About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 002 of the The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
Episode 002 Transcript
Hello! Welcome to the Crescendo Music Education podcast. I’m Debbie O’Shea, a primary school music teacher, workshop presenter, social media enthusiast and music education advocate from Brisbane, Australia. Find me at crescendo.com.au. These podcasts are designed to support music educators through sharing thoughts and practical ideas in the hope of making your working life a little better or a little easier. My aim is supporting, connecting and inspiring music educators. Glad you could join me.
Episode 2, introduction to batching. Our job as music educators is pretty difficult. Yes, it can be fun, but it’s also exhausting. If you’re trying to do all the things and do them well, then it’s a very difficult job. How can we make our jobs a little more efficient so that we can focus on the students when we are with them and not worrying about everything else? There’s no simple answer but here is a suggestion that I know will help, batching. This episode is going to give you an introduction and overview of what I mean by batching. In future episodes, I’ll look more closely at different aspects of batching.
What Is Batching?
First question, what is batching? The concept came from business podcasts. I listen to several, I think it was Amy Porterfield that was the one that developed the idea of batching the most for me. To batch something is to arrange it in sets or groups. As Alexander Graham Bell said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into focus.” Thought that was an appropriate little quote. So what it is? It’s a productivity system that helps you to work on specific tasks or types of tasks in a dedicated time period without interruptions rather than switching from task to task. Following this method requires you to schedule and take breaks. Often it’s paired with the pomodoro technique which suggests 25 minutes focused work and five minutes break. You need longer breaks if you’ve been working for longer, they suggest after four pomodoro’s.
5 Reasons Why I Batch
Batching Is Efficient
I’m going to give you 5 reasons why I batch my work as far as possible. The first reason is just efficiency. Working in batches can really aid efficiency. For me, it’s the added benefit of helping me to organize and record my thoughts for now, but just as importantly, also for the future, which you’ll see as I get further into the concept of batching. There is really no such thing as multi-tasking. It’s actually task switching, and there’s a great deal of time lost when you get out of the old task and into the new task.
Batching Creates “Flow”
Two, I feel I get deeper work with much better focus if I’m batching. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called flow. I know when I get “in the flow”, time flies and the work doesn’t really feel as much like work and this is what I’m aiming for. Batching helps me to get into the optimal work zone. It minimizes distractions so that workflow is more concentrated and I can really get into the detail.
The “Method” to my “Madness”
Three, I like to think of this as adding method to my madness because I am a bit of a squirrel. Oh, look, something shiny. I really don’t focus terribly well. Anything that can help me really focus and dig deep is great so adding method to my madness. It helps me chip away at the large amount of work that I have to do and this work is in so many different areas that I sometimes find it a little difficult to know what to focus on. Batching will help me refine that. Sometimes this enormity of what I have to do is overwhelming. I’m not sure if I’m hearing you out there saying ‘Yes, it’s very overwhelming!’, but batching helps me. It gives me an effective structure so that I can tackle the larger, longer term jobs so that might just help you.
Number four, it gives me mental clarity. I have much clearer thoughts and ideas when immersed in these specific tasks. I recall past activities, workshops I’ve been to, experiences, repertoire, all of those sorts of things. As I sink more deeply into this specific work, other things pop into my head around that subject so I just think it gives me more mental clarity. You could even say creativity as well as it allows me to sort of run riot in that specific area.
The Importance of Feeling “Ahead”
Number 5 is that I actually start to feel ahead instead of feeling behind. Gee, I really wish I had discovered this a bit earlier in my 40 year teaching career. Imagine now only just starting to feel like I can get ahead. Good heavens. It is just as it sounds. I dig deep into this one area and I move ahead in that one area and I’m ready for the future. The future might be this week, next week, the next month or two. It might be for the term, it might be for the semester. It might be for the whole year or years to come. Imagine that, even if it’s only one little area that you say, “Yep, I’m ready for that”. Having that feeling of being ahead rather than behind is a game changer for me. So they’re the five reasons that I batch my work as far as possible.
