February 26, 2011

Policies Summary

I have thoroughly enjoyed our discussions about studio policies. To recap, we've talked about the importance of having policies, communication, our testimony through our policies, how to cover cancelations, and looked at some great policies from some great teachers out there!

To close out our discussion, I thought I would leave you with these words from the Proverbs:

Proverbs 22:29

“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”

Lets be diligent in our business and what God has called us to do!

February 24, 2011

Studio Policies: Cancelations

I am thoroughly enjoying this discussion about studio policies! Some of you have left some great comments and more ideas for me to think about. If you haven’t been already, be sure to read the comments that have been left on these posts. All together they are a compilation of some great ideas!

Here’s one more aspect of our policies to discuss: the matter of cancelations. There. I said it. The dreaded word. I think if you look up “cancelation” in the dictionary, you will find that the definition reads, “A piano teachers nightmare.”

If you teach anything, then it has happened to you. Cancelations are a common part of our studios. You spend time planning for a student’s lesson, only to have them call and cancel. Just when you were hyped about their lesson!

This matter should be covered in your policies for several reasons.

One, Paying for that lesson

Depending on how you handle payment, that student may have already payed for his lesson. You have to decide if you will reimburse for missed lessons, or if you will try to make up that lesson. Another option is giving the student a time limit. If they give you 24 hours notice, you will reimburse them. But if they give only a couple hours (or minutes :S) notice, no reimbursement. ( I think that having your students pay monthly at the beginning of the month keeps them from canceling more than is absolutely necessary...but thats another topic. :)

Two, make up lessons

Do you have time to offer your student a make up lesson? Can you move their lesson to later in the week? Yes, I think it is good to be able to offer another time-slot. But do not sacrifice responsibilities in other areas.

For this season of my teaching, the Lord has allowed me to be able to be as flexible as a slinky. Many weeks we move lessons around because of work or school schedules. The day may come when I have more students and not so much time to spare, but for now I am glad to be able to move things around for them. We have a policy in place that works well for us.

Three, weather

No matter how well you plan ahead, there comes a day when you wake up and realize you are living in a world gone white. Snow day! Gotta love ‘em, but they sure mess you up if you have to reschedule all those lessons. One day we were in a small blizzard, and our power was out, so I could not even call my students to cancel their lessons! Thankfully it was pretty obvious. :) Your issue may not be snow, it may be hurricanes or earthquakes, I don’t know. (what do you do in the case of an earthquake, anyway?) Whatever the case, forsee those potential problems that are out of your control, and plan ahead.

What do you, as the teacher, do about cancelations? Are there any areas that I have overlooked?

What about you as a student? How do cancelation policies look from your end of the spectrum?

February 22, 2011

A Matter of Testimony

My topic today, still along the lines of our policies, may be a little different. My purpose is not to make anyone feel guilty, but just to share with you my thoughts on the matter, and how I have decided to handle it.

If you have read my policies, you may have read the following:

For male students, a parent is required to sit in on every lesson if the student is over 13 years of age. If the parent is not able to sit in, please speak to me and other arrangements will be made. This is not because I foresee any problems, but simply to maintain a Christ-honoring testimony.

Did this make you wonder? Do you think I’m weird? (Don’t answer that! :) “Why on earth did she include that?” you may be wondering.

Well, I would love to tell you why. For me, its a matter of my testimony.

For my teaching situation right now, I give lessons at my church. I also happen to be the pastor’s daughter. For these two reasons in particular, I want to make sure that my testimony before my family, church family, and student’s families is clear on this matter. To me it is just the safest thing for me to do.

I Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

So thats what I am going to do in this situation. For me, having a third person nearby helps me to abstain from all appearance of evil.

It may sound hard to do, but for me its quite easy, because I have plenty of siblings to help out. :) Sometimes my brother is outside shoveling, or my sister is emailing in the other room. Thats all it takes. No biggie.

As I said before, I don’t want this topic to make you feel guilty or like you are going against the Bible because you don’t do this. That is not the case. Everyone’s situation is different and unique, and that includes mine. Because of my situations right now, I feel this is the way the Lord would have me follow I Thessalonians 5:22. You may teach in your home or in a studio or in an office and there may be other students coming in and out or whatever. The important thing is that you do what God wants YOU to do in this situation. You are not required or expected to do what God wants me to do.

“Boy she’s legalistic,” you may be thinking (or saying out loud to whoever happens to be close enough to listen). Thats ok, I don’t mind. I am not concerned what you think about me, but that you do what God wants you to do.

