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Friday, December 16, 2016

8 Things to Do Before the New Year

The end of the year already? Yes, and it is time to get things ready for next year. If you are like me, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all that needs to be done before the year ends and by all that needs to be readied for the coming year. Here is a list of eight things that I find helpful to address this time of year:
bookcases, music books
Teaching Materials

Clean up the studio area. This is a great time to put away music that has found its way into the teaching space. File music away and gather up old papers and notes and file them or dispose of them. Be sure to make a note on your master list of to do items if the item has an action step associated with it. Then once everything is back where it belongs, give the space a dusting and the floors a vacuuming or mopping. You will be so happy once you return to your teaching area to find that it is ready for you to start teaching without any extra steps. Everything will look so nice and clean. If things are in crooked disarray, take a minute to square everything up with nice straight lines. Try to get rid of all your piles of things. Put everything away somewhere. Do not spend too much time on this. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and be done with it!

Clean up the toy area. I keep an area for quiet toys for students or their siblings to play with while waiting for lessons to start. Some students play with the toys after lessons are over as a reward for the hard work during a lesson. This holiday season is a great time to look through the toys and identify broken items. Do not be too quick to throw away "broken" toys, however, as children's imaginations can still invent colorful games with these "broken" items. When the tinker toy has a stick that clearly cannot be used any longer, I throw it away; when the action figure is missing one or two small items on the figure's super powers belt, I retain the figure in the toy area. I make sure that the toy area is clean, and finally, I wash the toys. No need to spread germs from one year to the next when it is a simple thing to wash everything.

Order new supplies. Take inventory of the supplies you have on hand, and order anything that is in short supply: wedge sponges, violin polish/cleaner, rosin, stickers, tape, counters, etc. Anything that you use in teaching, make sure that there is enough to supply the next semester of teaching. You may need to make a few box violins to get ready for new students. I usually need to buy packages of pencils and pens, as I seem to lose them pretty easily. I sharpen what pencils are still in the studio and make sure to throw away pencils that have used up their effectiveness.

Plan the coming semester. Sit down with a cup of your favorite beverage and plan the upcoming semester. I use my bullet journal for this, and I map out a rough outline of a six-month calendar to help me get set for the summer months as well. Then I add important dates to the planning calendar:

calendar, planner, bullet journal, sketchbook
Planners & Bullet Journal
  • studio recital
  • graduation recitals
  • institute dates
  • special performances
  • holidays or vacation weeks or days
  • any conflicts that I anticipate due to my performing schedule with the local symphony or my teaching responsibilities with the university
  • group class dates
Rearrange the furniture. You do not have to rearrange the furniture, but I find that this simple thing really brightens the look of the teaching area and students seem to respond to it. I know that I enjoy the "new" feeling that I get from a rearranged space. It may be just a chair or bookcase here and there, but these simple things can make quite a difference. Even a new plant or piece of artwork will help to spruce up the place. I remove any leftover holiday decorations and take down any student signs or other items that have outlived their novelty and sentimental value.

Organize the teaching materials. Take a few moments to review your teaching materials. Generally this happens because I am also putting things away or refiling music that has been taken out of music cabinets. I make new lists of possible group class themes and activities as well as special themes to incorporate in my teaching for the coming semester. When I select a particular theme for a semester, I find that teaching and group class activities may be simpler to plan. In any event, a reorganization of my teaching area, materials, and methods will help to keep my enthusiasm levels high and charged.

Email students about the coming semester. This is a great time to send out reminders to students and their parents about the upcoming semester schedule (which is why we took time to plan the semester earlier!). Over the years I have learned that parents are more apt to read shorter emails, so I might "divide and conquer" my messages. I might send one email about scheduling issues and another email about special events to consider. It might take a few minutes of extra thought to email in this way, but I think this method is more likely to encourage parents to read all my email messages.

ledger sheets
Bookkeeping System
Put bookkeeping matters in order. Tax season is upon us! Time to collect any outstanding tuition payments or other reimbursements due and make bank deposits. Gather the tax records and begin the process of getting ready to meet the accountant or other tax professional. I use this time to also get my next year's bookkeeping system ready for next year. I set up new financial record folders and review my previous year's systems to make sure that I am satisfied with how I ran things last year. If there are any problems, then I address them in the new system.

This a simple list of items to address before the new year begins, but this is a powerful list that sets the tone for future success. Spend a few minutes here and there before this current year ends so that you will be ready and prepared for the coming year when it begins.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! Now I have to schedule time in my own studio to do this! Tomorrow for sure!

  2. Thanks. I want to catalogue my lending library also so things don't go awol but parents can see what is available.

    1. That's a great idea. I keep a whiteboard on the back of my university studio door, and I mark the date, the name of the borrower, and the item borrowed. Because I see the board every time I leave the office, I remember that things are outstanding. I have not developed such a system for my private studio, and this would be a terrific idea.