What Do I Batch?
Now we’re getting into the meat a little bit here. What work do I batch? All right. These are the things that I tend to batch, and I’m sure you can think of things that will work well for the way that you work. We’re all different, different schools, different curriculum documents, different students, different experiences, different philosophies of education, everything, so you just think this is what I do, take what works for you and think about what might be in your area that yeah, that’ll work for me, I’ll try batching that. Anyway, here we go.
All right, in future podcasts I plan on having a closer look at how I batch some of these things that I’m listing below so that’s going to come up in future episodes. Some of the things that you do when you work very specifically in batches on one thing, you may not need another very big chunk of time on those things after they’re done. You might just have to revisit and do a little edit. The more you can work in batching major areas, then the less overall work you have to do. I think it’s it’s a win win win so here we go.
What do I batch?
- Things like event repertoire, so I’m looking at events for the whole year and all year levels, and away I go. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s my whole batching area.
- I look at year level repertoire, including things for teaching specific elements, I might be batching that.
- I might be doing assessment tasks so instead of just thinking, what am I doing for year one for assessing ta and te te or assessing semester one. I have a look across all year levels and what will I do so think of it as grouping types of activities.
- Maybe assessment tasks, marking guides, rubrics, whatever you call them in your system, unit planning, lesson planning, pitch activities.
- So by pitch activities, I generally mean ways to practice known pitch or sulfa elements and the same with rhythmic activities.
- To give you an example, I will sometimes get a little bit bogged down in the same couple of activities to practice known elements. We all know, no matter what philosophy you follow with your music program, we all know that understanding is going to be improved if you can practice things in different contexts. It’s really important that you don’t just go, ‘Oh, I’ve got a practice tika tika, let’s just read these flashcards, or let’s just do some rhythm echo. There are so many wonderful ways that you could practice known rhythms or pitch elements. If you give it some thought and get right down in the weeds, you can have some really exciting activities planned that you can spread out for 10 weeks, 20 weeks, the whole year, once you get into it.
- The use of manipulatives, now this is a really big one for me that I find very exciting, and it does dovetail into things like the pitch and rhythm activities. I have another reason for doing this. I have, over my career, bought some amazing stuff like puppets, books, felt staves, and counters. I’ve just got so much fabulous stuff. And, you know, I really don’t think I use it anywhere near to its potential. If I can give some thought as to how to best use these wonderful resources to help my children understand the music concepts, well, why not? What fun. I’m actually working really well in that sort of area.
- Maybe beat passing games. How can we do that? I have beat passing games from prep right up to year six, so let’s look at the games we’ve got. Where does it work best for their developmental level and put them in.
- Individual singing, dance, movement, action songs, text improvisation, so repertoire that helps develop text improvisation, or even just activities that focus on text improvisation,
- Australian songs, which I guess for you if you’re listening in another country, whatever country you are from. I think we’ve ignored that a little bit. We should look at what is an Australian song and what should we be teaching them? Aboriginal and Islander repertoire and activities. So indigenous peoples activities, whatever lands you are on.
- Name games, web activities like Incredibox and StaffWars and stuff like that. Let’s schedule them in. Let’s spend some focused batching time looking at what we’re going to do across the year and across the year levels.
- Books to sing, I have so many, and they’re not all really fabulous to tell you the truth. I need to do a really good edit of my singing books and maybe buy a few new ones because I need more than a couple hundred.
- Anyway, cannons, part work, games, maybe specific types of games, circle games, partner choosing games, art, music. Which repertoire are we going to use? Which composers are we focusing on? How do these fit in with our concept development?
