Are you ready for a new year of teaching? Follow along with my step-by-step process for putting everything in place and making sure that you don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed with everything we need to do at this time of year in our music teaching studios.
- My Music Staff
- Leave Make-up Lessons in the Dust
- How to Make Any Change in Your Business
- How to Plan a New Student Interview/Meeting
Click on any word to jump to that point in the audio. 🙂
: Welcome to the vibrant music teaching podcast I’m Nicola Cantan. And you’re listening to episode one where I’m going to give you the ultimate checklist to get you ready really ready for a new year of music teaching let’s go.
: Are you coming up to a new year or a new term in your teaching. Many of us are and as we do so we have lots to consider. There is policies and payments and enrolment forms and the calendar and then your sanity. Right. How can you keep all of this stuff together. How can you put everything in place for a great new year of teaching without going a little bit bonkers because there’s so much to handle and if you’re a solo teacher or if you’re running a multi teacher studio it’s going to be really tough. Just keep it all in balance and to make sure you provide a fantastic experience for your students. What I want to do in this first episode of the vibrant music teaching podcast and as we come up to a new year is to give you a sort of virtual checklist an audio checklist of stuff that you can go through in order and feel like you’re on top of everything you’re ready to go and you’ve got it all covered.
: So the very first thing I like to look at is my enrolment forms and policies. That’s my top priority when I’m getting ready for a new year. Now I like to do this a couple of months in advance but if you’ve left it to the last minute if you’re starting in a few weeks that’s fine. You can get this done now. It doesn’t have to be complicated when it comes to putting together enrolment forms you might like to use an online service like my music staff or something like that. I actually prefer physical paper forms. I’m old school when it comes to enrolment forms and I like to have the physical thing in hand. The reason I like to do that is because I like that the policies to be physically signed by the parent indicate that they’ve read them and also crucially for me the photo and video release form. I like that to be in a physical format where they are really agreeing to me using their child’s photos or videos of their child on my YouTube channel. That kind of thing. I think that’s a big commitment. There are a lot of benefits to it as well but I want to take it seriously and I prefer to have the physical form for that. Also this year with GDP are coming in. I’ve actually had to do some revamping of an extra sheet to go with my policies so that people know what’s happening with their data.
: If you’re outside the EU you don’t have to worry about them although it might be something that you might need to include in the future along with the policies and the photo and video release. I include obviously the actual enrolment form and on that I ask for basic details such as the name the address email phone number is who to contact in case of emergency. That kind of thing is all really important to have. The other thing I include is a space or special needs or allergies. I find it’s really important to include this in my enrolment forms because otherwise sometimes parents don’t think to mention these things. They know their child has dyslexia but maybe they don’t think somehow that that’s relevant yanno. They just don’t think of it or they don’t know when to say it. So putting that spot on the enrollment forms makes a big difference to how often people flag these things for me and the allergies. Just in case is ever an event where something is happening involving food and I need to know just in case that they have a peanut allergy or something like that. That’s important information to know as well as that on the enrollment forms I include a space for scheduling. Now I do what I call opt outs scheduling. That means I have boxes for Monday 1:00 p.m.
: 1:30, 2 p.m. et cetera. And for all the days that I teach and the parent has to cross out all the days all the times that they are not available so they physically have to put an X in all of the boxes which they do not want. I’m not asking them when they do and I’m asking them when they can not. This tends to lead to a little bit more flexibility in terms of you putting together the schedule because you know all the times that they’re available not just their favoured time but all the times they are available and underneath that I do ask for a preference as well so that people can write in if they really really would like to stick with their spot on Tuesdays at 330. They can write that there too so that the enrollment forms and policies. Now when it comes to the actual writing of your policies you may need to rework that at this time of year to have a look through your policies and think back over the last year. Is there anything that came up again and again that isn’t covered in your studio policies and that is maybe a point of contention. I like to keep my policies to one page. So this has to be stuff that comes up again and again. Or that I can foresee doing so. If it’s something that the occasional parent ask about. That’s just a come cassation I am going to have and maybe flag up in a different way but I don’t like to extend policies beyond a page because it just makes it so much less likely that someone is going to read them.
