The last 10 days of school

The end of the year is a flurry of instructional and non-instructional activities. Balancing the musical instruction and non-musical tasks (collecting music, inventory management, cleaning out lockers) can create a chaotic atmosphere. As someone who DESPISES the "May is for movies" approach to teaching, I wanted to share with you my Top 10 Ideas on how to deal with the end of year drama.  

1.  Schedule the final 10 days and post the schedule somewhere prominent. Students need structure and an understanding of what is happening each day.
2.  Read through some classic literature. This is a chance to have the kids play literature (Holst, Grainger, Vaughn Williams, Reed, etc.) they might otherwise never play without the pressure of an impending performance.
3. Use one of the final days to talk about next year. Hype up the show and upcoming trips, introduce new leaders, etc. This is a great activity during "Senior Ditch Day."
4. Use the "check-out" process as a "check-in" process for next year. Ask to see students' 2016 schedules, collect camp deposits, verify contact info, etc. Touch base with every student to ensure they will not be lost in the cracks over the summer.
5. Have a group yearbook signing day. Tell the students that you will not allow yearbooks out during class until a pre-specified date. Be willing to give up one, or half of one, rehearsal to make the remaining ones more productive.
6. Do an end of the year closure activity. Have the students answer 3-5 questions such as what was your favorite moment/laugh out loud/thing you will miss. Compile the best answers into an end of the year document to hand out on the last day of school.
7.  Honor the seniors. Take time to acknowledge the seniors. You can do it in public, private, or in writing. You can even involve your class. They will they appreciate it and it will become a special rite of passage to which the younger students look forward.
8.  Do a service project for the school. At one of my previous schools, every year on the final day of school, as they were dismissed, the seniors would throw all of their papers into the air in the school courtyard. So every year, the band would offer to clean it up. It only took about 30 minutes and saved the custodians HOURS of work. It was a win/win.
9.  Use your student leaders to automate your end the year processes. There is no need for you to do everything. You have bright and competent students who want to help.  Create coordinators for instrument check-in, music return, locker clean-out, uniform check-in, etc. Create a "check out sheet" that requires signatures from all coordinators before your final signature. Any student not having completed all areas by the designated time will receive an incomplete. Work smarter, not harder.
10.  End with a smile. The last thing they see will be the first thing they remember.

I hope that these ideas will help to not only lighten your workload, but create a more organized and educational environment that is consistent with your high standards.