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Home Music Education Top 10 Tips for a Better School Year

Top 10 Tips for a Better School Year


One of our great joys at Cut Time is getting to know directors and learning about their programs. It should come as no surprise that we’ve learned music directors are busy people. To help out, here are 10 things directors say help them have a more successful school year:

  1. Eliminate surprise.  Set calendar reminders to prepare for upcoming  concerts and other events. Work a little bit ahead to avoid compounded stress around performance time.
  2. Say no.  Being a director means you need good idea management skills. Colleagues, parents and students will have lots of good ideas to throw your way, but you won’t be able to do them all.  Make a list of the most important things you do and use that as a measure to weigh new ideas against.  Sometimes the new thing is the right way to spend your time and sometimes it is not.  Be ok with saying no.
  3. Help parents and students self serve. (Disclaimer: We love this one, because that’s what Cut Time is all about.) Whenever possible, drive students and parents to the same source for information so they look there first, and ask you questions as a last resort.
  4. Start off right. Set your expectations at the start of the year and be clear about it. Rehearsals are not the time for policy discussions.
  5. Avoid email dramas. People are passionate about their kids.  If you have to communicate something stressful to a parent, use email to set up a call or a meeting.  Email is not capable of sharing the tone of concern or caring that your voice does. They first want to know you care about their child, then, you can work together. If you are worried about having a “paper trail,” consider sending a short recap memo to the parent once you’ve figured out the resolution to the issue together.
  6. Delegate. Identify any parts of your program that can be done by others and let them do it.  Student and parent volunteers will help you and they’ll love being involved.  Assign leaders within the groups and set expectations of how and when they come to you with issues and updates.
  7. Make lists. There are about a million interruptions in a teacher’s day.  Questions, meetings, duties, wrong notes, surprisingly wonderful notes, behavioral issues, and more.  Having a list of just a few “must do’s” for the day will help you remember what your priorities were when the sun came up should you have time at your desk before the sun goes down.
  8. Be Hawaii. Most directors are like an island – the lone teacher of your thing, alone in a sea of other stuff going on in your school.  If you’re an island, then be Hawaii.  We can’t find anyone who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii and occasionally, Hawaii sends out invitations to come visit, to enjoy it in all its awesomeness.  Hawaii doesn’t send out complaints about its problems. It invites, and people show up.  Be Hawaii.
  9. Laugh. Kids are hilarious (at times.) Enjoy the fact you serve the best people on the planet and are sharing music with the world.  If you believe that, they will believe it too.
  10. Schedule time for yourself.   It’s not easy being a music professional.  Set aside a little quiet time each day to focus on important, but not necessarily urgent things.  Whether that is planning ahead, score study, learning something new…you decide, because it’s all about you during this time.

Are you ready to see how Cut Time can help you accomplish some of these things?   Start a free 30-day trial today!  Deferred billing available.

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Kathy Fernandes is Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for J.W. Pepper. With her background as a school band director, studio teacher, and ongoing experiences as a flutist and mother of three musicians, Kathy is immersed in music. She continues to be involved in education by teaching middle school-aged students at her church and also serves on its Pastoral Council. Kathy advocates for a healthy musical culture by serving on the Board of the Music Publishers Association of the United States, as an industry representative for the American Choral Directors Association and through participation on the Corporate Advisory Council for the National Association for Music Education and the Support Music Coalition. Kathy is Secretary of Corporation for J.W. Pepper’s Board of Directors, is a Forbes Communication Council member, and is a former member of the Key Executive Group for the greater Philadelphia area.


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