You are NOW officially in the stage in which you aren’t new anymore, but you are still new. The people who have been giving you a “heads up” all year, will start forgetting that you don’t know things! That’s ok… it’s gonna ok REALLY, because, you are gonna have a plan. Some of the things on this list are NICE to do, but the first one is VITAL. Even if you don’t do any of the rest of this list in January, you MUST do the first thing on this list.

1. Inquire about what is expected of you as the music teacher during the last 4 weeks of school.

As a music teacher, your level of involvement in each of these events may vary wildly. While some campuses may expect their music teacher to plan and produce some of the events on the list below from start to finish others may have only minimal involvement. You won’t have any idea what is expected unless you ask. Sooooo ask about any event on the calendar that sounds like it might be related to one of the following things:

  • Graduations / Promotions / Grade Level Celebrations and Awards Ceremonies
    • Ask specifically if you will be expected to play or provide recorded music of Pomp and Circumstance and/or the School Song and/or The Star Spangled Banner
    • Ask specifically if you will be involved in the organization, rehearsal or preparation
    • Ask specifically if there are any grade levels who expect to perform songs for their parents as part of their promotion celebration.
  • Thank you Brunch/Lunch/Breakfast – We NEED to say thank you to all of the folks who help us at school.
    • Ask specifically if students will be expected to perform a song or two
    • You might even be asked to simply provide some musical entertainment yourself. It happens.
  • Last Day Celebrations –
    • Ask specifically about whether or not the students will sing the school song.
  • Staff Farewell Song / Staff State Testing Video / Staff Pep Rally Dance / Commemorative Media Presentations
    • This one is tricky because if you mention one of these things you might get “volen-told” to do them, but all of these tasks require creativity and time. Use your discretion. It might be wise to create some time in your calendar just in case something like this lands in your lap.

2. Start Collecting Easy, Low Prep – High Engagement Ideas for the last 3-4 weeks of school.

Teachers have TONS to do in order to close out the school year and you do NOT want to stuck trying to figure out what to teach. – May is review time. The children are tired and so are you. Play games, sing songs, have fun, review beloved activities. It’s ok to not do new things. Go ahead and write your May lesson plans now! It will be like a little end of the year gift of time to yourself! Here are some of my favorite end of the year ideas.

Patriotic songs – Your children are going to baseball games and may have opportunity to sing some patriotic songs at Memorial Day, Juneteenth and July 4th celebrations. In my opinion, patriotic songs in general can be too challenging earlier in the year because they are filled with challenging vocabulary and are melodically and rhythmically advanced. Therefore, if you choose to use them as lyric and music reading challenges you can pick songs that best fit specific grades. For example, America the Beautiful is great for triple meter in 3rd grade and dotted quarter notes in 4th. Or, you could just sing them. That is ok too. Sprinkle in some movement activities with John Phillip Sousa, Aaron Copland, Amy Beach and Scott Joplin and you’ve got an instructional unit that could be used with multiple grade levels for an entire month.

Camp songs – Some of your students will be going to camp. What better way to ensure that they are ready to sing camp songs than to sing them at school. Before jumping in, take the time to do a bit of research regarding the sources and content of some of the songs.

Boomwhacker Play Alongs – New playalongs are being posted on YouTube all the time. By then, the children will be tired of the “corn song” and be ready for something new.

Music Olympics – Do a quick Pinterest search to find some “minute to win it” style games that can be modified for review of things like note names and rhythms.

Favorite Game Challenge – Make a list of all of the “favorite games” the children learned throughout the year or years. Write them on papers or type them into a randomizer and then play them. You’ll have a blast with 5th grade when they are super excited to play all of the first grade games. Bonus points if you can go outside!

Practice for Upcoming Musical Events – There are tons of events in May and MANY of them involve music. Practice what you must and then MOVE ON to one of the fun activities listed above.

3. Start Spring Cleaning

As a new music teacher you may have ignored MOST of the items in your room back at the beginning of the year because you had so many more important things to do. Now, in the calmness of January it’s the perfect time to dig in to some of those closed cabinets and filing cabinets. Now with some “real” teaching time under your belt, you may be able to see those things with new eyes.

Do -Start with 1 shelf at a time. Try for 1 shelf or drawer each each.

Do – Open up some of the books and collections and preview music. You may find something you can use immediately or something you can incorporate next year.

Do – Dispose of photocopies that were kept without permission.

Do – Check and see what the disposal policy is for your campus before throwing things (especially textbooks, subscriptions, electronics, instruments and furniture). Anything purchased by the school must be accounted for. At some point in the spring there will probably be a school-wide or district-wide audit. You will want to make sure you can find everything when asked.

4. Make a List of Things You Need

Either you have a budget or you don’t. Regardless, it is important that you keep an ongoing list of things you need for your music classroom. At the end of every year, schools must close out their budget for the year. If you DO have a budget you need to spend every dime on things you need by deadline (usually in April or early May). If you don’t have a budget share your needs in order of urgency with your principal anyway. When the deadline comes, if there is any extra funds that need spending, your principal might share with you if you make it easy for them. Here is how you make it easy for you and your principal.

  • Obtain quotes from approved vendors. Schools like to do business with companies that make it easy for them. It is very likely that your school or district has a list of vendors they prefer. Contact the vendor that has the items you need and ask for a quote. They will respond with an email containing a PDF. The PDF will include the pricing, shipping and tax for the items you want. Frequently, if a quote is more than $300, you may need to request a quote from more than one vendor.
  • Depending on the procedures at your school and whether or not you have a budget that needs to be used, turning in a quote and perhaps a rational for why the item is being requested may be all that is required from you. You might also be expected to complete a requisition, but once you have a quote, the requisition is fairly quick.

5. Watch Out for Testing Windows

For most schools, springtime means it’s standardized testing season. Make sure that you understand entirely the impact state standardized testing MIGHT have on your instructional schedule as it could impact your timeline of preparation for all of the end of the year events that you and your students will participate in to commemorate the end of the year.

  • Sometimes entire grade levels or specific students will miss music on testing days.
  • Sometimes YOU will not have music class at all because you will be involved in either giving the test to students yourself or in monitoring students in some test related capacity.
  • Sometimes grade levels that would ordinarily be in your class on a testing day, are not on campus because testing days are wonderful days for field trips.
  • Sometimes testing is right next door and you are expected to have music except you are expected to be virtually silent.

Every school accommodates the demands of testing as well as they can. There are so many variables. Ask questions and be prepared.

Congratulations! You are now officially on the downhill slide. You are doing great! Keep going and finish strong!