I’ve talked before about how non-stop work is not good for us. (I know, pot, kettle…), but I think there are some steps we can take to really set up our school year so that we don’t over stress, double book, or burn ourselves out. As you are taking some time to do school things this summer (because I know we all do a little bit), make sure you take time and do these first. Make you the priority this year!

Plan your planning time

Planning time is a precious commodity. Think about how you can make your time the most effective. Instead of spending each day trying to write lesson plans, grade papers, make copies, etc, try “batching”. Batching is the idea of doing things in groups. So Monday and Tuesday, write your lesson plans. Wednesday make copies. Thursday do grading, and use Friday as your catch up day or concert planning day or whatever else you need to cover. Whatever you choose, break it down by type of task instead of grade level.

If batching doesn’t work for you, try making a weekly “to do” list of your typical planning things. On Monday, plot out what day. you are gong to do what so you can have a plan of attack for every day of the week.

Set your personal calendar now

Seriously. Put all of YOUR important stuff on the calendar right now. You might not know the dates for special activities like dance recitals or important sports games for your kids, but put birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events you know are coming up on the calendar now so you don’t overbook yourself later on. Or schedule a concert on your anniversary, miss a birthday, or put a family event on hold because you accidentally schedule a school thing. Not only that, but it when you get your school calendar, you can tell your admin immediately if there is a conflict. Because work comes SECOND or THIRD. It shouldn’t be our first priority. Remember, we are more than “just a music teacher”.

Set due dates

If you have a concert on May 1, set due dates for all the important leading up to things you have to do backwards from the date. Set due dates for lesson plans for the following week/weeks. Set yourself a due date to start working on report card comments before they are actually due.

Pick one thing

  • One thing to make sure you have time for in your personal life.
  • One thing you want to focus on this school year (professional goal anyone?).
  • One grade you want to adjust their lesson plans/curriculum/etc.
  • One thing you want to do for you.

Health Prep

  • Schedule your yearly doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments and such now.
  • Buy yourself a fresh water bottle, lunchbox, or whatever it is that is going to motivate you to do some healthier eating at school (Read: Not salads for lunch every day. Something well balanced. I mean, not a pot-tart and diet coke for lunch every day).
  • Do some meal planning. Even if you aren’t a freezer meal person (ME) or a eat the same thing for lunch and dinner every day this week (ME), set a ‘menu’ of some of your favorite recipes with things you normally have in the house and put them in an easy to see place. Post a list on your fridge or put the recipe cards on a binder ring and give yourself a leg up when you can’t figure out what to make for dinner again. (ME)


When your passion is your job, it’s really easy to say, “Yes”, too often. Of course we want that extra class, ensemble, personal gig, private student, performance opportunity for ourselves. But does all of that lead to a sustainable schedule? Are you going to be running on four hours of sleep, coffee, and granola bars come December as you drive from place to place not to mention what your family/kids/personal life holds? In the light of summer vacation, take a good long look at everything on your plate, remember back to your busiest times, and evaluate if everything on that plate is worth keeping. This can go for the things in your personal life as well. Are your kids in too many activities and always running? Do you have too many commitments outside of school?

I hope this has given you a bunch of ideas to make your year more sustainable and less stressful!

Melissa Stouffer-1

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