Prepare for Next Year
Reflection, Excitement, and Initiation Must Start Now
By NAfME Member Lori Schwartz Reichl
This article was originally published in the May 2017 teacher edition of In Tune Magazine.
“Don’t expect success. Prepare for it.”
As the end of the school year quickly approaches, carve out some quality time to reflect on its achievements and challenges. What excited you and your students? What stressed you or them? When was motivation at its highest? When was inspiration at its lowest? Which lessons, performances, fundraisers, field trips, or other musical opportunities would you like to eliminate or add? Which events would you prefer moving to an earlier or later date? Who offered the greatest support to you and/or your students? Who or what inspires you to continue in your current position?
Review Your Handbook
In preparation for next year, review your handbook to make any necessary alterations to policies or procedures. Have you included ensemble descriptions, material and uniform expectations, musical and behavioral expectations, a discipline plan, grading system, all scheduled events and performances, instrument and private instructor recommendations, and preferred local music and repair stores? Have you listed extracurricular or additional county, state, regional, or national musical opportunities in which your students may be interested in participating?
Use a bright color to highlight certain text, dates, or events for which you may not have obtained all of the correct or complete information. As you peruse and proofread the handbook during the summer or at the start of the next school year, this bright highlight will serve as a quick reminder of what must be completed before sharing the document. Have your handbook proofread by someone else, possibly a non-music educator. Ask this expert to review grammar and structure, in addition to musical content. Gain your administrator’s approval before distributing or posting the handbook. You can’t expect him/her to support your teaching efforts if he/she is unaware of or has not approved the beliefs, expectations, and plans outlined in your handbook.
Instrument and Music Inventory
With any luck, you already have instrument and music inventories prepared by you or the previous director. If you don’t have these prepared, immediately begin creating electronic ones. Regardless of your inventory’s current extensiveness, inspect all instruments before the close of the school year and update any necessary information. Instruments that aren’t currently being used or don’t require repair can be loaned to students for summer use. Students and their parents should complete and sign an instrument loan contract. If your school system doesn’t have one, create one, complete with comprehensive details of the date, school, student, and instrument, including the case and all accessories inside it. Send instruments in need of repair to your preferred music store during the summer. Examine your repertoire to see if you’re missing parts or scores. Decide what possible selections you’d like to purchase or perform for the future.
Recruitment and Scheduling
If you haven’t done a formal recruitment presentation at the schools that feed your program, contact those teachers to set up a meeting with them and speak to their students. Distribute to incoming students and their families information that you expect them to know during the summer and/or before participating in your program. I often try to make a presentation at each individual school in April; sometimes, however, these events occur as late as June. Whenever you do it, make the presentation informative and positive. If you’re able, bring current students with you to perform or speak. If this isn’t possible, simply include approved student photos or an audio or visual recording of a performance in the presentation. Get the younger musicians excited! Alleviate any stress or concern that they may have about their future in music education by answering their questions.
Encourage your students to engage in some form of musical training over the summer break. Create and distribute a list of local music camps and private instructors. Provide a variety of camps that include different formats, dates, locations, instructors, and prices. Allow your students and families an opportunity to choose which activities fit their summer schedule.
Attempt to preschedule all rehearsals, performances, field trips, and fundraisers with the necessary coordinators or contacts. Before doing so, cross-reference these possible future dates with in-school activities and countywide, statewide, or national events that may pertain to you or your students. Reserve all dates, times, spaces, and buses. If possible, complete the necessary paperwork or make monetary deposits the year prior to the event.
Meet with Administration
Schedule that final meeting with your principal or administrative team (see January’s column). Arrive with a list of items to be discussed. Share the year’s accomplishments of the music program and the individual achievements of students. Express your goals for the program’s future and ask administration what expectations they may have for further growth and enriched community involvement for music education. Have a list prepared of all rehearsals, performances, field trips, and fundraisers you hope to complete next year. Ask for approval of all dates and events. Once approved, insist that those dates are immediately placed on the school’s calendar. Explain what sorts of important materials and equipment are still missing from your program and discuss what type of classroom design is most beneficial for quality instruction. Inquire if some materials can be acquired, or small classroom renovations completed, over the summer. You’d be surprised at what you can get if you just ask!
Show your gratitude to all who have supported you, your students, and your program through the school year. I attempt to write thank-you notes throughout the year to all parent volunteers, community supporters, administration, or students who offered a gift to me. Often the last few months of school are so engaging that I fall slightly behind on this process. I spend a great deal of the day after each school year’s end writing those missed thank-you notes. It’s a day filled with smiles, but sometimes there’s sadness, too—whenever I know, for example, that all of one family’s children have now passed through the music program.
You can’t prepare for a successful upcoming school year until you’ve learned from the current one. You’ll enjoy your summer much more when you’ve given yourself enough time to reflect on the year just past, and enough reason to be excited about your plans for the future. Don’t procrastinate. Start now!
About the author:
Lori is the author of the series “Key Changes: Refreshing Your Music Program” published monthly in the teacher edition of In Tune Magazine where she provides resources to enhance the music classroom. As a writer for Teaching Music Magazine, she interviews master educators. Lori is an active adjudicator, clinician, and conductor. As an avid presenter at conferences, professional development sessions, and universities nationwide, she serves as a resource for building inspiring music programs, developing effective classroom management techniques and rehearsal routines, motivating diverse learners, and achieving unity in ensembles. Within Maryland, Lori serves as Music Education Intern Supervisor at Towson University and as Coordinator of Howard County Public School System’s Secondary Solo and Ensemble Festival. As Director of the Regional Repertory Wind Ensemble, she has collaborated with composers Brian Balmages, Tyler S. Grant, Samuel Hazo, Richard Saucedo, Robert Sheldon, and Frank Ticheli. Learn more about Lori here.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.