Awards “Catch-up”?

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me over the last few years. 

This question was posed in reaction to two posts on giving out studio awards at the end of the school year:

Studio Awards: Policies and Procedures
Studio Awards Update (including some awesome trophies!)

 


Dear Amy,

I love your awards ideas and would love to implement it in my studio but have a couple of questions.

  1. If you have a transfer student, do you count the years they studied elsewhere in your calculations?
  2. If you were to start implementing this after your studio has been running awhile, would you play catch up with all the students and their trophies or just start in the current year? I would have several on the legacy award at this point.

I am excited that the students will have something else to strive for even if they don’t compete in the Federation or state exams.

Thank you for your input and thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas with all of us.

Blessings,

-SL

 

Hi, S,

Wow, these are GREAT questions! Here’s how I would handle each scenario:

In answer to your first question:

Transfer students receive their “Music Study” award based on how long they’ve been taking lessons – it’s about commitment – not just the time with you.

That being said, the “Legacy Award” IS about time with you. So, if you were to use that particular award in your studio and you had a transfer student that has been taking for 8 years (or however long you set your legacy award for), they would not get the legacy award – just the Music Study award for 8 years.

In answer to your second question, I have a two-part answer depending on what your question is asking…

If you’re asking if I would play catch-up as in giving them “back” awards, then no, I would not. That could, however, depend on how many students you have. If you have a really small studio and it won’t cost you a lot of money to do so, then certainly you could consider it. I think if you simply announce it’s a new program and from here on out, I would be surprised if anyone complained that you didn’t give them 3 trophies as “back pay”.

If you’re asking if I would play catch-up as in starting students at whatever year they’re at even if they haven’t received awards in the previous year awards then yes, I would. If a student has been with you for 4 years then they get an award for 4 years, even if this is the first year you’ve given awards.

I hope that makes sense and good luck with creating your own studio award program!

~Amy

 

 


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Evernote Basic or Premium?

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me over the last few years. 

 


Hi, Amy,

I saw that there are three levels of Evernote to choose from.
Is the free version worth trying?

I definitely want to get more than my feet wet with Evernote (perhaps knees??? lol!), but I’m not sure which version to start with.

Do I need the Business level? Can you give me one or two differences between Basic and Premium please?

Organization is not my forte….

-AH

 

Hey, A,

I get it. Things like this can be confusing!

There are currently three plans for Evernote:

  1. Evernote Basic (FREE)
  2. Evernote Premium ($7.99/month)
  3. Evernote Business ($14.99/user/month)

As an independent music teacher, you definitely do not need Evernote Business unless you have a team of teachers you want to have access.

In comparing Basic and Premium, there are two big items independent teachers like yourself would benefit from considering:

 1. SPACE:  How much will you be using it?
(A question you can’t really answer until you use it.)

Basic = 60 MB of uploads per month
Premium = 10GB  of uploads per month

2.  DEVICE LIMIT: How many devices will need access?
(Desktop, tablet, phone, etc.)

Basic = 2 devices
Premium = Unlimited

The short answer to your first question is YES, it is worth trying Evernote Basic for free, of course! It won’t hurt to start there.

It’s no big deal to upgrade if you begin to find that you need more space, devices, or want more features.

A few features of the extra features I use and love that Premium offers but Basic doesn’t:

  • Annotating directly on PDFs.
  • Search the text of PDFs. (When you do a search, it will search the text – including handwriting – inside PDFs and Office Docs.)
  • Forwarding emails directly into Evernote.

Here is a great comparison chart on all these features and details from Evernote.

Good luck and I hope you find Evernote to be a useful tool in your professional and daily life as I do!

 

~Amy

P.S. Evernote is offering 40% off premium through 2/4/2021!

If you haven’t signed up yet, please consider using my link! 🙂

 


Affiliate Disclaimer: Please note that Piano Pantry is part of the Evernote Community affiliate program which simply means I get a very small percentage from Evernote sign-ups (or upgrades) that come via my website (at no extra cost to you). Since I provide free content, this small amount means a lot. Thank you for your support!

