For my friends who will notice….. First, a word about using “aide” rather than “aid”.  Aid refers to inanimate objects usually in reference to first aid kits.  You can be an “aide” as in “presidential aide”  or “teacher’s aide”.  I chose to use “aide” in my series because the best resources and help you can get when you are trying to do your job in midst of a crisis is the Lord, yourself and the good folks around you.  

This year was a rather dramatic and interrupted year for my family. God sustained us in ways that I can’t even begin to express and His good gifts were showered on us even in the midst of the multiple storms we faced in this season, I am thrilled to say that my dad is doing GREAT after his stem cell transplant this past September and as we anticipate the days to come we are currently revisiting the 1 year anniversary of some of our most difficult days with gratitude and wonder at how amazing our year has been.

I wouldn’t have chosen to have a personally difficult year as my first year at a new school, but it’s the year I had, and I’ve learned a ton!    There are about a million ways that  a school year can get scrambled by our personal lives, both good and bad and yet, somehow this year for me managed to be a great one.   With that in mind, this series of posts will be a chance for me to share the things that I feel made the biggest difference for this last school year.  The way my circumstances lined up, I spent the majority of the year on full out emergency mode, just trying to get by, but these things rescued and saved my students and I over and over again throughout the year.


Planning and Preparation are the KEY to survival!  
 Without a plan and the time it took to make one, I would have been L O S T lost with a capitol Q!!!!   My co-teacher and I took several steps that enabled me to keep my head above water during even the most difficult days. Had we not had a plan, we would have been toast. Since we don’t know the future, we didn’t know that the school year would be personally difficult for me,  it’s a good thing we planned well!   I am currently blessed with an awesome co-teacher which means I get the full benefit of excellent collaboration, but I feel like planning is even more important when we DON’T have a cohort to work with because in that circumstance, everything comes down to us…..Here are a few things that we did to make sure that we had an action-able plan.
  1. Roadmapping and Long Range planning – If you haven’t already done so, sit down right now with your collection of necessary calendars, district instructional documents and a cup of iced coffee while you are soaking up your time off and make a plan.  Grade level by grade level start piecing together your school year.  Calendars that should be considered include the following;
    • personal calendar
    • district calendar
    • school calendar
    • testing calendar
    • grade level instructional calendars
    • music scope and sequence for your district

Since both my co-teacher and I were new to our school and new to our district, we spent an entire week in the summer just getting everything on the calender.  It’s really easy to miss things that aren’t on the calender.   We basically made general decisions about when to teach things.

2. Preparation – when possible divide and conquer – Good planning is great and can be a rather deep process, but once you have a plan it’s time to gather and create all those good things you want  to use with your kiddos….. Good preparation is both time consuming and often labor intensive.

  • try to create tools that you can use with multiple grade levels.    When creating manipulatives, create enough for pairs of students to share.  We usually make 30 of each type… 15 for my class, and 15 for the other music class plus a teacher set with magnets.  If you have a few key pieces in place at the beginning of the year then you can teach a TON of lessons without having to create anything new.     You may want to try to find or create some of these these multi-use, multi-purpose tools;
    • K-1 rhythm cards in class sets (quarter, quarter rest, barred eighth notes)
    • K-1 melody (so, mi, la)
    • 2-3 rhythm cards in class sets (add tied quarter notes, half notes, half rests,  dotted half notes, whole notes, whole rests, sixteenth notes, & sixteenth-eighth combinations)
    • 2-3 melody (pentatonic)
    • 2-3 absolute pitch cards
    • 4-5 rhythm cards in class sets ( add dotted quarter combinations, single eighth notes, & dotted eighth-sixteenth combinations)
    • 4-5 melody (diatonic)
  • try to avoid the need for copies and laminating – but if those things can’t be avoided, copy on card stock and laminate so that you only need a class set rather than a grade level AND enlist volunteers.
  • do unto others! – My co-teacher and I take care of each other in terms of lesson prep.  Since we plan together and try to teach the same lessons, we take turns managing all of the prep chores involved in a lesson.  It works really well and when one of us has to miss, the other can either advise the sub or if necessary, we can double up without a hiccup.

GREAT Sub plans are SUPER Important – This year has confirmed in my heart something that I’ve been known to be true for a long time.  There is no such thing as a silver bullet sub plan.  Sub plans are not something you can turn in to the office before the first day of school and expect them to hold any instructional water.  They must be changed and updated regularly so that they fit into and can somewhat approximate where you are in your road map.  You can certainly move things around so that the sub isn’t teaching the tough stuff, but when our lives get crazy, we run out of easy stuff for the subs to teach and we just have to let go of getting to teach the tough stuff ourselves and make sure that our sub plans are excellent.  With that in mind, there are some excellent resources available. These two are my favorite resources to use if I have a need for something easy, quick and prepared.

I have also written a post about how to develop good sub plans HERE!