We all wish we could spend more time on professional development. Teachers are inherently lifelong learners. And we know that increasing our skill and knowledge base will strengthen us to be the very best we can be for our students. But you’re already wearing so many hats as a music studio teacher. How can you find time for one more thing?
I get it. It’s hard to make that time – no doubt about that. But professional development and continuing education is vital to your success and – more importantly – your personal fulfillment as a piano teacher.
Believe it or not, you, too, have the time for professional development as a piano teacher.
Content from this blog post was originally published in August 2017 and December 2019. It was edited and substantially updated in November 2023.
Reframe Your Mindset
Finding time for piano teacher professional development has nothing to do with calendars, tools or gadgets.
Nope. Your first step is to shift your mindset a little… or perhaps a lot.
No “Perfect” Time
You’re never going to find time to do piano teacher training if you think of it as an optional “extra” or a bonus. If you’ve ever said:
“I’ll just go to the gym on the days when I have free time…”
then you know what I’m talking about. That pretty much means you’re never, ever going to the gym. Likewise, if you tell yourself that you’ll fit in professional development “when you get a chance” then you’re not going to do it.
Professional development is like anything we do in life. If we wait for the “perfect” time to do something, we never get it done. Because life happens. There are kids, spouses/partners, neighbours, teaching, invoicing, emailing…you get the picture.
Stop waiting for a “just right” time to get started investing in yourself through professional development. Do what you need to do to free up that time, then take steps to make sure your new professional development time doesn’t get soaked up with other stuff again.
Be honest with yourself: Where does professional development rank on your priority list? If you’re currently not finding time to do some continuing education, then I bet there are other things which are just more important to you.
And that’s fine.
If your kids, making money or your pickleball team are just far more important to you right now and take up all of your time, that’s totally cool. You’re not going to find any guilt trips here.
Even so, here are a few reasons you might consider moving PD up a little higher on your priority list:
- Becoming a better teacher and exploring new areas will lead to more job satisfaction and happiness for you as a teacher.
- If you attend an in-person event, you can connect with other like-minded teachers and feel less lonely and isolated.
- You may be able to charge more or make use of daytime hours by learning a new skill.
- Continuing education is one of the best ways to break out of your teaching rut and prevent piano teacher burnout.
Consider if investing in yourself might just deserve to move up a notch or two on that list. Once you know just how important it is to you, you’ll make the time to do it.
Lock It Down
This step is probably the most important in re-framing your mindset.
Once you find the time for professional development (more on that below), set a time for it on your schedule and lock it down. There will always, always, always be something else that can – and will – fill up that time again. Things happen and suddenly that hour you set aside to watch the webinar on practice techniques just vanishes into thin air.
Don’t let that happen!
Whether you’re a planner, post-its on the wall or Google Calendar kind of person, put it in the schedule. And don’t move it. No, not for a hair appointment, a bake sale nor to help your friend move apartments. You can get the haircut, bake the cookies and lift the boxes later.
This is a non-negotiable part of your job.
Emergencies are the only excuse for flaking on continuing education. This is your career we’re talking about. No lawyer would skip out on court for a haircut. (Just to be really clear, your split ends don’t count as an emergency!)
3 Ways to Create Time for Piano Teacher Continuing Education
Now that you’ve made professional development a priority in your piano teaching life, you need to create some space to make it happen. Here are 3 ways to do just that.
1. Target the Time-Wasters
If you’re anything like me, you can let the littlest things distract you from what’s truly important. So let’s give the typical time-wasters the boot with these tips.
Chances are you end up writing almost the same thing, in slightly different ways, to different parents throughout the year. There’s no reason to keep coming up with identical emails again and again. By writing emails or email templates in batches (several emails in one writing session) you’ll also be more efficient as you won’t be context switching. You’ll be in the email writing zone the whole time.
Create email templates that address general topics (recital reminders, studio closures, etc.) and then schedule those to go out to your studio families at an appropriate time.
- If you have a recital coming up on January 29th then write the reminder email now and schedule it to send on January 13th.
- If you want to remind everyone about the online resources you make available to them, schedule a separate email to go out 6 weeks after the start of the year. They’ll be more likely to pay attention when they’re not buying new books for school and starting ballet classes.
You can also make templates for specific situations that don’t go out to your entire studio. Software solutions like My Music Staff allow you to save email templates within the platform. Alternatively, you can always save a Google Doc with the outline of your emails, leaving space for any variables to be filled in later.
Samples of emails or email templates that can be streamlined in this way:
- Emails that have to go out to certain parents at certain times, but contain the same content. E.g. information about where to download backing tracks once they start a certain book.
- Emails that follow the same format but that do have specific information for each child. E.g. practice tips and progress updates.
- Onboarding emails to help orient new piano families to your studio.
Pro tip: Members of Vibrant Music Teaching can access Nicola’s own email sequence to use as a starting point, along with a video tutorial which shows you how to set this up using a free Mailerlite account. Not a VMT member? Learn more and join today!
Yep, we all know that social media is the ultimate time-suck. But I’m not talking about doom scrolling. Social media is a necessary part of any business’ marketing strategy. Your studio business is no different.
That said, don’t get into the trap of thinking that you have to post everyday.
But if you want to, both Facebook and Instagram allow you to schedule posts in advance. Just like your emails, you can batch your posts for a week, 2 weeks, a month or more if you so desire.
Let me ask you some questions:
- Are you doing any work that someone else could be doing just as well – or better – than you?
- Do you have things that you’re actually pretty good at but don’t like doing?
- Have you been scrambling trying to learn to do tasks outside of your expertise (accounting, video editing, website updates) and it’s taking a ton of time?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider hiring someone to do that stuff for you. Don’t think you can afford that? This Colourful Keys article begs to differ…
In this video, Nicola shares 4 great tips for managing your piano teacher admin work so you, too, can have time for professional development.
Nicola has an entire page devoted to tips, tricks and resources about managing your music teaching studio business. Check it out today.
3. Adjust Teaching Hours
Believe it or not, some simple changes to how you manage your teaching schedule can make a huge difference in your available time.
Cut Hours, Raise Rates
Did you know you could be making the same money with fewer students if you simply charge what you’re worth?
If you think the market would stand it, consider upping your fees and lowering your student count a little. That doesn’t mean you have to “fire” students to free up space in your schedule. Simply leave spots open when students leave your studio.
Freeing up just 1 weekly space will give you ample time to invest in some piano teacher professional development.
Decrease Number of Lessons Per Year
You can easily teach fewer lessons in a year by replacing just a few regular lesson weeks with group workshops or piano parties. Although these require a little extra planning time, you’ll still end up with a few extra hours to explore some training.
And with the pre-made lesson plans from the VMT Library, the actual preparation is a breeze! Members of Vibrant Music Teaching should check out The Ultimate Adaptable Workshop, which includes all the bits and pieces you need to put together a music workshop for any age or level of students, including mixed groups.
Not a member? Becoming a member is an easy way to free up the time needed for professional development, and an instant resource for continuing education courses and resources. Check it out today.
What will you do to carve out time for professional development?
Tell us about it in the comments.