Are you struggling with managing your music studio?
Does lesson planning, setting goals, and keeping up with paperwork seem overwhelming to you?
If so, this post is for you.
There are a lot of simple, easy-to-implement ways to be more productive as a music teacher.
Here are five of my favorites.
1. Use Templates
Do you tend to send the same emails out over and over to your students’ families?
I do, and I’ve found that using templates is a helpful way to reduce the time you spend typing and formatting.
I’ve typed up my resume, studio policy, teaching philosophy, new student registration forms, and quarterly updates and saved them in a special folder on my computer.
When it’s time to send them out, I just fill in the student’s name and information and attach a copy of them to an email.
It takes just a few minutes to set up these templates, and it will save you a ton of time and sanity in the long run!
2. Batch Your Tasks
This is one of the best ways to be more productive as a music teacher.
I’ve heard a lot about batching tasks lately, so I decided to give it a try – and I love it!
It just makes sense: you wouldn’t bake one cookie at a time, would you? That would be crazy, and it would take forever. That’s why we bake them in batches instead.
Try applying that same concept to your music studio.
Instead of updating your payment and attendance logs after every lesson, update it for all students at the end of the week.
Set aside a time to type up all of your newsletters and updates instead of squeezing them in during a few free minutes here and there.
Set aside a block of time at the beginning of each week to review and plan for your upcoming lessons. No more scrambling to assemble your props, books, and teaching materials at the last minute before your next student arrives!
Batching your tasks will save time and save your sanity by keeping you organized and on schedule. Plus, you won’t have to worry about whether you remembered to update your payment log after that one Friday morning lesson…
Organization and efficiency for the win!
3. Clear the Clutter
Managing your studio is challenging enough when focusing on the essentials. Don’t overload yourself with extras!
It’s helpful (and healthy) to declutter your physical teaching space. There will be less visual distractions for you and your students.
But you should also consider decluttering your curriculum as well as the behind-the-scenes work you put into running your studio.
For example, do you really need to work on ear training, sight-reading, and a composing project with different students all in the same week? Consider keeping each student on the same “theme” or idea for the week, or even the whole month (see tip #4 below).
Take a look at your studio policies. Are they overwhelming?
If they overwhelm you, they probably overwhelm your students and their families also!
See if you can narrow your policy focus to just the most important things that every student and family needs to know.
It’s pretty much impossible to anticipate and plan for every little thing that may come up in your studio anyway, so stripping your policies down to the bare essentials will make everyone’s life easier and less stressful.
Remember, you can always change and/or update things as needed.
4. Focus on the Big Ideas
This is a tip that has helped me a lot.
Every month I teach my students about our “Composer of the Month”. It takes a little bit of time to prep at the beginning of each month, but I can then take each of my students through the presentation.
I do the same thing with our “Big Idea of the Month”. We have a special focus each month on rhythm, healthy posture, sight-reading, ear training, composition, or improvisation.
Again, a little bit of prep time at the beginning of the month can be applied to each of my students at every lesson.
By focusing on the “big ideas” that I want my students to learn that month, I have the freedom to make small adjustments for differences in age, skill level, and learning style without overhauling the entire lesson plan for everyone.
I also don’t have to try to remember if I’ve ever discussed the Romantic period with Johnny or if Alicia has had much sight-reading practice lately. All of my students are on the same general lesson plan, with adjustments made as needed.
Focus on the big ideas, and leave wiggle room for the details!
5. Plan a Curriculum Pathway
As music teachers, a lot of our time is spent sifting through method books and deciding on repertoire for our students.
I try to streamline that process by planning what I call “curriculum pathways”.
In other words, I decide which method books my piano and violin students will use, what supplemental books and materials I will add, and what other types of repertoire I will teach (fiddling tunes, hymns, folk music, etudes, etc.). Then I decide on an order in which I will teach each of those books/pieces/genres.
Since I tend to be a visual learner, I actually sketch this out on a piece of paper so I can see what lesson book goes with which supplemental book, which lesson book comes next, etc.
That way I know where each student has been, where they are going, what pieces they have learned, and what they will learn next.
There is still plenty of room for variation if a student has a special interest in, say, jazz piano or Baroque repertoire. I simply add that material on to my existing curriculum pathway.
Having a basic plan of progression for my students’ curriculum makes my life much easier while still allowing room for individual preferences and abilities (see tip #4 above).
What are your best tips to be more productive as a music teacher? Let me know in the comments!