At the beginning of every school year, I have a unique process for determining my fall schedule. Unlike most teachers, who work solely on a first come, first serve basis and limit open lesson time slots to those not filled by the first takers, I always make every attempt to idealize my schedule for everyone.
As students’ schedules and interests change from year-to-year, I find it to be extremely effective to re-evaluate my schedule each year and be sure all students are:
- In the best available time slot for them
- Enrolled in the right type of lesson for their still level and style of learning, and
- Studying only with peers they get along with and work well with
Here is a look into my process:
Step 1: Determining Who Will Be Taking What Type of Lessons
This is the registration step. Each year, there are three major changes affecting the schedule:
- Some students will not return (they move, choose different after-school activities, etc)
- Some students will want to try a different instrument or type of group
- Many requests will come in for new students (including siblings of current students, other students at Open School, and a variety of word-of-mouth referrals from around the area)
As such, I must take the time to re-evaluate my student base to determine what types of lessons will be offered.
Step 2: Collecting Availability
My next step is to take time to request parents of all of my returning student’s to submit availability for the upcoming semester.
This may seem tedious, but it allows me to compare all my student’s availability in a simple chart:
Step 3: Putting It All Together
Now that I have considered what types of lessons and classes will be offered, as well as the general availability of all students, I start laying out all the pieces and determining which way they all fit together nicely.
Ultimately, this step is really all about making the new schedule work as best as it can for everyone.
But, the reality is this that are quite a number of factors I must consider throughout this process. As such, I have broken down this step into three sub-steps:
Considering General Days & Times
Before I can set an individual student’s lesson time, I must first consider which lessons can be taught on which days and times. Certain types of lessons (and instruments) are limited as to when they may be offered.
- Music Intro lessons must be scheduled Mondays as this is the only day I am able to rent/borrow instruments needed for demonstrations
- Only private and shared lessons on relatively quiet instruments (piano, guitar, ukulele, etc) can be scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesdays
Tuesday, I share Red Cluster’s room with the teachers planning their lessons and Wednesday, I share the library with Mr. Adkins’ private violin students
- All other group lessons are best right after school on Thursday or Friday as this is one of the few times I am able to regularly schedule multiple students together at once
Reviewing the Individual Student’s Interests
I am now able to begin either giving the student an individual lesson slot or placing them with a partner or small group. In order to do this effectively, I must consider the following:
- Is the student available on the days and times of their best-suited lesson type?
- For shared and group lessons, does the student’s availability line up with other students who play the same instrument?
- For band lessons, are there students on other instruments available at a similar time?
- Are there other students this student will work well with who are available at the same time?
When it comes down to it, certain lessons must be given priority. It simply is impossible to give every student their preferred lesson time. As such, I wrap up the process by using the following factors to determine which lessons should be given priority:
- How long the student has been taking lessons (students with the most longevity get priority)
- Commitment of the student to learning and practicing (this is a close tie and may even sometimes beat out longevity; a student may lose priority if they are often skipping lessons, causing distractions during the lessons, or refusing to practice)
- Age of student (younger students typically must have an earlier time slot after school, they will typically get first pick after students with longevity and excellent commitment levels have been placed)
- After-school programs the student is involved with (this works both ways: while it is necessary to avoid conflicts, students who are already after school may be able to have some more flexibility than students who usually take the bus or are picked up shortly after school has ended)
- Distance the student must travel from the school (a student who lives close by may have greater flexibility of returning for a lesson later in the day than a student who lives far away)
- Other considerations (while I have covered the most common factors above, there are often other factors I must consider as well)
It’s That Easy!
No, it’s really not easy… But, with the philosophy that everyone should have the opportunity to pursue music lessons from an early age, I believe it is my duty to fit in as many students as possible without sacrificing the quality of the experience.
A big thank you to all parents for taking into consideration that I am doing all I can to get your child the best possible lesson time, even if it may not be your child’s first choice.