When I explain to people what my job is like, I tell them it's like working in a FAST FOOD Restaurant. Every 40 minutes I have a new customers. Those customers come in the room, get a music lesson and goes out with a new or refined music skill and experience. So the way I keep my "sanity", as I teach 7 grade levels a day, which is up to 210 students, is to maintain certain rituals that I perform every week in my classroom. I've found twelve things that I do to help me stay stress free.
I have to admit, I can be the "crazy creative" person with stacks of files and papers on the piano, desk and file cabinet--but I've learned through the years that if I maintain the prepare, present and practice rituals every day and on a weekly basis, then I am much calmer as a teacher and can greet my customers with a smiling face.
Friday's can be my toughest day. Like most people, it's the end of the work week, I'm tired, have a million errands to run and I just want to go home, or shopping or get to my weekend. Now I know that if I skip these rituals, then Monday's just don't go as well for me or my customers. And I want their lessons to be cooked to perfection!
I really try hard to keep all of these rituals so that my weekend is stress free and I can do the other things that I enjoy in life. It's very much like getting the food order ready: PREPARING, Serving the customer the order: PRESENTING, Checking to make sure their order "tastes" good or is prepared correctly, PRACTICING.
It may sound like a lot-but here's 12 things I do every WEEK to PREPARE my classroom to ensure that those 3 things happen in every class.
1. Tidy Up
I like to walk into a clean room on Monday, and the only way to do that is to leave it clean on Friday. So I'll take an extra few minutes and tidy up the room. I also have a catch phrase that I try to use all the time: "TOUCH IT ONCE". That means that if students are using xylophones, then they put them away. Whatever "props" the kids use during their class, I get them to clean up so that there's no residual messes to clean up at the end of the day. The students love to help and I enlist their help. I also feel like it helps them learn to be responsible. I do give out treats when someone's gone the extra mile. It makes a big difference to tidy up at the end of every week-dusting, wiping boards, putting away miscellaneous loose items.
2. Post new "I CAN" statements on the board.
Usually my I CAN statements are good for a whole unit and I'm not changing them every week. I've also updated my posters from this picture-but I used to just write them on the board. That way my administrator can immediately see what the goals are for each grade.
3. Have Seat Charts and Lesson Plans and materials set out and ready for action.
It's like planning a menu. And-I actually don't like doing that at all-but I do like to "concoct" up lessons. I do use a planner-but I like to keep it flexible too. I have used many different lesson planners and calendars through the years. I plan my curriculum out on the computer by year, quarter, and month. I organize lessons by Grade levels and also maintain units of themes "Multicultural Unit". I print my planner and keep it on my piano this is where I will write in the plans for the week and the day. I pencil these in so that I can adjust the plans according to student learning and the schedule. I also use sticky notes. I have tried using "google calendar", but I feel like I need a paper visual to keep track of the weekly lesson plans.Here's my planner you can take a look at:
4. Make a fresh "to do" list.
Each week I toss out the old list and carry the "unfinished" items forward. Many times I'll just delete them from the list as I don't have time or they are not critical.
5. Connect with classroom teachers about students and calendar items.
I routinely meet up with different grade levels and connect with them about certain students or what's going on in their grade. When I'm preparing for a program, I'll type up all of the information they will need to communicate to parents and we'll sit down and go through the dates, times and general ideas before we put the plan into action. This way, I have their support when I need it! Fridays are a good day to send out emails for reminders of events for the upcoming week. That way the teachers have the emails first thing Monday morning.
6. Finish any emails or management items.
Sometimes I don't have time during the week to take care of "teacher" business. Things like professional development forms, health insurance, evaluations, survey's and all of the things that the district will ask us to do. I choose 1 day out of the week that I will stay a bit longer to get these types of things accomplished. I usually stay late one day a week to keep on top of these types of duties.
And, it's the day that I won't be cooking that night! It works well for me to have one night a week that I order take out and then I don't feel the pressure of getting home and cooking something.
7. Thank the custodians for keeping my room clean.I try to leave a little treat out on Fridays for my custodians. I used to bake a lot-now I'll just grab something from the store and leave it for them in their work room with a "Thank You". I feel like it's important to validate their hard work and they sure appreciate the treats!
I also leave a bowl of treats for them during the summer. This has turned into a tradition.
8. Replenish my snack and water supplies.
I think that this is my least favorite task. I hate lugging stuff in and out of my classroom. I even bought a small rolling suitcase to bring my laptop and "stuff" because it takes the pressure off my shoulders. It's been great! I bring my own water to drink and lately I switched to bringing gallon jugs. I just leave a water bottle at work to use there. I found bringing things like this every day became very tedious. So I just stock up on water once a month or so.
9. Try to implement something new like a smart board game or new technology.
I love to learn to play new instruments. I play guitar, piano, ukulele, recorder, and I'm working on the Violin. I hope to learn the harp too. I find that the students enjoy learning along with you. If you haven't used interactive games on a smartboard or computer-jump in! The students will help you and it is another way to connect with them. We are all learning together.
Last year I learned to play the ukulele. I just had to keep one step ahead of my students.
10. Refine my own tools by practicing a new song or composing something. I do love to write songs!
If I have the staff paper out-it's much easier to jot some ideas down. Then I can come back to the song later.
11. Reflect on my successes and my "things I need to do better" items. I think it's important to weigh in on the successes and "struggles" of the week.
I think when we reflect on our successes it empowers us to keep going and build on those successes. If no one else is "cheering" you on-then reward yourself for doing something "great" that week. One of my favorite "treats" is getting a massage, or my nails done. It's so much nicer to have someone else do my toes than me crunching over and trying to paint them while I'm watching TV. What's your "treat?"Lastly-but most importantly:
12. Be grateful for the chance to work at a job that let's me be totally true to myself and be a positive influence in the world.
When I leave on Friday knowing that Monday is going to be a breeze-I always have a great weekend! What things do you do every week to keep yourself on track?
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Need some more Teacher Stress Ideas? Check out my post: My Three Favorite Yoga Poses for Teacher Stress
Or, How to Keep Up to Speed in Your Teacher Life