- Youtube, you want a rabbit hole, YouTube. Even within that, those subsets, you might look at YouTube specifically for practicing rhythm or practicing melodic concepts for fun and engagement, for world music, for instruments. Now we know nothing beats live, but most of us don’t happen to have at our disposal a huge list of amazing live performers ready to pop into your classroom every half hour for every class so YouTube is a pretty good substitute. You can look at YouTube for repertoire, for responding activities, for almost anything.
- You can look at batching your workbooks, creating them and editing them or our worksheets, for that matter.
- You can batch making your resources, you know, if you wish to do some sort of flashcards or posters, let’s look at batching that across the year levels. Only get your lemonade out once instead of a little bit here and there.
- I’ve added to the list now that I’ve started podcasts, planning and recording. Whatever you are doing in your job, you can look at batching to save you time and energy and be efficient.
Record & Track
It’s also very important that you record what you are doing. I think I’ll go into that in future episodes, but I basically use Excel and have columns and pages.
It’s vital that at this point I acknowledge that the amazing Deb Bryden. I do a lot of work with Deb Bryden as we pool our ideas and our thoughts, and it really is true that one plus one equals a lot more than two, and that intentional collaboration is very powerful. Maybe you could have somebody that you could approach to start your batching journey on something specific that you think, ‘Oh, I know I have a friend that’s really interested in that area’. Let’s dig deep and do some batching.
You can work synchronously or asynchronously but I really need to say that I thank and acknowledge the amazing work that I do with Deb. Thanks, Deb.
How To Start Batching in 5 Steps
How do you start batching? Well, here’s a little sequence that might help you get started. Five steps, are you ready?
- Step 1 is to brainstorm a big list of things you need to do. Focusing on things that you might be able to batch. Maybe things you want to do and things you have to do, so just do a huge list.
- Step 2, and I tell you, this is where I have a bit of trouble, I will confess that because I just want to do the fun stuff all the time. Two is identify your priorities. Here’s some thoughts, what do you most need to do? What could eliminate some stress from your work? What could improve your teaching? What would be fun? Ok, that’s where I get stuck. I’d rather just surf YouTube and find some fabulous stuff or make some YouTube clips. What would be fun? Next, what have you been meaning to do for a long time? You just haven’t got around to it. What does your employer need you to do? Okay. I really should have put that first, shouldn’t I? All right.
- Number 3 in your sequence to get started. Once you’ve chosen your priority, are there smaller steps to take that you could use in a further breakdown in your batching? For example, you’ve decided you want to work on worksheets or workbooks. You could start with just one aspect, such as let’s look at how I’m going to practice my pitch elements. Within that, and then you could batch across all year levels, or you could choose a type of activity that you could use across all levels, year levels, like multiple choice or circle what you hear or rhythmic dictation fill in the last bar. I tend to work that way with the workbooks that I develop. I look at what sort of activities I’m doing across each year level and then just changing the level of difficulty and the level list of elements that I’m including. It’s so efficient. Once you just work out that little mini template and copy it for every year level rather than reinvent the wheel. I think that that’s a good example of the subcategories within the big category of batching.
- Step 4 is pretty important and it’s one that I’m still learning to do properly, and that’s to make a schedule and block that time in. It is easier said than done. You have to juggle the rest of your life, whatever season of life you are in. You may be dealing with little children, so you’re working around the demands of a family, a young family. You may be a little older and you’re helping your parents out. There are so many different demands on your time and your life, but try to make a time, try and make a bit of a schedule and try to stick to it. That’s all we can do, really.
- Step 5, pretty important. It’s just start. Do it. Once you start, it’s much easier. Stop and record what you’re doing somehow. I hope those 5 little steps will give you a starting point to get into your batching to make your working life that much easier and more efficient.
This podcast was brought to you by Crescendo Music Education. Connecting, supporting and inspiring music educators. In the show notes, you’ll find links to Crescendos social media platforms. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo Community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member. For a low annual fee you can access hundreds of files, worksheets, printables, workbooks, repeat workshops, webinars, and receive great discounts on events. Come and connect with me, Debbie. Okay, see you in the socials.
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