Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

How To Make Change Less Scary and More Normal In Your Classroom

One of my favorite parts of an extended break is the possibility of change. A change in pace, a change in routine, and changes in lifestyle!

Just a few of the changes that are occurring in our lives thus far on this break:

  • Sold our piano and bought a new one. (Literally on our drive to South Carolina…it’s a good story!)
  • Flip-flopping our downstairs living rooms.
  • Established a summer writing routine.
  • Private lesson teaching schedule has altered to summer hours but doubled in amount of students!
  • I got my hair cut. (Praise the lawd!!)

My response when people ask how I am enjoying my break has been, “It’s amazing and sooooo refreshing!” 

But then I thought to myself, why can’t all year be amazing and refreshing? Why can’t changes occur during busy seasons of the year?

Then I realized that there were definitely times when I made drastic changes to my classroom or procedures during the school year. Sometimes they worked, and sometimes they didn’t. What I learned though is that students need a little change every now and then, just like us.

Before we dive further, I will say that constant change could be detrimental. Stability in the classroom establishes a sense of normalcy and routine, which students definitely need, particularly if they don’t have that at home. I would not suggest changing rules or procedures as you go, as students may begin to regard them as items that can be amended based on certain actions. We don’t really want that!

However, there are ways to keep things fresh and exciting without disrupting order. Even better, there are ways to involve students with these decisions that will give them a sense of ownership of the program.

Here are 2 activities you can pursue when you’re looking for a change that can stir the creativity of students as well:

Change your room layout.

I can’t tell you how many times I did this, because I was never fully satisfied until my final semester at my school. I had to share the choir room with my piano classes, so finding a way to keep things organized yet separate was quite a challenge. I offered the idea to students that if they could draw out a floor plan for the choir room that best accomplished our goals, I would use it. I even did this for our coffee house fundraiser each year, and always ended up using a student floor plan rather than my own. Quite frankly, some of them were much better at that than I would ever be, so why not let them use their strengths for something like this?

Revamp your officer positions.

I started becoming displeased with our choral cabinet positions, and it wasn’t because students were slacking on their jobs. It was that each position really only had 1-2 responsibilities for the year and then nothing else was outlined for them. Even the choir president, the student who was expected to best represent our choral program, was always a fantastic student, but it was like they had nothing else to do other than welcome the audience at our concerts.

So, I took a lesson from the book by Blake Mycoskie, the creator of TOMS shoes. In their company, there title names are unique and descriptive of what that person’s job entails. There were no CEOs or Vice Presidents, or anything like that. Here’s a brief excerpt I used to explain the project:

At TOMS, everyone has a title containing the word “shoe.” I am Chief Shoe Giver. Candice Wolfswinkel, who in the early days helped hold our company together, is Shoe Glue. My super assistant, Megan, is Straight Shoeter. Some of our other shoe-related titles: Shoe Chef. Shoe Lace. Cash Shoe. Shoe Dude. Shoe-per-Woman. When you dispose of formal titles, no one knows the pecking order. Both an executive vice president and an intern can have solid-sounding titles. This framework forces people from outside the company to treat everyone they meet as though they were the most important person in the company—because they don’t know they’re not.

I then asked students to redesign our choral officer scheme with descriptive titles and job responsibilities with Mycoskie’s ideas in mind.. They could work alone or in groups, and had a small amount of class time dedicated to the assignment. They came up with some GREAT ideas, and we used some of them the following year! If you’d like the assignment sheet, I’d be happy to send it to you! Just email me!

These are only 2 ways to incorporate change in your program that won’t fully disrupt order or productivity. In fact, these two activities could increase those aspects just by trying them! Not only does it keep your program from feeling stale, but it provides an opportunity for students to make an impact on their program.

What are some ways you cultivate change in your classroom or program? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.

**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click on them and end up purchasing a product from that website, I will make a small commission. This helps fund the expenses in maintaining my blog. I appreciate your support!**

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/

About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

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