If you have any questions for me about this, I would love to answer them. Just leave me a comment. Or if you would like to constructively give your thoughts about this matter, we would enjoy hearing those as well. :)

Above all, lets do God's will for us and our studios.

February 21, 2011

Policy Links

Here are some of the links I have received to some of my reader's policies:

Sarah's (Scroll down and click on "studio policy")

I encourage you to read through these, especially if you are in the process of writing your own policies. Reading through someone else's is a great place to start! Of course, there may be certain circumstances special to your teaching environment that you need to address in your policies. Just adapt to fit your needs!

Here are links to a couple others that I referred to to write my own policies:

I hope that this information is helpful to you. If you would still like to link up with your policies, feel free! And if you are working on writing your own and would like me to read over them, I'd love to! I am not saying I have all the answers, but I'd do my best!

February 18, 2011

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you some important news...

If you are a regular blogger, you know how it goes. Blog A and Blog B and Blog C are sponsoring giveaways of one type or another, and you enter them all, hoping to win a frying pan or something. But you don't win. Ever. Its like the comment you leave has "Don't Pick Me!" written all over it. But what do you do? You keep on entering those giveaways.

I must admit that I do the same thing....A LOT! I especially make a point to enter these drawings if it is something piano related. I love piano music, piano books, anything that may help me become a better piano player and teacher, or help my students become better musicians. Well, it has finally, finally, finally paid off. Thats right, I won!!!

(Yes, I am doing a major happy dance right now. Join me!)

Oh, and I guess I should tell you what I won, shouldn't I? Minor detail. I entered to win the drawing for the book, "Chord Piano is Fun" over at Music Matters Blog. After reading Natalies review of the book, and looking into it on my own, I felt it would be a book that would be a help to me as I try to teach theory to my students. Because sometimes, I don't know how to do that. I think this book will be a big help to me!

I will be sure to let you know what I think of the book when I get it, and keep you posted on how it is a help to me.

Now lets all go do a little more of that happy dance!

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming...

February 16, 2011

Studio Policies: Communication

Can I just say, GO PIANO TEACHERS! So far I have received a couple of links to some great studio policies! I greatly enjoyed reading through them and thinking about the different aspects of my policies. I will share those links for you to read through them later in the week. If you want your policies to be included, send me the link or email them to me.

In examining my policies, and thinking about the importance of them, I started thinking about the importance of communicating with my students and their parents. There are many areas of teaching that need to be communicated, but for this post I’m speaking about the area of our policies and what we expect overall in lessons. I have never been the parent in this situation, but I have been the student, and I appreciate the time my teachers took to explain to me what they expected. Knowing exactly what they wanted me to bring to my lesson, how I was to approach a lesson, how long the lesson would last, etc, all helped me to be a little less nervous as I headed to a lesson. At least slightly less nervous. :)

One area that is always touchy is the area of finances and payments. Parents want to know what is expected, without paying more than necessary. Teachers have a rate they want to be payed, but are cautious about how they approach parents with that desire. This is one area where communication is at best, awkward, and at worst, left “un-communicated.” (I definitely think I just made up a word) Your policies can help with this communication breakdown. If what you expect is detailed in your policies, then there shouldn't be any questions or misunderstandings from anyone. Just be sure to cover missed payments!

Those are a few of the thoughts I've had about this area of communication and policies. I know we all realize the importance of this, but what are some of your thoughts?

February 14, 2011

Studio Policies

Lets focus for a bit on our studio policies, shall we? I believe that it is very, very important to have policies. I hope that if you teach anything, that you have policies written up. If you don't, let me encourage you to begin!

I wrote mine up last year when I began teaching here in Canada. I did not write them because I felt my students were going to be nothing but trouble and I was going to need them. (If any of my students are reading aren’t trouble! Thank you!) Right now, I teach mostly people from my church or one of their family members. When I first began giving out my policies and requiring my students, or prospective students, to read them, I felt bad. I felt like they were going to perceive me to be a big meany-pants because I have lots of “rules.” And who wants lots of rules?

I don’t feel that way anymore. For one thing, my policies are not rules. (Well, mostly.)They ARE guidelines for me, my students, and their parents to follow so that my students can get the most from piano lessons. I usually hand them to my student or his parent, and say something to the affect of, "Here are my studio policies, which I *lovingly* refer to as my "corner-of-the-church" policies. I don't forsee any problems, but these are to protect myself should any complicated situation arise. Just read through them to get an idea of what I do and what I expect, and let me know if you have any questions." Recently I had a mom thank me numerous times for having my policies written up. She really appreciated that she could read through them.

