10 Tips for Your First Class

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A class is a great setting for music education.

This is a precursory lesson that should be consulted when launching any music class.

Congratulations, instructor! You have worked hard to plan and promote a guitar class… and it worked! You will soon have as many as twelve aspiring guitarist sitting before you, eager to learn all you have to teach about this super-cool instrument. Here are 10 tips for starting your music class well.

1. Use name tags.

It will take a while to learn all of your students’ names. Help yourself (as well as your staff and the other students) by giving everyone a name tag for the first lesson. You can preprint the tags or write them as students show up for class.

2. Check registration.

Have registration sheets ready to check as students arrive. Make sure all info is filled out correctly and be sure that everyone has paid for the class. Have extra sheets ready for any walk-up students.

3. Connect with parents.

Be available to small talk with parents before and after the class. If you have an assistant instructor, let him/her handle registration while you speak with the parents. If you do not have this luxury, make extra effort to chat as you do your registrar duties.

4. Provide a welcome packet for parents.

This packet should include need-to-know information, such as a scope & sequence, calendar of classes, showcase date (if one will occur) and a list of any required materials or equipment. Value-added items such as stickers or coupons are a nice touch. There should definitely be a note for parents explaining your early drop-off and late pick-up policies.

5. Start on time and end on time.

Help set the tone for your students and parents by beginning and ending precisely on time. You are a busy teacher and parents are busy professionals. Respect them and yourself by sticking to your scheduled times. Be careful to end your instruction with at least 10 minutes to give specific assignments and help students pack up.

6. Be prepared, arrive early and leave late.

Be on site forty-five minutes before class begins. You will need about twenty minutes to get your supplies and thoughts together before students arrive. Wrap up your preparation at least fifteen minutes before class is to begin. Parents will drop their kids off early and you need to be ready to give them your attention. Speak with parents and tell stories or brag on their kids. Utilize the time before class by having a review sheet or activity for students to work on quietly on their own. This kind of preparation will impress parents, build confidence with them and help establish you as an expert instructor. Schedule your day to allow for a few minutes of lingering after class. However, make it clear to parents that you have to move on to your next class or private lessons and will not be available to watch their children for long.

7. Choose your words wisely.

Peggy O’Mara, former editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine, is quoted as saying, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” The words we use can often leave a ghost image on a child’s heart, like writing on a dry erase board that won’t completely erase. Be careful as you choose your words when addressing your students. Your vocabulary matters greatly. If you’re having a bad day… get over it. Your frustrations should never translate to your students. Allow your class to be a refuge from the frustrations that your students may have encountered in their own day at home, school or work.

8. Know your material and gather your stuff.

Be sure to spend adequate time preparing for your class. Have all of your handouts copied and any necessary supplies on hand. Think through accessories that your students may need, such as music stands, instrument stands, picks, tuners, pencils, etc and have them readily available. Do not spend your class time running for these things.

9. Avoid the firehose.

Give your students all of the information they need to master their chosen class, but be careful not to turn the informational firehose on them. Gauge how well they are assimilating the material. Be ready to slow down the pace if students are struggling.

10. Be ready to coach students out of class.

A class is a great setting for students to begin learning music. One of the best benefits of the class is the opportunity for the instructor to give direction about whether the student needs to be in private lessons or not. A large percentage of your students will work well in the class setting. However, a few will pick up the material very quickly and may become bored with the class. Others will struggle to keep up and will need more personal assistance. In both of these cases, you should be prepared to coach the student into private lessons or a more appropriate class. Our LessonNotebook.com classes are built with eight-week sessions to give a natural break where students can be guided into other learning settings. Eight weeks is enough time for the instructor to become very familiar with the student’s needs but short enough for the student to endure if the current class is not the best fit.

Most importantly, HAVE FUN with your students! Laugh a lot, give high-fives and enjoy your class. Learning music is a blast and you are privileged to lead your students into amazing discoveries!