This article of mine appears in the July issue of Teachers Net Gazette. What are your summer resolutions?
A Teacher’s Summer Resolutions
I know! Summer isn’t resolution time! Summer is for chilling out and kicking back, not for getting all serious and resolution-y! But I have to confess, I’m a natural-born resolution-maker, and it takes more than sunshine and time off to stop me from planning, dreaming, and yes, resolving.
Besides, summer is the perfect time to delve into projects I’ve been putting off – learning something new, practicing new techniques, reading inspiring books for educators – whatever I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had time for during the always busier-than-I-thought-it-would-be school year.
My resolutions this summer range from the hard-core practical to the wildly whimsical, from the better-get-this-done-soon to the “maybe someday.” But all of them are bouncing around in my mind with the goal of becoming a better teacher. I resolve to:
1. Learn more Spanish. This has been an ongoing project of mine for years, but I always get more done in this area in the summer months. I teach many Hispanic children, and in my state (New Jersey) foreign-language teaching is required K-12. Even if it were not required, I feel that adding more Spanish songs, stories and games enriches my curriculum (I’m a music teacher) and benefits both Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking children. And I like to know a little bit of what I’m singing about! When I was starting out on this adventure, I found that the site Duolingo was very helpful. Recently a friend lent me the Rosetta Stone program, which is my next project. Wish me luck!
2. Learn more about Common Core and state standards. From what I know about Common Core, I’m not a fan, but I feel I should better familiarize myself with the standards to see how my lesson planning fits in with the current guidelines.
3. Look at more You Tube tutorials on African drumming and dance, as well as tutting (an intriguing form of dancing with hands and fingers) – for fun, and for my own effectiveness and creativity as a music teacher. You Tube is really a treasure trove of wonderful ideas for teaching and learning!
4. Continue my search for the perfect “music and movement teacher” shoes. Heels and I have recently come to a parting of the ways, yet I find flats slippery and, ironically, hard to move around, spin, jump, and dance in. Perhaps slim, black, classy sneakers that don’t look too much like sneakers? Any suggestions would be appreciated!
5. Consider more ways in which I can include repurposed materials for music activities. For instance, I use clean coffee cans with lids as drums, and clean Styrofoam egg cartons to make easy to use and pleasant-sounding (though they don’t last long) percussion instruments – children can hit them on the floor, their knees, even their heads. Bear-shaped plastic honey containers make wonderful child-sized shakers when filled with rice or other materials. I like to teach children the importance of recycling and repurposing, as well as the fun of finding new ways to make music!
6. Keep exploring new genres and styles of music that children may be unfamiliar with, and putting them in a child-friendly context such as a game or an improvisation activity. For instance, we may improvise with shakers while listening to some salsa or Caribbean music. I feel that being exposed to new and different musical styles increases childrens’ curiosity and creativity.
7. Stay active! You knew this one was coming. I’m not a big exerciser but I do like two things a lot – long walks, and dancing to fun and exuberant music. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can’t spend all my time potatoing on the couch (and on the computer) and then be ready to bounce and jump around with four-year-olds! Not gonna happen! I “collect” happy songs, and yes, that includes Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Some members of my family claim to be tired of this admittedly ubiquitous song, but I could listen to it all day.
8. Learn more behavior management techniques – I can never know enough! For instance, recently I learned that young children respond better to complements on their character (i.e. “You’re a good sharer”) than compliments on isolated behaviors (“I like the way you shared the doll.”) They tend to internalize the character-based compliments and act more positively. (Grant, Adam. (2014, April 11) Raising a moral child. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/opinion/sunday/raising-a-moral-child.html?_r=0. Anything that helps me create a more peaceful and respectful classroom atmosphere is worth learning.
9. Find and create more jokes that are “SFYC” (Suitable for Young Children). This sounds easy, since preschoolers can be amused by very simple things sometimes, but I like to have a few kid-friendly jokes up my sleeve for fire drills, waiting for children who are late, or passing the time while I replace batteries in my keyboard. Here are two of my recent ideas: “What’s a gorilla’s favorite month? Ape-ril!” and “Why didn’t the five little monkeys have sandwiches for lunch? Because they were jumping on the bread!” Trust me, four-year-olds think these are hilarious.
10. Keep looking in libraries and on bookselling sites for great picture books. I like stories based on songs, stories with chanted refrains which I can “musicalize,” (set to familiar tunes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) or stories with animals sounds and other noises. When children can join in the story musically, they show better understanding and increased aural memory. Some new favorites of mine are “Farmyard Beat” by Lindsay Craig and “The Terrible Plop” by Ursula Dubosorsky,
Whether or not you make a list, I hope you “resolve” to have a fun and relaxing summer!
About the author
Abby Connors is a music teacher, writer and presenter. Her most recent book is “The Musical Toddler” (Whitmore Books, 2013). Visit her website at musicforyoungchildren.wordpress.com.