If you have a few days after the concert and before the winter break, it can offer a window of opportunity to get some things done. Here are a few suggestions to consider as you prioritize how you’ll best use this valuable time.
1. Assign New Music
Assign new solo and/or ensemble music for the kids to look at and listen to during break. Try to pick the pieces that will generate the most student excitement. While you can assign X number of practice minutes to be completed over break (and use SmartMusic to track them), you might also consider making practice time part of a contest, available for extra credit, or not making these assignments due for a while so kids who travel are not “punished.” Either way, you can hit the ground running when students return.
Another option is to pick a few potential spring concert pieces for students to select from. Assign them in SmartMusic, and set up a digital survey that allows students to indicate which piece or pieces they would most like to play. Giving students the power to choose can really impact their level of commitment and help motivate their practice.
2. Make Holiday Music Performance Opportunities Possible
Distribute music or assign a few holiday solos or tunes in Smartmusic so students can play for loved ones over the break. If performing for others is a required assignment, or an option for extra credit, ask students to document their performances with short recordings or videos. You might also consider holiday-themed performance opportunities around the school, or even elsewhere in the community.
3. Send Instruments to the Shop
If you have school instruments that are in need of repair, send them to the shop. This means less time out of students hands when you come back to school in January.
4. Complete Grading
Get as much grading and paperwork completed as you can before you leave. The very hectic nature of December makes difficult to do, but having nothing over your head during the break will help you to unwind, relax, and regenerate. For the same reasons, if possible, complete the first-week-back lesson plans, too.
5. Calendar/Schedule Work
Have all spring schedules (rehearsals, workshops, performances, etc.) passed out, listed on your website, on Schoology, and posted on school calendars. Even if you distribute a calendar at the beginning of the year, it’s a good idea to do it again – especially if there have been changes.
You might also plan the schedule of before/after school rehearsals prior to leaving for break, and plan your assignment schedule for the next quarter.
6. Student Social Event
Have a social event with students before they leave for winter break.
7. Study Scores
Study scores for the return to school and prep for the concerts and performances that will be on your mind the minute you return.
8. Clean Up
Clean up – and have kids help. Pick up the rehearsal hall, storage rooms, your desk, behind percussion cabinet, inside the percussion cabinet, etc. It will feel so much better starting fresh in January. While you’re at it, collect and file all the music from your winter or holiday concert, too.
9. Review Fall Teacher Evaluations
Go over your fall teacher evaluations. If necessary, have a game plan for improvement, even if that means a sit-down with administrators. The break will give you a relaxed time to reflect.
10. Thank People!
Do something nice for your colleagues. Even a small gesture goes a long way in letting people know you appreciate their help. Consider teachers from all parts of the building and anyone else who helps make your life easier.
Most importantly, acknowledge your custodial staff. These are the people who are always with you on Friday nights after the football game as you sweep the hallway for uniform parts. They’re the folks who help you set up and tear down for every concert, and do so much more. Consider getting them a gift card as a small token of appreciation for all their help throughout the year.
Special thanks to Giovanna Cruz, Michael Gibson, Stephen Goss, Leigh Kallestad, Kevin Mead, Ted Scalzo, Laura Vaughan for contribution ideas for this post.