May 13, 2015
Stress Free Tips for Wrapping Up the School Year
So, you’ve completed all your end-of-year performances and summer is right around the corner. While rest, relaxation, and some great vacations may be in your near future, you need to finish out the school year first. Unfortunately, wrapping up the school year can be just as stressful and complicated as preparing for a new one, but with proper planning you can reduce the amount of time you spend dealing with work-related issues during the first few weeks of summer. Plus, it can even greatly reduce stress at the start of the next school year. From managing inventory to tips for retention, this checklist can help ensure a smooth transition.
Retention & Recruiting
It’s never too early to think about retention and recruiting. When it comes to student retention, take some time to write down the names of every student currently participating in your band or orchestra, and divide them into three categories: definitely staying, definitely leaving, and not really sure. There’s not much you can do about those who are definitely leaving, and those who are definitely staying won’t pose a problem. Those who are on the fence are the students you should spend the next few weeks interacting with: try to remind them how fun music can be, and make comments about how great their progress has been this year. In terms of recruiting, the best place to look is “below”; i.e., if you teach high school, set aside some time to talk with the junior high director, and if you teach junior high make sure to speak with the director of the elementary school’s music program.
Change Your Approach to Teaching
If there’s any time of the year when classroom movies and games are acceptable, it’s the last few weeks of the school year. Kids are already thinking about summer, and you probably are, too. There are so many educational games and simulations online–regardless of the topic you’re teaching, there’s probably a game or activity for that. Other ways to keep the kids entertained (and informed) without having to go through the effort of creating lesson plans and printing out worksheets include class debates, group discussions, and presentation boards. Anything you can do to liven things up and keep things simple will be appreciated by both your students, their parents, and your sanity.
Get Feedback from Students
Ultimately, the end of the year should be a time of self-reflection for any teacher–what can you do better next year? What do you wish you did better this year? While asking yourself these questions is well and fine, there’s bound to be some dishonesty on your part. So, why not ask your students? Honest feedback from those who have spent time in your classroom first hand can provide valuable insight into students’ learning experiences and can help you improve your teaching style and methods next year. You can either print out forms for your students to fill out, or guide them towards an online survey using a service like SurveyMonkey. Regardless of the method, make sure they know their answers are private and won’t be traced back to them. After all, you want them to be as honest as possible.
Perhaps the most tedious part of wrapping up the school year is inventory, especially if you’re a band or orchestra director who is in charge of lots of instruments, cases, and accessories. Be sure to plan time for handing in all school items, and make sure it’s 1-2 weeks before the last day of school: there will always be someone who forgets the first time. While the instruments are being returned, keep a running list of anything that needs to be repaired or cleaned; make sure it’s easy to read and clearly matches repairs up to specific instruments. If you aren’t already keeping an organized database for all school equipment, start now. Not only will the database maintain an accurate inventory from year to year, but it’s an easy way to prevent equipment from disappearing right before your eyes.
Explore Learning Opportunities
Sure, exploring learning opportunities for students is important–but what about you? Sometimes teachers are so busy educating their students that they forget to take the time to educate themselves. Whether you enroll yourself in a professional workshop or spend some time learning a new instrument, take full advantage of your extended break by learning a thing or two during summer break. Lots of teachers use the end of the school year to explore new and emerging trends in the classroom, and do the research necessary to bring these trends into their classroom next year. In order to prepare, take some time now to explore your options with existing school vendors and department heads, or just take a look online, for interesting topics and areas where you can enhance your skills.
Encourage Student Development
Although this has less to do with the current school year and more to do with the beginning of the next school year, anything you can do to encourage the development of your students’ skills over the summer will pay dividends for you and your students next fall. Consider putting together a summer packet for your current students. Although you can include anything you want, some things we suggest including in the packet are:
- Referrals for music teachers, so they don’t “lose their touch” over the summer months
- Recommended warm-up exercises and routines
- Lists of repertoire to play at various levels
- Recordings of musicians for them to discover
- Music biographies to read (make sure they’re age appropriate!)
- Your contact info, if you feel comfortable communicating with students over the summer
These lists should be specific to each instrument, and should ultimately act as a resource for your students and parents over the summer months. Anything you can do to encourage students to explore music outside of class will be helpful, both short term and in the long run.
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