It’s 8:46 on a Sunday morning, and I’m still in my pajamas sipping coffee and listening to the birds outside my sun-filled apartment as I write. No choir obligations, no classroom work looming for the after-church hours, no rush to get the laundry done today, no urgent Sunday-evening meal prepping to anticipate.
Ah, the glories of summer break.
I love the chance to slow down, to accomplish tasks that get ignored during the school year, to enjoy the weekends with my husband instead of rushing to get as many chores done as we can within two days. On the other hand, the slowness of the upcoming months can be a detriment to me, a person who can be labeled whatever the opposite of a workaholic is. I am not naturally industrious or driven to accomplish work when said work is not pressing. Knowing this about myself, I have started to plan (not a strength of mine either) what I should do this summer to help my next year of teaching music go as smoothly as possible. I’m no expert and I’d love to hear any veteran advice, but the following are five helpful tasks to complete over the generally less busy days of summer.
1. Get Organized
This encompasses a whole slew of summer tasks. Currently, it means filing boxes of music that have been sitting in my classroom since last summer. After that, it will mean working through all the papers, books, old student work, and any other classroom debris, deciding what to discard and establishing a set place for the rest.
Following physical organization, mental organization must take precedence. This is when I break out the school calendar and start looking at the year as a whole. When do the seasons of the Church Year fall in 2019–2020? What do the school-year breaks look like? How much time do I have with my students to prepare their music for Sunday services and special all-school services? What do I want to accomplish in my classes each quarter? How can I start thinking of breaking those accomplishments down into bite-size pieces for each month, week, and class period?
2. Select Music
After organizing my big-picture year, I look for music to teach in each of my classes. This involves coordination with the church musicians, and figuring out which hymns will be sung each Sunday so I know what to prepare to teach my students. It is also important to keep in mind bigger pieces for any special services. Selecting this music ahead of time, ordering or making copies of it, and organizing it into folders will make the year ahead much less stressful.
3. Prepare Communications
Composing emails during the restful and carefree days of summer break proves to be a much less strenuous task than composing emails at the conclusion of long and tiring school days. What communications do I anticipate needing this year, whether for fellow teachers, certain classes, or the whole school? If it’s not possible to actually compose those communications now, can I start drafts to be completed and revised later? When will I need to start contacting parents about fall piano lessons? Can I have an email ready to go? Prepping these communications ahead of time will prevent some headaches come the fall.
Toward the end of this past school year, a student lent me her copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because I noted she was carrying it, and she knew I am an avid Harry Potter fan. About a week later, she asked me if I had finished it yet, and I had to admit I hadn’t even started it. She was shocked and proceeded to advise me that it wasn’t very long or hard and I should just sit down and read some of it each night. As adults, we know it is easier said than done to read every evening. My stack of books to read keeps growing taller. But summer is here! Now is the time to take advantage of less busy days and to break out those books I’ve been meaning to read on classroom management and philosophies of education.
The internet is also a wonderful place to glean information. Instead of rushing out the door at 7:00 a.m., I can take my mornings to visit a coffee shop and peruse music-teacher blogs. Now is the time to attend conferences and get certifications. Now is the time to scour Amazon for the best songbooks and teacher aids. Now is the time to visit the music store whenever I feel like it. Taking advantage of this time will prove a great help to me in the new school year.
5. Define Purpose
I find that the work we do on a daily basis—whether as an educator, a church worker, or any other worker—can often turn frustrating. Jobs become stressful, relationships sour, students misbehave, the plans you so carefully constructed over the summer come crumbling down. So, as one of my summer tasks, I am out to define my purpose as a music teacher. What is the point? What have I to look to when the job goes south?
Thankfully, as Christians, we have and know our purpose. We are to love God and serve our neighbors. So as music teachers or church musicians of any kind, we strive to do just that. All our energies aim not to make little professional musicians out of our students, not to turn all our students into enthusiastic music scholars, but to point our students to Christ. That is why we organize and plan, that is why we choose appropriate music and communicate effectively, and that is why we learn and demonstrate that learning.
Look ahead, plan, and select music for the coming Church Year with Worship Planning Book.