When it comes to piano studio organisation, there are many great options.
You might be a pencil and paper type of person, you may be using Microsoft applications, or even something specifically designed for music teachers such as My Music Staff.
But what if I told you there was a whole suite of free tools that could help you do things like assignment notes, studio scheduling, and communicating better with piano parents?
That’s what’s available at your fingertips right now, for free. The Google tools are so versatile. I’ve been exploring these resources a lot more recently and I’m ready to report back so that you can put them to work in your studio.
You may not know where to start with all this stuff – but that’s where I come in. Let me walk you through some of the possibilities for great studio organisation using Google.
At the end of the article, you will also find a free download of my student progress report template. It’s time to embrace Google!
The calendar possibly has the most obvious use of all the Google tools; lesson scheduling. This is currently my favourite scheduling tool for several reasons…
Families can jump into my youcanbook.me calendar and schedule their lessons quickly and easily. Then those lesson times automatically import into my Google Calendar which I can see on my phone, my iPad, or my desktop. I can also share my calendar with anyone that needs to see my schedule.
This is what it looks like…
Of course, there are all sorts of calendar apps and tools out there for studio organisation, but if you’re in the market I think this is a great one for music teachers. Plus it’s free – what’s not to love about that?
One of the simplest ways to keep in touch and share things with your piano parents is to give each family a dedicated Google Drive folder. This means each of your students and their families will have their own folder where they can find all the resources they need in one place.
What might you be sharing?
Having a dedicated shared folder like this helps to minimise the back and forth of email after email. It means that piano families always know where to look to find a resource you shared with them.
So each time you welcome a new family into your studio from now on, immediately open a new folder in your Google Drive and tell them this will be their one stop shop for all the things you need to share.
Over time, if you keep pointing towards this folder whenever they ask for something – they’ll learn to look there first, which could reduce your annual email count considerably.
Google Docs is probably my favourite of all the Google tools. And my favourite way to use it?
Student progress reports.
I just started this system recently in my studio, and it has worked like a dream. This is still a work in progress, but here’s how I’m implementing these so far.
I have a ‘doc’ for each one of my students. At the top, I’ve listed the overarching goals for the year, and then a few secondary or complementary goals.
Next, I leave a space for links to videos, websites, or articles that parents or students might need. For example, I might include my flipped Thinking Theory videos, exam information or a great blog post about setting up a practice routine.
Underneath this, I write short progress reports every six weeks or so. These progress reports are simply three to four bullet points about how their child is going, and what might need improvement.
This is a very simple system but it’s such a neat way to stay in touch with piano parents and make sure they’re in the loop.
Too often, I see teachers having trouble with parents suddenly pulling their kids out of lessons, or pushy parents insisting that their kids do exams, competitions, or something else that wasn’t in the plan. A lot of the time, I think this happens because of a lack of clear communication.
Since parents aren’t in the lesson, they don’t witness the work that’s taking place, and the progress that’s being made. Learning a musical instrument is hard work. It takes a long time.
The more effectively we communicate the progress as it’s happening to the parents of our piano students, the more likely they are to bring up questions and concerns before the train is completely derailed.
I’ve had great feedback from parents so far about this Google Docs system. I think what they love is that it’s so simple.
They keep the same doc for the whole year, and they know they can always jump in there to see where the child is up to. If you’re using the Google Drive system you can even just leave it in there with all the other stuff you need to share.
These reports take some of the mystery out of piano studies.
Of course, you don’t have to follow my format. This system of sharing a Google Doc with piano parents could be used to communicate whatever information is important to you in your studio.
Try it out for a while, and see if it helps you as much as it has helped me.
(Quick side note: did you know that Google Docs has a speech to text feature so you can write with your voice? It’s pretty nifty! In fact, I used it to write a draft of this post.)
So you’ve heard how I’m using Google gadgetry to help me supercharge my studio organisation, how do you think they could help you?
Explore the Google tools that we have freely available to us and let me know what ideas you have to use them in your studio in the comments below.
Nicola Cantan is a piano teacher, author, blogger and creator of imaginative and engaging teaching resources. Nicola's Vibrant Music Teaching Library is helping teachers all over the world to include more games and off-bench activities in their lessons, so that their students giggle their way through music theory and make faster progress. She also runs a popular blog, Colourful Keys, where she shares creative ideas and teaching strategies.