How do you keep your sanity during a busy school year?
I'll be honest. I've tried a LOT of things during my years of teaching piano: 3-ring binders, spiral notebooks, calendars, post-it notes, printed assignment sheets. On and on the list goes!
All those things are great, but sometimes I have so much "stuff" that I end up feeling...scattered.
In the end, I've found a super simple system that works for me:
1. Designate a folder for every student.
This doesn't require a lot of prep work. In fact, I literally set this up during the first lesson.
Simply put the name of your student on the folder, toss in a few sheets of notebook paper, and you're good to go.
2. Write important information on the inside cover
I jot down basic facts about my student - their birthday, age, and grade.
I also like to write down all of their lesson books. This has helped me multiple times - especially with my Skype students.
With one quick glance, I can see what books that student has worked through and make a note of what I'd like to get for them next.
3. Use your folders at every lesson
Think of this has your place to brain dump anything that relates to that child:
(Philip Johnston talked about this in his stellar book The Dynamic Studio.)
And YOU'LL love that feeling of having your act together.
What helps YOU stay organized? I'd LOVE to hear!
When I was a little girl, I loved dressing up and going trick-or-treating with my friends. It was something I looked forward to every single year.
But today? Not so much.
In fact... I'll be completely honest. I hate Halloween! It's just gotten so....creepy!
Anyway....while Halloween is definitely my least favorite holiday - many of my students like it, so I try to include some fun stuff.
A Few of My Favorite Fall Things...
Creepy Shadows by Laura Spencer Davis (Quick warning - the first time I played this song, the sun was setting and I hadn't turned the lights on yet. SO creepy!)
A Mystery Story - by Rick Robertson
Monster Dance by Jennifer Fink
Attack of the Black Cat by Jennifer Fink
Graceful Ghost Dance by Jennifer Fink
It's Halloween by Chrisanne Holm
Five Little Pumpkins by Susan Paradis
Not Free But Still Fantastic!
The Boy Who Didn't Like Halloween by Susan Paradis (Can be played as a duet or stand alone)
Castle Escape by Daniel McFarlane
Halloween Fun by Barbara Becker
The Candy Nabber by Wendy Stevens
Other Great Games and Resources
Bats and Cats Note Board Game by Susan Paradis (Free!)
Bats and Cats Rhythm Game by Susan Paradis (Free!)
Pumpkin Music Math by Susan Paradis (Free!)
FrankenFingers Worksheets by Melody Payne (I bought these YEARS ago! Always a hit with my young ones.)
The Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs (It has nothing to do with piano, but as a Christian, it makes me smile!)
And finally - don't forget to put all that Halloween candy to good use! Leila Viss's blog will show you how. (I like #3 best!)
DID YOU HEAR THE NEWS?
Sara Campbell and I have done several Online Lesson Academies and now we've turned it into an evergreen course!
If you're ready to eliminate makeup lessons - we'll show you how! Get immediate access here.
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Recently, a couple piano teachers have asked for advice about handling dinner time.
I need to teach through the dinner hour and my family is upset. They just aren't supportive of me right now. What do I do?
If you're in this situation, know that you're not alone! It's a struggle for EVERY family, but yes - probably more so for us piano teachers. After all, dinner time is an ideal teaching hour since most of our students aren't available until later in the day.
But good news! You CAN make family dinners a reality in your house. I'm not saying it'll be easy, but it can be done and you won't regret it.
My Personal Story
My husband works odd hours and yet I make dinner time a priority for our family. Looking back, I can honestly say that I've always put our family before piano. I've taught before dinner and after dinner, but not during dinner.
Did I always cook fancy meals? Absolutely not. Many nights I served sandwiches, but we enjoyed those sandwiches TOGETHER and that's what matters. You can do it too!
Here are my 4 tips to having dinner with your family:
1. Use strategic timing
Even the busiest teacher can schedule a 30 minute break. Making this a priority will mean the world to your family!
Perhaps you can schedule a late dinner? Or maybe it needs to be early. You might find that you need to have dinner at a different time each night of the week - that's ok
2. don't think all or nothing.
Your family probably has various activities at night. If that's the case, start small. Set aside just 2 or 3 weeknights for meals together.
If you're not having ANY meals together right now, even adding just 1 meal is a step in the right direction. That's enough to show your family that they are your priority.
Plan something and then work the plan.
4. build a routine.
Let's say you decide to have family meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Keep those meals the same every week. Think "Taco Tuesday" and "Thursday Casserole."
Or maybe you come up with a couple of easy meals that you alternate from week to week.
3. create simple meals.
Don't feel pressure to cook a full meal. The point is not the food, but the time together.
Here are some quick and easy ideas:
Whatever you decide - DECIDE SOMETHING!
If you ignore family meals, that right there is a decision. Be intentional with your family life and make that a priority.
You'll never regret it.
Tell me how dinners work in YOUR family. I'd love to hear!
Do you need practical help setting up your day?
Just a couple summers ago, I was struggling to keep my head above water. We had just moved to a new city and it was all kind of overwhelming.
But I decided to do something about it by being more intentional with my mornings.
The Make Over Your Morning Course made a huge difference in my life. Shortly after I finished that course, I was so motivated and encouraged that I created Upbeat Piano Teachers. It completely changed the direction of my life!
What is Make Over Your Mornings? It’s a 14-day online course that includes videos, a workbook, and step-by-step projects designed to help you maximize your mornings. You’ll experience more success in your business, more order in your home, and more joy in your life.
If you’re ready to put some excitement and fulfillment back into your life, check out Make Over Your Mornings. (You can try the first day for free!)
Find out more about it here.
Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
Most of you know that I'm passionate about piano practice! It just breaks my heart when I see kids struggle, thinking they can't play the piano - when really - they just didn't put in the work!
So...how do we get kids to practice? Here's are a couple things that have given me the most success:
1. Get Parents On Board
Let's face it - most kids don't want to do "the right thing." Whether it's brushing their teeth, or making the bed, or helping with the lawn, none of that is "fun" and kids will opt out in a minute.
It's the same with piano lessons. And yes, some students are passionate about the piano, but many need to be held accountable.
That's why I wrote my book - 101 Piano Practice Tips, which is on sale right now for just .99! It's full of fun, practice tips to get students to the keyboard.
Best of all? I wrote it specifically for parents. It's laid out in an easy-to-read format, so parents can get ideas fast. AND they'll see why practice is important and why they need to make sure practice actually happens.
2. Use Practice Incentives
Everyone loves a reward! Incentive programs can work wonders for getting kids to practice and for us teachers - they don't have to be complicated.
Here are a couple of simple ones that I love:
3. Grab the Piano Bench Mag August 2016 issue.
It's the practice issue! For just 2.99, you'll get TONS of great ideas from several different teachers.
I even wrote an article that might surprise you. I ask the question - Is there ever a time to NOT require practice? My answer was yes. (Surprising, right?)
Go get the issue so you can find out when and why!
Other Helpful Resources
Grab Your Free Practice
This little PDF is all ready for you to hand out to parents.
These tips are straight from my book, 101 Piano Practice Tips.
Hi there! I'm Tracy Selle. A Christian wife, mom, and author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. I'm also a piano teacher and founder of Upbeat Piano Teachers.