Surviving back to school scheduling

Back to school scheduling is the biggest source of stress for most private teachers. 

Every fall I have to schedule approximately 60 students and sometimes it feels like I am putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle.  I have tried many different methods of scheduling students and most of them were, time consuming, frustrating, and wasted many precious hours of my time. After lots of practice and years of headaches, I have streamlined a system to schedule back to school lessons in an efficient manner with a minimal amount of stress.

Key items for successful back to school scheduling include

  1. Communication
  2. Organization
  3. A plan of action

Communication

The first week of school, start by contacting teachers, students, and parents either by email or text message to confirm schedules and start dates.  If you haven’t received a response in four days,  send a follow up message.   Once school schedules and lesson start dates are confirmed, outline a schedule for each day of the week using a spreadsheet or app such as Evernote. (You can also use a written calendar but I find it easier to move the schedule around using an electronic platform.)

Organization

Your email inbox and text messages can start to become overwhelming once the replies begin to come in so organization is very important.  Set up email folders to keep responses organized.  You can input the data in each email into either a spreadsheet or an app such as Evernote.  As text messages come in, simply note them in the app and move on with your day.

Cut down on administrative time by keeping a list of who has not yet responded.  Next to each name, note the date and method of contact.  After a week, try contacting the student using a different method of contact.

Have a plan

If you are teaching in one location, start assigning students to each day.  If you teach in multiple locations, assign a location to each day of the week.  When it is time to finalize the schedule, open your notes, and start putting the puzzle together.  

Ways to avoid scheduling conflicts

  • Offer Group lessons
    • Group lessons are great for beginners and allow you to fill one lesson slot with several students.
  • Email students in waves
    • Year round students – these students work hard all year long, are dedicated, and get priority scheduling
    • Last year’s preferred students  – the students who did not take over the summer but work hard throughout the school year and you enjoy teaching
    • New students
    • Last year’s problematic student – students who were disrespectful, didn’t practice, or paid late on a regular basis

Things to remember when scheduling

  • Don’t forget to schedule drive time – if you are teaching lessons from home you don’t have to worry about this one
  • Don’t forget to schedule lunch
  • Schedule time for administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, billing, trips to the bank, etc.
  • Do you have any time set aside for make up lessons?

I like to keep one morning a week free to do bookkeeping and billing, run personal errands, schedule appointments, etc.  It also allows me a morning to schedule make up lessons if needed.
Once your schedule is complete, send it out to your students along with a reminder not to forget to bring payment to their first lesson.

In conclusion

Don’t forget to look at your schedule every day!  There is nothing worse than showing up at the wrong place on the wrong day.  I know this from experience!!

Back to school scheduling is stressful for everyone but it only lasts for a short period of time.  You will survive and with a little organization it may even seem easy!