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Helping HandsI recently came upon an article entitled 10 Tips for Engaging a Volunteer Community. The article piqued my interest and led me to Jeffery Cufaude’s blog. Here is a quick summary of his work;

Jeffrey Cufaude is an architect of ideas …custom-designing keynotes, workshops, and leadership conferences that promote learning and community.

What most impresses me about the blog is not that Jeffrey is a musician, a teacher, or even in the arts. And yet his articles are relevant and to the point. As an “ideas architect” (something I had never heard of before), his topics are broad enough to appeal to the masses but specific enough to be useful in my day to day work.

DSC06240 copyMany years ago I instituted a policy in my studio about playing in outside ensembles. The policy states that beginning in 6th grade, every student must commit to a weekly ensemble experience outside of lessons and group classes (my core program includes a weekly private lesson and bi-weekly flute group classes). School band or orchestra, local area chamber music, youth symphony or wind ensemble, even a group of kids forming a rock band that agrees to meet regularly, all ensemble opportunities “count”.

Two common struggles of teachers/studio owners are motivating students and keeping students long-term.   These are, of course, related to each other.  A student who isn’t motivated to practice his instrument probably isn’t enjoying the experience and isn’t progrPejman-Recital-Hollandessing, and it’s likely that it won’t be long before his family feels the investment is a waste of money and decides to pull their child out of lessons. 

That said, I’ve never been one to implement reward programs to try to motivate a student.  I’ve known teachers who provide prizes or even monetary rewards for students who practice a certain number of times per week, but in my experience these can be ineffective and expensive.  Instead, I have found that providing students with performance opportunities motivates students to practice and in doing so, helps encourage a long-term relationship with the student and his family.

p44732cA month ago I added an iPad to the collection of devices in my house. It’s a fun toy and I have enjoyed adding apps, books, and games. But the real reason I am excited about my iPad is the almost endless ways I have begun to use it in my teaching studio.

For the past year I have been teaching with my computer in the studio. I use it to take care of the business of music teaching with Music Teachers Helper, to look up youtube videos with my students, and to listen to and play with the CD recordings I have downloaded into iTunes. Slowly I am becoming more comfortable with the blending of technology and more traditional music lessons. But having to turn to the computer and manipulate the keyboard often feels like an interruption to the flow of the lesson.

My excitement about the iPad stems from the fluid way that I have been using it during lessons. The iPad is small and can easily rest on my solid, black music stand. It requires touching rather than a keyboard. And, most of all, the kids LOVE it. It’s pretty and it’s fun. The apps feel like games even when they are covering challenging concepts.

What are my favorite apps so far?

parents_and_teachers-einstein Communicating with parents can be scary and intimidating. After all, they are our bread and butter and we certainly want to keep them happy. However, they deserve to know exactly how their children are proceeding at all times in their musical studies. There are many ways to handle sharing your evaluation of a student with their parents. Phone calls, emails, letters, conferences, and weekly progress reports can be done. This year I have vowed to do an even better job of connecting with parents.

Reconciling Lessons

Music Teachers Helper has been an invaluable resource in following through with my goal. Reconciling lessons after each day of teaching helps me to reinforce assignments that were given at the lesson (Music Teachers Helper can automatically email these notes to both parent and student). I always include something positive that the student did during the lesson or as a result of good practice during the week, and constructive comments for improvement. I use the private notes to help me prepare for the next week’s lesson and to remember to follow up about something that the student told me during the lesson (like an upcoming music concert, sporting event, or special occasion). Since this takes some time, I hope that the parents read it! I think most of them do and I was especially surprised when one parent emailed me asking where the notes were (I had been a little late in getting them out)!