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Back to School Guide, with Fiona Lau

Back To School Guide with Fiona Lau

Written by Fiona Lau.

The start of the new academic year is here and that lovely feeling of a fresh start, a crisp new page and freshly sharpened pencils comes over me. For the instrumental teacher this is a chance to review what went well last year, what can be tweaked or changed, and what direction our teaching is going to take over the coming 3 terms.

It is an opportunity to consider: a calendar of events for your pupils – recitals, concerts, exams, master classes etc; your prof dev events – you need input in order to maintain and improve output; what materials and resources you are going to use; your policies; perhaps a mission statement; teaching methods etc. I always feel better with a fully equipped stationery drawer so the buying of soft pencils, notebooks, practice diaries, stars, stickers and certificates, is vital.

A clear setting out of policies has to be at the forefront of planning and this can include payment policies, a contract, an attendance protocol, and practice and performance expectations. Guidance on options for these can be found on the membership websites of EPTA and the ISM as well as on several good instrumental teacher blogs. Formulating the policies is no good without communicating them and I have found a belt and braces approach to parents and pupils best: email, blog, printed letter and perpetual reiteration.

The start of term is a good time to consider music and materials; are you going to carry on using the same tutor books you always use, what new stuff has come on to the market, are there new apps and resources you can include in your teaching, are you familiar with the latest exam and competition syllabuses or entry for music scholarships in your area? For tutor books work out your criteria for an effective one and then evaluate the ones available accordingly.  Have you tried Get Set Piano by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond or Watts and Holt’s Hot Keys Piano books, or looked at piano tutor books from such as the Piano Adventures series. May be try a Suzuki approach? For group teaching of strings, woodwind and brass Hal Leonard’s Essential Elements series is tailor-made.

Teenagers are remarkably astute at spotting great apps so use them. Email exam boards, competitions and schools for info on what they offer. A calendar of events is vital in order to plan ahead and to prepare yourself and pupils; a Caribbean cruise in the middle of GCSE practical season is not wise! However in all this, do not forget yourself. How are you prof dev-wise and physically and emotionally? What do you need? What are the best prof dev events for you? Do you need to educate yourself a little more about your teaching? Do you need to make time for a yoga, pilates or tai chi class? Maybe you want to improve your skills and take a course or study towards a diploma? A work life balance is very important when you are self- employed, treat it seriously.

Enjoy the reinvigoration a new term brings and a happy, healthy and successful year to us all.




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