How to Find Time for Professional Development as a Piano Teacher

As a piano teacher, it can seem almost impossible to find the time for professional development. You’re already wearing so many hats as a private music teacher, how can you find time for one more thing?

First of all, I get it. It is hard – no doubt about that. But professional development and continuing education is also vital to your success and, more importantly, your fulfillment as a piano teacher.

Reframing Your Mindset

The first step to finding time for professional development as a piano teacher has nothing to do with calendars, tools or gadgets. First, you need to shift your mindset a little…or perhaps a lot.

You’re never going to find time to do training if you think of it as an optional extra or a bonus. If you’ve ever said:

“I’ll just go to the gym on the days when I have free time.”

Then you know what I’m talking about.

Just like that pretty much means you’re never, ever going to the gym; if you tell yourself that you’ll fit in professional development “when you get a chance” then you’re not going to do it.

It’s all about where this is on your priority list. If you’re currently not finding time to do something – I bet there are other things which are just more important to you.

And that’s fine.

If your kids, making money, or your squash team are just far more important to you right now and take up all of your time – that’s totally cool. You’re not going to find any guilt trips here.

Here are a few reasons that you might consider moving P.D. up a little higher on your priority list though:

  • Becoming a better teacher and exploring new areas will lead to more job satisfaction and happiness for you as a teacher.
  • If you attend an in-person event you can connect with other like-minded teachers and feel less lonely and isolated.
  • You may be able to charge more or make use of daytime hours by learning a new skill.
  • Continuing education is one of the best ways to break out of your teaching rut and prevent piano teacher burnout (more on this next week).

So see if investing in yourself might just deserve to move up a notch or two on that list, and once you know just how important it is to YOU – it’s time to find the time to do it.

Finding the Time for Professional Development

So let’s say professional development is pretty important to you. You want to find the time to do it – but you need a practical way to squeeze this into your hectic schedule.

There are many, many ways to free up some time in your teaching year. These are just a few to get your brain ticking over the possibilities:

  • Plan a group lesson week – that way you’ll have a few extra hours (even with the extra planning time) to explore some training.
  • Automate time consuming jobs – for example social media doesn’t have to be done everyday, you can actually do it much faster by scheduling in advance. Are you doing any jobs a machine could do just as well?
  • Outsource some of your tasks – if there’s something outside of your expertise (accounting, video editing, website updates) that’s taking a ton of time, consider hiring someone to do it for you.
  • Cut your teaching hours and raise your fees – could you be making the same money with less students if you simply charged what you’re worth? If you think the market would stand it, think about upping your fees and lowering your student count a little.

I’m positive even the busiest of you can find at least an hour a week that you could be spending on professional development. So do what you need to do to free up that time, and then take the next step so it doesn’t disappear again…

Locking the Time Down

This step is probably the most important in this list.

Once you find the time, you need to lock it down. There will always, always, always be something else that could fill that time up again. Things happen and suddenly that hour when you were supposed to watch the webinar on practice techniques just vanishes into thin air.

Don’t let that happen!

Whether you’re a filofax, post-its on the wall or Google Calendar kinda person – put it in there – and don’t move it.

No, not for a hair appointment, nor for a bake sale, nor to help your friend with move apartments. You can get the haircut, bake the cookies, and lift the boxes later. This is a non-negotiable part of your job.

No one wouldn’t ask a lawyer friend to skip out on court to come help them out. Emergencies only please, this is your career we’re talking about.

(Just to be really clear, your split ends do not count as an emergency.)

Professional Development Options for Piano Teachers

The good news is once you make the time there are so many options out there that you can definitely find something that’s a good fit.

Some options you might consider are going to local conferences, big national conferences, training days, or online workshops and courses.

You can’t beat the in-person events for the connections with other teachers and overall enriching experience – but sometimes that just isn’t possible. If the only time you can find for your continuing education is on Wednesdays at 8pm, then never fear! These days you can learn so much online (plus you get to wear your pyjamas and sit on your own couch 🙂 ).

Here are some of my favourite online resources that you might like to try.

Piano Physician’s Clinic

This is my own course, so naturally it holds a special place for me.

piano physician's clinic course

The videos I created for the Clinic will walk you through some of the most common piano student issues – the ones that drive all us teachers crazy – and how you can fix them using creative teaching and practice strategies.

If you have any questions about the Piano Physician’s Clinic, feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to chat.

Tim Topham’s Inner Circle

I recently created a course for this wonderful community myself, and there are tons of other great resources inside too. If you want to continue to learn throughout the year, the Inner Circle is a great way to do it.

Upbeat Piano Teacher Webinars

These webinars aren’t available all the time, so get on their mailing list to find out when they next open the doors. In spring I recorded a couple of interviews with Tracy and Sara for their teens and preschoolers packages and had the privilege of taking a look inside and watching the other videos. This is great stuff. Get on their email list here.

There are tons more resources for piano teachers online, even free ones like the MOOCs on Coursera. I’m sure you can find something fantastic to improve your teaching and life this year.

Do you find time for regular professional development?

Did you have any aha moments reading today’s article? Tell me all about it in the comments or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.

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