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Plan Your School Year with YOU in mind

Jul 27, 2022 | Tips and Tricks for Music Teachers, Tips for First Year Music Teachers

Plan Your School Year with YOU in mind

You’ve done the resting and relaxing. You’ve probably taken some summer PD. You’re having the back-to-school nightmares. Yep, it’s getting super close to the first day of school. Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? All of the above?

If you’re like me, you’re probably starting to think about all the things. How last year went? What changes do you want to make to your behavior management system? Do you want a decorating theme? What new lessons and activities do you want to include? WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE GOING TO LOOK LIKE??!!! That’s the scariest part, right?

We music teachers have so many challenges that most other teachers know nothing about. I mean, it looks like we’re just in there singing and dancing all day. No curriculum, no worries about parents, no homework to grade. They LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA what our job looks like. And everyone likes to judge. That music teacher this and that music teacher that.

Your principal is probably already thinking about what programs you should do this year and how great your school is going to look to parents and the community when every grade level does a special show. Cring! I mean, of course you’re going to want everything just so, and of course you want to be sure students, parents, and your principal LOVE you and your program. But you also need to take care of you. Otherwise, nothing will go right.

So how do you make sure that everyone is happy and do all the things that are expected of you without making your life insane? The best answer is YOU DO YOU!

Does this seem counterproductive? How can you do you and still please all of the people? It’s actually easier than you think. Here are some steps you can take to help your school year be not only productive but also fulfilling for your students AND YOU!

  1. Take a few moments to list all of your super powers. Don’t tell me you don’t have any! You totally do. Think about why you became a musician. Are you a fabulous trumpet player or an accomplished percussionist? Do you have a fantastic voice and love to sing? You’ve got skills baby! List them . . . I mean really, sit down and write them out on a piece of paper.
  2. Now think about the non-musical skills you have. Do you love crafting? Are you a skilled seamstress? Are you an accomplished recording artist? Do you geek out on all the fun music apps that are out there? Everything counts, and everything can be helpful in your planning process.
  3. Next, think about what you enjoy most about being a music teacher. Do you love teaching chorus? Are you happiest when you’re teaching your kiddos how to perform an amazing orffestration? Do you really enjoy drum circle? Write these down too. Yes, we’re still using paper and pencil (or your most favorite marker or pen).
  4. Finally, think about what makes your kiddos happiest. Do they jump for joy when you tell them you’re getting out the basketballs for a percussion piece? Do they love playing the triangle as much as my 5th graders? (I swear this is true). Are they happiest when they are singing? You know your students best, and you know what makes them smile.

Now that you’ve answered these all-important questions, you can start your planning process. First, take a look at your list of super powers (I hope you’ve included a bunch). You are amazing and accomplished. You’re a musician after all. If you didn’t include at least 3-5, talk to some friends who truly love you. THEY will tell you how fantastic and talented you are.

Think about activities you can use that include your music superpowers, and write them down beside your list of super powers. For example, if you love to sing, you might want to include some of your favorite folk songs or sea shanties. If you are a gifted percussionist, of course you’ll want to include LOTS of drumming in your program. Don’t have drums? Ask your friends and family for all of their giant plastic pretzel and M & M’s containers. You can totally use those as drums.

Next, think about your non-musical super powers. Were you a videographer in a previous life? Maybe you can do a unit on music videos and teach your students how to create their own music videos. What a great performance opportunity? Do you love to explore new apps? Find some cool ones for your students to use to compose their own rhythms or play the piano using your favorite app.

Now go back to your list of the things you enjoy teaching the most. This is where the magic happens. If you enjoy teaching it, you’re going to be more passionate and super excited about it. If you love teaching this subject, you’re probably also pretty good at teaching it. This translates to more excitement among your students, hence, greater learning. This is where your focus should be. It’s o.k. to design your year around what you enjoy teaching most.

The next step is to take a look at your list of what your kiddos like most. It’s o.k. to use what they love most in your planning. If your students especially love drumming, include more drumming in your plans. If they like to dance, by all means, include more movement and dance. If you get the best response from your students when you get out center activities, include LOTS of centers.

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the things your students DON’T like to do. Why fight city hall, right? If your students don’t love to sing, it’s o.k. to do a little less of that. When you do sing with them, try to use music that they really connect with. Find funny songs or songs that they recognize. Find songs that have a fun game to play or some great movement and dance. You’ll be surprised when they start singing along while they’re playing or dancing.

Finally, think about the programs you want to do this year. While your principal might have some ideas about who should participate, most principals don’t care to be included in all the little details. Plan your programs around what you and your students love and do well.

If you are planning a “graduation” program for your 5th graders, and they don’t like to sing, plan a performance where the students who love to sing can sing, and everyone else gets to play instruments. If your kindergarten is having trouble keeping a steady beat, do some movement that involves improvisation to music that doesn’t have a definite beat.

Planning the school year can be challenging and sometimes a little scary. If you take some time to think about what you’re good at and what you love to teach, as well as what your students like best, it will make the actual planning a whole lot easier.

Need more information? Reach out in my private Facebook group, or hit me up at

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