 

 


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One Registration Question Not to be Missed!

A month or two leading up to the turn of a calendar year, school term, or school year is always the height of new student inquiries.

Before that time comes, we as teachers should always take a moment to make sure our registration process is updated, refreshed, and ready to go. I’m always making tiny tweaks and improvements!

Today I want to share one question you don’t want to miss asking on your registration form.

This question is my absolute FAVORITE to read and I know will become yours as well.

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The Perfect Teaching Table

Have you ever experienced a feeling of giddy elation over finding the “perfect” (insert: piano, piece of office furniture, studio equipment, or teaching chair)?

It’s amazing how the physical things around us affect how we move and interact in our spaces.

When I first opened my studio I remember being on the hunt for MONTHS for the perfect piece of furniture to place next to the piano to help store all the items I liked to have within arms reach such as pens, stickers, teaching tools, etc.

The one I found (and still love after 9 years) is the Graphix Open Rolling File Cabinet, Graphite

 

I purchased it initially from Walmart.com for $79, but it has also been available in the past on Amazon for $65.

Unfortunately in both places, at the time of this post, it’s unavailable. (Sorry, I didn’t share this sooner!)  I did some searching though, and currently, you can get it here:

USOfferStore.com ($65)
OfficeSite.com ($90)
HomeGoodsCenter.com ($126)
eBay ($142)

There are lots of options for this kind of thing out there, so here are a few things I love about mine you might consider as you search for YOUR perfect teaching table.

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How to Free-Up Storage Space in Gmail

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me over the last few years. 

 


Hi, Amy! I keep getting emails from Google saying that I am close to being out of Gmail storage. Of course, they just want me to buy some. Is there a good way to free this up?

-MC

 

Great question, M,

Yes, there are some easy steps you can take to free up some space!

First, make sure it’s actually Gmail taking up your Google account space (and not Google Drive or Google Photos).

To see how your Google storage is being used, visit: https://one.google.com/storage

Once you know who the culprit is, you can decide where you need to clear space. Since your question was about how to free up space in Gmail (and we assume that’s causing the trouble) here are some steps to follow to clear out your email.

1. Permanently delete LARGE emails

  • Go to ‘All Mail” in the sidebar (which is basically your “archive”)
  • In the Search mail” box at the top type:    has:attachment larger:10MB
  • Hit “Enter
  • Select the emails you don’t need, then click “Delete”
  • Continue the process by replacing the number “10” with higher or lower numbers” subsequently.

2. Empty your trash

  • On the left, click “Trash” (You might have to select the down arrow for “More” to expand and find “Trash”.)
  • At the very top, select the checkbox so it will select all the emails on that page, then click “Delete Forever”

Please know that you cannot retrieve these emails once you delete them from the trash. However, don’t let that scare you. You deleted them initially for a reason!

3. Permanently delete emails in Spam

  • On the left, click “Spam”. (You might have to select the down arrow “More” to expand and find “Spam”)
  • At the top, select the checkbox so it will select all the emails on that page, then click “Delete Forever”.

You will likely have pages and pages of Trash and Spam items. It makes it much less tedious if you view the maximum number of emails per page as possible.

You can change this setting by clicking on the Settings gear at the top right of the page, then “See all settings”.
Under “General settings > Maximum Page Size, you can select the number of conversations per page up to 100.


If you find you still need space…..


 
4. Delete your oldest emails
  • Go to “All Mail”
  • In the top right corner, click on the gray text that shows how many emails you have (i.e. 1-100 of 9,617)

If you’re only seeing 25-50 emails at once, you can change how many you see per page by going into the Settings.

  • Select “Oldest” (This will sort your emails from oldest to newest, making the oldest emails more easily visible to you without having to scroll through pages and pages of emails.)
  • At the top, click on the empty selection box that will select all the emails on that screen at once. Once it’s selected all the emails, click “Delete”
  • You can continue this for as long as you need to make more space.

