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Summer is one of the best things about being a teacher, right? If you’re on summer vacation or looking forward to summer vacation, you may be wondering what to do with your vacation– you know, beyond watching Netflix. In this post, we’re talking about a few things that all music teachers should do over the summer, and a few suggestions for what music teachers could do over the summer.
Of course, these are just suggestions, so you can do whatever you’d like, and whatever you need.
Remember that you need different things each year depending on where you are in life and how the past year has gone. Some summers you may be able to do all of the things, and other summers you may spend most of your time sitting on the couch.
Either way, it’s ok.
Above all, listen to your body and do what’s best for you.
Some years, I do a lot of work, do projects around the house, and more. Some years– like this year– I will not be doing so much. This year, I need a lot of rest, so I’ll be taking it (slightly) more easy than I usually do.
What all teachers should do in the summer
There are some things that all music teachers should do during the summer. Now, the first would be GET SOME SLEEP, but that’s not revolutionary, so we’ll skip that one.
Things that you should do (after you sleep!) include:
- Reflect on the Year
- Get Rest
- Set Goals for Next Year
Reflect on the Year
First thing’s first, ALL teachers should be reflecting on the year. If you’re reading this, it’s because you want to be an awesome teacher. In order to do that, you need to take stock of what you’re already doing well and what you should work on. My goal is that every year is better than the last. Now, that does not always happen, but it is still the goal.
Every year is different (this year especially so!), so it’s important to reflect on the year EVERY year.
A few things I like to include in my reflections include:
- Describe the school year
- What are my overarching feelings about this year?
- Did I achieve my goals for the year? (If I set them at the beginning of the year)
- What could have gone better that I’d like to change next year?
- What will I keep the same?
- What will I change?
- What will I start doing?
- What will I stop doing?
Now, if you don’t have answers to every single question, that’s ok. The idea is that you think about how the year went and how you’d like to improve. So answer one question, two, or all of them. The point is that you do it.
I know I said that we didn’t need to talk about sleeping, but I would like to talk about REST.
Now, I am an Enneagram 1. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram personality types, you’ll know that means that I like to WORK. Working makes me happy. I love to be productive.
I mean– I wouldn’t have a blog, Youtube channel, TPT store, and a full time job if I didn’t like to work.
A good day to me is a day where I accomplish things.
If you feel the same, holler at me over on Instagram (@beccasmusicroom) to let me know that I’m not alone.
Anyway, sometimes I work too much. So much, in fact, that I basically run myself into the ground. And I usually can’t tell until it’s too late and I just can’t do anything.
I realized this last year. This happened in the Spring of 2020– I worked on my business. Then I spent all of the school day trying to figure out how to teach online, and I worked really hard to make great lessons for my kids. Then I would work on my business after school.
This was due to a few reasons– I work when I’m stressed, I knew that music teachers needed ideas in this new online space, and all of my normal activities were cancelled so there was nothing else to do.
But the result is that I hit a wall and then I couldn’t do ANYTHING anymore. I was just exhausted.
So I learned to rest. I’m still not good at it, but I’m working on it.
So this summer, you need to rest. I need to rest. Especially if you’re reading this in 2021– the last two school years have been ROUGH. You need a break. You need to rest.
Whatever that means to you– do it. That might be hanging out at the pool. It might be reading all of the Harry Potter books even though you’re an adult. Maybe it means that you are going to actually practice your music– and remember that you like music when you aren’t stuck in sol-mi land.
Whatever you choose, DO IT and DO NOT feel guilty. You are only contracted to work 190 days. The other days you do not have to think about school. It’s ok. I promise.
If you need permission– here it is. Rest.
Set Goals for Next Year
Ok, once you’ve rested, all music teachers should do some goal setting. You can do this at the same time as your reflections or right before the school year starts.
Whichever you choose, think of 1-3 things that you’d like to adjust this year. They can be big or little.
Ideas for goals for the year include:
- Playing more games
- Working on your sequence
- Figuring out how to assess
- Classroom management
- Teach a new instrument
- Try components from a different style of teaching
- Incorporate science or history into your lessons
- Increase engagement
- Having better self care habits
Or about 1,000 other things.
There are so many things that you can do in order to improve your teaching. All of those little micro-shifts add up after a while.
In the past I’ve had goals like incorporating centers into my classes, increasing engagement, using ukuleles, and more.
The 2020-2021 school year’s goal was to survive. I’m not even kidding. I had no idea what was happening, what would happen, or what I needed to do. I just wanted to make it through the year without losing my mind. If that’s your goal this year, that’s ok too.
Once you make your goals, think about 3-5 action items that will help you with said goal.