: And if no one is going to read them ever and there’s no point having them in my opinion because they are not a legally binding contract you’re not going to use them in a court of law. So just having this they them for the sake of having a piece of paper is not worth it. You need people to read them and if you want people to read something it has to be short and to avoid an even clearer conversational language. So revisit your policies make up your enrollment forms and give the right to parents and give them a due date. Make sure you tell them when they have to be brought back in. I like to make this about six weeks before the start of term again. If youre working with less time that’s totally fine just make it a time where you’re going to have enough space in your skull to figure out the timetable for the New Year because otherwise it leads to this panic at the last minute as you try to slot everyone in and it’s not working out and it’s so stressful. Don’t do that to yourself your self a week or a couple of weeks at least the sort out the schedule.
: Once I have all the enrollment forms back in that when I make up my schedule now I know we all do this in different ways and a lot of us find this one of the worst parts of our job. I actually do this using Google sheets or an Excel spreadsheet. Same difference because I have overlapping lessons. My buddy lessons are students coming and overlapping for a portion of their lesson time so I need to do some complicated fitting together of various pairings and working out how the overlap is going to work. That’s why I found that Google sheet or something like that is the simplest way. You can also use a service such as my music Stafford calendar or something like that where parents can log in and book their own slots and sorted out that way. Or you can sketch it yourself within there as well. So whether you’re using an Excel sheet or an online system or a bunch of post it notes it doesn’t really matter but if it didn’t work for you last year maybe right in the vibrant music studio teachers group and let us know that you’re looking for a new system. These are your requirements that this is what didn’t work for you last time and we can brainstorm together with the group of over 3000 members to help you along your way. Now there’s an important note to make here about this Getchell and that’s that you need to give yourself breaks.
: It is so tempting when you’re looking at those boxes in Excel or calendly or whatever to just smush things up against each other. I understand especially if you’re a parent that you may have other considerations such as you paying for childcare but you do need to look after yourself. So I recommend you set a minimum break allowance much like you would have in a contract if you were an employee. You need to set these things up yourself as rules so that you don’t overstep them they have to be strong rules. My rule for example is that I won’t go more than two and a half hours or more students whichever comes first over it was for half hour or lessons that could only be two hours without a break and my break will generally be 20 30 minutes depending on the day. If it’s going to be a day where I have several short breaks that’s fine they could be 15 minutes but if there’s one break in the middle it’s going to be 30 just to make sure you have enough time to make some food if you needed to. Or grab a coffee or whatever else you need to do. I really am so passionate about teachers setting these rules for themselves because teachers tend to be very giving people and if you don’t set boundaries for herself you’re going to overstep you’re going to work in to what should have been your time to look after yourself.
And after all if you don’t look after yourself you’re no good to any one. You can’t teach anyone to the best of your ability. If you’re burned out those set some requirements for yourself. It might not be as short as mine it might be much shorter. Maybe you need a break every hour. There is no judgment here. This is your business so you can set it up the way you want and don’t let anybody question that. Save yourself an actual rule and if you’re someone who is very likely to want to break that rule. When someone asks you for a favour then write it at the top of your scheduling software or your sheet or at the top of your post. When you’ve got it in writing so that you can see this is what I told myself I would do. This was my contract to myself and I am not supposed to work more than two hours without a break or whatever it is once I have my sketch all in place with the minimum break requirement that’s when I go to my waiting list. So if you’re not full you’re going to still sketch all your returning students probably first and then you’re going to recruit new students do some marketing or work on adding people from your waiting list depending on the situation.
I have a waiting list and it is overwhelmingly long so I try not to look at it too often. I have been giving preference to siblings first so I haven’t really been taking in any new families for quite a while now. So after I made my schedule I’m going to fit in siblings and then if I did have any available spots left I was opening up a new time or something like that. That’s when I go to my waiting list start at the top and take them give them a deadline of when to apply. So say I have Fridays at 330 now free. Please reply within before Friday or whatever it is to secure that spot. If you’re still interested and that way you can move down the waiting list fairly quickly. You don’t want to let them go a week even at this stage because you’ve probably got a few weeks before term starts. You don’t want to be missing out so it is going to be a little bit of a case of tough luck if they emailed you. Maybe email and phone and text if you like but you don’t want to be nagging them either if they’ve been on your waiting list for a little while they might not be interested anymore. So just give them the opportunity and then move on to the next one.