 


If you decide after all of this that you do want to purchase space…


The good news with Google is that you get more free storage space (15 GB) than with anyone else!

If you do happen to decide to buy more space with Google, luckily it’s the same cost as Apple’s iCloud Drive or Microsoft’s One Drive.

  • Google Drive (15GB Free – 100 G $2/month)
  • iCloud Drive (5GB Free – 50G $0.99/month)
  • One Drive (5GB Free – 50G $2/month or FREE with Microsoft 365 Subscription)
  • Dropbox (2GB Free – 1,000 G $10/month)

Most of us will never need more than 50GB and for $2/month with Google, you get 100GB which is a TON of space.

I hope this helps!

~Amy

 


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A Simple Incentive Program

and Prize Box Items Students Love!

On March 12, 2020, I wrote a post called Implementing Incentives: The Struggle Is Was Real where I shared my struggle with implementing incentive programs in my studio.

I had intended to follow up that post immediately with a second one sharing what I had ultimately found as a super simple and successful solution to implementing an incentive, more specifics on the program, and a list of popular prize box items, and some free downloads from my own programs.


Then COVID-19 hit.


Suddenly, all we could think about was how to transform our studios overnight to online instruction.

The need for hearing about an in-person incentive program and physical prize boxes suddenly felt completely useless at the time, so I decided to put the post on hold in order to do my part to help which included these posts:

A Simple (and Free) Video Supplement to Support Your Online Teaching

Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Save Time and Money Taking Online Payments with Coinhop

10 Products to Make Your Online Teaching More Comfortable

Healthy Snacks for Long Teaching Days

I haven’t forgotten you though, and so here I am, back on the topic of incentives in the studio!

Each of our situations looks quite different at the moment in our studios with some remaining online, others going back to in-person or some version thereof, and some having to close down their businesses (our hearts go out to you!)

Before we dive in, if you didn’t catch the first post, be sure and read it first!


Implementing Incentives: The Struggle Is Was Real


 

My “Winning” Incentive Program

All in all, my struggles with implementing an incentive program helped me realize what I really needed out of a program. It had to be:

  1. Simple
  2. Flexible
  3. Consistent
  4. Easy to implement
  5. Work for all ages

Not only that, but the program I ultimately landed on also gives students a bonus life skill.

What is it?

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Student Birthday Cards with a Surprise Twist!

Ever since I opened my full-time studio, I’ve been sending a birthday postcard to students every year – you know, kind of like when you get birthday postcards from your dentist, eye doctor, or auto-dealership? Not all businesses do this of course, but it’s a nice gesture and a great way to keep in touch with customers.

Prior to doing postcards, I would give them their favorite candy bar but I got tired of having to go out and buy individual candy bars and remember to do so throughout the year.

My reason for sending postcards has actually been more intentional than just doing something nice for students (not that that isn’t a good reason in and of itself, of course! 🙂 )

To me, it’s a way of creating great rapport with your families and I wrote a little more details on this in this post: Marketing with Postcards, It’s Not What You Think!

Each year I find a new postcard with the goal of sending something unique, fun, and visually inspiring. (Get some ideas here: Fun Postcards for Marketing Your Studio and 2019-2020 Birthday Postcards.)


Today I want to share how my (almost) burnout on this annual studio project propelled me to take a fresh approach with a little twist this year.

This will also include details on how to organize this project so you don’t have to continually attend to it throughout the year.

Sneak-peak! If you happen to use My Music Staff to manage your studio, I’ll show you a tool they offer that will display your student’s birthdays on your Google, iCloud or similar digital calendar!

 

A Simple (but Real) Burnout

For years I’ve had the same routine.

  1. Purchase a set of postcards.
  2. Print out address labels, and pre-label and stamp all the cards.
  3. Every Monday morning, look at the calendar and see if anyone has a birthday the following week, then write a little note on the postcard and drop it in the mail.

After nine years of this routine, while it was still fairly streamlined, I’ve gotten burnt out on hand-writing notes – especially when Spring comes around and I have multiple students in a week with birthdays.

