Music Teacher Summer Planning: Don’t Sacrifice “Me” Time



It’s summer. It’s time to chill with Netflix binges and poolside lounging. Some of us obey when we hear people say things like, “It’s summer. Get your mind off of school!” Of course, then your hackles get up when people say, “It must be nice to have three months off.” and you want to be able to prove just how busy you were on your more-like-two-months-break. Or, you just try to get in as much living as you can and you don’t worry about what others say.. Go, you! But, for many of us teachers, it’s also a time of ruminating what went wrong last year and endless PD book reading, workshops, and fretting. 

I get it. I was there! Anytime I was on vacation, and my husband and I traveled, he got pretty peeved when I wanted to take my computer. Computer stayed home, but sometimes I was busier using my phone to check school email (as little as there was in summer) than I was taking pictures of gorgeous mountains. When we splurged on that Danube rivercruise, I fretted when international cell service wasn’t available. If I wanted to read email, I could have saved a lot of money and not travel 5,000 miles. I loved to take workshops and levels, once attending Kodaly Level One and an Orff masterclass IN THE SAME SUMMER, and every level I took except Orff Level One was in a different state. Yet, I panicked when I felt my room wasn’t quite ready for the opening of school. Because, I couldn’t set a specific goal with everything I learned. I wanted to do it all. (I did, however, give up on email on the Danube river cruise, but got peeved when I couldn’t post my pictures on Facebook).

Good preparation, as you know, is crucial to successful teaching. Chris Kyriacou outlined the importance of good planning for teachers in this blog post. It allows thinking time, alleviates stress, and gives you the opportunity to try out new things. But do you have to sacrifice the freedoms having days off brings in order to plan? Or must you scrunch it all in? You can do both in the summer. It’s a matter of planning. Much of this you probably already know, but like any human being, we need constant reminders, especially after the 18 months we just had. It’s a mindset that I’m learning after retirement but taking on a part-time job, my TPT store, and volunteering.

  • Set a timer and set a time. Each day, find a time to do maybe an hour of prep, like your newsletter or reviewing what you learned in levels or a workshop. Shut the door. Turn off your phone. Do not answer emails. Use an extension like some that are mentioned in this blog post . Then, at the end of your set time, finished or not, walk away from school work like a bad habit. Hide it. Have someone in your family or have your favorite teaching colleagues nag you to stay off. Just WALK AWAY and do you.
  • Use Post-It notes for to-dos. OK, I know that I’m killing trees here, but hear me out…when I make check-lists, I would feel good about what I checked off, but if I didn’t finish, those unfinished tasks would glare at me. That stresses me. So, one year in school, I decided to put all my tasks on individual Post-Its or notecards. I would stick them in a drawer except for the one that had the current task. Then, when I was finished, I had the joy of slowly tearing that note up and tossing it. Then, I’d pull another note for the next task. Mentally, that helped because (1) all the tasks weren’t glaring at me. I could put them in order of priority. (2) There’s something rather cathartic about tearing up what has been completed. (3) I couldn’t sneak another thing on the list. If I absolutely HAD to add something, I’d put it in another pile for my new stack.
  • Make a pact with a colleague. If you have a colleague who also plans over the summer, hold each other accountable. Make a date for coffee (yay, for open facilities!) Bounce ideas off of each other and write it down. Set a time limit, and then PUT IT AWAY.
  • If you attend workshops or levels, don’t think you will have to incorporate everything. You can’t. It’s not humanly possible. Besides, the purpose of Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze, MLT, World Music Drumming, etc. is to act like the mama bird pushing her baby out of the nest. The levels give you the tools….you take them to YOUR level and the level of your kids. Most levels instructors will be glad to give you a little reminder if you can’t remember what you can’t double in Orff orchestration or what consists of presenting in Kodaly. Even if you don’t remember, in the long run, it’s the process and philosophy that means the most, even if you don’t use alto recorder or a tuning fork. Pick and choose what your kids will enjoy or handle and go from there. Keep others on the back burner in case the kids surprise you. New position? Start from the beginning when you teach. Plan for that. You can always advance. If you have older kids, you might want to try out Aileen Miracle’s “Songs and Activities for Older Beginners” and use it like a pre-test. 
  • SMALL CHUNKS EARLY. Consider this early planning like a progressive dinner. You might have appetizers at one house, drinks at the other, etc. You get small chunks and you don’t stay long, and sometimes, you start early. It won’t do you any good to start small chunks at the end of July. Remember what happens with your kids if they try to practice 4 hours before music festival. What is usually your advice? It’s probably to isolate difficult phrases and just practice those. Same with summer planning.
  • Start your room as soon as you can, but only spend an hour or two on it if you live close enough. Obviously, if you live some distance, that’s not practical, so…
  • Or buddy up with a teacher friend, help each other, and go out to eat later. In 2017, I wrote about helping a friend organize her room, getting rid of stuff and helping her arrange other things. She, in turn, came to my room and helped me rearrange furniture. It was such a fun time to get to know each other better, bounce ideas off of each other, AND get our prep for the year finished in a short amount of time. In either case, it’s better to start a little early in chunks and find you have free August time than to wait and end up having to fight over the copier.

DURING YOUR FREE TIME: Take care of that bucket list! Like…….

  • Travel where it’s safe and explore hidden treasures in your state.
  • Learn to zip line 
  • Learn curling
  • Take up a new craft
  • Learn an unusual instrument (or even a usual one).
  • Go hiking
  • Sit at the park and birdwatch

These are suggestions, of course, but this summer, you probably need extra emotional, cognitive, and mental brain drains to reboot with a new sense of focus. For most of you, school will be closer to normal than it was last year, and you might not remember what “normal” looked like. Discover it without worrying about being ready.

Another way you can prep is buying a few Teachers Pay Teachers products with those credits you earned for leaving reviews. 

You don’t leave reviews? There’s a small task for you! If you leave reviews for products you purchase, you get credit off towards future purchases. It adds up fast!


Alabama Gal Syn-co-pa Prep/Practice
Alabama Gal is a very popular folk song and can be used to teach ti-ta-ti, sometimes called syn-co-pa. This packet includes a PowerPoint/Google Slide, sound clips, classroom lesson, suggestions for improvisation, ideas for incorporating visual-aural-kinesthetic aspects, directions for the dance, and a short assessment.

Over the summer:

Look for the new room decor collections! Each collection will be identified by a theme and will include the following:

  • Bulletin board letters and borders
  • Chromatic Curwin hand sign charts
  • Chromatic Recorder Fingering Cards
  • Dynamics Visuals
  • Ukulele Chord Charts
  • Guitar Chord Charts
  • Tempo Visuals
  • Expression Visuals
  • Families of the Orchestra
  • Instrument Families by Sound Production
  • Movement Verbs/Laban Effort Actions Visuals
  • Music Motivational Quotes

Each collection will come as a bundle, or you can purchase each item separately. Stay tuned. And the best way to stay tuned?? 

The newsletter comes out weekly, with ideas, other blog and resource referrals, information on new products, and free items no one else gets (except for bundles freebies).


The occasional contest or drawing. Coming up, it’s the “Just ‘Cause You’re Here” drawing. If you have signed up for my newsletter by June 18, two subscribers will be randomly selected to receive their choices of either a $10 Amazon Card or a $10 TPT gift certificate.

Just go here to get started:

If you ever have questions, ideas, or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Hi there!

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have just completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.


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