Are you a new piano teacher just starting out, or are you a seasoned veteran looking to make adjustments to the way you run your studio?
In either case, you’ll want to read this post, because today I’m sharing the 7 biggest studio-changing decisions I have ever made.
Also, we’d love it if you seasoned teachers out there would share (in the comments) the changes you have made in your own studios that have had the biggest impact!
Lots to be learned today… so let’s dive in!
After Changing These 7 Things, My Piano Studio Exploded
As a young teacher the seven points I am about to share were things I never paid much attention to. Big Mistake! Because once I sat down to brainstorm how to improve my teaching and then chose the following 7 tweaks as my focus… the impact of the changes were incredible!
What were they? Well, I decided to…
1. Cultivate and nurture…
my relationship with parents as much as I did my students. I had always been great at communicating and building relationships with students, but making a commitment to work on these relationships with parents as intently as I did with my students was a real turning point.
I really saw the strength that is the parent/teacher/student triangle. My “piano teacher headaches” all but disappeared. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t take a lot of time to do make this change – but the time I saved in other areas all but made up for it (and then some) in the long run.
2. Have a written policy…
that was short, shorter… and then shortest. Written policies are a must… but my old policy sheet was way too long. Parents didn’t read it, didn’t remember it and therefore didn’t always follow it.
It was therefore almost pointless.
Once I changed my mindset and stopped including policies that only applied to only one or two exceptions, I was able to pare it down to no more than 5 points that I found to be the absolute most important and prevalent.
Incidents that were beyond the policy sheet were dealt with on an individual basis, as I would with any other relationship in my life (like the time I had to ask parents to please not allow their children to go into my fridge… not needed on a policy sheet, but an easy conversation!)
3. Do at least one thing every lesson…
that I myself enjoyed. I realized that looking after my own job satisfaction was the biggest favor I could do for my piano students.
If I was happy, they were happy. If I was inspired, they were inspired.
Including something in every lesson that you yourself are passionate about or that you love to do is a great way to re-energize during a long day (or 20+ years!) of teaching. What do I enjoy? Duets! And so we do them… a LOT!
4. Use a visual lesson calendar…
I always had a routine in my mind that I would follow for each lesson, but I realized that i was leaving my students in the dark.
Kids love routines and the security of knowing what to expect. By creating something simple that they could look at and know what was coming next, I eliminated a lot of behaviour problems. I allowed my students to choose the order of activities and found that, in making their own choices, they were learning to direct their own learning (one student said to me “I like to do off the bench stuff first because it helps me calm down after school”… brilliant observation, and good to know!)
5. Have a solid plan…
for “those weeks”. I discovered it was in the weeks where my students had forgotten to bring their music books, had had a rough day at school, or hadn’t practiced a single note all week, that I could make or break their satisfaction with lessons.
A great lesson could still be had… but it was up to me to make it great!
And so I created a solid plan that I could fall back on for those weeks; a routine that I could seamlessly switch over to when it was clear that a regular old lesson wasn’t going to cut it. Progress on “those weeks” was no longer stalled, my students felt cared for, and I avoided the negativity that can come from those weeks when typical lessons just don’t work.
6. Choose one focus per month…
for my entire studio. There are common themes that all piano teachers want their students to improve upon; rhythmic accuracy, expression, note reading, phrasing, pedalling, sight reading, improv… there is no end! Once I decided to take a studio-wide approach to these topics, my planning time was cut in half.
I would simply choose one “Grand Theme” for each month and then allow my repertoire choices, piano games, extra activities, newsletter topics, off-bench games etc. to be guided by this theme. This stopped me from going a mile-a-minute with new ideas and activities in a haphazard way and it made for a more streamlined approach that my students appreciated.
7. Not let method books control…
my teaching. I use method books and I like method books, but what I didn’t like was the feeling of having to use them every single lesson.
Once I gave myself permission to break free from method books when I felt it was needed, I discovered the benefits that come from varied supplementary repertoire… like the awesomeness we’re creating here at PianoBookClub.
Once my piano parents realized that a week or two away from the “piano book” didn’t mean no progress was being made, they discovered how new and varied material would re-inspire home practice. Once my piano students realized that music outside of their book may look different but wasn’t “scary”, or that a single piece could make their heart sing with happiness and their fingers just itch to practice… they begged for extra sheet music regularly. Begging for music? Wahoo!
To Begin… Begin!
I love this phrase. In fact, I spend a lot of my life being guided by it. If making a whole bunch of changes seems daunting to you, just choose one… but then do it right away.
The above 7 points were the changes that I made… but we want to hear from you!
What do you wish you knew as a new piano teacher? What changes have you made that have made a big impact in your studio? We can’t wait to here from you…