Time is always of the essence when it comes to teaching; while this can be said about any subject, it applies more closely to music education for a couple of reasons. First of all, we know that music education in the American public system has taken a backseat to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes, thus resulting in a diminished curriculum of music lessons. Second, there are not many institutions where young students can immerse themselves in music. Homeschooling and conservatories are the best bets for students can get comprehensive music education, but even these places of learning can be subject to time constraints.
Dedicated music teachers wish they had all the time in the work to teach students all the complexities involved in the musical arts. Whether they are full-time instructors at an arts academy or part-time tutors, music teachers are often looking for advice or systems that can help them improve their time management skills. We are all slaves to the clock and calendar; there is simply no way to add more hours to our day, and this can often get in the way of teaching and living our personal lives. As much as we would love to spend all day teaching, there are other dimensions of our lives that need our time and attention.
The following time-saving techniques are practiced by educators and school administrators whose jobs involve tackling various projects at the same time.
This strategy works extremely well when the items that need to be completed are based on the curriculum. The importance of checklists is twofold: The list allows you to distill the curriculum in a linear way to ensure easy completion, and it can also help you guide the actions necessary to fulfill the curriculum. If you are a school teacher, the checklist should be created at the beginning of the year. If you are a homeschooling parent or tutor, the list should be created whenever a new curriculum needs to be taught or when a new student signs on for lessons.
The items on the checklist do not have to be greatly detailed, but educators should stick to them with almost religious fervor in order to make them work as time-saving devices. Here is an example of items that can be included on a checklist at the beginning of a school year for a classroom educator:
- Classroom set up.
- Books and resources to obtain.
- School supplies for the year.
- Lesson plans to make.
Once you start working with checklists, you will find yourself trying to get things done faster so that you can move on to the next item; this is when you start seeing some time-saving results. Checklists can even be created on a daily or weekly basis, and each task that is checked off brings on a sense of accomplishment that is crucial in terms of feeling more effective.
Eliminate Paper as Much as Possible
Paperwork is something that all teachers have to deal with. In an ideal world, all teachers will only be dedicated to their classrooms because each of them will have assistants who can handle reports, grading, and correspondence, but this is not the case for most educators. Since paperwork cannot be reasonably eliminated, the next best thing is to do away with the medium that it is printed on.
Going paperless is something that many schools have been able to implement to a certain extent, but in many situations teachers find that it is up to themselves to decrease the amount of paper used. One way to accomplish this is through the use of Google Classroom, which is a solution many teachers used during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Compare to other solutions such as Facebook Groups and Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom is not only more efficient but also works in a way that allows teachers to completely forego using paper.
Scheduling Email Responses
All educators are held to certain expectations that can seem unreasonable, and one of them is related to their email inbox. As much as dedicated music teachers would like to project an image of being able to respond to all email messages as soon as they arrive, we know this is not always possible, and you should not project an image that suggests you are always going to respond immediately. Thanks to features available in email providers such as Gmail, you can still respond to messages the moment you read them, but the actual reply will not be sent until you specify the time.
The Gmail Schedule Send feature can be found next to the Send button; it looks like a triangle and basically gives you the option to set a time when the message will actually be delivered. Unlike the Draft Message feature, Schedule Send lets you keep complete messages that are ready to go out. Let's say a piano teacher gets an email from a parent around midnight and writes a reply right away; the best course of action would be to schedule the message to be sent the following morning during business hours so that it does not project an image of a teacher who is available to reply at all times of day and night.
Minimizing Classroom Distractions
This is easier said than done, but it is a highly effective time-saving practice for music teachers. The pillars of a distraction-free classroom are:
- Lesson planning
- Proper behavior
- Efficient workflow
We tend to think that disruptive student behavior is the number one cause of time lost in the classroom, but it is easier for teachers to say this than to admit that they do not plan their lessons, organize their classrooms, or train students to stick to the workflow that is more conducive to completing the curriculum in a timely manner. With regard to unruly behavior, many teachers fall into the trap of focusing on the student instead of the specific behavior. The best way to deal with distracting behaviors is to become a magnetic and inspiring teacher that students can willfully look up to; this will invariably result in a lack of interest to purposely act unruly because students will instead feel engaged during lessons.
Turn Off or Ignore Mobile Notifications
A little over a decade ago, when the world was not engulfed in smartphone communications, teachers used their desktop and mobile computers to manage and organize their workloads in a different manner. Email programs, for example, were kept open only during work hours. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were accessed from time to time instead of opening the applications in response to smartphone notifications. We cannot say that those were better times, but they were certainly less disruptive.
Each time you interact with a mobile notification, you are effectively taking time away from a present task. If you are required to respond to certain communications immediately, and this is sometimes the case with emergency school notifications systems, you have no option but to allow those communications. All other alerts should be turned off or else completely ignored not only during class but also when you are doing related work such as evaluating assignments and writing reports.
When music teachers listen to recorded chair sessions, they have nothing to gain from notifications. The same goes for whenever lesson plans need to be created or when curriculum items need to be adjusted. Some teachers will be able to mentally block off these notifications so that they are effectively ignored, but most of us will not be able to resist the temptation, so the best course of action would be to turn them off or place the smartphone on airplane mode. It is not difficult to set personal time for reviewing social network and email communications like we used to do in the days before the smartphone revolution.