills, chorus helped me to truly appreciate music. Few things make me feel as alive and connected as music. It fills an immeasurable role in my life. Whether hearing something emotional that evokes a response or singing with the windows down in the summertime, music has only great memories associated with it. As an education community, we need to make sure that all children have access to the arts as there are few other subjects that will provide such an appreciation.
Although chorus may not be the only group activity offered in high school, it is one that can leave a lasting impact for all.
How have the arts shaped you as a person? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in March of 2015