“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston S. Churchill

Ah, Mr. Churchill, you always did speak profoundly.

So yeah, this year’s Christmas Program at my school was nothing short of a resounding success. It’s always a hugely-attended event, held in the Catholic Church next to my school. This year I even included a LIVE NATIVITY scene. I had EVERY STUDENT IN THE SCHOOL participate. That’s right, K-8, all in the same program.

It was done in about an hour.

It’s impossible not to accept a few pats on the back after what feels like a monumental victory- especially when the priest walked me over to my principal and gave me huge, specific, congratulations just so he [el hefe] would hear it.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder- what could I have done to make it better? What did I miss? How can next year be even more, dare I say….EPIC?!?!

So here’s a short list of what I wish I could go back and change this time around. As you read through my list, think of your own. Did you miss some of these same things? What would you have changed for yourself?

• Honestly, I would have started sooner. I began planning for this program right at the start of the school year, but I should have tried some songs out with groups a little sooner. Some were too low, some were too high, and it took a lot of work to make them work for the ensembles. It all came out right in the end, but seriously…. it felt so last-minute to be finalizing songs in November.

I would have demanded or arranged for more time with the classes I don’t see regularly. I came in early to practice with 5th grade once a week, and I combined 6-8 for their songs, but I still only got 2- that’s right, TWO, practices with them before the performance. Now don’t get me wrong, the old grades’ songs were the same ones they did last year, and their teachers were immensely helpful, but I couldn’t feel like their conductor, their mentor, someone they should look up to and respect when I had to try and build that rapport in a short 90 minutes.

I know a lot of us music teachers are called on to take in extra classes, or more time before/after school. But next year, if I’m asked to incorporate grades or classes that aren’t in my schedule, I’m going to say, “Maybe you should just hire me to teach more and we can make a middle school choir class.” That’s honestly, the only way I will do it again. [Sorry, hefe, if you’re reading this…but there it is!]

I would have gotten more press. And I know I said this about Veteran’s Day, but I really do feel that the power a music teacher can gain by being well-known in the community is invaluable. It becomes a lot more powerful advocacy when you, the teacher, are not the advocate…but when business owners, parents, and other community members become advocates for you. A huge, public performance is a FANTASTIC opportunity to leverage. It wouldn’t have taken a lot of effort for me to write up a press release or email a couple reporters and tell them that “We’ll have a real, live baby for the Nativity!”. Heartwarming fluff piece: CHECK!

• Though I was a lot better about hanging out afterward and accepting the accolades, I would have liked to be able to hand out a card with my email and my boss’ email and said, “Thank you so much, would you mind sharing that awesome compliment with El Hefe?”

I would have turned it into a fundraiser. Though I’m rather proud of my minimalist/Spartan classroom, there are things that cost money that I would like. Site memberships. NAfME membership fees. Some new hand drums. A classroom set of tablets….*sigh*, if I could have turned this concert into a fundraiser…YES! But I didn’t. And now the opportunity is gone. [Insert sad face emoji]

Now that I’ve gotten those bits off my chest, I can use them to make next year even better. Though, like I said, this year was pretty darn good! I did get A LOT of awesome feedback from audience members- and not just after the show. I’ve been stopped in the mall and the grocery store by people who saw the program and took the time to thank me in person. I’ve been given some long cards, emails, and even a Facebook message about how marvelous it was.

Yet I only got 2 Starbucks gift cards.

Just sayin’.