Friday, September 30, 2011

New Worksheets for Learning C Position Notes

I have a number of beginning readers in my studio right now, so these worksheets were designed with them specifically in mind! There are 2 worksheets, one for each clef. You can find them under the printables tab, just keep scrolling down until you see the link for the Land of C. Please print and enjoy using these in your own studios.

Fall Practice Incentive Update

I'm wrapping up my first month of the fall term, and am finally starting to see some of my students earn their first stars for the studio wall of fame. It's been really interesting to see which students are actually the most motivated about keeping the goals they set for themselves, and which students make only half-hearted attempts to keep their goals. There are always some surprises!

At this point, less than half of my studio have earned their first star, but I'm hoping that as time goes on I'll see my students start settling into more of a weekly routine and meeting more of their goals.

For those other teachers who have practice incentives for the fall; how are your students doing? Are they showing the diligence and motivation that you'd hoped they'd show?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Personal Boundaries as a Teacher

Over the past month, I feel like I've been turning students away like crazy. Each time I get a phone call, email, or personal inquiry about lessons and have to say no I find myself feeling a bit guilty. Couldn't I have squeezed just 2 more in? That's when I have to remind myself of the personal boundaries I have set for myself as a teacher and hold myself accountable to what I know are my personal limitations.

Boundaries are important in every area of life. What does that currently mean for me as a teacher? Between my private studio, my church position, playing for private events, my other part-time housesitting job, and making sure I allow personal recharge time, that works itself out to between 20-25 students. At that volume I'm able to juggle all my responsibilities without feeling too burned out at the end of the week.

Before I start giving the impression that I have always perfectly maintained this balance, let me set the record straight. I haven't always been so good about maintaining my boundaries! ;) There have been terms where I've totally overbooked myself and arrive at the end of the week completely exhausted. There have been terms where I've overscheduled myself on certain days, meaning that I'll find myself at the end of a teaching day with a terrible headache and unable to give my final students the focus, attention, and patience they deserve. That's what it's really all about: making sure that we're the best we can be for our students. Numbers aren't important. Being able to engage and having the energy to communicate well is what's important. And if you find yourself with too many students to effectively communicate and teach, then you've gone too far.

So how do you find that 'magic number'? It's going to look different for every person, and will most likely change from year to year depending on other responsibilities, age, health, etc. It also takes time to get to know your limitations and give them the respect they deserve.

Taking time to recognize personal boundaries isn't always easy. When the calls come in, it can be so tempting to keep saying yes! But when that temptation comes, I remind myself of my boundaries and think of current students and what would truly be best for them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you set boundaries for yourself as a teacher. Have you been successful? Ever had any major disasters?!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Great Resources to Help Students Meet Their Goals

I'm having so much fun working to help each of my students meet their fall goals. If you're like me, you love a good list of free resources, so I thought I'd share some of the tools I've been using these past few weeks.

For students who noted that they wanted to improve their note reading skills, I've been using Susan Paradis' Notes in the Fast Lane. My students absolutely LOVE these worksheets, and can't wait for the time each week at their lesson when we pull these out. I laminated the sheets to save on paper, and I time my students for 90 seconds. Their goal is to complete the sheet and get at least a 22/24 to 'pass' their current level.

For students who told me they wanted to work on reading intervals, I printed and laminated Wendy Chan's Interval Snap Game. This was a HUGE hit with my students last week (thanks Wendy :) ), and a great fun off-bench activity that helped review basic intervals. We used the cards to play Go-Fish.

Several of my students noted that they wanted to get better at keeping a steady beat, so in addition to a LOT more metronome practice, I printed out Wendy Stevens' Rhythm Worksheets and made packets for my students. Each student is responsible for writing in the counts and clapping and counting OUT LOUD with the metronome.

These are just a few of the resources I've been making use of in recent weeks. Do you have any resources that have become staples in your studio? Or any resources you've been using on a regular basis this fall? I'd love to hear about those!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Question of the Week: September 19, 2011- The Slump

I want to take a little time this morning to take a brief survey with the help of other teachers. It's only my third week into the fall term, and I'm already beginning to experience what I call "the slump".

Several students have shown up for lessons this week with little or no practice logged. One student even had the guts to tell me he'd "forgotten about practicing".

Over and above this, the level of focus among my students was way off this week as well, and I had a hard time reining in the energy and maintaining any kind of focus.

I always find this phenomenon occurs about mid-term, after the first month or so of lessons has passed and the reality of the recital hasn't quite hit home. I've never had it hit so early. Two weeks ago we were just started off, setting our goals, and talking about what we wanted to accomplish this fall.

Over the years as I've taught, I've seen this slump slowly shifting earlier and earlier each term, and lasting longer and longer. It seems that students just don't have the enthusiasm and discipline that I expect them to have. On top of this, the parents also share their attitudes and don't make disciplined practice a priority, rather, they'll come in and make excuses for their kids and expect me to be the one to pick up the slack.

I am just curious if other teachers out there are noticing this type of trend in their respective areas? Do you find my observations to be relevant and applicable to your own studios? Have you dealt with this in the past? Do you have any ideas for how to breathe fresh inspiration even when it seems to be needed in the first month of the term?

