For many of us, summer is a time to rest up, relax, and spend time with family. While this is certainly important, it is also important to properly prepare for the upcoming school year.
There are things that I believe we all must do in order to start off our year successfully. These summer “Do Nows” set the tone for not just the first rehearsal but the entire school year.
Many of these things take work to create initially. After doing them once, they need tweaking each and every year. As I begin my 22nd year at the school, I still make many changes to reflect upon
There are 12 things that you must do prior to the first rehearsal. Even if these things have been completed, it’s always a good idea to review and revise, each and every year.
Here are 12 Summer Must Dos for a Successful Year
1. Clarify your teaching philosophy in one sentence
It is always good to have a clear focus on what you intend to do. By deciding on a clear philosophy, you will have a direction for your students from start to finish. Your teaching philosophy should be short and sweet, a one-line answer similar to when someone asks “What do you do for a living?” or “Describe the product you are selling.”
Here is my current teaching philosophy: “I teach the subject of life to high school students using choral music as my vehicle.”
2. Check all Signage and Handouts for Negative Wording – and turn those words around!
Negativity is our enemy. It zaps us of energy and does the same for our students. There is almost always a way to re-phase things in a positive way. Look at any paperwork you distribute or signs that you hang up (this includes classroom Rules or Guidelines, Consequences, etc), and find a way to maintain the meaning without the negative sting.
3. Create 5 Behavioral Rehearsal Guidelines
Guidelines (or rules) are crucial to the success of any classroom or rehearsal. How we choose guidelines, and how we construct them are of high importance.
Keep all guidelines specific, concise, and positive. Guidelines should have no confusion to them. This is why “Be Respectful is a Bad Rehearsal Rule”.
Here are two Guidelines I recommend in virtually all circumstances:
– Follow directions the first time they are given
– Raise your hand and wait for permission when you wish to speak
4. Create 5 Behavioral Re-directions to help students follow the Guidelines
We must have a system in place to effectively re-direct students who aren’t following the guidelines. If you use Rules, you will give consequences. If you use Guidelines, you will give Re-directions. I created the term re-direction because our ultimate goal is to redirect students into following guidelines rather than punishing them for poor behavioral decisions.
I have created a simple Behavioral Re-Direction Form that serves the purpose of re-directing students to follow my guidelines. Should you use Consequences, the same product offers a consequence form as well.
5. Create A Seating System
When we allow students to sit anywhere on the very first day, students take immediate control over the environment; some students will dominate the room while others are uncomfortable because they don’t fit in socially.
There needs to be a way to quickly have students placed in assigned seats on the first day. This will benefit all students and set the tone for your school year. This system must be thought out and prepared in order to direct students into their correct seats right off the bat.
This first day seating chart does not need to be permanent; it is more important that students know they belong on the very first day, and that you are in charge of their seating, than having them in what you believe is a well-placed permanent seat.
Here are 2 ideas for seating preparation:
a)Number the seats
Once you have your rosters, quickly post each name and seat number by the door. This makes it super easy to make seating changes prior to any new rehearsal.
b) Use Index cards
Write all names on index cards and place the cards on their chairs. This makes it super easy to modify from day to day.
6. Create Procedures/Routines for Everything
There must be procedures in place for many of the actions that occur during a rehearsal. Each procedure should be written out.
Here are some examples of Procedures you may want to think about and have a routine in place for:
1. How Students enter the room
2. Where and how students place their non class-related material
3. How students arrive at their assigned seats
4. How the class begins
5. How students enter when they are late
6. Where late passes are placed
7. How students sit when singing
8. How students stand when singing
9. How students sit when not-singing
10. How students receive their music (if they keep it in the classroom)
11. How students hold their music
12. How students put away their music
13. How students leave the room to go to the bathroom/nurse/guidance
14. What students do when they need a pencil
15. What students do when they need to sharpen their pencil
16. How students handout/collect papers
7. Write a Handbook
Handbooks are a means for students, parents, and all stakeholders to access all important information. A handbook provides the nuts and bolts to your class. Much of the information that should be included has already been created in the first 6 tasks.
Here are some important things to include, explained in great detail in How to Write An Effective Choir Handbook; Everything you need to know!:
1. A personalized introduction
2. Best way to be reached
3. A Table of Contents
4. All important dates
5. Behavioral Expectations
6. Specific Core Procedures that impact rehearsal
7. Grading Policy
8. Specific Concert Requirements
8. Create a First Day “Do Now”
When students enter class on the very first day, they should have some assignment waiting for them on their assigned seat. This gets them working right away and allows you to attend to latecomers and to specific situations that arise. An assignment could be as simple as a survey to attain useful student information.
9. Decide Which Procedures Need to be Introduced on the First Day
Not all procedures are important from the onset. There are, however, some procedures that students need to know about immediately. Have a list of these procedures and plan to explain those specific ones during the first rehearsal.
Here are some examples of procedures that you may want to introduce during the first rehearsal:
-How does class activity officially begin? (explained near the beginning of class)
-How do students find their seats? (explained at the beginning of class)
-What do students do if they need to go to the bathroom? (explained at the beginning of class)
-What do students do if they have a question? (explained at the beginning of class)
10. Prepare your welcome speech
It is really important that you start off the year strong. While I don’t suggest you read from cue cards, it’s important that you formulate exactly what you wish to say. Here are some things I suggest:
- A brief greeting
- Your name, how to pronounce it, and what nicknames are appropriate
- The name of the class and the period
- How long you have been teaching, or at the school
- Your teaching philosophy is
- Why you chose this profession/why you are excited to be there
11. Prepare your Guidelines and Re-directions speech
This speech should happen at the first rehearsal, and probably within the first 10 minutes of class. While some teachers believe this is a rigid approach, I believe students need to understand the fundamental guidelines that tell them how to behave appropriately in our environment. This information, if presented positively will set a positive tone for your class.
Once we understand the purpose of guidelines and convey them properly to our students, they will likely to buy-in. This, of course, implies the guidelines were chosen for their benefit, not for ours.
12. Prepare your dismissal speech
How students are dismissed from your class is extremely important. We must explain to students that we will tell them when to pack up. Otherwise, students will control the ending of their rehearsal, and this innocent situation will lead to more and more students packing up earlier and earlier.