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!

Keep up the great work!

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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management

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…

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

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 List and 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…

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Posted in MTH 101, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

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

Students:

  • 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

Parents:

  • 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 was Read more…

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Posted in Customer Support, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

 

Maximize your Welcome Email!

Music Teacher Helper comes with one of my favorite features, the Welcome Email

which you have the option to send to new students.

This is a wonderful way to professionally welcome your new students. See second picture.

Using the Welcome Email Template creatively can help get your new student set for success at the first meeting and lesson.

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

In my series of blogs called ‘Getting Innovative with MTH’, I am sharing some of my favourite workarounds that help me in Music Teacher’s Helper for a ‘One Stop’ approach for all my studio needs.

 

Inventory

Creating an ‘Inventory of Items for Sale’ 

I offer books/accessories to my students when teaching my lessons. This helps to ensure there is no delay in starting them with suitable material.

So I have created a way which works for me to keep a track of inventory purchases for sale within MTH.

Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

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.

Why Welcome?

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…

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

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!

 

 

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Posted in Financial Business, Music History & Facts, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

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…

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Posted in Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Running a piano studio tends to be a lonely job.

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…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips