Organization Help for the Unorganized Teacher

Jennifer participates as an author on the Music Teacher’s Helper Blog site.  She writes articles once per month.  This article appeared on March 18th, 2009.

In a perfect world, teachers are as organized as they are knowledgeable. They recall information on a whim, and memorize every appointment. Their work spaces are immaculate, their shoes impeccably shined, and composure is written all over their face even under the most stressful of days.

But here in the real world, we teachers are usually not as organizationally refined. I’m even willing to go out on a limb and say that music teachers, at least the honest ones, are naturally faulted in this and predisposed to a free-spirited chaotic side.

Let’s face it: We’re artists. We’re creative, we’re passionate, and detail management is not exactly our forte. I will be the first to admit that I am the epitome of disorganization.

Allow me paint you a mental picture of my teaching studio, as it was 4 months ago…

A half dozen pink colored sticky notes stuck to the side of my grand piano reminding me of this week’s “To Do’s”. Random piles of sheet music, binders, and manuscript books. A stack of checks from parents sitting under a pencil-filled coffee mug to deposit for this month’s lessons (and only mental notes to remind me later on which students have and have not paid yet).

And that’s not all. The biggest, baddest sin of all is my forgetfulness to write down changes in lesson scheduling on my monthly calendar. “Why is Suzy here for her lesson today? Her lesson isn’t until Thursday. Oh, that’s right…”. I’m somehow still convinced that as an early-30’ish year old adult, my brain can still successfully function as a mental day planner.

Well, perhaps this worked in my teens and twenties, but now days? Nu uh. Nope. Not a chance.

I know, I get it. I’m a piano teacher, a violin teacher, a recording artist, a performer, not to mention a wife, a mother, a cook, an active blogger, a wanna-be fashion designer, and home-beautifier.

So I have a few things on my plate. But it’s a good excuse for my lack of studio “housekeeping”, right?

Wrong.

A few months ago, I finally decided that enough was enough and that I needed some help. I was on a mission!

I hopped my savvy little computer fingers onto on my favorite search engine and started doing some hunting for a better way to track my schedule, the student practice logs, and for some fun music games to play at my upcoming pre-recital party for the students.

I came across many-a-useless sites that offered help for teachers, yet didn’t really seem to have that ingeniously unique something I was looking for. I just couldn’t imagine that someone out there hadn’t created what I needed after all this time. Other teachers have had to of had these same thoughts…right?

And then it happened: I found what I was looking for. It was as if the clouds parted and golden rays of sunlight beamed down onto my computer screen as angels sang Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. My eyes danced and my heart leaped in giddy delight.

A program that not only did the things I was looking to accomplish, but much more.

It tracked my teaching income and expenditures, tracked music that I loan to students, allowed me to enter lesson notes, send emails to parents and students (automated if I wished), enter student’s repertoire, schedule lessons, keep a calendar (that both students and parents could view as well), send invoices and receive payments online, and (drum roll please)…I even got my own website that I could tailor for my own studio.

Enter Music Teacher’s Helper.

I have been using this program for 4 months now and am thoroughly tickled with delight to find myself so incredibly organized. And I am having fun doing it!

Imagine, if you will, a new and different picture of my studio these days…

A clean piano. No sticky notes. All appointments and reminders have been entered onto my website calendar, and I even receive email reminders daily of upcoming events (as are the parents).

After each lesson, I log into my Music Teachers Helper and type up my lesson notes and thoughts on how the student did. I can send these notes to the parents if I wish (which I always do) so that they can be aware and involved in their child’s lesson.

When I receive a check, I immediately enter a payment into my transaction log and generate a “thank you” email to the parent. They also have a unique log in and password so that they can view their transaction history as well.

I never miss a student’s birthday anymore because they’ve all been entered into the birthday tracker.

Loaned a book out? No problem. I’ve entered it into my lending library with a due date. Email reminders will be sent to the student about returning the material.

I no longer have to probe Suzy for her practice report because she logs in and enters it into her personal practice log where I can then view it.

Needing ideas for recital games, studio advice, or how to be a better teacher? I get a wealth of information from the Music Teacher’s Helper Blog (which is where I found the idea to make piano-shaped cookies and decorate them for our Christmas piano recital party).

And this is only skimming the surface of what this program can do.

At the end of the day though, I do have to say that in some small way I feel like I’m cheating. I get so many compliments from parents about my organizational skills! If they only knew, right?

I guess you could say after all that there is such a thing as a perfect world with perfectly organized and composed teachers. Or at least now I’ve cracked the code on how they do it. I’m still working on the impeccably shined shoes though.

Now if I could just figure out where to find a program that will cook for me, babysit, clean my house…

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One response to “Organization Help for the Unorganized Teacher

  1. Comments from the Music Teacher’s Helper site:

    1.I’ll never forget one of my first job interviews. One of the panelists asked me, “Are you organized?” He asked it with a sense of desperation and importance that implied the previous music teacher must have made some major organizational blunders. I’ll never forget it.
    by Stengel99 — Sun Mar 22, 2009 @ 10:02 am

    2.”Let’s face it: We’re artists. We’re creative, we’re passionate, and detail management is not exactly our forte. I will be the first to admit that I am the epitome of disorganization.”

    – For a moment, I thought I was reading a description of myself.
    by Joe — Thu Mar 26, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    3.It was nice to learn that a computer program made you organized and that you love it too, though I am a bit skeptical that it would work for all. Unorganized (but computer savvy!) teachers can surely take a cue from this post. As for the programs to help you with cooking, cleaning and babysitting, I think only god can help you!

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