How often to do you evaluate the value of something verse the cost of something?

A Quick Story

Back in 2006, I paid $100 for a pair of Johnston & Murphy black leather dress shoes. Johnston & Murphy has a reputation for excellent craftsmanship and durability. This was one of the most expensive pairs for sale at Macy’s that day. Being in college at the time, I normally would grab the least expensive pair priced at $60 (I forget what brand). But I took a step back and thought about all the upcoming times I would be needing nice dress shoes – my brother’s wedding, my graduation, and future work. I wondered if that $60 pair was going to be the right shoe to wear for years to come. The Johnston & Murphy’s were more comfortable and felt higher-quality.

I asked an employee in the shoe department how many years each pair would last if worn consistently. He said the less expensive pair would last three years max and the Johnston & Murphy’s are known to be worn 10+ years by their owners.  That made my decision easy. Why would I choose to spend almost twice the amount of money, plus two additional shopping trips for a less comfortable shoe over a 10 year period?

Fast forward to 2014. I wear that same pair of shoes several times a week. They are starting to show their age after eight years but I consider them to still be in good condition. That fostered a new mindset for me about always considering the value of something on top of the cost.
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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

It is that time again – studio recitals, last lessons of the semester, and the beginning of summer!

If you have not already done so, now is the perfect time to update your studio policy. (I sure hope if you are reading this, that you already have a studio policy!)

This year, I have been ultra efficient in this matter, and have already updated mine! I took a lot of time to consider/reconsider the following:

image1. Registration fee – I have been charging a registration fee for the last five years.

2. Tuition – I increase my tuition every year.

3. Sibling discount – I know many teachers frown upon this, but I do offer a small sibling discount.

4. Studio Scholarship – I offer a small award (in the form of reduced monthly tuition) for students that work hard and score highly in festivals and competitions.

imageI also finally decided to put my foot down about the following:

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Posted in Studio Management

X-RatingHave you noticed that almost every product online has a rating? It’s an easy way to help you decide whether you should buy something based on the number of stars awarded by other consumers.

Let’s move this discussion to the world of music teaching. Take scales for example. Often an exam syllabus will require a number of exercises to be learnt. Here are some of the problems I was finding as a teacher:

X Which scales was the pupil supposed to be learning through the week?

X Which exercises were weaker than others therefore requiring extra practice at home and attention in lessons?

X How could I get students to give as much attention to the exercises in the back of their scale books as the ones in the front?

X How could I, and indeed the student, get an overview as to how close they were to reaching the requirements of the particular grade (or standard) they were studying for?

X How could I motivate them to do more scale practice?

Enter the X-Rating system!!! After some deliberation, I came up with the idea of Read more…

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Posted in Practicing, Teaching Tips

A is for Appdecide_now

My most recent favorite app is called Decide Now–only 99 cents!  Although it’s not a music-related app it is so easy to customize that you won’t be able to stop using it. A game of Piano Charades is just one example of how I implement this versatile app to reinforce music terminology by students acting out Italian terms at the keys. Here are the steps:

1) Call out words such as: piano, forte, fermata, ritardando, presto, largo, etc. and nudge students to act them out physically. This means YOU need to do it, too. For example: piano could be walking on tip toes while ritardando could be jogging in place and gradually slowing down the pace–like a train approaching a station.

decidenow-22) After all terms are physically re-enacted, have the students jot down each term to review the spelling and the definition. If they are youngsters, have them draw a picture instead of writing out the definition. Ex: ritardando could be represented with a train engine.

3) Ask a volunteer to play one phrase of a well-prepared piece as the composer intended.

4) The performer must spin the wheel featuring all the terms just reviewed without letting the others see where the Wheel-of-Fortune-like spinner stops. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips

For many private lesson music teachers, summer is a slower time of year. That’s why it’s a perfect time to be productive about managing your studio for the upcoming busy season. If you aren’t a current user of Music Teacher’s Helper (or haven’t heard of us!), let’s examine why right now is a perfect time to take advantage of our free trial.shutterstock_92215372

Gradual adoption

It’s easy to add a student, schedule a lesson, then automatically invoice using our software. But that’s just the “tip of the iceberg” with what you can do. You may want to learn about the lending library, repriotore tracker, mileage input, and any number of other features that enhance the studio experience for you and your students. And there’s lots of great training support to do just that. With written articles, video tutorials, live webinars, and even personal setup support, you can go at your own pace to familiarize yourself with the features that you will be using for your studio. If summer is indeed a slower time, now is your chance to set up your studio administration for a smooth busy season.

Add content to your free studio website

Music Teacher’s Helper provides professional website themes for you to choose from that you customize with a logo and content. Build exposure and credibility with a website just for your studio.

Doing this over the summer will give you time to focus on what content you’ll want to include.  You can add links, videos, and pictures easily. No website experience needed.