While I don’t foresee any problems with my current students, in the future I may be able to take on more students from the community. In today’s day and age, it is very easy to get in trouble with authorities because of disgruntled students and parents. This can be avoided by having potential problems covered in your policies so that you can say, “This is how I have chosen to handle this situation, and you agreed to it when you read my policies and signed the dotted line.”

There is a general outline to follow when you write up your policies. Here is the rough outline of things I came up with to include in my policies (Which, by the way, you can read for yourself by clicking here.)

Lesson requirements for student and teacher

Practice requirements for student and parent


Canceled lessons

Dismissal :-(

If you read my policies, you know that I expounded on these points quite a bit. :) Thats because I can’t say anything in just a few words. But these are the basic things I felt I needed to cover. I also read several other people’s policies to come up with these things and decide what I needed to include.

Lets make this a little teacher-to-teacher discussion! You may not teach piano, it may be some other instrument or even voice, still feel free to join! If you have written studio policies, we would love to read them and get fresh ideas. If your policies are posted on a blog or website, leave your link in the comments below. If they are not posted, but you would like to get into this discussion, go ahead and email them to me. And let us know...why do you include the things you have in your policies? What is your opinion on studio policies?

February 10, 2011

Cadence Chart

My brother is my most advanced piano student. He is 13 and has been taking lessons since he was about 6 years old. He is a great piano player!

Recently we've been working on scales, arpeggios, and cadences in several different keys. Let me just say that I did not know what a arpeggio or cadence was until I went to college. So sometimes I feel very, very inadequate to teach these things to him. Very. Nevertheless, it must be taught, and I enjoy refreshing my own mind with these things as well.

Cadences are difficult, in my opinion. In case you aren't sure what I mean by a cadence, you basically play the I chord, then the IV chord, then the I chord again, then the V7, and back to I. But you play each in a close position. This requires knowing the inversions for each of these chords as well. (Is this making any sense??)

To help with this, I made the following chart for him to try to help figure out the finger positions:
I wasn't sure if this would help...but it did! I think just stopping to figure out each chord and the fingering, and then seeing it visually, helped the most. Once he filled it out, he really didn't need to refer back to it too much. I noticed a DRASTIC difference in his cadences in just one week...and he hadn't even filled out the chords for every key!

So there you have it. Nothing drastic or eye-opening, but something that worked for me this week! If you would like to use this sheet, just leave me your email address and I'll be glad to send it to you!

February 2, 2011

Valentines Resources

It seems like we just finished with a holiday, but here is another one looming in the near future! Before it sneaks up on us too much, I wanted to share with you some links for Valentines activities for your students.

Susan Paradis (you knew I was going to say that, didn't you??) made my job easier and put links to all her Valentines material in one easy post. Keep checking her site, however, because she may come out with some new things between now and February 14th. You just never can tell. And have I ever mentioned how much I love using things from her site??

Sheryl at Notable Music Studio posted about this fun "Musical Hearts" activity she is using with her students. I had seen some of these foam hearts at the dollar store, so I decided to give it a try!!! Here are some pictures of the ones I made:

I was just a little nervous about having to draw on these, because I am about as artistic as a...well, there are no words to describe it. Lets just say, its bad. But actually, I found that it wasn't too hard to draw on the foam. The sharpie kind of sunk in and helped me draw straight.
I used many of the same ideas as Sheryl did, except for I didn't make mine quite so specific, so that I could use them with any age group. For instance, in the picture above, you see one with a keyboard and a star on Middle C. For beginning students, I can have them tell me if that is a group of two or a group of three black notes. If they know the notes on the piano, they can tell me which note it is. For my intermediate students, I can ask them to play that scale. I think this way will leave me with a lot of flexibility for each student to participate. I plan to use these next week in lessons, so I'll let you know how it goes!

February 1, 2011

What You Already Know

I am sure you all know this already. Very, very sure. But, if you are like me, you forget until it is too late. Am I right? Tell me I'm right.

Here's the problem. I come from the freezing cold, snowy weather into my "studio" (ha ha) where it is (comparatively) nice and warm. I begin teaching a lesson, and then the unthinkable happens. My nose turns into Niagara Falls. C'mon, you know it happens to you too!!!...doesn't it??

And I can only imagine, that if it is happening to me, it is also happening to my student, and I really don't like to think where it might be going if said student has no kleenex. Just sayin.'

So the bottom line is: must bring box of kleenex to lesson. If you are like me and don't teach from your home, chances are you don't normally have kleenex handy. I have decided to find a way to change that. The rest of my students will thank me.

You did already know that, right???