MAC Corner: Goal Setting

Mike Lawson • Commentary • July 21, 2014

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“This is the year that I’m going to…”

How many times have we said this to ourselves? At the beginning of each school year? At the beginning of each new year? Making these kinds of resolutions is part of what we do so that we can continue to grow as music educators, as well as to help our students grow not only as music-makers, but also as leaders. What is on deck for this new year? Here are a few items that you might consider for the 2014-15 school year.

Set Student Goals

Challenge students to set goals for the year. Encourage students to think about what they would like to accomplish over the course of the ensuing year. Give them some time to think about it, then distribute index cards. On one side, ask them to list three personal goals they would like to strive to achieve that are general in nature. Examples might include getting better grades, becoming a better listener, managing time better, becoming more involved, and so on. On the reverse side of the card, ask students to list three goals they would like to attain that are specifically related to music. These could be to perform a solo at festival or in a concert, to become a better sight-reader, to have a better understanding of music theory, to learn how to conduct, and so on.

At the end of the first semester, distribute the index cards back to the students and have them notate their progress on each side before returning them. At the end of the school year, return the cards to the students for them to keep. One director relayed to me that many of his students eventually told him that these cards were a major memento of their time in school because the cards addressed the goals that were considered to be extremely important at that particular time in their lives. Hence, the “Goal Setting” cards had become even more significant to his graduates as adults. It would certainly be interesting to keep copies of these not only to share with alumni in future years, but also to keep as personal remembrances of the students who come through our doors each year.


Create a Motto

Working with your students, establish an overarching theme and emblazon it on everything including letterhead, posters, concert programs, t-shirts, bulletin boards, and more. One director used “Making Beautiful Music… TOGETHER” which speaks to the particular focus taken that year. Another just had the word “PRIDE” put up prominently in his band room in four-foot letters. Empower your student leaders to come up with a variety of ways in which your theme can be promoted over the course of the year. These types of themes also provide what is often called “silent advocacy.” It doesn’t take much for someone entering a classroom with phrases like these prominently displayed to “get it” when it comes to some of the inherent values of the music program.


Be a Better Communicator

Find a way to become a better communicator in some fashion. We can all come up with another way to reach out to parents, colleagues, administrators, and the community. What one thing might help to share the news about the accomplishments of your students or the benefits of the program?

One idea might be to ask the person at your building who is responsible for the school’s newsletter if you could start a “Music Corner” where you would provide information on a regular basis. If you think about it, school newsletters have a huge distribution because they go to every parent, teacher, administrator, counselor, superintendent, and school board member. Consider this an opportunity to “toot your horn” to all of these constituents. So, how easy is it to find information to put in a “Music Corner” that is one-quarter page in a newsletter? Easy! Again, empower your student leaders to come up with ideas for each of these that shine a light on the achievements of the students in the program.

Of course, you could always announce upcoming concerts and events, but a tidbit on the value of an education in music must be a staple! Sign up for a Twitter account and ask your students to have all of their friends and family members “follow” the account. Perhaps one of the parent leaders could take on this responsibility to reach out to the greater community several times each week. Only 140 characters need to be entered for each post and there is always something to share.



Celebrate the school’s faculty and staff. It’s always nice to do something for our colleagues to show appreciation for their support. One idea might be to work with your students to organize an Annual Faculty Appreciation Luncheon where the students not only serve lunch to the teachers in the faculty lounge but also provide a “Lounge Show” to showcase their talents.

Another idea would be to have your high school student leaders and/or parent boosters organize a pregame supper event each fall to be held just prior to a big game. It could be as easy as a chili dinner with salad and rolls, or perhaps a barbeque. The point is that your students are reaching out to others in your building to show their appreciation. Your administrative team will also appreciate your efforts to assist in these types of team-building activities.

One idea that many have found to be successful is the “Birthday Serenade” where students burst into a teacher’s room during class to sing/play a fun, special song to help signify the special day. Many teachers love this because it is so spontaneous, and the students in their classes get a real kick out of the sudden, unexpected event as well. This takes all of five minutes to do once organized, and all that is needed is a list of dates. They key is to ensure that it happens consistently so that everyone is included. We can’t forget secretaries, custodians, administrators, counselors, and others who make up the school staff.


Community Service

Consider a community service project. We all know that it is better to give than to receive, so in this spirit, ask students to come up with a worthy project that allows them to give to others in a way that matters to them. The lasting benefits can be far-reaching. As anyone who has ever volunteered knows, the satisfaction and pride that comes from helping others can be life-changing. You might even ask students to commit to perform a specific number of hours. Think how many hours an ensemble can amass because of its size! Some of the more traditional options include a canned food drive, a coat drive, or a clean-up event in a park or on walls that may have been vandalized.

The website is one of the largest organizations in the nation for teens and social change. According to an article titled “5 Meaningful Community Service Ideas for Students” on the School Family website, loves working with teens because “they are creative, active, wired… and frustrated that our world is so messed up. harnesses that awesome energy and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, we launch a new national campaign. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car.”


Take Time for Yourself

Do something special just for yourself and/or your family at some point during the school year. Plan a weekend getaway and focus all of your attention on those you care most about outside of school. Time is one of our most valuable treasures, so spend it having fun! It could be camping trips, cooking classes, museum trips, historical locales to visit, or something else that is enjoyed by the entire group, but do try to schedule it for the same weekend each year so that it is something that everyone can look forward to annually. Half of the fun is the time spent together in the planning stages, so take time to enjoy all of the aspects of this weekend adventure!


There are an infinite number of goals that can be considered when moving from one year to the next. These are a very few, but they may serve to inspire you and your student leaders to begin thinking about what one “new year” resolution would be worth committing to for the coming year. In addition to growing musically, many of these types of activities will help our students discover how “giving back” will provide them with a more gratifying and fulfilling lifestyle – something that being involved in music-making already contributes to greatly.


Marcia Neel is president of Music Education Consultants, Inc., and serves as educational advisor to the Music Achievement Council – In this capacity, she provides sessions at state MEA conferences, district in-service days, and dealer workshops to provide practical success strategies to help educators with the many and varied elements of the successful program. Email [email protected] to inquire about a session in your area.



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