For example, the year that I wanted to do centers, I made a list like this:
- Come up with centers activities
- Decide on one day a week for centers (I see my kids for a week at a time, so that could be one week a month for you)
- Add an assignment each time to ensure that I actually stick with it (because it’s got to go in the grade book!)
If you want to work on increasing engagement, your action items might be:
- Take the free Whole Brain Teaching course (I highly recommend, by the way)
- Add 1 “fun thing” to every lesson
- Make an outline for lesson plans that includes changes the pace
- Research fun lesson ideas that also teach concepts
Some of these will be things to do now, and some will be things to do in the school year. The main thing is not to leave it at “I want to____” but actually decide what you want to do in a practical sense.
If you’re new around here, you should know that I am VERY big on practical tips.
Optional ideas for what teachers should do in the summer
Alright, so the previous three things were things that all music teachers should do in the summer. The next few are optional– they will help you use your summer to become a better teacher, but if you don’t want to do them YOU DON’T HAVE TO. You’re not on the clock, remember?
The optional things include:
- Read a Book or Take a Class
- Plan for Next Year
- Dream about your Classroom
Read a Book or Take a Class
One of the best things to do in the summer is to take a class or read a book to help you learn something new.
Side note: If you’re feeling bored with teaching, incorporating new lessons can be a game changer.
Now, the first place music teachers look is a Kodaly or Orff training, and those are GREAT. I would dare say they are the best. But if you’ve already taken them or you don’t have the capability this year due to time, money, or availability (if anyone from Kodaly or Orff is reading this, PLEASE put more programs in the Southeast. The closest to me is hours and hours away!).
So if you’re looking for a different option, here are a few….
Take a course. There are many different online courses that you can take to learn about specific aspects of teaching music. Most of these are created by elementary music teachers, so all of the content is super relevant.
For example, I created a course last summer for teachers who were distance learning. It is still available, although I’m kind of hoping that they are less people who need it this year!
Books for elementary music
Books are a great low-cost and low-stress option for people who want to learn more about elementary music. I typically have a few that I read each year.
Below are some of my favorites and some that are on my list to read because they’ve been highly recommended. (affiliate links)
- Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers
- The End of Molasses Classes
- Whole Brain Teaching
- Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, and PE
- Making Each Minute Count: Time-Savers, Tips, and Kid Tested Strategies for the Music Class
- Teach Like a Champion
…and of course, if you want to focus on self care, you could read my book: The Happier Teacher Life.
Plan for Next Year
Like I mentioned, I like to work. Some years– especially when I was brand new– not having ANY plans for the school year would reeeeeally stress me out. So having a few plans down on paper or on a Google Doc helps to ease my anxiety.
Two things that I like to do in the summer to make low-key plans for the year:
- Long term planning: Making a sequence plan for the whole year will help you to feel much more comfortable with what you are teaching throughout the year. I have a sequence (I talk about it here) that I follow, but depending on the previous year, I may need to do different concepts in different grade. For example, this school year some grades are behind. First grade never got to quarter rest because of online learning, schedule glitches, and more. So in the summer, I like to write down an estimated timeline for the year– basically, this month first grade will work on____. Nothing too final, because we don’t know what will happen, but an idea.
- Lesson collecting: I’m not writing lesson plans over the summer, but I am working on finding new ideas– and not forgetting them. So I like to put them in a notebook or a Google Doc and organize them by type and grade level. So for example, that might be “second grade movement” or “fourth-fifth grade treble clef”. This way when I am lesson planning during the year, I have a lot of information to fall back on.
Dream about your Classroom
If you’re looking to get excited for the school year, classroom decor is where it’s at. Planning a classroom theme or redesign is the easiest way to get excited to go back to school.
Just think of all the possibilities!
Now, full disclosure, I have kept my classroom the same for the past few years. I still love my theme, so I think I’ll stick with it for now. But the year that I decided on my theme, I had so much fun! Trying to find items, looking for decor on Pinterest and TPT, doing DIY projects…. The best.
I have a map/around the world theme in my classroom and I love it. I try hard to do songs from all around the world, so I feel like my classroom reflects that.
You can check out a full classroom tour (with pictures and video!) by clicking here.
You music teachers have told you this from the very beginning– you must practice.
But during the school year, my practicing usually includes songs in pentatonic. Not opera arias.
So during the summer, take some time to play your favorite instrument (or learn a new one!) and remember why you love music in the first place. We sometimes forget that we started teaching music because we love to play music and make music– let’s get back to that!
So French horn, trombone, ukulele, percussion, singing…. Whatever your thing is, invest some time in your own music this year.
Alright friends, those are the things that all music teachers should do over the summer. What did I miss? Head over to my instagram @beccasmusicroom and let me know what you like to do or what you will do this year!