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5 Time Saving Tips to Help You Plan for the New Year

Aug 9, 2022 | Tips and Tricks for Music Teachers, Tips for First Year Music Teachers

5 Time Saving Tips to Help You Plan for the New Year

Whether you’re a first year teacher, or a seasoned pro, the new year is always jam packed FULL of all the things. There’s so much to consider . . . a new behavior management system, classroom decor, a theme for the year, curriculum planning, program ideas, I mean it’s an endless list.

Just because there’s a LOT to do, doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking second (and some of your sleeping ones) working and planning. As teachers, we feel like we have to plan all the plans, come up with all the ideas, write all the songs . . .if you’re not doing it all yourself, it CAN’T be good enough. NOT!!

It’s ok to take some short cuts. No one will know, and your students will not suffer a tragic learning loss because you take the easy way sometimes. I promise. That’s why I’m going to share with you my 5 secret time-saving hacks, just before you start your school year.

  1. Get organized – If you’re like most creative people (don’t tell me you’re not creative . . . you’re a music teacher), organization may not be your super power. While you may not love the idea of sitting down and planning out your year, having a good plan in place will save you hours and hours of time during the school year. Instead of spinning your wheels during your planning time, or taking an extended bathroom break and checking your emails, you’ll actually have a step-by-step guide designed to help you get things done. Take these easy steps to help you get organized:
    • Time blocking – This is the idea of looking at your day and breaking it up into blocks of time. Plan your personal time, your school/work time, and even your workout time. Amy Porterfield has a podcast episode specifically designed to help with time blocking. While it’s written for business owners, time blocking is a perfect option for busy music teachers too. Click her name to check it out.
    • Use a planner – How many times has your principal had to remind you about the paperwork that was due last week? How often does the teacher next door ask if you’re coming to the faculty meeting as she’s leaving to get there on time? Whether you’re a pen and notebook person or a digital planner, it’s a good idea to have a planner. You can go with something as simple as a Google Calendar, or use an option that has more details. We are Teachers wrote up details on the best teacher planners this year. Looking for a digital option? Here’s an article on the best online teacher planners.
  2. Curriculum planning and development – Having a plan in place for what you’re going to teach your students and HOW is what differentiates between good teachers and truly great ones. Don’t panic if you’re not there yet. While it’s totally awesome that you can pretty much plan whatever you want to teach, it’s also super difficult (not to mention time consuming). Most school districts don’t even have a scope and sequence for their music teachers. Fear not amazing teacher. Lauren McKenzie, curriculum planning and classroom management expert has everything you need to plan your year, even if you don’t know what questions to ask.
    • Brain Bedlam Briefing Guide – This guide has questions to help you get your ideas onto paper – the perfect brainstorming accompaniment.
    • Planning System – The perfect planning guide to help you decide what your year will look like, what you want to teach, and how to get there.
    • Elementary Music Planning Bundle – This is a digital planning system, complete with music standards and all the questions you’ll need to answer as you plan specific lessons. (These last 3 links are affiliate links to products I have purchased and am super excited to start using).
  3. Class decor extraordinaire – Do you change up your class decor every year? Every holiday season? Uhm, can’t remember the last time you changed things up? Don’t worry, no one will know if you don’t redecorate every year. If you do decide it’s time for a classroom refresh, don’t go too crazy. You have enough to do, and in the grand scheme, classroom decor is nice but not essential. Just the basics are great, as long as things are colorful and easy-to-read. Here are 2 great, easy resources for your classroom’s new look:
    1. Sally Utley, of SallysSongs, has a store that’s just full of great ideas. You can find new ideas for decorating in her TPT shop.
    2. Who doesn’t love Aileen Miracle?? Here are 10 examples of easy-to-use music class decor.
  4. First week(s) of school – The beginning of the school year is always super stressful for everyone. The music room should be a stress-free environment, especially for you. You have the whole school year to teach your students all the music things (I know you only see them like 26 times a year for 30 minutes or so). You have permission to focus on the fun the first couple weeks of school. Give your kiddos a chance to get used to being back in school and adjust to their new teacher and classroom culture. Here are some suggested first-weeks-of-school activities:
    • Have fun moving with your kiddos
    • Teach them some fun name games
    • Develop classroom culture
  5. Self care is important – You’ve got SO MUCH to do at the beginning of the year. I get it . . . me too. Teachers are the worst at self-care right? You want to make sure your students, your colleagues, and your admin are happy. How does self care help you save time?? Because if you are mentally and physically drained after the first 2 weeks of school, your brain will not function properly, and neither will your body? Who is going to help you keep up with those crazy kids? Exactly . . . no one. You can take these 5 steps to make sure you’re still ready to greet your kiddos with a smile even in week 19:
    • Get plenty of sleep – You need your zzzzz’s. Sleep is super important for your mental and physical health. You’ll be happier and more energetic if you go to bed at the same time every night, get some good rest, and wake up refreshed.
    • Try to function with a little less caffeine (said no teacher ever) – Now may not seem like the time to decrease your caffeine intake, but if you can cut back even by a cup, you’ll find stores of natural energy.
    • Keep your voice healthy – those first weeks of school are super hard on your vocal cords. If you can invest in a wireless microphone, you can cut back on the amount of times you lose your voice. You can also add a YouTube read aloud or a cute song that someone else is teaching for 5-10 minutes during each class. That way you get a few minutes to rest your voice.
    • Add a little exercise to your daily routine – Exercise is also good for your mental and physical health, as well as your stress level. Let’s not go crazy and start a cross fit class, but maybe try walking for 10 minutes of your lunch time (Ha!!) or after school.
    • Meditate – the beginning of the year (and let’s face it, the middle and the end of the year) are more stressful than most people realize. Meditation CAN help. Most times people think meditation is about clearing your mind of all thoughts, and who can do that? That’s actually far from the truth. Meditation is about practicing focus and how to handle the stray thoughts that inevitably come into your mind as you’re sitting in silence. I use Insight Timer, which is an app that has guided meditation. You can choose how long you want to try and build time from there.

Your school year is just beginning. You are already stressed out and overworked. Why not pick one or two of these strategies and give them a try. Don’t try to do all the things, because that will just add more to your plate. See how it goes. Give yourself grace. Above all, once you do go back to school, take a break when you get home, put your feet up, and take a few minutes to relax.

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