Every studio website also has a blog feature. Have you created a Facebook or Twitter account to promote your studio but struggle with what to post? Blogging helps market your studio because they show up in search engines like Google and can be spread across multiple social media networks. Good content gets shared and drives visitors to your studio website, where they’ll learn more about your services.

No long-term commitments

Our monthly pricing plans allow you to move up or down based on how many students you currently have in your studio. There is even a forever free plan available for up to five students. And waiting list or former students do not count towards that total.

Do you know which students are coming back at the end of the summer? Add them into the software now as a former student and convert them to active with a click of a button. Since you already added their information, lesson rate, etc., just schedule them on the calendar. They can then receive email lesson reminders (we have different profiles for child and adult students), a custom invoice with option to pay with a credit card, and after the lesson, you can type notes about how they did for yourself, or allow the student/parent to see the notes as well.

Summer vacation is a time for you to recharge and refocus as you prepare for another group of students. If you set up Music Teacher’s Helper now, you will be able to concentrate more on teaching your students in the fall.

Click Here For Main Website & Signup.

 

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Using Music Teacher's Helper

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-little-boy-guitar-portrait-smiling-image37124566At least that’s what I used to say when a parent asked me.

When I began teaching over 20 years ago, my first students were teen-aged or older.  Their hands were fully developed and able to make all the beginning chord shapes.  It was no problem keeping them engaged for a 30 minute lesson.  Then one day, a mom asked me if I’d teach their 3rd grader how to play guitar.  I froze.  The mom is standing there waiting for me as I searched my brain for an answer.  I wanted to say yes, but the thought of teaching a little kid stopped me dead in my tracks.  I had no experience in teaching someone younger than 15.  How hard could it be?  After a long pause…I said yes.  Gulp!

They were guinea pigs to be sure – those first few kids – lab experiments.  Put your little finger here.  Put your ring finger on that fret.  “What’s a ring finger?”, they’d say.  “How come you keep looking at the clock?”, I’d say.

Lately, I’ve been meeting every couple of weeks with two other church music directors.  We get together to share music ideas, support one another, and otherwise commiserate about our work as ministers of music.  Good times.  One of these fellows has started up a music school in his church.  Now that’s a cool idea!  When I asked him how it was going, he got kind of a bewildered look on his face. “There are too many little kids that want to learn guitar.”, he said.  “It takes them half an hour just to make a G chord!”  (He grimaces while grappling with his imaginary guitar.)  The three of us laughed because we’d all been there and done that.

For a young kid, the enthusiasm about playing the guitar flies out the window at about the same time he/she discovers how difficult it is to form the basic chords.  The once gung-ho guitar student transforms into…a clock watcher!  With a reassuring voice, I say, “Put this finger here, and this one here, and this one on the same fret, here.”  Thoroughly convinced to the contrary, the student observes, “My fingers don’t do that, Mr. Shelby.” or, “That hurts my fingers!”  As Dr. Smith from the classic TV series, Lost In Space, used to say… “Oh the pain, oh the pain!”

I wished for a way to teach guitar to young kids engaging enough that they’d forget to look at that darn clock.  The first few weeks of learning how to make basic chord shapes and building up calluses can be tough so the learning needs to be fun!  I needed a fun and engaging way to teach guitar to young kids!

I was prowling around one of my favorite music stores one day, when I came across Alfred’s Kid’s Guitar Course 1.  Hallelujah, my prayers have been answered!!!  I bought a sack full of them and have been using this course for my young guitar students ever since.  Alfred’s has a Course 2 and just recently, they’ve come out with a combined Course 1 & 2 book that even has activity pages!  Would you believe they’ve even got a matching Course 1 & 2 Flash Card setMusic Writing Book, and Note Speller Book as the perfect complements to the method books?!  (Many of their method books come with enhanced CD and/or DVD options, too.)

“I don’t teach guitar to kids!” is something you’ll never have to say thanks to the folks at Alfred’s.  With their help, clock watching has become a thing of the past in my studio.  If you’re looking for a guitar resource for young students that will more than motivate, inspire, and make learning the guitar fun, be sure to check out these resources from Alfred’s Music. (You’ll find sample pages in all the links above.)

I look forward to reading about the methods or resources that you’ve found successful at your studio (whether guitar or any other instrument).  Please share your ideas in a reply below.  That’s one of the things I love about Music Teacher’s Helper – all the great ideas that are shared on this blog.  There are many posts I’ve read here that have helped me be a better teacher.  In my next post, I’ll share a story about two challenging young students (siblings) that I thought teaching would be completely hopeless.  See you next month!

Check out last month’s post:  Why I Use Music Teacher’s Helper

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Posted in Teaching Tips

The Great Cupcake Practice Goals Challenge…

By Robin Steinweg        0309084435

It’s big. It’s breakable. It’s bodacious. It’s pink and white with a cherry on top, and has a slot like a piggy bank…  It’s a cupcake bank given to me by a choir member. And what might a grown woman do with a giant hot pink cupcake bank?

