Resources for the new teacher

I remember my first days of being a new teacher. I didn’t own any extra books. I only had one pencil and one pen. And nothing else really. It was tough. I made my own calendar by drawing lines. I mostly didn’t know what to do or how to organize anything. I was completely new to being a teacher. And I didn’t receive any supplies from anybody. I had to purchase all of my own supplies and come up with all of my own techniques. Now, on the internet, people are sharing their teaching methods everywhere and it is much easier. Back then, it wasn’t as easy.

I learned a lot of my techniques through joining a Facebook group tailored specifically for piano teachers. Whenever I had a problem, I asked other teachers. And this helped a lot. They talked me through many of the initial problems new teachers go through. I feel like I am stronger now because of the support from that group. I’m still a member of that group and I’ve began helping other new teachers. I’m the mentor and it feels great to help other teachers. The advice is free. And they are always willing to help.

I found that there are some apps that you can use on your phone to make teaching easier. In my first couple of years, I was obsessed with using apps and I’ve began to drift away from them. I still use a metronome and tuning app though. Those are my favorites. I would stay away from all other apps because they can be distracting for students. I prefer to have my students learn from a book rather than staring at a screen. In addition to using apps, I’ve found that google is a great resource for looking up musical terms. I have my own pocket dictionary of musical terms that includes all composers, but google is a great resource in the beginning of your teaching career also.

If you have a smartphone, I suggest using text messages to communicate with piano families. It’s much more convenient and you can access it wherever you go. Use technology to your advantage and always look for new ways to maximize your time.

Supplies and books were always a huge obstacle for me. I was always short in supplies until I started making more money. I used secondhand items until I could afford my own. When I discovered the dollar store, everything changed. It’s much cheaper and I would strictly shop from there for supplies. I’ve found that buying supplies from amazon in big bulks is helpful too. My students are always using all of my supplies, so I need a lot for my backup. I shop at my local music store for books because I get a teacher discount, but amazon is great for buying books too. I would go to music stores and ask for their teacher discounts. I’ve found that students can also use my discount because their under my teacher account.

I joined the teachers music association two years ago and it is one of the best decisions I’ve made. They put your name on the teacher directory so other schools can find you if they need a teacher. They provide free resources and books. I went to a music book sale and bought a lot of books because they offered it. And they donated me more books too. I can also offer my students more extra curricular activities. I’ve found it to be a very valuable resource. And I met other teachers too.

I used Facebook neighborhood groups to advertise for my lessons. And the amount of calls I got was way more than other forms of advertisements. Facebook is an amazing resource for advertising and you can also create your own Facebook page for your music studio.

If you want to give your students a great experience, that’s really great. It’s expensive though. And we don’t always have the money for it. I’ve found ways to make small gifts in cheap ways by looking online. And I make my own music flash cards with plain notecards. There are many great resources and things you can do for your students that are cost effective. You just have to be creative.

YouTube is a great resource for learning about teaching. I learned more about teaching techniques and materials by watching YouTube videos. And I also have my students listen to their piano songs on YouTube before learning it. It’s a great free resource to have on the go.

If you don’t know, Spotify offers free podcasts to listen to. And if you have a gmail account, you can access word document and excel sheets for free. I’ve made lecture slides for my students through google drive. And I’ve also printed free domain music sheets online. If you’re using your books for private use, you can photocopy your music sheets for students. I would stockpile all of my good music and my books for reuse for all of my students. Having multiple students use a performance book or a sightreading book can dramatically cut costs.

If you’re anything like me, you need lots of coffee. I’ve found that Starbucks offers an account to earn free drinks and food. I use that frequently to earn stars. I also have a Dunkin’ Donuts card to earn points. If you have the McDonald’s app, the large coffees are only $1 and you can earn free coffee there too. I use the curbside pickup to save time. And the breakfast sandwiches are a penny too. I always grab food there early before my lessons or during my breaks. If you’re looking for lunch, download the Sonics app and you get access to happy hour 24/7. All drinks are half off and they offer deals on there too. If you have a smoothie king account, they offer a rewards system. If you want $2 extra when you sign up, you can use my referral link here. If you exercise at a gym, they might offer extra discounts for smoothies at tropical smoothie. All of us teachers are always looking for good drinks and food. I hope that helps.

Once you get started teaching, you’ll get better at being a teacher. And many things will become reflexive the more you do it. There are so many resources available and I hope you take advantage of it all. Keep researching and working hard!

Can you learn the piano by yourself?

Yes, you can learn the piano by yourself. However, it is best to have a teacher by your side to guide you through the difficult stages of learning the piano. There are techniques such as fluid hand motion and technical issues that you can’t solve by yourself. Imagine if you tried to learn how to fix your sink and you spent hours googling how to do it. You could have just hired a plumber to come fix it and they could have done it in 30 minutes.

