In a series of blogs called ‘Getting Innovative with MTH’, I am sharing some of my favourite workarounds. My previous two posts were: creating a To Do Listand keeping track of my Inventory. These workarounds help me be even more efficient within Music Teacher’s Helper with a ‘One Stop’ approach for all my studio needs.
Monthly Calendar View: Week 3
Innovative Calendar of Events (combining all events in your life)
I really do love the flexibility of MTH and the powerful features within the Calendar for scheduling all my students.
I have now also created a way which works well for me to combine most, if not all, of the events in my life! Within the MTH Calendar for my student schedule, I am able to remember much more as I combine several calendar schedules together:
(1) for my personal appointments,
(2) for another teacher using my studio and
(3) my own piano/violin students both at my studio and offsite at students’ homes. Some of this logic might also help YOU if you have two teachers sharing the same studio space. Read more…
I admit it. I want everyone to be happy; even me! This fall I took a few surveys to help me better understand what behaviors and circumstances promote happy students, happy parents and happy teachers.
It is much easier for me to know which behaviors in my clients make me happy as a teacher. Some of these things are important enough to be included in a policy statement—a place where clear communication can set healthy boundaries and solve problems before they happen.
Here is what I included in my registration packets this fall: Keep Happy Teacher
be willing to try new things, and new ways of doing old things
listen to directions and follow them at home
read your assignment notes over at home each week
enjoy the songs you are learning
have a respectful attitude
practice faithfully, and record it in your assignment book
smile a lot
tell the teacher frequently that you love piano lessons
always bring all your books to your lesson
participate in studio activities
take good care of borrowed books and return them on time
offer your child support, incentives and encouragement at home
set aside practice space and time in your child’s schedule
say uplifting things about piano lessons in front of your child
provide an adequate instrument on which to practice
keep your expectations high, but fairly close to reality
help your child participate in studio activities and recitals
respond to studio emails in a timely manner
rarely cancel lessons, and call ahead on those rare occasions
drop off and pick children up on time
pay your tuition on time each month, without a reminder
call me when you have a concern or problem so we can resolve it
remember that I thrive on appreciation, and your kids thrive on praise
That covers my side of things, but what about the students’ or parents’ perspectives? For the last few weeks I have been surveying students and parents from my studio, as well as parents with other teachers in my local association, about what makes them happy with a piano teacher. Below is my compilation of the student and parent responses.
I expected certain things to be high on the parents’ list: keep tuition rates low, limit the number of outside activities, high tech studio, make sure we get our perfect time slot, be flexible with sport schedules, vacations and illnesses, have a location close to school or home, have lots of degrees, certifications and professional performance experience.
I was wrong. Not one of these items was mentioned. Read on to find out what wasRead more…
Whether you are a new teacher building a studio, or a seasoned teacher gearing up for a new year, there comes a moment with every new student when you will need to convey information about your studio policies – what you charge, how to pay, what to do in case of illness, and how you handle cancellations.
These are the standard details that keep your studio running, and they become part of the working culture you establish with your students over time. They are also a set of rules that your students agree to abide by when registering in your studio- whether they realize it or not.
Following (and not following) the Rules
Managing your policies and distributing this information can be difficult. Even in the age of the studio web site, when policies are clearly displayed and usually have their own menu listing, they are rarely read in full, even by those who have clicked to say that they’ve understood your policies before booking!
What is more, policies vary widely from studio to studio, and even the most well-meaning students can become confused as they move from teacher to teacher or between institutions. Some students may not fully understand the importance of taking your policies seriously, or they may begin to relax the policies as your relationship with them becomes closer.
Nothing to sneeze at
In my own studio, for example, my studio policies clearly state that my students must never come to a lesson when they are ill. This is a standard courtesy, but is made all the more important because I am also a professional performer, and will lose significant income if I have to cancel engagements. Nevertheless, a number of my students still do come to lessons with a cold, or the remnants of one, especially if they are in the run up to a performance themselves, or if they are preparing for a competition. I deal with this by sending them away – they are always shocked! And yet there it is in the policies on my studio webpage, which they click to agree to abide by every year.
