I love this studio space! Spring has sprung, so I love leaving the windows open and letting the sounds of music drift out to the street. Cozy chairs and sofa, lots of space to dance and move to rhythm drills, bright sunshine to make everyone happy... Even Jeffrey the cat loves this room, and graces every student with her presence at almost every lesson. She wouldn't say, but I think she particularly likes Beethoven...
As I was getting ready to start teaching piano lessons in my new studio, I was particularly excited about making each and every lesson not only interesting and fun and educational for every student, but also interesting and fun and educational for me! There were a lot of things I wanted to change about my approach to teaching since my move from Michigan. Doesn't teaching get boring when you as a teacher aren't learning, too?
I wanted to help students learn pieces of music that I myself wanted to listen to (how many "lesson" pieces make you want to tear your hair out by the third week of hearing it!); I wanted to learn more about the personal lives of lesser studied composers like Scarlatti and Scott Joplin; I wanted to fill my head with the great melodies of the great composers; I wanted to develop more of my skills in sight-reading, sightsinging, and aural skills, right alongside my students in their lessons. And I didn't want to get bogged down so much in all the administrative details that can clog the life of the self-employed piano teacher.
In order to achieve all these goals with my students, and continue my own education, I needed a plan.
So here are a few documents that have helped me set up the studio they way I want it to be, and have been vital in helping me achieve my goals! I've provided a brief description of each - and free printable version is available below.
Weekly Lesson Plan Sheet
After a day of lessons, I will pull out a fresh lesson plan sheet and base each student's next lesson on how their lesson just went that day. I do have goals for everyone, but each student is moving at a different pace and I want to make sure every lesson is tailor-made. I also want to make sure that we hit all the crucial musical goals every lesson - warm up, technique, repertoire study, theory, music history/appreciation, and any goals that are particular to that student.
Some kind of studio policy is a *MUST* for every private teacher. This document keeps my life from being bogged down in administrative details, and keeps the focus on learning and teaching. All the details about payment, practice expectations, missed lessons - anything and everything that every parent/student needs to know about the business side of lessons - it's all here! And it's signed before lessons begin together, so we are all on the same page.
Music Appreciation Worksheet
Every month, my students and I study a different composer. This month happens to be Scarlatti. (Not super famous outside of the music world, but this guy wrote over 500 piano sonatas - pretty impressive!) As part of that study, each student has a few listening assignments to do each week - and in order to guide the listening they do, I send them home with a few music appreciation worksheets to fill out as they listen to their assignment. We talk about it at their next lesson - I truly value the time they put into this.
Repertoire Goal Sheet
Each student has a few pieces of music that should only take two to three weeks to perfect, but they also have one or two pieces that should take several weeks (sometimes months) to finish up. In order to maintain our focus and interest on these longer, more difficult pieces, we fill out a goal sheet - which includes questions like "what story should this piece communicate to the audience", 'what do we want our final tempo to be", "what kind of dynamics/pedaling/articulations are included in this piece?", etc.
Weekly Lesson Assignment Sheet
This assignment sheet includes space to write all the assignments for a given week, as well as space for the student to check off the days they practiced and include the amount of time they practiced each day. The parents must initial the assignment sheet each week, validating the practice that was accomplished. My policy states that each student needs to practice a minimum of five days per week, so this assignment sheet keeps everyone aware of the student's practicing habits.
Looking forward to keeping a blog here to record my thoughts on teaching, learning, piano, and life as a musician in Boston.
Feel free to post your thoughts, as well!
I'm not going to pretend that I have the latest, greatest answers to all piano teaching problems.
In fact, my hope with this blog is to be very honest about my teaching - both the good that I have learned, AND the bad that I hope to learn from. I would so greatly appreciate to hear from fellow teachers (and not just piano teachers, and not even just music teachers!) about the things they have learned about teaching. I want this to be a safe space where we all can continually learn from and be encouraged by each other.
Michal Grace Harris
Piano Teacher & Accompanist