067 – Year-End Meetings Made Easy

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Episode Summary

Adding a video element to your end-of-year evaluations can be a simple, effective, and wow-inducing approach to displaying student progress.

This episode is a replay of episode 021 – A Simple, Effective, and Magical Element for Student Evaluations.



Items Mentioned

Amy’s speaking sessions


Hello, hello teacher friends from all over the world! I’m Amy Chaplin and this is the Piano Pantry Podcast.

Today I want to talk to you about something that a lot of us easily shy away from, and that’s year-end meetings with students and parents. Since they’re not required like in a school system, parents likely aren’t expecting them, and they have the potential to be a lot of work, so it can be easy to dismiss the idea.

I really feel passionate about the importance of meeting face-to-face with families, which is why today’s episode is a replay of episode 21. I published this episode last year after my own evaluations, which means it was a little late in the game for some of you, so I wanted to give you a refresher in a more timely manner this year. In this episode, we talk about an element you can use in evaluations that is so easy and – I’m not exaggerating here – almost magical – I’m convinced it will make you reconsider.

While having some kind of assessment or gleaning feedback from families can be a good thing, the most important goal here is having face-to-face time with your studio parents. You know how easy it can be for the entire school year to pass by and never chat with them face to face. Plus, I think you’ll find these meeting times to be really encouraging and rejuvenating for all involved. Who wouldn’t want that?

Is your state or local association making plans for the upcoming school year? As you look toward fresh programming, I wanted to share with you my newest session called “Evolutionary Entrepreneurialism: Grow Your Studio One “Yes” at a Time.”

This session will help you cultivate a business mindset that will grow a thriving and sustainable studio. You’ll learn how to tap into your community, and diversity by saying “yes” to the unexpected, as well as how to foster effective cultural change with current clients.

Thanks to Pamela K who attended one of these sessions this past year and said “Amy’s presentation got me thinking about how I can make small changes in the way I run my studio not only help my students but benefit myself and my lifestyle too!”

She’s spot on. Evolutionary entrepreneurialism is not only about growing your studio but how we can change and evolve our studios to fit the ebbs and flows of life.

To check out this session as well as others, visit PianoPantry.com/speaking/ I’ll post the link in the show notes. You can also feel free to just message me directly on social media.

Call this time whatever you want: an evaluation meeting, end-of-year meeting, parent-teacher meeting, wrap-up meeting – I don’t think it matters too much. Whatever title you give it, just make sure it fits the goals. So…. what are they?

There can be two overarching goals for this time: a time of looking back – that is, measuring progress and highlighting achievements the student has made and looking forward – what are some goals or areas of growth to look toward?

This process does not have to be all up to you. I always send a questionnaire to studio families requesting they are returned prior to our meeting so I have a chance to look at their feedback. In the past, I had printable forms for them to fill out – one for the parent and one for students. These are available for a free download on Piano Pantry which I’ll link to in the show notes. I now do this in Google Forms and just have one form. Some questions are directed at the parents and some to students. Be sure and make it clear at the start of the form that both should be present together to fill it out.

Every year I ask different questions based on the kind of feedback I’m looking for, and will admit the form has gotten shorter over the years. My main goal is for them to take a moment to consider their own progress and efforts – what worked well and what didn’t.

My portion has also evolved over the years. I used to do a quite in-depth assessment actually assigning scores to how the student was doing in multiple categories such as rhythm, sight-reading, and so-forth. What I’ve learned over the years is that for the majority of families, it means nothing. Not that they don’t care – it’s just that assigning a score to how well the student is performing is really unnecessary extra information. All they want to know is overall, how is my kid doing, and what are some things to consider as we move forward.

If you want to read more about this evaluation form I used for years and organized using Evernote, I’ll pop a link in the show notes to that form as well as the parent-student questionnaire.

We’re inching closer to the big reveal about the whole “magical” part, I promise.

About 5 years ago, I started using Google Photos for all my media as opposed to Apple Photos. While they have a lot of the same functionalities, I just found Google Photos more visually appealing and user-friendly. In recent years I’ve also started being more proactive in recording my students playing pieces once they’ve mastered them. We don’t capture all of them, but I try to get a few recordings each year.

Most especially, I started recording students performing their recital piece at our final evaluation meeting time. The last week of our school year calendar – the week prior to the recital – is our evaluation week. Students come in, and the first thing I have them do is play their piece so I can record it – then I sit down with them and parents, and we chat about the year, their accomplishments, and some future goals.

I don’t know why this took me so long, but it dawned on me a couple of years ago that I should pull up old videos of the students playing to show their progress.

One of the ways I use Google Photos is to create Albums for each student. Google uses facial recognition and automatically adds photos into each students album. It’s incredibly slick and takes absolutely no work from me – well, except for videos. It doesn’t usually recognize faces in videos, and I have to manually make sure the videos are put into the student’s album. It’s super easy to keep up on as every day I spend a few minutes going through any photos or videos taken that day. That’s just a good general life organization principle, really.

The great thing is this is not something that really takes any effort – it practically organizes itself throughout the year. All I have to do at the evaluation meeting is open up Google Photos and pull up the student’s individual photo album.

The moment I say, “Hey, I’m going to show you a video from the first year you took piano lessons.” Everyone gets excited and crowds around the screen. I’m telling you, you can immediately feel the excitement and energy from both parents and students, and everyone is happy and smiling. I try to play one video for each year, depending on how long they’ve been in lessons. I make sure they know from the time stamp exactly how long they had been in lessons at that point.

Remember, they had just heard their student playing the recital piece for this year, and then to turn around 30 seconds later and hear them playing a pieces from 3, 4, 8, or even 10 years ago is incredibly impactful.

As they watch the video, I try and point out specific things like: “Look” you’re only playing with one hand at a time here or “Did you hear how short that piece was?” or “You were having a hard time keeping a steady beat here but notice how well you played in the next video with a solid pulse.”

Ugh. I am telling you, this is the stuff. Even for students who perhaps don’t make as much progress as I would have liked in a school year, you’ll still notice something that feels like growth.

Playing back videos of student performances from months or years past is so much easier and way less work than sitting down and writing out a formal evaluation form.

That being said, I’ll admit, while I’m tempted to rely on that entirely and call it a day, I do think it’s still important for us to take the time to write out a few tangible points so when the next year’s evaluation rolls around you can look back at the goals and say things like “hey, one of my goals last year for you was to work on having a more consistent hand position – look how well you’re doing now” or, last year’s evaluation note mentioned you were struggling with scale fingerings. This year you played them like a breeze.

Sometimes solutions for things in our lives and studios don’t have to be that hard. While technology isn’t always easy, it can often create amazing solutions we would have never dreamed up, even a few years ago. This is one of those ways.

Today’s tiny tip is to make the process of putting away groceries quicker by putting a little extra effort into organizing them as you checkout. This is especially helpful when you have a large shopping list.

Don’t just grab things out of your cart randomly. Place them on the belt with a little intention. You don’t have to be crazy about it or anything, but try to group items as much as possible such as cleaning products and household products, produce, meats, dry and canned goods, and so forth.

Not only does this set you up for a more organized unload, but it also helps make things a little easier and, thus faster for your checkout person. If you want to take it one step further, try to keep things somewhat organized as you put them in the cart as well.

Happy shopping, and I’ll see you next week. Oh, and don’t forget to hit that subscribe button so new episodes will download to your device automatically. Bye for now!