Other teachers will find that new students often apply the ‘imaginary 24-hours notice policy’ when cancelling a lesson (does anyone actually have this as a policy any more?) even when their studio policy on their website clearly states that notice of a fortnight or a month must be given. Most teachers I know have much longer cancellation warning times (mine is 4 weeks to cancel without payment owing), and an increasing number of teachers I know only make up lessons if the teacher is ill, but never if the student is ill or has to miss. So there is a lot of opportunity for the culture of behaviour between students and teachers to get confused – one of the many reasons why we have studio policies.
So, how can we convey our studio policies in a way that will make students understand the binding nature of their agreement to work with us, without impressing too heavily on them a set of potentially alienating ‘rules’ that will make our relationship with them seem too authoritarian?
The ‘Welcome Letter’
One of the ways I have dealt with this in my studio is to write a ‘Welcome Letter’ to students at the beginning of each new teaching year. Crucially, I provide these in hard copy, printing them out and handing one directly to each student as he or she comes in for the first lesson of the new year. I write them on computer, but I do sign each one by hand to emphasize the import personal nature of the contents for the student.
The Welcome Letter has four functions: 1. It clarifies some thoughts about the enthusiasm I feel about singing, and especially about working with my students on their singing in the coming year; 2. It reminds the students what it is that I aim to achieve with them in their lessons from a technical and interpretive perspective; 3. It clarifies the students’ role in the learning process and emphasizes how important it is that they stay active and engaged as part of the overall project of my studio; and 4. It forces students to review of my studio policies as part of our agreement to work together. Read more…
Student workbook and assignment book to coordinate with game board.
It is so exciting to start a new school year. I usually take August off to give myself time to get ready for a new direction in the fall. In my never-ending attempt to keep kids engaged in the study of piano and music, I create a different theme and activity set each year. This year my theme is World Music, and I’d like to share with you how I have put this to work.
Game pieces to move around the board; little superheros.
Game board. Students move a space for each day of practice.
As the basis for my activities I chose to use an assignment book and game board from Keys to Imagination, created by Michelle Sisler. (http://www.keystoimagination.com/) There are several themes available, and I am using “Where in the World is Mr. Arpeggio” to coordinate with my world music theme. Each student gets a
workbook that includes assignment pages, along with activity pages at the beginning of the book which correlate with the game board. I purchase these books for the students out of their fall deposit money. A vinyl game board is pinned to my bulletin board and games pieces depicting superheros are added. The game board depicts a map of the world with a trail for students to follow as they track down clue cards to find Mr. Arpeggio, who has been stealing musical symbols. The clue cards also include interesting history and composer facts. Students progress on the board according to the number of days they have practiced the previous week.
In order to add a competitive element to the game, I also hung an even larger world map (under $15 at Hobby Lobby) on another wall and marked out a route for the students to race around the world. Students will choose a cute paper luggage tag on which to put their name, and then move the tag along the route as they accumulate points. In order to get on the map they need 15 points to get to Denver International Airport. From there they work their way to New York City, on to Paris, then Shanghai, and eventually end up in Los Angeles. Their prize reward increases at each destination. They will earn points by collecting the previously-mentioned clue cards, bringing their books, playing their scales cleanly, writing compositions, completing theory pages, playing at recitals, and other activities and goals.
Large map I added to have a race around the world.
During weekly media lab time I will add in world music activities on the computer. I may also use some of Keys to Imagination’s “Are We There Yet” studio series. This curriculum provides many activities related to studying world music. I will incorporate the world music theme into my group lesson activities and any special concerts or field trips we attend this year.
Multicultural activities for group lessons and media lab time.
Media room decorations.
Students will also be choosing a piano piece to study from a foreign country. I usually have a theme-specific recital sometime during the winter so the students can share these pieces with family and friends. I’ll encourage them to write a report about the country and/or the composer and maybe share some of those facts before they play.
This long banner ties it all together.
