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The end of the school year is upon us. If you are like me, you have a few students who don’t pay on time. They always do pay you eventually, but frequently it occurs one or two weeks into the next month, rather than in the month lessons actually occurred. My normal motto for this type of situation is to kill them with kindness, and persistence. Each Friday I send a Bcc email to all my students still owing for the current month, asking kindly if they could please bring a check the following week. Most of the time I am fine with this strategy and my number of outstanding accounts drops each month until everyone is current.
However, at the end of the year if you are not paid by the last day of school, it becomes much harder to track down payments. You are no longer seeing the student each week, school is out of session, and you are unable to roll the money over in to the next month’s bill. In this case I try several strategies until I am able to collect the check.
First, I use a direct email, rather than my Bcc technique above, explaining school is over and everyone needs to get their accounts current. I then ask for a response in the message verifying funds will be brought the coming week. If I do not hear back this way, I try a phone call. This is a bit more direct, but sometimes works better. If no one answers the phone I try a text. If this doesn’t work I speak directly to the student about it, and will even text the student a reminder the day before to bring payment.
Your last card to play is band director intervention. Frequently band directors wield larger influence than the private lesson teacher. So, you can try telling your student if they cannot bring funds you will be forced to tell band director. This may scare them into paying you, or you may actually ask if the band director will contact student’s parent/guardian. If all else fails school band budgets will sometimes compensate you for one month of unpaid lessons on a school by school basis.
Persistence will pay off in this matter. There have been times where I wasn’t able to collect a check by then end of school and could not get in touch with parent suddenly. I just kept emailing weekly, daily, until suddenly a check appeared in my mailbox.
This school year may not quite yet be over, but I am already considering my teaching schedule for the coming school year. I am extremely obsessed with creating the most efficient schedule possible to both maximize income, and reduce travel. Here are my top three considerations when coming up with my teaching schedule
- Directional planning: I like to go as far south as possible first, and then continually work my way back north to my house through as many stops at schools as necessary. Obviously, you will need to tailor this to your location. The idea being if you are leaving early for before school lessons you can get there with minimal traffic, and then end your day as close to your home as possible-to cut down on afternoon rush hour delays. I avoid doing the following at all costs: Driving south to School A, diving North to school B, then driving back south again to School C. This creates a longer commute home at the end of the day, wasted time that could be allocated to teaching more lessons during these drives back and forth, and increased consumption of gas
- Prioritize with Rate: Not all my schools have the same set rate per lesson. Also, some charge a monthly fee for facility use. I put the schools with the highest rates on Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday. School is rarely closed on these days. The most common day school is closed is Monday. There is one Monday each month in the school year where the building is closed. Friday comes in second place with at least one Friday closure or early release every other month. If my school charges a facility use fee, or has a lower rate I put these students on Mondays and Fridays. This way if I am going to be losing potential earnings due to school holiday, I minimize my losses
- Scheduling of Fridays after school: It is difficult to maximize the number of students when Friday after school Is consumed by marching band performances. To counteract this I either teach at a middle school or a private school, which has no marching band, on Fridays. It is difficult to maximize your studio potential when Fridays after school hours are being lost to football games. This strategy has given me the best result for weekly Friday after school teaching.
A few years ago I ditched the bag I was bringing to all my lessons, and went paperless. This has been a revolution for my teaching,, and I thought I would share some of the benefits. I bought at 32 gig iPad with cellular data capability for this occasion. My school wifi accounts were so restricted it was impossible to use the internet for the purposes of teaching music. So, some type of mobile device is obviously required for this. Preferably something with a screen large enough for you or your students to read music from. The good news is this purchase can be one of your many tax write offs for the year.
Communication increased significantly for me once I went paperless. I could respond to emails in between lessons during the day, rather than dealing with fifteen to twenty unread messages later that evening.
My amount of paperwork decreased dramatically. I was able to do all my scholarship paperwork using a type on PDF app. I was acquired the necessary student signatures via the pen function of this app, and then emailed completed paperwork to the band directors. This has become a major timesaver at the end of each month.
I used google documents to upload my weekly teaching schedule, as well as to edit the document with who has and has not paid for their lessons that month.
Google drive also became a valuable asset for me. I uploaded pdfs of the material I work with my students on to my google drive. Then, when a student forgets his or her music, its right there on the iPad. With the cellular data working on my iPad I was always able to call up these files when necessary.
Additionally I was able to play recordings for my students via the iPad from my own music collection or YouTube. This also works well for play along backing tracks for jazz studies, or playing a drone for tuning.
Lastly, I used this device to record students performing, with their permission. Students could listen back and determine how they are playing a passage.
With the iPad I was able to eliminate bringing my hard copy schedule, notes on who had/hadn’t paid, solos, etudes, and monthly paperwork. Additionally my drive home was enhanced by using the Waze app for real time traffic info and better driving routes to avoid rush hour congestion. Now, all I need is my horn, iPad, and a pencil when teaching lessons.