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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

10 Items Music Teachers Should Include in Their Planner

A new year means lots of people resolving to be more organized- this time of year makes me giddy! To get you started on the right foot this year, I've got my top 10 things for music teachers to include in their planner. How many of these do you have in your planner? All of these items are things that I have found very helpful to include in my planner and have, in most cases, been tracking in my planner for several years now with no plans to stop.

I also include all of my "life planning" in my same planner, and I highly recommend other music teachers do the same- it makes it a lot easier to plan your day, both at work and at home, more holistically. For example, if I know there's a lot going on at school, I can make sure to plan a super-easy crockpot meal for dinner (or maybe even takeout). If you want to see my list of top 10 life and home items to include in your planner, be sure to check out my post here!

But for today, let's get on with my top 10 teacher-y items to include in your planner ;)

1. Lesson plans

Obviously you're going to want to keep your lesson plans in your planner! I love having my lesson plans and all of my other "life" plans together in one planner, so I that I can look over my whole day when I'm looking ahead. I also like to write out my plans for each class separately rather than by grade level, because sometimes sections within a grade will get off from each other because of special events etc. I wrote an overview of tons of great lesson planner options for music teachers, plus strategies for using them most effectively, in this post. You can also see the 7 different planner options I have in my store here, or see them more in-depth in my video here.

2. School/district calendar

I know so many teachers who have a copy of their school or district calendar at school as a wall calendar, or maybe on their computer, but don't have a copy in their planner. I love having a copy right in my planner so that I can quickly check to see when we have early dismissal days and days off. Since all of the elementary schools are on a 5-day rotational schedule, I have those days listed on the calendar here too so I can always see which sections are going to be missing classes on certain days when I'm planning ahead for my lessons.

3. School events (field trips, assemblies etc)

As soon as I find out about an assembly, dress up day, or other special event at school, I try to write it down on that day in my planner. Often these events either a) affect my teaching and/or b) require me to bring/wear or plan something in advance, so it's important to have those noted in my planner!

4.  Long-range curriculum plans

If you've been around me for any amount of time then you probably know that I am a HUGE fan of long-range curriculum planning! If you want to read more about my thoughts on why and how I create my long-range plans, this post has my more general thoughts and this post has my more specific process. But the longer I teach, the more I am convinced of how vitally important to effective teaching long-range plans are. Whether you take them straight from the district curriculum, teacher's edition of a textbook, or make your own, you will make your lesson planning so much easier and effective by including a copy in your planner.

5. Long-range concert/performance plans

Speaking of long-range plans.... Including a long-range plan for concerts in your planner can make life a lot easier and far less stressful! If you do a lot of performances, or one or more large-scale productions, I think having a separate concert planning section is important (here are mine for your reference). If you, like me, only have a handful of smaller, less complex performances, and you've been doing them long enough to have a handle on what is involved, I think you can be equally effective with a master to-do list. Make one giant list somewhere of everything that needs to get done, then write down each to-do item onto the week that you need to have it done by (or, even better, one week before it *actually* needs to be done) in your planner. That way you don't have to worry about constantly going back to look at your master list.

6. Parent contact log

I started tracking my contacts with parents a couple of years ago and I LOVE it. It doesn't have to be anything long or detailed, but having a record of who I contacted, how, and why has been really helpful on several occasions.

7. Sub contacts/lesson log/days off tracker

Here's another item that I know many teachers track in a separate spot, like their sub binder, but I love having in my planner. I keep track of contact information on any great substitute teachers I find, a tally of how many sick/personal/other days I've taken, and a list of which sub lessons each class has done. That way if I'm home sick and need to call in, I have all of the information in front of me.

8. Wish list

This may seem like a random, insignificant thing to include on a list like this, but I think it's important to keep a wish list for your classroom in your planner because so many times, I come across something that would be great to purchase for next year, or an idea strikes me of something I should buy, or something breaks at school that I only use occasionally, and I need to write down the things I need right then or I'll forget about it. In my district, we get a pretty small sum of money that I need to be very creative with to get the best "bang for my buck", and not a lot of time to put in my requests, so having this running list makes the process a lot faster for me come ordering season.

9. IEP/medical/individual behavior plans

Most of us music teachers teach hundreds of students a year. Keeping up with all of the IEP's, individualized behavior plans, and medical needs for each student can be next to impossible. One thing that has really helped me is to put the most basic, condensed information into my planner so I can quickly look up important information when I need it.

10. Class schedule

As music teachers our schedules can get pretty whacky sometimes! I keep a copy of my class schedules (my regular one, late start/early dismissal one, and sometimes standardized testing one) in my planner so I can always reference it when I'm planning out my week.

Bonus: NOT a gradebook

Anybody notice that a gradebook is actually not on this list (even though I include them in the planners I make for my store)? I've recently decided that it's counterproductive for me to try to track grades for all of those hundreds of students in my planner. I've been keeping track of most of my day-to-day grading on my seating chart since my first year of teaching anyway (read about that here), and the grading software we're required to use for report cards keeps track of the semester grades for me. Keeping track of all of those grades was just a waste of time, effort, ink, and space.

That's it for my list of things to include in your teacher planner! If you're interested in learning more about the planner pages I use (pictured in this post), you can see all of the planners in my shop here. What are your favorite things to keep in your planner? Which things on my list do you agree with? Any you disagree with? Leave a comment! Happy planning everyone! :)

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