Just not right for a centerpiece...

Just not right for a   centerpiece…

Use it as inspiration for my students to set practice goals, and meet those goals each week. Two months of walking past that cupcake, wondering what to do with it, did the trick.

Students (with my input) set three practice goals each week (along with their regular assignments). Goals could be as simple as mastering a measure, finding hand position or doing their theory. They could be as involved as analyzing/labeling harmonic progressions or memorizing a recital piece. But they are all possible in one week.

Example of 3 goals

Example of 3 goals

Practice goals were emailed to parents via Music Teachers Helper. The following lesson we evaluated whether the student passed. If so, his/her name went on one piece of paper per practice goal, and into the cupcake.

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At the end of the given time (2-3 months), my husband drew seven winners—first prize (worth $10), second ($5), and five third prizes ($1 each). Not extravagant. Everyone’s name went in a number of times, and some never missed a goal. All had a chance to win, though the ones who practiced most had the best chance.

a really big bowl with hundreds of names!

a really big bowl with hundreds of goals met!

I allowed winners to choose from a list:

 First Prize:

$10 card for iTunes, local music stores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hobby Lobby or Michaels crafts.

Second Prize:

$5 card for iTunes, local music stores, Half-Price Books, Culvers custard, ColdStone icecream or Michaels crafts.

Third Prize (five winners):

Choose from a number of dollar items in a basket (book cover, nail clipper, gel pens, treble-clef-glittery-glasses, journal, craft items, notebook) or from my list: candy bar or something from the dollar menu at McDonalds.

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(Kennedy tries on glittery glasses, and Ava knows just what she will choose)

Take-away for Students: quicker progress due to focused practice (and more of it); sense of excitement seeing the cupcake fill and get emptied a few times; learning how to set practice goals (reachable, with a finish date); sense of accomplishment for goals met; a possible prize.

Priceless: at the lesson after the challenge ended—student places hands in lap and says, “Miss Robin, you didn’t write down any practice goals for me this week.”

Says I, “You’re right. The cupcake challenge is over. But you still have practice notes.” My student, with a wise look, says, “It would be a good idea to keep the goals.”      wink

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Posted in Practicing, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Hopefully you will never have to ponder this heartbreaking question. Thankfully, most issues can be resolved with better communication and clear boundaries. It usually takes a lot of misbehavior to even consider dismissing a student, but even small things can add up to a big headache and energy drain over time. The following situations are always a challenge:

  • Student does not show up for lessons or is consistently late.
  • Frequent cancellations, especially at the last minute.
  • Unworkable sports schedule conflicts.
  • Parents pay late or not at all.
  • Student has a disrespectful attitude.
  • Student does not practice. Ever.
  • Student is not willing to try. Doesn’t want to be there.
  • Student frequently forgets to bring her books.
  • Parents do not offer encouragement and support at home.
  • Parents do not provide an adequate instrument on which to practice.
  • Student never participates in studio activities.
  • Student does not care for or return borrowed materials.
  • Student does not listen to direction, and refuses to attempt new ways of doing things.
  • You cannot seem to find the right pathway into a student’s brain to get him to learn and remember certain skills from week to week.
  • The parents’ expectations are miles apart from your reality.
  • Parent offers continual criticism.

When does the time come to say goodbye? Ultimately only you can answer that question within in the context of the particular situation, but here are some things you might want to ask yourself before “firing” a student. Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Make-it-stickA ten-year study of learning, just published 6 weeks ago, has come up with some surprising conclusions.   One is that drilling a passage of music over and over is not the way to master it.  For some students and teachers, this will come as a shocker!

Below I’ll discuss details about the book, its authors, and a link to a summary article online, but let’s get into the meat.

It turns out that working in a focused way on one thing yields results, but they’re only temporary.  One example is the way someone might cram for a test and get by, but then forget most of the material soon after.  But it applies to learning music or any other subject as well.

A couple of other strategies work much better than single-minded practice, if the goal is mastery and long-term results.  Read more…

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Posted in Music News, Practicing, Teaching Tips

aolyahooWe appreciate your continued use of Music Teacher’s Helper services, and want to assure you that your satisfaction is our highest priority. Recently, Yahoo.com and AOL implemented a policy change on their email servers that immediately affects not only all Yahoo & AOL email users, but also third party email servers such as Music Teacher’s Helper.

 

Recently, Yahoo and AOL changed its DMARC policy to stop fraudulent emails. In response, many email receivers started bouncing emails sent from Yahoo and AOL email addresses within MTH.

 

We have fixed the issue for emails sent from AOL and Yahoo email addresses. You can now change your email address under “Settings” back to your AOL or Yahoo address. Thanks for your understanding and patience while we created a fix for the issue.

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Posted in Site Announcements, Using Music Teacher's Helper