Closing out the school year is always tough, especially this year. What do we do after our concert season is over (assuming we even had a concert season)?
It’s so easy to justify laziness in our final rehearsals:
- the seniors have checked out as they’ve already decided the next stage of their life.
- it’s warm out so nobody can focus.
- there are no concerts to prepare so where’s the justification for teaching new music?
- students are focused on their finals in other subjects so why should we stress them out?
- we are all emotionally spent from a long, hard year
- students are asking for a break
In my opinion, none of these excuses are an acceptable justification for not teaching through the end on the school year. I would like to encourage every teacher to avoid complacency. Some of our best teaching and our greatest impact can come through times where we aren’t pressured for a concert.
I have always been critical of AP teachers (non-music teachers) who teach through April for the annual exam and then do virtually nothing with their students after the exam. Many of these same teachers complain about having to teach to an exam all year, and then when it’s over, they don’t take the time to educate on more creative, hands-on topics. Instead, they resort to the similar activities as the ones I list below.
After I share 3 end-of-the year activities to avoid, I will offer a perspective for effective engagement along with a link for 8 suggestions of activities.
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Here are 3 end-of-the-year activities to avoid:
1. Giving our singers a free period
We are not NBA coaches who are managing aging superstars before the playoffs; we are choir directors who are teachers first. Our job is to teach our students through the end of the year. A day off is a day without learning. Just because students are asking to do nothing doesn’t mean they should receive a day off; in fact, just because they are asking for it doesn’t even mean that’s what they really want. What they really want and need is something different.
2. Watching a movie
Nothing says that a teacher has checked out more than showing a movie. It’s true that some students may have checked out, but it’s our job to gently bring back those students as well.
3. Watching a video of our concert
Students are likely not actively or passively learning while watching themselves sing their concert. There are ways to engage students by watching videos of the concert, but this would not occur by putting on the video and letting it run while students are singing along and chatting with one another.
What does the end of the year mean to you and your students?
This is a question that I believe is worth exploring. For me, the end of a school year represents:
- a time to reflect on the current year: accomplishments, special moments, bonding experiences, etc.
- a time to recognize the graduating seniors
- a time to bring musical closure to the current ensemble
- a time to figure out what new innovations can be infused into next year’s program
- a time to celebrate as a choir
- a time to transition next year’s officers
- a time to try out new musical activities
The end of the year is an opportunity to focus more on the process than the result. This can be a really fun and exciting time for our students if we understand their mind set. Yes, they may be worn out, but the right activities will invigorate them. When I’m full from a meal, I can still get excited about dessert.
It’s ok to acknowledge how they are feeling; in fact, the more we let them know we understand (and may be feeling the same way), the more effectively we will be able to move into a positive and productive space to close out the year.
I believe it’s important to teach our students to finish strong. It’s extremely important, especially with seniors, that they understand that there is always something to be gained. Getting accepted into college shouldn’t be a reason for them to stop wanting to learn. It’s important that we instill this message to them and find ways to acknowledge their efforts so we truly reach the summer break with rewarding end to the school year!
For 8 rehearsal activities that I do recommend to close out the year, click here!
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