I used to feel as though my piano teaching job consumed my life. When I wasn’t teaching piano… I was thinking about teaching piano. When I wasn’t thinking about teaching piano, I was… still thinking about teaching piano.
When you work for yourself it’s already difficult to “flick the off switch”, but when you work for yourself doing something you absolutely love, it can be downright impossible.
This past year I’ve made 5 changes to the way I plan my piano lessons. These changes have saved my sanity… literally. And I can now think about other things… like blogging about teaching piano 😉
If you feel like your piano lesson planning is taking over your life… give these 5 changes a try. Hopefully adopting these changes will free up some brain space and some physical time to pursue other loves in your life.
5 Ways To Make Piano Lesson Planning More Efficient
1. Choose a Lesson Planning Day… and Plan It All. For me, lesson planning used to happen in little bits every day. I’d race to the computer whenever I had a scrap of time. It was stressful and haphazard and not conducive to good teaching.
Now, Saturday mornings are my lesson planning time, allowing me steal back personal time during the rest of the week. It was a bit hard to get used to at first, but I’ve found that I’m now forced to do two things: 1) be very efficient while I am planning, and 2) avoid any last-minute scrambling during the week. I can literally close my studio door after my two hour planning sessions on Saturday morning knowing that the week ahead is well under control.
2. Choose a “Grand Scheme Day” and plan out your entire month – Because I can’t fit in all of the extra fun things I like to do with my students during my Saturday Morning Planning Sessions, I also allow myself one block of time at some point during the last three days of every month. It’s during this time that I plan out and prepare any studio-wide events, incentives, special projects, monthly themes, new piano games for the month, and student awards. It’s a larger block of time than my weekly planning sessions but well worth the effort.
3. Find a Materials System That Actually Works – I struggled for years with ways to keep everything organized for each student. Folders, baskets, shelves, cabinets… I have tried it all. I’ve finally settled on daily teaching binders, and it’s kept me super organized. Here’s how it works:
- Each teaching day has it’s own binder. This way, on Wednesday I can pull out my Wednesday binder, and avoid flipping through page after page of weekly activities.
- Each binder has a divider for each student, arranged in the order in which they are scheduled. As each student leaves, I simply flip to the next divider and I’m ready for the next piano lesson.
- On my “lesson planning day” I grab all of my daily binders and fill the dividers for each student by printing supplementary music and activities, studio notices, and lesson assignment sheets.
- Each student has a cover page where I make note of anything I need to remember (the current piece they are working on, the piano games we’ve played etc.) This makes communication with parents a snap – simply flip to their divider, scan their cover page and I’m up-to-date on everything I need to know about every student.
4. Let Concepts Be Your Guide – It’s tempting to cram as much awesomeness into a piano lesson as is physically possible but doing so can result in chaotic lessons that don’t have an overall plan. I plan everything I do in a lesson based on the concepts my students are currently learning. These concepts are based on the yearly plans I create for my students.
Concept-based learning looks a little like this… if my student is learning to identify intervals at sight in his method book, I choose a piano game, an off-the-bench activity, a composing activity, and a supplementary piece that includes the intervals he is learning. All of these activities or “extras” go behind his divider in my teaching binder.
Whatever we don’t use in each lesson then stays behind his divider for next time (lesson planning is easier the following week!) This makes my lesson preparation much more organized and streamlined.
5. Make use of Your Friendly Local Print Shop – We tossed our color printer out last year and I have never looked back. I now do all of my printing for lessons at my local Staples store. It’s more cost-effective and the quality is better than what I can print at home.
I also do it because it is SO MUCH FASTER! As I’m flipping through my daily teaching binders I’m also online uploading the pages I need printed. By the time I’ve planned my week, I’ve also uploaded everything I need printed. An hour later, it’s done and ready for me to pick up! By avoiding “printing from home” I’ve saved myself about 1.5 hours every week. I’ll take it! 🙂
How Do You Save Your Sanity?
When you work for yourself it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. Typically the one person who suffers in the end is yourself. Burnt out piano teachers are not happy piano teachers. Unhappy piano teachers make for unhappy students. It’s a yucky cycle… so break free!
We’d love to hear from you! What do YOU do to make piano lesson planning a snap? Share in the comments below.