This blog was written by guest blogger Mollie Emerson as part of our First Year Music Teacher Series. Mollie is in her first year of teaching 5 – 12 band at Jesup Community Schools in Jesup, Iowa. This is her account of leading her first band and choir tour.
On top of being busy with first-year teacher duties, I also got to help plan my first trip as a music teacher! I was excited to discover that my band was traveling to Nashville, TN in my first year, because I took the same trip as a high schooler! If you are also a first-year teacher, I would highly recommend going somewhere you’re familiar with if you get to pick the location.
Early in the school year, the planning wasn’t too difficult. Getting my students to participate in fundraising activities was the hardest part, but reminding them of the end-goal and our fun destination seemed to make the task feel like less work. The months leading up to the trip were the most nerve-wracking. Keeping track of last-minute changes was exhausting, but ultimately worth it.
On the morning of our departure, the choir director and I were at the school by 5:30 am and we were on the road with students by 6:45! We drove through the day, using movies and bus bingo to make the long trek seem to go by faster. A little over 12 hours later, we arrived in Nashville and checked into our hotel for the night. The next day, we had a clinic with the band and choir directors at Tennessee State University, and got to perform outside of the Country Music Hall of Fame. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the students took the feedback they received from the professors and the audiences. On Saturday, we toured the Grand Ole Opry and the Hermitage before heading for home that evening and driving through the night.
These are the top 8 things I learned leading my first trip as a band director:
- Hype up the students! If you’re excited to go, they will be excited to go.
- Stay organized. Make a binder with extra copies of the students’ medical forms for every director and chaperone.
- Make an additional packing list for your fellow directors and chaperones. We took a couple extra bags with a first aid kit, additional music, things for the bus, and anything else we thought the group would need.
- Have the itinerary memorized as best you can. The students will ask a million times when they need to be somewhere, so it’s good to know that off the top of your head.
- Repeat yourself, often. There will always be one or two students who don’t hear you the first time or forget directions.
- Find a system besides counting for attendance. We used the app Plickers, which gives each student a personal QR code that they scanned on my phone before they got on the bus. This was a lot simpler than trying to count heads!
- Prepare your chaperones. Yes, they are parents of students, but they are also responsible for helping make sure everything goes smoothly. I got lucky that we had awesome parents go with us!
- Have fun! While you always need to be on your A-game as a teacher throughout the trip, it is also a time to let the students see a different side of you. I got to bond with some of the students who aren’t in my class, and that was really special. Take funny pictures with them, go through the museums with them, and enjoy the time as much as they do.
Taking a trip with your band or choir will not only be a highlight in the students’ high school careers, but in yours as well. Although it was a lot of work, I would do it again in a heartbeat.