Early November- pick the songs and put them in order in a separate notebook. Pick easy ones that your kids will love and that will make the parents smile. There's more (or less) to a program than showing what you can do with kids. It's all about proud parents seeing their son/daughter on stage taking part in one of the few holiday traditions that hasn't changed with time.
Mid-November- teach the songs. Adjust for your inability to figure out what is actually "easy" versus what is just plain delusional and replace hard songs with something else.
Late-November- take a Thanksgiving break- time for the songs and the season to sink in.
Early December- let kids practice standing and singing on risers. Let them know how to enter and exit the stage. Practice both procedure and songs tediously. Put all standing orders in your notebook for future reference. Fret that you've picked songs that are too difficult. Remember that you've got 2-3 weeks and that everything always works out even when it doesn't
Prepare printed program and send along to the copy center. Make sure everything is spelled correctly.
A week before (if you're me) turn your classroom into a stage by removing everything in sight.
Let the custodians know what help you're going to need and when you're going to need it.
Let the teachers know via written communication how things will work (if there are some who didn't really follow your "how things will work" plan last year, make sure you give them the memo to "proofread" for you this year. heh. heh.)
If the kids know the songs, let them watch the Nutcracker and color programs- another personal touch to the tradition and another way for them to own and remember the event.
Get together the info that the art teacher and counselor need to get kids to the stage at the right time and in the right order.
Two days before-set up the stage/sound system/etc in preparation for the dress rehearsal. Hopefully there's a custodian or two around to help out with this.
One day before- have a dress rehearsal with the sound system and a performance for the school. Or, have a county-wide "it's too cold to go to school day off." (I prefer the latter)
Day of the show- Sing the songs- thank the people delivering the kids to the stage, pretend that you can read music and play the accompaniments, enjoy the beloved tradition of another holiday show.
This used to be a high drama event in my life- anxiety ridden, general bitchiness, resentment, martytdom, etc.
I've done away with most of those feelings. There is still some anxiety but not an unreasonable and prolonged amount. There's occasional internal bitchiness when a kid stares blankly at me after giving directions for the third time.
Other teachers (unintentionally) try to feed the drama potential. Are you ready? are the kids ready? This must be so hard for you. etc etc I nod and smile and say I hope so, I hope so, and not so much.
If you're not paying mindful attention, the kids can send you over the top as well. They are so excited. They ask questions they already know the answers to. They ask you what songs they are singing (the day before the program). They let you know if they have a sore throat. It's what kids do. It's how they involve themselves in the excitement of something new. On a good day I smile and patiently answer their questions. On a bad day, I roll my eyes and say "REALLY???" and let one of the kids answer their questions. They may sing like I've encouraged them to do but chances are when they see a crowd of 200+ people looking at them they will revert to what comes naturally which is a sort of rapping/yelling combination.
I've come to know this is not about me. It's about one of the few traditions left from school days of yore. It's about community. It's about kids taking pride and responsibility in what they do. Some might think that in a perfect world it would be about making beautiful music with stunning visual effects and cleverly choreographed additions-that in a perfect world the audience would care more about what they were hearing rather than catching up with old friends. In that perfect world, nervous kids too sick to be there but wanting to be there so badly they won't tell anyone, don't puke on the kids in front of them. In my world it's o.k. the way it is. The teachers are happy, the parents are happy, the kids are happy and I am happy. Peace on Earth and only 9 more holiday programs to go until I can retire!