I know that this isn’t what people want to hear. It’s not what I would want to hear if I was a beginner, but I don’t want to lie to you. I don’t want to sell you a piano course that doesn’t guarantee that you will learn the piano. I don’t want to sell you a product that might work. I actually want to give you advice that will save you time and money. You can’t do everything yourself. I’ve seen many students fail at learning the piano by themselves. Please don’t listen to all the advertising gibberish online. You need to find a piano teacher that can physically be right next to you and to guide you through this process. Don’t waste your money on anything else. I’ve seen many instances where it doesn’t work.

I hope this helps you and let me know if there are anymore topics that you want me to discuss.

A day in the life of a piano teacher 🍎 🍏

I find myself really busy all the time. There are a million things on my todo list and honestly, there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done. For me, I always make sure that all of my students are progressing. And that takes a lot of attention and decision making every day.

Today, I started out with a doctors appointment. I cleaned out my teaching bag yesterday night so I have a clean start for this new week. I also answered some text messages from parents. I almost always get texts every day from parents either to reschedule or cancel a lesson. Before lessons, I spend time answering all these texts for the day. I then start packing my teaching bag. I carry a lot of materials with me when I go to teach. It’s a big deal to really stock up on materials because my students use it up very fast. After that, I usually almost always bring a big bottle of water and a coffee for the day. Then, I’m out the door.

For me, I use google calendar for all of my scheduling. I know I’ve written a separate blog post about google calendar before, but if you guys want me to write another one, I can explain more about how I use it. Google calendar is my lifeline. It’s where I store ALL of my information on lessons and addresses. I also store personal events and reminders for every aspect of my life on there. It’s kind of like a planner, but more catered to my style of planning. I also share my calendar with my boyfriend so he can see what I have to do for the day. He also shares his calendar with me. I glance at my calendar for the day and I see how my day is going to be.

I travel to each of my students’ homes to teach. It’s convenient for me because I don’t want to teach from my own home. And they like the convenience of it. Each student has lesson books and technical exercise books I’ve chosen for them. We go through the lesson by me watching them play. And I give feedback. At times, I’ll have to teach a concept and they just listen. I have four lessons today. That’s quite a large load for me on a typical day. I average about 4-5 lessons a day.

I don’t know how today’s going to go because I haven’t started my lessons yet. But I hope it’s going to be a good day 🤞 I hope everyone is having a good Monday!

What’s been new with me

My birthday just recently passed and I’ve been working a lot. I have 21 piano and double bass students that I teach every week. They are quite a handful of young kids. And I’ve been noticing that some of the younger ones are not practicing. I’ve been thinking of implementing a check in on practicing every Thursday to see how their progress is going.

I dealt with some trials and tribulations yesterday, but I shared that with my other blog. I went out to buy my own shoes, so no one will steal them. And I hid my current ones away too 😁 They are my “teaching shoes” that I wear every day to go teach. Even my oldest sister, that I don’t live with anymore, knows that those shoes are mine. But somehow, they were taken when I needed to wear them… now that won’t happen! I’m also going camping today with friends. We’re camping in their backyard haha because we don’t want to tough out the actual wilderness. And bathroom breaks are a lot easier.

I have my first piano lesson of the day in 45 minutes. And I’ve been spending these last few minutes, as I always do, just relaxing and calming down. Yesterday was a good full day of lessons. My students definitely cheer me up when I feel down.

I hope everyone is having a great day 👍

How are my incentive programs going??

Incentive programs:

When you use incentives (candy, prizes, or small promises) to motivate your students to accomplish goals

Hi! Yes, I’m back again writing another blog post. And I have no shame posting multiple blog posts in a day. It’s my blog and I do what I want! In my opinion, incentive programs are definitely worth using. Some teachers are against it like, “they’re too expensive…” or “the motivation should be the music” or “I’m a good teacher and I don’t need that, haven’t used that ever in my 100 years of teaching.”

That’s good for you guys. There’s no right way of teaching, but each teacher has the freedom to customize their studio the way they want. As long as you are keeping up with everything each week, you do you!

For me, I use three different incentives. And I never really explain what they are unless I’m talking to my teaching friends. The reason I’m using three incentive programs is because it’s summer time. And I want to reward those students who are still taking lessons consistently over the summer 🙂 Summer should be fun also, so I like to spice it up and give them more fun things to do.

