To ensure a successful school year we must build positive relationships with our students and create a learning environment for all to grow. As music teachers, we have an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work to complete before the first day of school. Managing a school instrument inventory, selecting music, labeling method books, organizing music supplies, and communicating with parents are just a few of the many tasks. This list goes on! It’s so easy to become overwhelmed at the amount of planning and preparation it takes to run a successful music program.
Begin planning now to ensure a calm and stress-free start to the school year. Below I offer some specific tips and a downloadable checklist to make sure nothing is overlooked. Don’t let the amount of work overshadow your commitment to your students and music program. Be organized and ready to create an amazing year of music on day one.
Music & Supplemental Materials
Use the time between now and the first day of school to decide on ensemble music. If you have not yet decided on literature for your ensembles, pull the selections you’re considering. This could be music to sight read for that first week of school.
Equally important to literature are the supplemental materials like warm-up sheets, rhythm pages, method books, music handbook, etc. Organize these materials ahead of time so that they are ready to hand out in rehearsal. You’ll also want to update and copy your syllabus/music handbook. Finally, don’t forget administrative stuff like forms, permission slips, and instrument contracts.
As music educators, good communication is a vital component of our job. Being proactive with all communication demonstrates to families that you are organized and you respect the time they’ve invested in your program. Create a newsletter or personal email welcoming families to the music program. Ensure that all online and hard copy performance calendars are up-to-date. Make sure your private teacher list is accessible and updated, too. Check student rosters and look for any new students. This is an opportunity to reach out to these students and introduce yourself, find out what instrument they play, and answer any questions they may have.
Gradebook & LMS
It’s vital to set up a grading program/gradebook. Google Classroom is an excellent application for students and teachers to manage communication and assignments, including posting announcements, creating assignments and sharing links.
Before the first day, create each class, but don’t worry about adding students yet. During the first week of school, have students sign-up in class with their devices by sharing the sign-up code through email or projecting it on screen in rehearsal.
Create a simple, but solid classroom management plan that includes both student expectations and procedures. Be certain to post rules and student expectation prominently for all students to see. This is the foundation of your classroom. Make it easy to remember and follow for both you and the students. Consistency is key. Even the most well-crafted classroom management plans are not effective without teacher consistency. With younger students, plan to spend more time teaching and practicing expectations and procedures, covering entering/exiting the room, restroom use, instrument repair, etc. Other management tasks to keep on your list are creating seating chart(s) and spreadsheets for music and percussion assignments.
Order and stock all the supplies necessary for your program to be successful. If you have a repair kit, make sure it’s organized with all necessary tools and supplies for those quick, minor repairs, including reeds, valve oil, slide oil, key oil, rotor oil, etc. Tissues and band-aids are a must in any music room. Keep a supply of band-aids at your desk or podium to give out quickly. I also have a supply of golf pencils handy for forgetful students to use, too.
Create a rehearsal space that is organized and inviting. Set-up chairs and music stands in a way that best suits the ensemble and your teaching style. Adding an aisle through the middle of the ensemble will increase your mobility and make it possible to reach all students.
Decorate the space with inviting photos, posters, or anything that adds to the rehearsal environment you want to create. Also, consider the best locations for students to access things like tissues, hall passes, sign-out sheet, and turn-in box. Additional tasks include:
- Create hall passes
- Assign and label storage lockers
- Organize and assign school instruments to students
- Set up practice rooms
I’ve consolidated the tips in this article into a succinct back-to-school checklist you can use to ensure that nothing has been overlooked in your preparations. Enter your email below to download it for free.
Benjamin Franklin said it best. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When planning for the first week, decide on two things; What is the goal for the first week? What do you want the students to accomplish? Plan each day with this goal in mind. Consider creating a presentation to go along with all of the important information you’ll be discussing. The presentation can be posted online or even emailed to parents. Be cognizant of how much talking you do during those first few days of school. You may also want to plan ice-breaking and other get-to-know-you activities.
Expectations and procedures are important, but the students are there to play or sing.