Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scheduling Lessons

It's that time of year again when I spend a few days pulling out my hair trying to juggle the needs of my own child and a studio full of others. I've written before about the woes of scheduling lessons. It's my least favorite part of piano teaching because I want to please all of my students and still retain a workable schedule for myself and my child. It's just a messy process. Thankfully, it only lasts for a few days.

Having a child with her own extra-curricular activities is what makes it particularly difficult. My daughter studies piano with a colleague of mine, and also takes tennis lessons. For the last two years, I've depended on other moms in the tennis class to drive my daughter, but this year, we're graduating to private lessons, so I need to drive her myself. My choices are to fill up my afternoons with teaching and hire a driver or to leave a day free to drive my own child to her activities. I chose the latter. It's the only choice I can really live with, but it does make piano scheduling difficult!

This year, thanks to a coordinated effort from the tennis coach and the other piano teacher to set our lessons on the same day and thanks to my fabulous piano families who have all found a spot on other days (except for that one who hasn't called me back...honey, where are you?), we are finally set for fall and I am breathing easier.

One scheduling challenge that is cropping up for me lately is the tendency of most families to want later afternoon times. This is due to parents who work, school buses that run late, and activities that meet right after school. I'm not crazy about later lessons, especially for younger children who are quite tired by the end of the day, but I'm imagining that in a few years when my munchkin is older, I may end up setting some evening lessons for older students.

Fellow teachers, what are your scheduling woes and solutions?

Note:  I've been MIA for a week or so while we have dealt with back-to-school shopping, a vacation, piano scheduling, and some major home renovation. I will be back on track with Monday Parent Tips next week!


BusyB said...

I understand your scheduling woes. I try to have my fall schedule set up the first of August so that I can see about taking a few new students, but then people can't be reached or they can't make a decision, and I take a new student and hope that all works out. By Sept. the schedule is set and we have a new round of changes as sports scheduling changes hits and we try to juggle again. I don't teach after 6:00 pm, do others?

Shauna Leavitt said...

I just survived putting my schedule together and what an accomplishment it was! I asked all of my parents to give me their two top lesson time/day choices. I thought that would make things easier, but it didn't. Most of my parents requested the later times - as you mentioned in your post. If only I had another day in the week. My challenge was working around a babysitter's schedule as well as trying to accommodate all my students. I'm relieved that I got it all figured out - but just like you, I have one student who hasn't called me back. I'm anxious to hear how other teachers go about scheduling lessons.

Jennifer said...

Oh yes, the scheduling nightmares that make you feel like your brain is going to explode! LOL! I have a form that I give with my re-registration papers that parents fill out. So I don't need to worry about hearing from parents in time. I collect them in May and don't work on them until June-July. Then I send a "soft" copy for parents to approve that everything looks good. Usually I will get a couple that have conflicts they didn't predict before so then I do a little more juggling and then it is set and I send the final copy.

The schedule request form has 3 "faces" on each time/day and I request that they fill in every face. The frown represents impossible to do. The straight face represents that it could work but not best choice and the smile represents that it will work well.

Seems to work pretty good. My headache comes when I have to put it all together. This year was actually not too bad.

Laura Lowe said...

Jennifer, I like your smiley face idea for a scheduling request form. I think I'll steal that one! But, scheduling in May? That's a pipe dream for me. I can't even get my own child's activity schedule set that early for the next fall school term, so I don't even know what days I have available to offer my students.

BusyB, we also have the same issue with the sports schedules since they don't tell the kids when practices will be until after school starts. I do teach until 7 or 7:30 on two evenings, but it's a hardship since my husband is frequently working then and I need to stop to deal with mom responsibilites.

Anne Crosby Gaudet said...

Somehow I have managed to keep scheduling somewhat stress-free. I send out my registration forms to current students in May and set my schedule "in stone" by early June. Then when new families call for lessons I can be specific with the days and times that are available. I also post the schedule on my website. I have to say my piano parents do their very best to be flexible, they understand that setting the schedule can be very difficult and it's hard to make everyone happy. My secret is do it as early as possible.

Alice said...

OH yes, scheduling. I rent studio space two days a week (doesn't work to teach from home at this point), and have taught at a school two more days, as well as adult classes AMS on 2-3 days.
I just have a couple of students each day at the school; the bulk of my teaching is at the rental studio in a music store. I teach 10-12 students a day at the store, and this is where the scheduling challenge is. To fit these in, I teach from about noon to nine PM. Yes, a long day, but by teaching this way, I get to have Mondays off, and to have dinner with my family a couple of nights a week.
As my kids are almost grown, I don't have the challenges that those with young children have.
I don't promise a particular time to anyone, but jot down any requests that come my way and try to accommodate them. Some schools have early release on Wednesdays, and some adults come on lunch break, which helps with fitting students in. I have a few homeschoolers who can come at 2 or soon after. I have been surprised that adults and teens are willing to schedule lessons relatively late, and as long as I have the stamina to do so, this will work pretty well for me. Amazingly, the schedule has come together pretty easily this year, THANK GOD!