I have a fever, a fever that never breaks. It’s a sickness really.
It’s called organizational fever; more specifically to this post – file fever – and I don’t know how to stop! Being organized is fuel to my body. It gives me clarity and peace of mind.
My studio gets organized and reorganized every few months and rearranged to some degree once to twice a year. I’m getting to the point where I’ve nearly perfected the arrangement, but rearranging and organizing to me are like a breath of fresh air. I’m a better teacher when everything is in its place. I have my moments – we all do – but I strive to keep my studio and workspace continually tidy for mine and my student’s sake!
In this post, I’m going to share how I organize my (physical) student files.
First, a quick note on what inspired me to improve my organization even more.
Getting Things Done
Ever since reading the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, I have been working to streamline the way I work. Some of the topics he covers include cleaning up the space you work in, setting up the right tools, corralling your “stuff”, and keeping things fresh and functional.
One of the first things I did was purchase a label maker. After several months of using it, I wondered how I’ve gotten by as a supposedly “organized” person without a label maker my whole life. I’ve been label-making like crazy!
My file drawer is one place where my label maker has been put to work. I love 4-drawer lateral files. All my student files are kept in one drawer. Every student gets a hanging folder. Monday students names are labeled, and the label situated in the slot clear to the left. Tuesday students are in the second space, Wednesday students in the third space and well, I think you get the idea. I love seeing the files laid out this way!
(In case you’re wondering, I used the app “Blur it” to blur out the last names in this photo.)
What’s in the Files
In the file, I keep anything from new materials to old theory or repertoire books that we may have hit the “pause” button on and may return to at a later time. (If unfinished books end up at home, I will most likely forget about them. By keeping them here, I see them weekly and can either pull them out when I am ready to use them again or send them home for good when completed.)
Let me share a few examples.
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I have one student who is working on developing a repertoire base of hymns to play at her church. She gave me hard copies of her hymn books with pieces she knows well flagged with a tab. I simply go in and choose one of the appropriate difficulty once a month. We make a photocopy for her binder so she doesn’t have to lug the large spiral-bound hymn books back and forth.
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Students that are in a repertoire series like Celebration Series or Developing Artist Series, when first given the books, spend some of their music/computer lab time listening to all the pieces. They’re asked to mark in the Table of Contents what pieces they like (with a *), don’t like (with a – ), and ones they think are just OK (with a check-mark). I then take a photocopy of their contents and use their initial opinions of the pieces to help make their selections. I keep the photocopy of their table of contents in the file folder for reference in lesson planning.
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Last year I used Teach Piano Today’s Shhhh….Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice. It’s an 80-page reproducible PDF with crazy practice activities to help student shake things up in their practice routine. The first year I used them I printed a set for every student and placed them behind a labeled tab in their binder. Students were “expected” to use one to two a week, but as you guessed, that rarely happened (I find you have to put things in their face).
So, last year I found it worked better to keep each student’s stack in a manila folder tucked in their hanging file then I would pull out one sheet per week to assign to them just as I would a theory worksheet. Plus, for some of the younger students, some of the practice activities were too hard for them or didn’t apply to their level, so it allowed me to easily tailor the choice for the student and explain the activity briefly. Some students loved these; some could have cared less. I’m not doing them this year, but it was a nice change of pace and a way to shake things up for a couple of years in the practice department.
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Sometimes students request popular tunes which I’m more than happy find the music for and work with them on, especially with high school students. Any sheet music I purchase and print off online gets put into their folder ready to go for their next lesson.
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How do you organize your student’s materials? Do you keep a file like this?