Music Ed Mentor Podcast #029: Classroom Life Hacks

Music Ed Mentor Podcast #029: Classroom Life Hacks

While I think it’s unlikely that anyone interested in podcasts isn’t familiar with the term, a life hack is a tip or trick that makes your life more efficient or productive. I can think of no place in greater need of helpful life hacks than the music classroom, so that’s the subject of this week’s podcast.

To help me cover this subject, I brought in experienced choral expert, composer, blogger, and specialist in optimizing your classroom environment, Adam Paltrowitz. You can find his blog at, where he also has some excellent resources on classroom management and student leadership.

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In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

Right now many teachers are in the throes of Back to School, which can cause a fair amount of stress, anxiety, and excitement. To help, Adam walks us through how to hack our classroom by helping us answer some of the most pressing questions, including:

  • How do we optimize our student’s focus, even if something has shaken them emotionally before they come to our classroom?
  • How should we set up our room for optimal flow?
  • What should our room feel like for our students and how do we craft that feeling?
  • Most of all, why is all of this important?

Free Bonus Episode: Practical Tips from Jody Hepp

Instead of our usual freebie download of a pdf checklist, guide, or book, I’m giving you a bonus episode! To complement some of the theory Adam and I discuss this week, Jody Hepp and I focus on very practical, day-to-day tips for your classroom. Download this short and extremely helpful audio file by entering your email address below.

Key Takeaways

The #1 thing your students need in your classroom is to feel safe

“We have to create this sense that everybody feels that they have a place. They know where they’re going to sit. They know how the class is going to start. They know what they need to do to feel comfort in that room. And we have to create this sense of belonging for every student. And we create the sense of belonging by having guidelines and procedures; a system in place…”

As music teachers, we are the spark and the guide

“If you give a student an Italian aria…you can teach it to them, every day you can teach them a new line, you can go over the Italian and all that stuff. But if we’ve created this really positive environment where they really love what they’re doing, they feel comfortable, they feel safe and they love music they’re going to go home, and go on YouTube, and they’re going to listen to 50 recordings on their own and come back and know it. So we have become the spark and the guide.”

Never feel intimidated by gifted students

“The point is not ‘I have all the knowledge and you know nothing.’ The point is that I have some experience and I can help guide you to find your best self. I am here to help you. I am here to support you. I am here to give you the knowledge that I can give you and what I don’t know I can help you find.”

Additional Resources

Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa was a top presenter at the NAfME National Conference in 2017 and will be presenting at state conferences in 2018. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

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