How Teachers Can Make the Most of Summer Break:
Three Items for Your Checklist
By NAfME Member Audrey Carballo
For most music teachers, summer is our chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of our working lives and take those long-deserved vacations. But, as Spider-Man taught us, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
What is our superpower, you might ask? Why, it’s our ability to teach music! We are not only teachers but pseudo parents, counselors, nurses, psychologists, police officers, lawyers, politicians, accountants, technology experts—the list is endless. That’s why summer is the perfect time for us to Reflect, Rejuvenate, and Replan. Dr. Peter Perry addressed these approaches in his article “The Three R’s of Summer,” and I want to add a few ideas in support of his recommendations.
Reflecting is simply taking some time to look at what has been done from another perspective. You’ve finished an amazing school year chock full of teaching moments, performances, field trips, and evaluations. Now what? Was it successful? How do you know?
If you don’t step back and look at what you’ve done with a critical eye, you are bound to repeat the mistakes (or triumphs) you made this past year. Take a beat—*see what I did there*—and really think about each event. What worked? What didn’t? You didn’t fail. You just need to rework the outcome!
Don’t dwell on mistakes. Everyone is human. We must learn from them. When we are in front of our classes and wrong notes are pointed out, we expect our students to make those corrections, right? Well, make your own corrections and move on. Change the gaffes and celebrate the glories!
There is not one of us who doesn’t give 110% each day we step into the classroom. In fact, most give more than that because our time extends outside of school hours. When summer rolls around, it is so important to disconnect and take time to rejuvenate yourself. We are not machines. We are humans. Sleep is the body’s cycle of rest and refreshment which is hardwired into our existence.
During waking hours, we often don’t allow ourselves a moment to take a breath. We are little Energizer bunnies hopping from one task to another. It’s alright to say no every occasionally. You don’t have to be Ado Annie—the “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No”—and constantly overburden herself. Someone along the way will pick up the slack. If they don’t, so what? If it’s important enough, it will get done—sooner or later.
Instead of constantly stepping forward, step BACK. Allow someone else to take your place at the front of the line. Make time for yourself. After all, there is only one YOU!
Sometimes teachers think one must throw the baby out with the bathwater and come up with fresh new plans each and every year. Not so, I say! The concepts of music are the same year after year. Why should our delivery of them be different each year? A quarter note didn’t change. It’s still four beats in 4/4 time.
My fourth graders get taught the same concepts year in and year out. Let’s face it—they’re fourth graders. Rare is the year I have a class that is so advanced they blow my plans out of the water. For the most part, I replan. At the end of the year, I take my lesson plan book home and go through what worked and what didn’t. I am very organized and have had 35 years to hone these skills. If you haven’t been teaching since dinosaurs roamed the earth like I have, you’ll be devoting more time doing this but believe me—the time will be well spent. You will expend less overall time to your lesson plans each week, each month, and each year.
What I find myself changing the most is bringing in contemporary, relevant information so students don’t view me as being out of touch with their current music. I don’t always want to bring in examples of old dead guys like Bach or Beethoven. Using The Weeknd or Bruno Mars to illustrate form is just as germane as any lesson using one of the “masters.” Having students learn bucket drumming to Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” is an extremely exciting set of lessons to my elementary students. They are eager to learn the riffs a lot more quickly than me pointing to quarter notes or eighth notes while Vivaldi’s “The Seasons” are playing in the background. Find what works for your students.
Replan—don’t plan all over again. I’ve learned after a lifetime of “cooking.” If your recipe doesn’t come out quite they way you intended, adapt it. Don’t start from scratch again. You’ve got the basics. Build on them and soon, you’ll find your Stairway to Heaven!
Also read Peter Perry, “The Three R’s of Summer,” Music in a Minuet, July 8, 2015.
About the author:
Audrey Carballo, a 36-year NAfME member, is in her 36th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.
She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Council at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world renowned conductor, James Judd.
One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”
Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course.
Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.
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