Whether you’re new here or an old hand, you might enjoy reading how one teacher most uses Music Teacher’s Helper — me. I’ve used MTH since 2006, amazingly enough, and find that there are certain essential elements of it that have never quit being a part of my regular routine.
If you’re new, this is a nice starting point. If you’re an old hand, you might pick up something you forgot or haven’t tried — or you might have your own routines that are different from mine. In that case, please write a response to this post, so that everyone can benefit from your experience!
I. Essentials that particularly benefit the teacher.
- Daily Summary and Calendar Sync. By entering all lessons into my online calendar and having the Daily Summary emailed to me, I see at a glance through my emails when I’m teaching, who I have, what they’re working on, and whether they owe or have credits. Just knowing when my first lesson is can be a tremendous help first thing on a groggy morning! I also have my MTH calendar synced with my Google calendar so I can choose to have a quick glance at my schedule that way as well, along with any other events listed there.
- Accounting. By always entering payments, and making sure that lessons entered into the calendar show the correct amount due, I can rely on MTH to tell me, even via smartphone during a lesson, whether someone owes me and if so, how much — and if they don’t understand it, it takes moments for me to look at the transaction log and find out why. Almost just as importantly, I know that the student can log in and see the same information, so there’s never any awkwardness about requesting a payment.
- Email reminders before lessons. This clearly helps the student a lot, but it’s very important for my peace of mind as well, because I know that the student received an email reminder the day before their lesson. My cancellation and rescheduling policies are much easier to stick with when I know that the lesson did not sneak up on them. These reminders also help me in a way I didn’t expect at first — there have been times when I forgot to change or delete a lesson entry in the calendar, and when the student received an email reminder the day before, they contacted me to find out what was going on. I don’t like this to happen, but it’s way better than expecting a student who’s a no-show and then having to find out from them that it was my fault for not adjusting the calendar!
- Contact information and policies. By having students register for lessons, whether on my MTH site or remotely through my own website, I not only let the students do the work of entering all the information and choosing their own username/password, but I also get important contact information that can be time-consuming to get from a new student. While registering, they can also look at the Rates and Policies tab on my MTH website to get familiar with this information. This makes it far easier to enforce my rates and policies since it’s all publicly available to them from day 1.
- Invoicing. To be honest, most of my students don’t use invoicing, but some rely on automatically getting an invoice the first of the month and paying online. Even for those who don’t use it, the invoicing system allows me to send them a detailed invoice from the past month or two if there’s any confusion about what was owed and what was paid. This is far better and easier than trying to explain.
- Engaging students and, in the case of younger students, their parents. The accessibility of the calendar, accounting, email reminders, and invoicing, plus the emailing of lesson notes, engages the student outside of lesson time and includes the parent in understanding what’s going on, which builds a lot of confidence in you as a teacher.
II. Essentials which especially benefit the student.
- Email reminders. Many of my students never log into the online calendar but they love receiving reminders by email the day before each lesson. It’s reassuring to get the confirmation.
- Lesson notes. Whether the student logs in or not, the lesson notes I enter at the end of each teaching day are automatically emailed to those students, who can then be reminded at their own leisure about what we did and what is expected of them. This could seem like extra unpaid time spent on each student except that it is so helpful for me to see in my Daily Summary what was done the last time I saw a student, whether it was last week or last year.
- Invoicing. Some students rely on automatic or manual invoices from me so that they can pay online. All students appreciate getting my emailed receipts every time I enter a payment.
- Accounting transparency. Being able to log in and check what’s owed and what’s been paid, and what’s scheduled, is transparency at its best, and even if a student or parent never logs in, just knowing that all this information is available to them builds trust. I used to teach at a music school where only the teacher had all the attendance information, and this sometimes caused distrust and difficult disagreements.
- Cancellations. Those students who do log into the online calendar know that if it’s necessary for them to cancel a lesson, they can click on it and cancel right on the calendar, and if they do it before the day of their lesson, I will see it on time. If they email or call me, I require that they receive confirmation from me by email or voice; just leaving an email or a voice message isn’t enough notice for me. But a cancellation via the online calendar works fine.
Other services can be very useful, such as the File Area, Practice Log, Expense Log, Mileage Log and others, but for me, it’s the ones I mentioned above that are my essentials. What about you? Tell us about your essentials in the comments below!