When you have your students from the waiting list that you think might be a good beer studio and fit with an available spot that’s when I like to schedule interviews I schedule meetings with my new students always and their parents. I think it’s so important for many reasons which I’ll go into in a later episode but it’s really about getting to know them and having the opportunity to talk through your policies. Face to face that I think is so important. With that expectation of an introductory lesson or First Lesson Make sure you schedule interviews with your new students and I like to do this in the week before we resume lessons. But you can also do it at the first lesson back say that this first one is going to be a meeting and you want parents there and the student and you’re going to introduce them to your studio and how it all runs after you’ve made your sketch. You’ve got your new students booked in and all that stuff. The next priority for me is the Hylander of events for the year so I like to make up a calendar an hour mark in preliminary dates for recitals group lessons. Any events we have going on like practice incentives or anything like that just a loose schedule. It doesn’t need to be exact and definite yet and certainly I haven’t booked halls or anything like that for my recitals.
: These are just pencilled in dates to give people an idea of when these things are happening and also for my own reference. This is probably the ideal date. I do this. We’ll see if it worked out at the actual time after the calendar is made up and I distribute that to her parents new and returning returning parents. I get to work on the individual students and lesson planning. Again this is something I’ll cover in more detail my process here in a later episode but just to give you an idea for now. This is when I do start to put together the parent progress updates which are my google docs that are shared with parents and at the top of those I put holes for the student for the year. I put what books they’re using and other resources to referred to such as audio tracks they can download or videos they should watch and that kind of thing. And then underneath there is going to be the updates at 10 week intervals on how the student is getting on but I get started just with the goals because it helps me get back in the frame of mind and looking ahead to what that student might need this year. There are new student what books I think might be good fit and one introductory activities we might do and focus and what their priorities were at their first meeting if they were especially if they were a transfer student or an older student.
: I want to factor in where they wanted to go with music whether they wanted to learn songs by a particular band or they loved a particular classical piece that they’ve always wanted to play something like that. So I’ll factor those in there and that way I have it started and I’m starting to think about that student and what they need from me this year and how I can fit together resources on an ongoing basis. That’s it for the Official Studio prep and all the stuff that I think we need to do before we start back with teaching. So we’ve got our enrolment forms and policies and getting those returned. We set up the schedule and contacted the waiting list if we needed to schedule new student interviews and meetings. We set up the calendar with a loose format for the year and then we set up some kind of goals or a note about each student. Whether they’re returning or new students the last thing though is that you need to figure out how this year you’re going to get you time. So the breaks the minimum break requirements that part of it but you also need to think about time to set aside when you’re actually going to spend time with yourself or do you’re knitting or watch your favourite shows or whatever.
: Think about the balance in your life because as self-employed people which most teachers are it can be a struggle to fit all these things in and still have that balance. Oh now is a great time to think ahead and make some commitments to yourself about hobbies you want to take up or just priorities you have in your personal life or spending time with your family and that kind of thing. That’s it for the first episode ever of the vibrant music eating podcast. I hope you enjoyed this dive into how we get ready really ready for a new teaching year. If you’re listening to this as it goes live or you have a webinar which is out basically today. So it’s a practice pro webinar and if you haven’t already signed up you can go to vibrant music teaching dot com slash practice pro to sign up for that and get the replay of your just a touch late. Vibrant Music Teaching members can of course catch that right now inside as a replay if it’s already been recorded. Let me know what you think of today’s episode inside the vibrant music studio teachers Facebook group. I’d love to hear what you do to get ready for a new year and what the most difficult part of it is and if you need some help with some skedaddling software or something like that let us know your query is there to catch you air. Bye for now
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