improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

My Assignment Notebook Method

Last Thursday, we started a Forum Q&A discussion about assignment notebooks/pages for students.  Today, I thought I’d share my own method of tracking assignments — and, of course, also announce the winner of the giveaway!

The winner of the sheet music decorative balls is commenter #5… LaDona!  Congrats!!  (By the way, if you haven’t seen LaDona’s wonderful blog before, you can check it out here.)

My method of tracking assignments is very similar to what many of you do: I write in a journal-sized notebook.

I always start with the date and then I outline any warmup/technique exercises (5-finger patterns, arpeggios, scales, etc).  The photos in this post show a made-up but typical assignment page:  Continue reading “My Assignment Notebook Method”

improving as a teacher, Studio Business

Forum Q&A | When to Say “No” to a Potential Student

For our previous Forum Q&A, I asked about the legal side of being a business – becoming a Sole Proprietorship or an LLC, dealing with taxes, etc.  My previous private teaching has mostly been as an employee of the university’s Community Music School.  I find all the legal stuff for getting set up on your own to be so complicated!  I am thankful for all the infomation online, books in the library, and the advice I’ve been getting from other teachers.

I’m still sorting this all out, but I did decide to be a Sole Proprietor.  Becoming an LLC does have the benefit of protecting your personal assets in the event that someone should sue the business for some reason (they can go after your business assets but not your personal assets).  But setting up an LLC is more complicated and costly than a Sole Proprietorship.  Of course, as a piano teacher, the chances of getting sued are relatively low.  If you do want some protection, extra liability protection can often add something on to your current homeowner’s insurance policy for this purpose.  Oh, and another thing I learned — be sure to check with your city to see if they require a zoning permit for running a home business and having a sign outside for your studio.  Don’t I sound smart?!  I’m learning so much these days!  ;)

Regarding taxes — I decided to hire a CPA to handle my taxes for my first year or two, or until I can learn how to manage it all on my own.  I feel good about my decision.  Keeping track of my income and expenses shouldn’t be too complicated, but estimating quarterly taxes is complicated for me since I don’t really have anything to refer to from previous years.  My CPA should be able to help me get up-and-running.  :)

Anyway — I received a question yesterday from a reader that is perfect for this week’s Forum Q&A.  Here goes:

How do you know when to say “no” to a potential student?  What do you look for when you interview an interested student?  What kinds of questions do you ask to sift out whether you are going to accept the student?  And what do you do when you realize you’ve made a mistake with a student you said “yes” to?  

In all honesty, I kind of wish I had this problem!  Right now, I am saying “yes” to anybody who comes through my door.  Such is the life of a recently-relocated piano teacher.  :)

Advice, anyone, for this reader?

Photo Credit: Valerie Everett | CC 2.0

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks now, and today I’m spilling all!   Sorry about the length. =)

Don’t Make My Mistake!

When I first began teaching, I created a mental list of all the things I felt were essential for a new student should know.  I thought very carefully about what to say in order to cover all these topics with my student during the very first lesson.  “The List” included things like:

  • How to sit properly at the piano.
  • How to hold one’s wrists.
  • How to curve one’s fingers.
  • The finger numbers.
  • How to find the black key groups of 2’s and 3’s.
  • How to find Middle C.
  • How to find A-G on the piano.
  • What a steady beat is and is not like.
  • What a quarter note is.
  • etc.

These are all important things, of course.  But I hadn’t really stopped to consider what the student might be feeling at that very moment on my piano bench.  I jabbered away cheerily through my long, long list, anxious that my student would learn all the right things the right way from the very first day.

Do you remember what it was like at your very first piano lesson as a kid?  Usually, new students are anxious, curious, unsure, maybe nervous — and usually they are very excited to play the piano.  They might tell you they can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for you which their mother taught them by rote.  Or they might show off that they figured out Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear.  Or they might not know how to play anything at all, but they are definitely sitting on your piano bench practically drooling, anxious to get their fingers on those beautiful, shiny keys!

So what do you do?  What do you do about all this crazy excitement, energy, and motivation that is radiating from this student?   Continue reading “Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson”