The countdown, the fireworks, the champagne, the resolutions. The new year has officially kicked off, and music teachers are getting ready to look at their teaching schedules, new student intake, resources, and coffee bean supply.
Before you jump back into the teaching pool, there are a few things you might want to think about that could make the water a little more pleasant.
Your year, you’re in charge
Whether you’re working from home, a private studio or a school, you do have a level or control over your teaching schedule. This can include the times you teach, the order you teach your students in, when your breaks are, what your policies are and what your teaching room looks like. Avoid walking into the new year with the same ol’ set up – look at what works best for you. Your previous year probably had some great things that worked, and some less-than-great things that did not. It’s time to write them up and review!
Students – How many can you take/do you need?
How many students do you need to have a healthy work/life balance. Don’t get caught out saying “yes” to every enquiry and find yourself teaching all day Saturday, plus a few weeknights with an overspill on Fridays that always clashes with any social plans that pop up. Are you teaching because it brings your joy? Or because you need the money? If it’s for the joy, then let balance be your focus. If it’s for the money, always keep in mind that your life and mental wellbeing are worth more than making some coin.
Playing schedule Matchmaker
Nothing can be more exhausting than a string of back-to-back high-needs beginner students, all of which need you to be running on 300% energy and attentiveness. Space your students that need your upmost energy out. Let that lovely calm student, who always comes prepared and practised and ready to work hard in the most relaxed of manners, slot in-between the loud and crazy ones. Or perhaps the living embodiment of Speedy Gonzales needs to go right before a nice long lunch.
Plan these ahead! Nothing is more stressful than a sudden frantic look for a last minute venue that’ll seat 50 and has a piano. People love notice. So if you can lock that venue in at the start of the year, and let your students know to keep that date free, then you’re sure to have a cruisy lead up to the big day. If you need some tips on how to keep your students calm about live performance, check out this article on performance anxiety.
To exam or not to exam?
The age old question. Helen Perris wrote a great article about it a while back. When planning exams, always check that exam life is right for your student. Now more than ever there are so many options as to what type of exams are available, for what styles and using what mediums. Not all courses a right for all horses. That being said, plan your exam dates rationally. Will little Timmy really be able to sit his exam in the first session? Or will it be far less stressful to give it more time and wait until the middle of the year? Be careful of parents who demand how many and what exams they want you to submit their kids for. Be realistic, and don’t be afraid to have talks about quality over quantity (or level!).
Cancellations, no-shows, late-comers. Make sure you’re firm and clear about your expectations. Of course, sometimes life can throw curve balls, and we all need to be understanding of that. But we also need to be clear about what we put in place to avoid commitment-apathy. Nothing worse that a 9am no-show (you could have slept in!!)
Check your local Music Teacher Association about what the current going rate for private music lessons is. You might be surprised! You have every right to charge your worth and value. The cost of living is going up and you are not excluded from that. It’s perfectly reasonable to revise your teaching rates (and cancellation rates) at the top of the year.
Yes, you need a lunch break. No, that’s not negotiable because Kate can ONLY come at 1pm. Think about your students at 3pm. They need as much of your attention as your students at 10am. If you’re too busy trying to stop your tummy from rumbling at the same time as trying every trick in the book to keep your eyes open, chances are, your student at the end of the day isn’t going to be getting the best lessons from you. You know your body, you know what it needs to stay energised, so be kind to it.
A new year is time to refresh, review and start a new. Always remember that for every tough day, there’s a string of much brighter ones to follow. Be kind to yourself and others, and off you go.