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Music Teacher Tips - #3 - Secret Student

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Music Teacher Tip #3 - #SecretStudent:

My first year of teaching was for inner city middle school. My 8th grade class had 48 students. After some digging, I discovered that only 3 had signed up for the class. Most of the other 45 wanted me to know this class was not their idea. Behavior was rough - I mean awful.

I approached a veteran teacher for advice. She told me about something she called “Secret Student.” At the start of class she would randomly pick a name out of a bowl. (I just closed my eyes and stopped on a name on my class roster.) She would then announce that she had a secret student that she was watching. If that student showed good effort and followed the rules, then at the end of class, she would make a big deal and give hints about who won until it was obvious. For example, “My secret student had great posture, stayed focused and wasn’t silly, sang in a beautiful soprano voice, is wearing purple, etc.” the prize was either a gift of some sort or a positive phone call home. I was amazed at how many chose the positive call.

By the way, if the secret student messes up (usually along with others), I would stop and say, “Oh no, my secret student lost it! That means I choose a new one.” It was always a good reminder for them to get their act together in case it was them.

It is important to make the reward valuable to your students, otherwise, this doesn’t work as well. You could also, put winners’ names on a bulletin board to celebrate those kids. I also told them if they ever lost then I would put their name back in the metaphorical hat.

This may have saved my life my first few months of teaching. 🤪

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