1. Star Page

The Great Sight-Reading Challenge2-The Plucky PianistaSight-Reading Challenge.jpg

The one I use above to the right is the first star page I give to my students. It has less stars so it’s easier for them to complete. Students earn a star when they work on a song, complete a song in the book, or work on a work page. They use a marker to color in a star. Once they color all the stars, they earn a prize! And it’s usually a very nice surprise when I come to their next lesson with their prize. It’s not too difficult for them to complete even the one on the left. I like it because they have to work hard for it and learn to try the songs that they don’t like. But I also like it because it takes them about 2-3 months to complete it. I don’t want to be spending money every single week giving out prizes consecutively. Here are what my prize bags look like. I’ve given out more prizes than this but I didn’t take a picture every single time. Oops!

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 11.59.44 AMScreen Shot 2018-07-12 at 11.59.57 AM

I like to decorate these a lot because it makes them look even more special! This incentive is very effective. If I had to choose, I would implement this one first and keep it. Students are also mucho motivated by this. Don’t tell them what surprise they’re getting! Leave them in suspense.

2. Small motivational erasers

smiles-wedge-erasersThese are not the exact ones I use. I didn’t take a picture of the ones I use, but these will do. I give one to each student per lesson. There are a lot of designs in mine, so I tell them that they can collect a new one each time. I haven’t shown them what they all look like, so it’s also a surprise to see what they are getting each week. This is a small token of my appreciation for them. They are helping me out by giving me business, and I really appreciate that. It’s something small, I get about 10 erasers for $1, but it has a huge meaning behind it. This incentive has been very effective so far. Students love it!

3. Gumball Machine
clipart-gumball-machine-picturesque-bubble-gum-learnfree-me-remarkable-emptyThis is my last incentive I recently added. I can’t take all the credit for this one because I got the idea from a teacher friend. Students will color one gumball each time as a practice chart. I am the judge on whether or not they practiced enough. The song has to be played better than last week. There are 100 gumballs, so this one also takes awhile to complete. As a joke, I like to tell them that the prize is… 5 cents! Haha it’s not, but it’s still funny to see their reactions. I know that this one is going to be difficult to implement, but it’s so new that I don’t have any results to share yet.

 

If you guys have any other ideas on incentives, please let me know 🙂 If you liked my ideas, please like and share this blog post!

Cheers!

NOT ENOUGH TIME

Something I’ve learned over the last couple of days is that there is not enough time. I don’t have enough time to complete all of my tasks. I’m a busy person and I have to have a lot of stuff done. There are many things I’m juggling all at once. I mean, you’ve probably seen my post about my calendar already. And you know that I teach more than 40 hours a week. So why am I so surprised when there is not enough time for me?

Even though I’ve been complaining about my calendar, I’ve actually been using it more. I’ve been writing in tasks too and that has changed the game for me. My productivity has skyrocketed! And I’ve been able to find time to do things. Now I just have to find time to practice the piano…

This hasn’t solved all of my problems though. I still want to continue with blogging. And it seems like I’ve only been able to blog every couple of days. Is that enough? I’m not sure. I have tons of content on this blog and my other blog, but I’m afraid that people will stop reading if I don’t consistently post new content. I’m not perfect. And I’m honestly doing a million things every single day. There aren’t enough seconds, minutes, or hours unfortunately to do everything -__-

Update: What Have I Been Up To?

Hi everyone, I’ve been diving full term into teaching lately. And it’s been something I’ve been doing since last December. My schedule has been hectic. Every day is a busy day filled with tasks, errands, lessons, and chores. It’s been nice to find the time to write this post for all of you. I haven’t had much time lately. For the past two months, I have been working with my best students in completing their level 1 musicianship exams. They have been studying and practicing their songs diligently. That also means we had to cram in multiple lessons before their testing days. On top of that, I hosted my third recital! This recital was split into two different days. Parents could pick which day they wanted their child to perform. I organized it this way because I have too many students. And I didn’t want my students to sit through a three hour long performance. (that would be a nightmare haha)

Ohh, and what else is new? I’ve been leveling many of my students up in their lesson books. They have also cashed in on their star pages. The star pages track their progress and helps motivate them to keep working hard. I’ve also been introducing some of my more musical students to singing. This is something new to them but it would really enrich their lessons. They have been working on singing This is Me from The Greatest Showman. Another thing that I’ve been doing is introducing my students to Hanon, and getting them back on track with working on technique exercises and sight reading again. I’ve been working on performing more and my next performance is tomorrow actually! My interest has shifted more into performance and overcoming my fear of playing in front of large groups. I’m getting better at it now!

