Gone are the days when we could keep our information in file cabinets & bookshelves. In today’s studio, we need digital information that can be accessed immediately.
Today’s students & their parents are used to finding information with a quick search online.
As a studio owner, if you have to search your shelves or file cabinets during lessons time, you run the risk of coming across as disorganized. Even if you aren’t.
Why go digital?
It may not seem like a big deal to go check your bookshelf for a few book options or run to your office to quickly grab something from the file cabinet.
The big question is … what is your student doing during this time?
Chances are you are only gone a couple of minutes.
But, when we fret about not having enough time in lessons to get through everything … those couple of minutes can become a big deal.
Especially if this occurs on a regular basis.
We need to use every moment of lessons wisely. And that means having things organized before the lesson even starts.
Even if you move everything in your studio to digital copies of the information, there will occasionally be moments that you need to search for something.
The difference is you can stay right beside your student while you do a quick search.
And, you can even email a copy of the document or link during their lesson. Which saves prep time later.
If the majority of your studio information, documents & other resources stay in paper form, there is no way to take care of it within lessons. Other than leaving the student.
The effect of clutter
I have a very small office that is packed to the gills with books, sheet music, games, and so much more. When I was a travelling teacher, literally everything I use for teaching, planning & growing my studio was stored in this small room.
To put this in perspective, you could fit a single bed in the room & not much else. (Oh how I dream of having a larger office space!)
Though the bright red desk & my twins’ artwork on the walls does make it a more cheerful place.
When teaching online …
Once I became an online teacher & we created a separate teaching space for me in our home. It’s right next to all the Lego, board games & toys that our kids love. It took some time to organize my teaching space so it looked organized both on camera & off.
An important way I’ve made that happen is by continuing to move resources to a digital format. There just isn’t a way to make random manipulatives look great … unless you really edit them down.
But, it’s also reflected the importance of keeping my digital space organized as well. But, more on that soon.
What does your teaching & office space say about you?
Does it say you are organized or frazzled? Open to trying different ways of teaching or only use a particular method? When parents & students ask a question do you answer right away or need to wait until later to track down the answer?
The digital information solution
Over the years, I’ve implemented systems that save time & reduce clutter.
What has worked the best is moving to digital information. Then, making sure that information is shared among all my devices.
When I first began travel teaching, I had 2-3 overflowing bags. By moving almost everything so I could access it on my iPads, now I carry 1 regular bag that easily zips up.
When I switched to online teaching, I already had an advantage since things were partially set up for this format. And, with all the other things to learn & adapt to … I was so glad this was a step I’d taken earlier!
By making good use of online storage, like Google Drive, I can quickly get information to my clients, even at lesson time.
Rather than making notes to send something once I get home, I send information & documents at the end of each lesson.
Once I am home, I can relax with my family. Not spend time pulling things in my office.
I know this can seem overwhelming if you have always had everything at your physical fingertips. It certainly took me a bit to figure out what was worth the time in setting up … & what was better left for “as needed” situations.
To take out that guessing process, I’ve created a whole quick win series for using online storage!
Organizing your iPad
The other system that has worked wonders is to keep my iPads organized.
As a travelling teacher, my students used an iPad for lab time. And, I used another iPad for lesson plans/practice pages & everything else I need while teaching.
Handing off an iPad to a student that isn’t well organized is a recipe for disaster. Especially if you are planning on teaching another student at the same time.
When teaching, an organized teacher iPad means that when:
- A parent asks “When is group lessons?”
- A student asks if they can learn a new pop song
- You need to make a change to the original practice page
You can easily find what you need within seconds.
And, doesn’t that sound great?
The hidden problem
While you can move much of your studio information & teaching resources to digital form, there is one that is a much bigger problem.
Yes, we can purchase sheet music online. But, what about all the other repertoire that is only in book form?
How many times have you searched your bookshelves knowing that a specific song is there? You just aren’t sure which book. Or, where the right book is.
We should not be giving up a lot of personal time in order to be master teachers. Especially not for something as simple as pulling repertoire for our students.
The solution … use a repertoire database for each level that you teach.
Organizing repertoire digitally
Having a repertoire database that I could quickly search either during lesson or prep time has proven to be well worth it! Though now that I’m teaching online those databases have to change to reflect the new resources I have available.
Whether it’s searching for repertoire that:
- Has that one song you know would be perfect
- Or, covers the exact concept your student needs more practice to master
What will this look like for you?
Rather than trying to create a database for ALL your books, start with one level.
- Find all the books at that level.
- Decide which concepts you want to search for in the future.
- As students play the songs, enter them in.
You will save admin time, but build a bespoke set of digital information you can keep at your fingertips!
My favourite digital organization tool
As you may have guessed, Google Drive is my organization tool of choice. It’s easy to use for my clients, students & me. We all appreciate fewer emails. And, it’s worked out great for students to share videos & audio clips with me.
Regardless of what tool you choose, be sure to choose one that makes sharing resources & information with families a breeze! Trust me when I say that this will save you lots of admin time & create more balance in your life.
A digital information revolution
There are some things that need to stay paper. Though who knows what the future holds? It has certainly changed over the years that I’ve taught!
Moving more to digital information means accessing what is important to you … regardless of where you are.
What are some ways that you have simplified your life by going digital?
NOTE: This article was originally published on December 4, 2019. It has since been updated to include ideas for in-person & online teaching.