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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: handling the holidays

Yesterday I shared my top tips for enjoying the holiday season (and not getting stressed) at home with your family and children (you can check out that post here). But music teachers face just as much (if not more) stress over holiday events at work, between caroling, concerts, and everything else we are expected to do (and oh yeah, teach)! Today I am sharing my tips for keeping stress at bay at work when you are a music teacher in the middle of the holiday season.

1. Plan for review, and little else, in your long-range plans for December

If you want to read more about how I go about making my long-range plans for each grade that I teach, check out this post. One thing that I have learned over the years is to never plan too much for the month before a long break (December and June, in my case). I don't have to stress as much about getting behind because I have some buffer built in twice a year, and if the students are on track, I can plan for some low-pressure lessons during the crazy "holidays are coming" seasons. This is a great time to review concepts that we have been practicing over the last few months, do some fun holiday-related songs and games, and build musical memories for my students! It reduces my workload a lot when I don't have to worry about pushing to teach a long list of concepts.

2. Plan way ahead for performances

I plan everything for my fall/winter performances during summer break, and plan all of my spring performances over winter break. I start by figuring out my end goal (the songs/ show I want the students to perform), figure out when I will rehearse, build in 2 rehearsals for just "run-through's", and plan backwards from there to figure out when I need to start practicing for the performance. 

I know what you're thinking. OK, that's all well and good for next year, but this doesn't help me for this year- it's too late to plan ahead! All this does is make me feel guilty! Not to worry. You can apply the same principles even at this late hour ;) Lesson plans? Trust in the fact that you have worked as hard as you could these last few months and give you and your students a chance to breathe, review, reflect, and have fun. Over break, you can figure out your game plan to fit everything else in before summer. Performance preparation? Use the same backwards planning strategy to make sure you are ready for the stage. That may mean planning an extra rehearsal or cutting a song from the program, but believe me, it is far better to have a calm director and smooth, successful performance than to have a stressed out director and a jam-packed performance on the brink of falling apart. 

I hope you all enjoy this holiday season- it really is a lovely time of year, even with all of the craziness. Hopefully these tips will help you have less crazy and more lovely :) 

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