Monday, August 17, 2009

Scheduling: An Exercise in Patience

I really love piano teaching. There’s very little about it that I don’t love, but one of the things I could do without is the headache of scheduling students every fall. There seems to be no way around doing it the hard way – starting anew each year to accommodate all of the changing after-school commitments. Because my students have overlapping lesson times due to a computer lab, I prefer to schedule them myself rather than to allow them to sign up on their own for available times. Having one brain in charge of that process just works better. So, I spend a lot of time contacting parents trying to arrange something that works reasonably well for everyone.

Thankfully, I managed to get all of the old and new students scheduled this time with minimal problems. The biggest problem actually did not come from my students but from discovering that my daughter’s ballet school had made a typo on the schedule they gave to parents last spring. The class time that I had signed up for and paid a deposit for and scheduled my whole piano teaching life around was not the actual class time. We all had to scramble to adjust. It was a lesson to me to double and triple check the information I give to parents because I experienced first-hand how difficult it can be for working parents to make changes after they’ve arranged their lives around a lesson time.

All of that to say that I guess this time of year just requires lots of patience and understanding all the way around. How do you handle scheduling?


atara said...

I'm trying really hard not to make s-p-o-r-t-s a bad word. :-)
How do I handle it? I set my hours and then do the best I can within the hours I have set. I know that sounds cheesy, but it keeps my stress down.

Lisa said...

I agree that scheduling only needs one brain! I hit upon a method several years ago that works very well for me.

I send out a letter (and emails) in late July listing all the available half-hour times. I ask parents to respond by a certain date with the top three times that would work for their child.

After the deadline, I take all the responses and begin placing students in the schedule based on seniority, then move down through the list. If a student's first requested time is full, I move to their second time and so on.

I am a bit flexible on the seniority "rule", since I sometimes need to accomodate students with limited availability (high schoolers!) or families who need back-to-back lessons for siblings. With very few exceptions, I am usually able to give students one of their three top times.

Students who do not return their forms by the deadline are placed in the schedule once everyone else has been assigned a time.

Once the schedule is made, I then send a confirmation letter (or email) including the student's lesson time, their September invoice, and a reminder of my studio policies.

This seems to work very well since it gives the parents a way to choose their students times, but leaves me control over the big picture.

Just found your blog...very informative! I will check it regularly, thanks!

Studio Manager said...

I completely agree with you. Scheduling seems to be quite stressful and really challenging. Plotting events, classes and other matters that we need to attend to really takes time. So I tried looking for some innovative software on studio management to help me out. You may check this program out as this has really been helpful to most teachers and studio managers I know. Thanks again and more power.