It’s been great! I’ve been so busy and I wouldn’t trade all the work for anything. Being a teacher is tough. You are definitely pushed to your limits on some days. And I definitely have not shared all of the stuff I’ve been doing these past months, but I am still here. Blogging is something that I love, and expect more blog posts soon 🙂

Too Much Stress

I am SO stressed!!! Guys, let me take a moment and explain to you all of the things that I have to do… I have a recital to plan with about 16 students, a handful of students to prepare for musicianship exams, about 40+ lessons to teach each week, going to my own viola and piano lessons, taking care of my puppy, taking care of myself and dieting, studying for the GRE, preparing my personal statement, managing my blog, and managing my expenses. That’s what is inside my mind every single week. And it gets worse…

I’m not sleeping at night. I know, it sounds horrible already, but being sleep deprived is another facet to stress. I only get about 2-4 hours of sleep each night and that is not enough to keep me going throughout the day. I actually need a TON of energy to be efficient. It’s like I have to be at 100% every single day. I don’t know if I’m going to eventually fall asleep and have a good night sleep. However, as of right now, I really wish I can take a nap.

I really think that I have to reconsider what my priorities are and let many things go. I’m currently using Google Calendar and HabitBull to keep me on track. If you also feel stressed, I suggest taking a break from whatever it is. Stress ruins your body and limits your overall happiness. I’m only beginning to learn how to manage my stress, but today was a bad day. I only slept for about 3 hours and I woke up not feeling tired at all.

Please help. Send help!! Haha

Struggles that many teachers face

I don’t think that a lot of people will know how hard it is to be a teacher. It’s not just showing up for work and teaching from the book. And I know that many teachers face some of these things alone. We tend to not show any kind of emotion, either angry or sad, in front of our students. Today, I want to open up and share some of the moments that made my heart break or the moments that made me so happy. Obviously, for the privacy of the people in these stories, I’m going leave out their names and specifics. I’ve taught A LOT of students, so the chances of figuring out who is who is very slim anyways. Although I have many stories, I’ll share a couple different stories 🙂

1. The first day I taught this pupil, they decided to bang the keys and basically show me that they were not going to listen to a word I said. I actually went out to buy this pupil lessons books with my own money. The first lesson was not good, so I was really hoping that the second lesson would be better. It went horribly. I finished the lesson well with the pupil, and their mom was very upset. First of all, she was upset that I ended the lesson two minutes early… which is kind of ludicrous because two minutes is not much time to teach anything new anyways. And she said that she wanted to pull the student out of lessons to another teacher. I was glad that I wasn’t teaching that student anymore, but the mom went on to treat the other teacher badly. Word of advice: treat your teachers with respect. They are people too.

2. I was on my way to this pupil’s home after I tried to confirm with them that their lesson is today. This pupil started becoming very disrespectful after I had helped them purchase their lesson books, but I told them that they would have to pay me back. First of all, these are not MY books. These are YOUR books. I was driving in the heavy rain over to this pupil’s house and they didn’t even answer the door. I decided in that moment to keep calling because I thought something was wrong. The pupil answered the door, and said that they had plans so they couldn’t have lessons that day. They didn’t call me or try to tell me this in advance after I drove 40 minutes out to teach them. They also said that they were stopping lessons for good. I cried.

3. This parent decided that their child wasn’t learning enough from lessons, but wasn’t interested in enforcing them to practice. The parent thought that it was my duty to enforce practice time…which it isn’t. By this time, the parent had began to resent me very much and I couldn’t justify the resentment because I was giving them discounted lessons. I invested so much time and effort to try teaching their child. They were also late on payments and consistently questioned my teaching. I heard that they went with a different teacher later on, but the lessons were 10x as expensive. Good luck to them, but I feel bad for that teacher.

4. I had just had a horrible night and I really didn’t feel like going to teach. My eyes were puffy from crying. It was one of those days when I really felt like staying at home. I cried on the way to this pupil’s house and in the car when I arrived there. Once I started the lesson, I immediately felt better. And it was in that moment that I knew that teaching was something I could do for the rest of my life. It brings so much joy to my life and I knew I was lucky to be doing it.

5. I could tell that this pupil wasn’t interested in the piano when they avoided practicing at all costs. I can’t force a student to practice, but I can try to encourage them to do so. There were times when they would tell me that they didn’t want to play a certain song. And I would say that they had no choice. I’m the teacher and I don’t bend the rules. This student tried so hard to avoid playing at all! They would knock my hand away when I tried to show them how to play a certain passage. I never felt so disrespected from a student before.

6. There was a student that would not say anything the entire time they were in lessons. Now, I’m okay with those that are shy, but this was not being shy. I later became concerned when the parent started pulling the student out of lessons for certain weeks. It later became clear that the student and I were not compatible, so they wanted to stop lessons. That’s okay. However, the parent started ghosting me for no reason. I would try to reach them to set up a time when they could pick up their books and the parent just disappeared. After that, they still owed me payments for some of the lessons… they never ended up picking up the books or paying for the missing lessons. They just disappeared. And I don’t understand that. It’s not embarrassing or whatever. You don’t have to act weird about it. Why couldn’t there be a civil way to handle it?