Saturday, April 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

There is something about spring that makes me think about fall.  Like clockwork, when I start preparing my spring choir concert and 5th grade graduation prep, my mind immediately starts playing the "next year" game. 

Next year - I'll start recorders sooner
Next year - I'll try a patiotic program in 5th grade
Next year - I'll solve that pesky scheduling delima that has a simple solution
Next year - I'll set up my room differently to ease the flow of traffic
Next year - I'll write these projects

It's like a happy disease.... just as the spring starts to really feel like the runaway train that I am desperate to get off of, my mind jumps ahead to an imaginary utopian school year with none of the harsh realities that embody the current year and with all of the irratants iradicated.

In my dream school year there are no messy classrooms, unfiled papers, or mice.   There are only well-behaved students, and there are only perfectly executed and well recieved lessons where everyone is fully engaged and delighted to be a part of what is happening in my classroom every day.  I'm always on time, I'm always prepared, my technology never fails and I'm never sick or tired, or angry.  I'm like Glenda the good witch meets Mary Poppins in the music classroom...... Can you Imagine?

Nevertheless I think that I am drawn to next year because I am totally immersed in the experience of this year and usually while I am knee deep in this or that my mind is coming up in the "I should have....." and the "I wish I had".....that ae an inevitable part of any teaching experience. 

My friend Carol has a good way of doing this.  After each major campus event, she takes notes during lunch as the event is inevitably discussed around her. With the program or experience so fresh in everyone's mind, she manages to refine her process at the moment in time when creativity is high.  No one is wondering what we did because everyone just did it.   She writes it all down and puts it in the folder for that event.  When it' time to dust off the REAL work of implementing the plan the following year she has a fresh set of suggestions and feedback to help get her started. 

For me - the best way to be ready for next year is to end well.  If I don't finish well then I have a really hard time getting my classroom set up and things planned for the new school year come August.  Sometimes if my life outside of school will allow, I have been able to complete my own personal finishing process by the "let's go home" date.  Sometimes, I make abbreviated trips to school for a couple of weeks after school is out.  I've learned that investing this time, allows me to not be entirely overwhelmed when school starts. 

There are many things that I address, but the first and more important has many facets, so I'll start with it.

1.   Put things away cleanly and neatly - obvious but often neglected.   
  •  Costumes must be laundered before you store them.  My local dry cleaners has occassionally donated their services on things I could not wash, and my current school has a washing machine and dryer.  I've even sent home wash with students before.   
  • Wash all of your classroom recorders..... you'll need them to be clean especially if you order recorders each year and the order is late
  • Clean and repair pitched or unpiched instruments.  You can't use them if they are broken and sometimes I miss things.  If you don't currently have the hardware to repair the intruments you have, order it now and hopefully it will come in before the end of May and then the repairs are simple. 
  • Store things (especially paper and fabric in plastic rather than cardboard! Plastic isn't pefect, but it doesn't attract roaches and silverfish.  If you live in a humid place, storing fabric and paper is always a problem.  If you want to spend the money, invest in those vacuum seal bags.  The 'do it yourself way" would be to make or purchase small muslin bags and put in charcoal brickets.  These are usually found in the laundry aisle.  If you aren't too worried about the brickets you could always just wrap them in paper towels and then store your things in the same bin. 
  • Clean out your filing cabinet...... This is huge..... you should decide if you want to be a "set of copies" filer or a "one original" filer....If you don't have much room or if you are moving, you should go with the "one original" policy. 
  • Clean out the files on your computer.... This is also huge..... especially if you want to be able to find something you did well for next year.... if you put things in the right place you won't spend all of your time hunting. 
  • Call in all borrowed materialls.  Folks borrow stuff from me all of the time.  Make sure that all of your music resources have made it back to you before the end of the year. 
  • Inspect your stage and storgage areas.  You may be the only one who cares enough about these areas of the school to see to their well-being, so make sure you inspect them and turn in the appropriate work orderes. 
There are many other important aspects of ending well to start well and I may revisit this topic on another post, but as I'm listing all of these things, I feel the need to get to work. 

Happy Singing!