By the Alfred Music Choral and Classroom Editors
It’s that perfect time of year—last year’s school year is in the books, summer vacations are upon us, and September is waiting with promises of new music and fresh opportunities. Whether you’re returning to an established program or stepping into your classroom for the first time, start off on the right foot with these 12 tips for the first week of school, as recommended by the Alfred Choral and Classroom editors.
Learn your students’ names. Consider greeting each student at the door as they enter. For an especially large group, use nametags until you have every one learned. Students will be responsive and respectful when addressed by name.
Jump right into the music. Kick off your year with a fun song that can come together in just one or two rehearsals. Instant success will give students the confidence they need for more challenging repertoire. And opening the year with a “student favorite” will motivate them for the year ahead.
Provide a good model. If you desire rehearsals that start on time, start teaching on time. If you value beautiful tone quality, demonstrate beautiful tone quality. If you enjoy positive and uplifting rehearsals, lead positive and uplifting rehearsals. Students will mirror what they observe.
Establish the rules. “Welcome to choir. We will start every rehearsal on time. Please throw away your gum as you enter the room. I expect you to have a pencil in your folder at all times. And thank you for not talking when I’m working with another section.”
Set the bar high. Why save the best stuff for performances only? Make the most of every rehearsal and class period by demanding quality at all times. Students will always rise to the challenge, and soon the highest of expectations will be met—and even surpassed!
Add music theory and history to your curriculum. This will raise student interest and provide both the context and background for them to gain a deeper understanding of the music they are learning. Inevitably, this will shine through, enhancing their performances during the year.
Get to know the support staff. Your school secretary will be so helpful when it’s time to print programs. Custodians will spend plenty of time setting up and taking down the choral risers. And many off-site performances will be made possible thanks to the head of transportation.
Schedule everything you can. Teachers, parents, and students are busier than ever. Take the time to put together a master calendar of all concerts, festivals, and other activities for the year that you are aware of, and then pass it along to everyone who needs to know.
Communicate with parents. Obtain students’ and parents’ e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. Organize the e-mail addresses in a folder on your computer so that you can immediately and effectively communicate details about your program.
Set up a substitute book. Absences are bound to occur during the school year, whether due to illness (yours or a relative’s) or a conference. Having a substitute book prepared will give you peace of mind and the knowledge that your sub has been provided with lesson plans that they can easily implement.
Reflect. Take some time at the end of the first week (or every week) to review each class/group, assess their progress, and affirm that you are heading in the right direction.
Remember that you aren’t perfect. We all have days when what we have planned for the classroom simply doesn’t work, and that’s ok! Learn from those mistakes and continue to believe in yourself and your students. Celebrate the small victories along the way!