Being a person who is strongly nourished by sunlight and warmth, this is a hard time of year for me. That makes mid-winter a great time to remind myself why I really do love my job. This list is a compilation of many individuals’ thoughts, so most of us will find something we can relate to.
I get to keep learning new music all the time.
I am giving a gift that will last a lifetime.
My young “clients” are adorable and amazing.
Nothing compares to seeing a face light up when a child finally “gets it.”
Small accomplishments bring great pleasure.
I connect to children at the level of their hearts.
My job is much more meaningful than a typical 8-5.
I am sometimes the first person to alert parents to a learning or visual challenge.
I teach kids to rise above negativity and self-doubt to create beautiful and very personal music.
I get to witness generations of musicians enjoying their music.
It is gratifying to know that I am an important part of a child’s life.
I enjoy the constant challenge of finding better and more effective ways to teach a concept.
I am never bored—I get a whole new personality to enjoy every 30-45 minutes.
I have the privilege of helping to keep the arts alive in our culture.
I am helping to make someone’s dream come true.
I am able to model for a child smart work habits, diligence, perseverance, patience, and confidence.
I never really know how much impact and influence I am having, so it keeps me on my toes every single day.
Music is a unique form of human expression and I get to draw it out.
This makes it worth pouring my heart, soul and love for music into my work every day. Even the cold, dark days of winter. Please share your inspirational thoughts below!
The issue of internal or external motivation is a debate that is sure to continue as long as there are music students and music teachers. One reason for this is the uniqueness of each student and each teacher. There is no one right answer.
Everyone seems to agree that an internally motivated child is the ideal. But what do we mean by “internally” motivated? Is it the child that seems to practice every week without wanting or needing stickers or prizes? Is it internal motivation to want to please your teacher or parents, or must it involve some level of personal enjoyment of the activity?
Dan Pink, in his TED Talk, describes three elements of internal motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. We can we strive to incorporate these three elements into our lessons. Certainly teaching students to be good readers and helping them to understand the fundamentals of music and harmony will promote a sense of autonomy. Training a student carefully in the elements involved in high-quality playing and taking pieces to completion, should develop a sense of mastery. A sense of purpose might come from discovering how their musical abilities can be used to serve and bless other people.Read more…
So I just had my annual Studio Holiday Recital last weekend! I give my students a recital gift at every studio recital, and I do two studio recitals a year. After 10 recitals or so, it has become increasingly harder to come up with new gift ideas. I am excited to report that I have found the ultimate holiday recital gift idea that will last 23 years!
What is it?
Ok, it’s not all that original – Composer Statuettes!
Believe it or not, this was the first time I gave out these little composer statuettes. In the past I have given medals, trophies, pins, certificates, personalized ornaments, little USB Christmas trees, giant candy canes, Christmas crackers, chocolates, soft toys…I thought these composer statuettes looked rather serious and students wouldn’t like them. I was wrong!
It’s all about personalization.
So on Sunday, the day after my recital, a dad called me out of the blue. It turned out that he had broken his daughter’s composer statuette by accident! No matter how much he assured her he would get her another one that looks just the same (they are easy to order online), my 7-year-old student was still upset, because “it won’t have her name and the name of the event on it.” I had no idea it meant that much to her! In the past I have sometimes personalized the recital gifts, sometimes not, but from now on, every recital award I give out will be personalized with the student’s name, name of the recital (summer or holiday) and year.
So how does this last 23 years?
There are 23 statuettes in the collection. Each student received the statuette of the composer whose music they played at the recital, if applicable. If there are multiple students in the same family, I give them all different ones, so the collection will look interesting on their piano. I keep a spreadsheet of which student got what composer, so I will be sure not to give them the same composer in future years. So in order to get the entire collection, a student will need to play in my studio holiday recital for the next 22 years! If a family has two kids, it will still take them 11 years to receive the entire collection! I think I will still give them something different for the summer recital, but at least for the holiday recital, I am set for a long while! The last statuette in the collection is called “World’s Best Student” – saved for special students, or those graduating or moving away.
Still room for variety from year to year.
I dressed up each composer with curling ribbon that looks like a scarf on the neck (break up the all-white, serious look), packaged each statuette with a candy cane inside, and tied the cellophane bag with shiny ribbons and a jingle bell ornament. In future years, I can put different kinds of candy or chocolate inside, use different ribbons, and attach different ornaments. This way the gift will still be interesting, especially since they will also get a different composer.
Recently, we asked a series of questions to over 300 students of Music Teacher’s Helper users. Today, we share some of that data, which is likely representative of most private music teachers. So please share with your peers.
99% said that their teacher runs their studio in a professional manner. We hope Music Teacher’s Helper has played a part in such an impressive number!
All working parents have a challenge getting dinner on the table, but private music teachers have it especially hard when the evening hours are prime business hours. I’d like to explore a few ways to address this dilemma.
Most teachers do better if they take an actual dinner break, not just teach straight through. Less than 30 minutes is probably not sufficient. Be sure to tell your last student before your break that you are not available to stay after the normal lesson time and chat. As we all know, the main thing that signals a student to leave is that the next student is waiting for their turn!
Many of the items in the lists below could be in every column; this format is just a way to be a little more organized about it. If you have a favorite freezer meal or crockpot recipe, please share it in the comments section below.
In the end it really comes down to three Read more…
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…