To set the mood, I ordered very inexpensive decorations from www.PartyCheap.com in the world theme—lots of flags! I may leave these up all year, or move some of them around from time to time. I have little cards to send out before lessons begin letting students know about the “world wide search” and how I need their help to find the thieving Mr. Arpeggio!
I’d love to hear from other teachers who use a theme each year for motivation!
Although I am a professional music teacher, I like to challenge myself when using any computer program to get the most I can from it to help me with my daily tasks. I have spent much of my early working life with computers, creating systems, writing manuals and teaching people how to use programs to get the best from them.
In a series of blogs called ‘Getting Innovative with MTH’, I am going to share some of my favourite workarounds that help me in Music Teacher’s Helper for a ‘One Stop’ approach for all my studio needs.
To Do List
Creating a ‘To Do List’
I really do love the flexibility and powerful features within the MTH Calendar for scheduling all my students.
However, I also like a place to keep notes of things I still need to do, both from a personal point of view and for work related things (check dates for a new student, schedule a group session for my adult students, go to the dentist, etc).
So I have created a way which works for me. Read more…
Setting up an independent piano studio, I worked alone to make it a vibrant learning environment for budding musicians of all ages. Although I cherish my students and their families and never feel isolated while teaching, they do not provide a sounding board for the administrative side of the business.
My church position requires me to work alongside the choir director, the choir members, a few colleagues when we play duets, professional musicians for seasonal cantatas and the like but, I’m not required to attend staff meetings. I choose my own music and practice a number of times each week by myself.
Writing a blog post or article requires time and space alone with my thoughts AND my computer. Sadly, I look at my computer screen more frequently than anyone or anything else and it offers no human interaction beyond its service as an electronic communication conduit.
As timing would have it, over the past year, I’ve worked with more colleagues than ever before.
Co-publishing a book, planning a conference, and running a camp completely and dramatically changed my connectivity with fellow colleagues. Now, there’s not a day that goes by without a text, a call or email about an upcoming deadline or project that requires team work.
This led me to wonder why it is that so many of us set up our OWN studio, independent of others, in our OWN homes or rented space. We seem to dwell in our OWN silo with only limited social pipelines to the outside world like Facebook, blogs, etc. Why were most of us never encouraged to seek a mentor or partner who could offer advice, tips, an exchange of ideas, and even share a studio or business together upon earning a music degree? Or maybe I just speak for myself? Read more…
As you glance over at Kyle, you are surprised to see tears brimming over. Where did those come from? He is just so sensitive! Some students seem to take corrective comments in stride, but others melt with the slightest suggestion for improvement. Kyle melts…
There can be multiple reasons for a student to not respond well to correction. Each of these reasons would suggest a different approach for resolution.
fear of failure
frustration with themselves
not meeting their own expectations
lack of understanding of the problem
have a hard time trying new things
feel they are not able to please you
bad day at school
hit their emotional limit for the day
low stress tolerance
fight with parent or sibling in the car on the way to the lesson
feel out of control
not doing music lessons for themselves, but out of coercion
not used to being corrected
not used to working hard for something
do not respect you as a teacher
loyalty to a previous teacher
Questions you might ask yourself as the teacher:
Have I properly prepared the student to play this piece?
Is this piece too challenging for this student’s emotional reserves?
Does the student know what I am asking for and how to achieve it?
Does the student have the technical skills to do what I am asking?
Was I clear in my instructions?
Have I broken the skill down into small enough pieces?
Is the tempo too fast?
Is the fingering wrong?
Have I already pushed too hard for this session and it’s time to back off?
Have I given enough positive feedback to balance the negative?
Is it time for a break or time for a new piece?
What is my best guess as to what is behind this melt-down? (see list above)
Many times we can slip into a pattern of ‘the student plays and then the teacher makes corrections.’ This can be an uninspired approach if it is not a process of joint discovery and stretching for the next level. There are many creative ways to involve the student mentally and emotionally to get past a road block. One approach is to praise what you honestly can, and then, instead of immediate correction, try one or more of the following: Read more…