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Resist the urge to run out the door and into the holiday break. Take the time to reset by clearing three spaces and do a little planning to create a smooth transition into the new year.
As we roll through this final month of the year, you may have already wrapped up your teaching schedule or are in the final week or two stretch before the holidays.
The end of any semester or teaching term is always a wonderful way to give our mind, body, and spirit a definitive cutoff to transition into the holidays, a little break, or the next teaching term. It’s time to breathe a little by walking away from our day-to-day tasks and be present with the season.
In today’s episode, I want to encourage you to set aside the smallest bit of time before closing the doors on your studio space not only to reset your workspace so things feel fresh when you return but to take time to do some future planning, so the first week back feels less frantic.
Welcome to the Piano Pantry Podcast, where together we live life as independent music teachers. I’m your host, Amy Chaplin. In this space, we talk about all things teacher-life related, from organizing our studios to getting dinner on the table and all that comes between. You’ll get loads of easily-actionable tips on organizing and managing your studio while balancing life and home.
Walking out of our studio space or saying goodbye to the last student before taking a holiday break, knowing it will be at least a week, if not 2-3 weeks, before we see them again, is such an amazing feeling.
Before you’re tempted to immediately run out the door, muster up a little willpower to hold off on the retreat. We’re going to give our January selves a little gift, so we’re ready to hit the ground running in the new year.
First of all, this is not the time to re-organize your games or develop a new music storage solution. This is about the little things.
I want you to look over three spaces: student spaces, your teaching space, and your personal workspace. Student areas would be places like the entryway to the studio, a waiting room, a practice space, or student file storage area. Make sure everything is in its place. Straighten up, refill the mint dish, replace shoe covers if you have students wear them in your house, tidy up the shelf where students can check out music-themed children, books, and so forth. Make sure your student files are in order, and any stacks of books leftover from lessons are filed into the appropriate place.
All of the specific examples I give you today may look a little different for you; of course, I’m just giving you some general ideas of what resetting can look like.
The second space, your teaching area, would be the area around the piano where you teach. Many of us keep little tables or file drawers nearby where we can stash tools we use during the lesson. Do things like refill all your post-it page tab markers, put away sheets of stickers, throw away highlighters that are dying, push in the piano bench, and tidy up your drawer of game markers and teaching manipulatives. If you keep things like staff paper and technique charts nearby, print out more to restock. Sharpen up all the erasable colored pencils you use to have students mark up their music.
If your studio space is separate from your home and you don’t plan to use that piano during the shutdown, I like to shut up the piano lid and fallboard. Any time you’re not using the piano for more than a day or two, closing it up helps keep dust out of the inside.
Alright, this final one, your personal work area, might take a little more effort than your student or teaching space. Empty the trash. Put away that stack of worksheets or books that have been sitting next to your computer for weeks or even months, and do a quick little desktop clean up both your actual physical desktop and your computer desktop.
For more talk on cleaning up all the clutter on your computer desktop, jump back and listen in on episode number 23, titled “A Little Desktop Dive.”
As part of your personal workspace, be intentional about giving your email inbox a good cleanout. Once again, this isn’t about giving it a major overhaul and getting to Inbox 0 or coming up with a whole new email strategy or anything. It’s about dedicating a focused amount of time to clear through some of the most recent communications. Place an order on Amazon for things like printer paper, cardstock, post-its, and page-tab markers.
The good news with all this tidying, the goal is not for you to spend hours. We’re talking a quick 15-30 minutes.
After you’ve taken time to cover these three spaces: your student area, your teaching area, and your work area, consider taking a bit of extra time – say 20-60 minutes, to do a little bit of planning for the start of the next semester. Mainly, it’s about getting a book order in for any materials you might need that first week back.
This is something that took me quite a few years to get used to thinking ahead with. It’s not so much about lesson planning but a quick survey of what materials your students are in and anticipating if they will need new materials within the first month of returning to a normal schedule.
Get a book order placed, so it has the entire holiday season to make it to your front door. Then, in January, you won’t have to pay extra for 2-day shipping just to get your students started on new music.
No matter how badly you want to run out the door, taking a little extra time will set you and your students up for a smooth restart in the new year will be invaluable.
If you would like to get more help managing your email inbox, jump into the show notes for links to a couple of posts on the Piano Pantry blog, one of which includes tips on how to free up space in Gmail.
Well, teacher friends, here we are, nearing a full year into this podcast. I am so grateful to all of you who show up each week and connect with me throughout the week on social media. YOU are why I do this.
If you’ve gotten value out of this podcast at any point, I would love to hear your thoughts. Would you do me a favor and leave a review on Apple podcasts? It really, really means a lot to me when I get to hear what I do well and also even might do better. You can also leave me a voicemail; who knows, I might even be able to use your voice on the air sometime! Find the link in the show notes.
Alright, my lovely teacher friends, Christmas is almost here, but we’re not done here yet. You’ll see episode number 50 hit before the end of the year, and I’m telling you, it’s a super special one.
This is The Piano Pantry Podcast with me, Amy Chaplin. Find me on Facebook at Piano Pantry and on Instagram at Amy Chaplin Piano.