I'm not meaning for this to be a negative post, I'm just sharing my observations and looking for feedback and (hopefully) some advice from more experienced teachers. If you wouldn't mind taking a few moments to share your own experiences by commenting, I'd love to get a good discussion going on this topic!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Trip to the Zoo Finger Number Worksheet for Beginners: LH

I posted the companion worksheet to this one a few months back, but never made the LH worksheet available on my blog. I just added this sheet under the printables tab, so please check it out and enjoy having the complete set to use with your students! :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fall 2011 First Week Review and 2 New Printables

It's been a great first week back at my studio. While I have to confess that I was dreading the end of summer and the start of a new schedule a little bit, once the week started up I found myself completely enjoying the change of pace and especially seeing all my students again.

If you missed my post on the fall practice incentive, you might want to take a moment to review that post for a better idea of my focus over the course of the week. As is always the case after a break, the lessons are largely comprised of review and getting students back on track for the upcoming term. It was the perfect time to help them set goals for the fall term!

We spent the beginning portion of the lesson doing just that, and I was very excited about the way my students responded to the challenge. They were all enthusiastic about setting goals for themselves and I can't wait to start up again tomorrow and see how many students really followed through with this.

In addition to weekly practice goals and skills for improvement, I included a special section at the bottom of the page with two additional optional activities; a composition and research project. Several students were excited about one of both of these options, and in preparation for upcoming weeks, I created some brainstorming sheets for my students to use in preparing their compositions and completing their research projects. The sheets are shown below, and they are both available for download on my printables tab under "Other Teaching Aids". I'm sorry the images below are so small...I'm not sure why they came out that way :(

How has everyone else's week gone?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Question of the Week: September 5, 2011 - Handling Holidays

It's 2:00 P.M. on this Labor Day 2011, and I'm done teaching for the day! It's such a nice change of pace to finish up lessons in the early afternoon, especially as I'm just breaking back into the fall schedule and this makes the adjustment period a bit less stressful.

So I'm curious:

How many of you are teaching today? What are your policies for teaching on holidays?

My policy has always been to teach on those school holidays like Labor Day, Presidents' Day, etc. However, since school is not in session, I always give parents/students the option of coming earlier in the day, and they most usually all take me up on it! While this may not be an option for a teacher with a family or other obligations, the fact that I don't have any children makes it easy for me to flip my schedule around. I get an early start to the day and then get to enjoy a rare evening off. Win-win situation!

I'd love to hear thoughts from other teachers on how they handle holiday lessons.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fall 2011 Practice Incentive: The Wall of Fame!

I'm excited to share this afternoon about the practice incentive I'll be using in my studio this fall: The Wall of Fame! As I planned for the fall term, I wanted to work with my students to help them both set and keep goals for their progress.

At their first lesson, each student will work with me to set goals for their progress over the fall. They'll receive this handout which we'll use to jot down their goals as well as a chart where we'll track their progress.

I'm planning on using a good portion of the beginning of the lesson working with each student to help set up specific goals. The handout has space for them to decide how much they should practice each day, how many days they want to try and practice a week, how many pieces they'd like to memorize, and skills they'd like to improve. In addition to that, there are a few extra projects they can attempt; working on a composition or completing a special research project on a variety of topics.

Each week we'll revisit those goals, and every goal met will move them one step further along their chart. Every 5 spaces will earn them a star on the wall of fame!

I sent this handout out along with my September newsletter detailing the specifics of the incentive.

I'm really hoping that setting concrete goals will help my students make consistent progress through the term, and that meeting those goals will help them feel successful from week to week.

Has anyone else ever attempted a similar practice incentive? How did it go?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mentally Preparing for a New Term

I'm back from vacation, and going full speed ahead as I get ready for the start of lessons next week. I'll be posting over the next few days about my fall practice incentive and sharing more about the planning and organizing that is going on, but I wanted to take a brief moment today to talk about the preparation I've been doing for myself personally.

I can struggle very often to maintain a positive attitude toward my studio. I am easily discouraged by perceived criticism or when lessons don't go exactly as planned. I can quickly become overwhelmed by trying to pull both the weight of my responsibility and that of the student. I waste time comparing myself to other teachers and musicians and come away feeling like I have nothing to offer.

These types of attitudes haunt my steps more than I'd like to admit, and I have to constantly remind myself to stay positive and keep the correct perspective.

So with the fall term looming ahead, I've set aside a bit of time from the preparations to prepare mentally for the upcoming term and encourage myself about what lies ahead.

First, I completed my studio vision. I've had a studio policy ever since the beginning, but I'd never taken time to sit down and write a vision statement for my studio. I've always had vague ideas floating around in my head about how I perceive my studio and what I want to get out of it, but taking the time to corral these thoughts was so helpful for me! It's re-adjusted my perspective and helped me to focus on what I think is most important as I approach the term ahead.

If you've never done so, I'd highly encourage you to sit down and take a bit of time to get your ideas and thoughts on paper. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, and it can definitely evolve with time, but having a written vision statement breathes a fresh sense of purpose into ones daily approach toward teaching.

After my vision statement was completed, I took a little bit of time to assess just what I needed to improve in my teaching over this term. I started a list to detail the areas I can see I need to be more disciplined on in lessons. This will be very helpful for me as I plan out the first week of lessons in the coming days.

Finally, I wanted to share a book I've been reading over the past week that's really been instrumental in shaping my perception of who I am as a musician. Michael Card's book "Scribbling in the Sand" delves into the heart of Christ and examines Christian creativity in a way that's really challenging me both as a teacher and as a musician. I'd highly recommend this book.

Preparation is key to a well-maintained studio, but it's more than just preparing the lessons and organizing the studio. Preparing ourselves mentally is just as important, and after taking some time to do just that I feel much more positive about starting back into lessons!