Written by: Suzanne Greer
Time management is an essential component of managing a studio. In addition to managing and planning the details on the business end, many studio owners take an active role in the lesson and class planning. In this month’s blog, I will summarize points from Marienne Uszler’s book, Time Flies…How to Make the Best Use of Teaching Time.
Like last month’s blog on the use of repetition in practice (Self-help Pedagogy: Part 1), the first step is to determine how you use lesson time by video or audio recording yourself teaching a variety of different lessons. Then, review the recordings and make a timeline noting how much time was spent on each activity.
In order to plan an effective music lesson for the Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced leves, Uszler suggests that the following six elements must be present:
Many examples of “model lessons’ are given that include all of these elements. At first glance, it may seem daunting and impossible to follow these sample lessons due to the many variables encountered in the lesson. The student may not be prepared, or struggling with a specific concept. Regardless, the idea is to have a comprehensive plan that integrates the six essential skills and then be flexible when necessary. For example, playing some quick rhythm games (using rhythms from the music the student will be playing) while the student is unpacking and getting settled is a way to utilize time effectively.
In addition to planning for the individual lesson, a section of the book is devoted to planning group lessons. Many helpful suggestions as well as activities are given. Again, the take away is to plot a timeline on paper – i.e., Plan Ahead! Also, be sure to leave time at the beginning for assembling and getting started and leave time at the end of class for packing up and saying goodbye. Set high standards that challenge and motivate but keep it realistic. Even if your discipline is not music, this is good advice!
Uszler also warns against falling into the trap of “discursive diseases,” which she calls TTM (Talkative Teacher Mode or Talk Too Much). She gives some very good solutions to battling this time-wasting disease. For instance, use fewer words in explanations and directions and demonstrate more than talk! Furthermore, it is okay to watch the clock. Checking the clock periodically not only helps to stay on schedule, but also to make the best use of time during the lesson.
Lastly, reflect on how you use time by comparing your lesson plan to the actual lesson. Recording yourself is the best way to objectively critique how you use time during the lesson. We are all human and no one is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect lesson, but we can always improve our time management skills!