I really didn’t want to stop my birthday mailing though because I think it’s important (I mean, what kid doesn’t feel special getting something in the
US Mail these days?! LOL)

 

small Tweaks to Keep it Fresh

Amidst pondering my dilemma, I realized that many of the birthday cards that come from businesses are usually pre-printed. Aha! While not the most personal approach, it was the perfect answer to give me a little break and a change of pace.

Tweak #1: Pre-print the cards

I also wanted to change it up and do a little something more for students.
A gift card to DQ was an easy idea but $5 is usually the minimum amount most places will do on a gift card, making it a pricy option. Plus, the statistics show a lot of people never end up using them and I hated the thought of wasting that money!

Over the last two years, I’ve been implementing a big push for students to always be able to play Happy Birthday. So, I began wondering how could I tie this into the birthday gift?

Aha! 

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My Top 6 “Buy It Again” Office Products from Amazon

As the years go on, the number of items I purchase on Amazon has slowly increased. With the current times, for many, it has increased exponentially.

If you’ve never done so, it’s kind of fun to go back through your Amazon order history and see how it grows and evolves from year to year and even decade to decade!

My first Amazon purchase was one item in December 2003. After that, it’s quite fascinating to see how it would stay consistent for several years but increased quickly.

2005 – 2012:  8-10 orders per year
2013 – 2014:  20-25 orders per year
2015 – 2018:  30-40 orders per year
2019:  60 orders
2020: 41 orders (thus far = by August)

Amazon is really good about not only letting you know how often you’ve purchased a product…

…they also make it really easy to “Buy It Again” directly from your order history page.

Today I want to share with you six items I’ve found myself buying for my piano studio again and again on Amazon.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they are all consumable office supplies!

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Get Organized!

Bills, Expenses, and Receipts

Don’t get too excited, I’m not about to give you all kinds of financial advice on saving money or doing taxes as an independent music teacher. (I figure we have our dear Wendy Stevens at Compose Create who has shared a lot of great stuff like that over the years. 🙂 )

I’m going to stick with my strength and talk to you today about organizing and managing your incoming bills, expenses, and receipts. Yea!

Let me introduce you to the best thing that has happened to me in our daily financial management process and that’s my file folder system.

It’s not complicated and it makes ALL. THE. DIFFERENCE.

Isn’t she beautiful? 🙂

First, a little back history on the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me come up with this system.

 

Quicken

My husband and I have used Quicken for years and love it. If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s like a check register for all your finances in one place including loans, 401k’s, credit card bills, checking, and savings accounts. We manage both our personal and my business finances through this.

Budgeting has been important to us through our entire marriage and Quicken has a lot of tools to help you track expenses and manage a budget properly. If you keep up with it on a regular basis, keeping expenses categorized makes life a whole lot easier when it comes time to do taxes as well.

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Help Your Students “Enable Original Sound” on Zoom With This Email Template

You know how sometimes in life you’re told about something that you know you should do but at the moment, you just can’t bring yourself to mentally mess with it?

That’s how I was when we started using Zoom for our online lessons.

Teachers in Facebook groups were mentioning the importance of the “Enable Original Sound” setting to help with sound quality but I was just trying to wrap my head around getting myself set up online to pay it any mind.

Then two or three weeks of lessons went by and I was DONE with the garble. It was time to upgrade our sound.

Do I kick myself a little for not dealing with this sooner? Yep. But, oh, well, I’m over it now.

Through all of this, I have to say one thing all my studio families have been mentioning in our evaluation meetings this week, was the quality of my communication throughout this whole process. They felt the instructions were incredibly helpful and easy to follow.

That’s part of our job! Quality communication.

To spell things out as clear and easy as possible, I gave my step-by-step instructions using screenshots. It doesn’t get easier than that!

Teachers: You have my permission to copy and paste this entire email and use these images to send to your studio families (if you don’t mind having my mug shot! LOL).

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