Setting up a routine is important for having a successful year. Not only does it ensure we make time for the concepts we want to teach, it makes time for when we need to step back & let our students lead. For our special needs students, a routine can be the thing that makes piano lessons a safe & enjoyable part of their week.
The balance between routine & flexibility
If you read How Do We Learn, you may be wondering how I went from advocating for changing up a routine to setting up a routine. (And if you didn’t read it yet, click here!)
For learning, we need to continually changing things up so our brains stay engaged & make those multi-sensory memories. It keeps us from forgetting because we keep accessing the information.
As teachers, we need a certain amount of routine so we get everything done on the administrative side while keeping lessons engaging from beginning to end. Because let’s face it, there is a lot of information to keep track of.
But I want freedom!
If you’re like me, there needs to be enough routine to be comfortable, but enough change to keep it exciting.
Years ago, I was in a situation where I never knew what was going to happen each day or what the expectations were going to be. I was told I needed to “just be flexible”. To which I replied, “I CAN be flexible … when I have something to be flexible from.” It’s something that stuck with me & is something I’ve tried to build into my studio.
Lesson routine … with flexibility
There is something to be said for routine in lessons. In my studio, my students know I’ll be asking how practice went .. & if something didn’t go well, I’ll want to know why. They also know we always have a warm-up & that I’ll be checking in with them before the end of lesson that they feel confident for the upcoming week.
It’s a great routine. But, it could be easy for either of us (teacher or student) to space out if it was exactly the same every single week.
So, we change it up.
- Sometimes students start with lab time instead of being at the piano.
- For lab, we change focus every couple months … & change the apps being used.
- Our warm-ups change throughout the year … & the activities within each are different from each other.
And, sometimes what we have in mind for lesson just isn’t what is going to work for the student that day. They had a rough day or week & just aren’t in a head space to go through the set routine. No worries. Take that step back with the student & meet them where they are.
There are a few things that need to get done each week. And, planning is one of them.
You may be a teacher that jots down some notes at the end of lesson or the end of the day & that’s that.
You may be a teacher that types up practice pages each week before lesson so you know exactly where you would like your student to be by the end of lesson.
Regardless of which method you choose, having a routine in place is essential. Schedule time for:
- Checking lesson notes,
- Checking on overall progress towards the year’s goals (both yours & the students’),
- Gathering music, manipulatives, games, etc. for next lesson
When life happens
While having a planned routine is great … life happens. Instead of writing during the day with upbeat music to dance to, sometimes the day goes completely awry & I’m writing in the evening with jazz music playing in the background.
Rather than focus on what didn’t get done. Look at how you can rejig the rest of your week. Or, look at the list & ruthlessly remove the things that don’t have to get done.
One of the biggest advantages to having your own studio is setting your own hours, including buffer time for when life’s emergencies come up.
This is the one thing that I have to consciously make time for. While I’ve made my peace with numbers, it’s not my happy place. At least not like it is for my husband. He loves numbers. Sadly this does not transfer to bookkeeping or analytics … so, that’s still on me.
“Administrative” covers a LOT of tasks & I’m sure that there are some that, like me, you would rather avoid. But, we can’t, can we?
What tasks need to be made into a routine for you? It could be:
- Entering in expenses & income on a weekly or monthly basis
- Checking in with clients outside of lessons throughout the year
- Professional development, including practicing piano
- Tracking tuition payments (though hopefully you have this mostly automated)
- Social media & website updates
The list above is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what may need to be added to the calendar so you run your business instead of letting it take over.
When it’s not your happy place
One of the best things I did was create a schedule that ensures I make time for all my admin tasks, even when I’m not in my happy place.
Make time for admin each week … even the things you hate. When it’s small pockets of time vs. hours, you may be surprised to find you like those tasks more.
Does that blow your mind? It did for me.
Have I become a numbers person like my husband? No. But, do I like going through analytics & financials a whole lot more now that it’s a quick process. Yes!
Starting a new term
I’ll be back to work in a few weeks & I’m definitely thinking about what I need to get done before lessons start again. New students need a bit more help with accessing online storage, practice pouches & binders. For returning students, they get a new binder cover & some updated pages for their binders. For my clients, I know I need to have my social media ready welcoming everyone back & setting up the excitement for the new year.
If you would like a ‘back to lessons’ checklist to help you get organized, click the button below!
How prepared do you feel about the upcoming term?
Let me know in the comments!