Habits of a Tidy Teacher

This is the first in a series of posts (how many posts? determined by you, the readers!) about organization. As teachers, we know it is paramount to have our act together before students walk in the door. Like most, we also feel that we could do better at finding the right place for all our “stuff.”

Note: If it wasn’t for so much stuff, we wouldn’t have this problem but, it’s too late now.

As I’ve thought about how I organize, I believe there are important steps in the process and if one of those steps is difficult or skipped, that’s when things can break down and get messy. Here’s my list. What would you add?

Steps to organization:

  • Determine what “pile” needs to be organized.
  • Decide if everything is necessary in said “pile” and throw away what’s not. (For expert advice on how to determine what to save and what to throw away, read this post on the Kon Mari method. It works!)
  • Sort the items in the pile according to similarities.
  • Find something in which to store each pile of similar items.
  • Give a label to each new pile.
  • Place each sorted and labelled pile in a place so that you can find it in seconds.

Ahhh..if only it were that easy! What is the hardest step for you? I’ve got a few more thoughts to share on this topic but for now….read on.

Andrea West contributes fantastic designs to the 88pianokeys.me store. I’m always impressed with her style and creativity in her graphics as well as in her teaching. From what I’ve seen posted on Facebook, she’s quite the cook. She’s a grandma too, and not only teaches piano but holds a part-time graphic design position as well. You’ve got to be organized if you’re going to be that busy and that’s why I asked Andrea to reflect on how she organizes things in her studio.


Andrea West, teacher, graphic designer, grandma, chef and organizer

I walked into my local hobby and craft store recently, and was shocked to see the Christmas displays–especially since July was still hanging on, if only by a few days.

As I headed to the back of the store to find the colored pens, the specialty craft paper and Christmas stickers I wanted to purchase for the upcoming teaching year, the irony was almost lost on me. These big stores cannot wait until October to prepare for the fall and Christmas season, they need to have themselves organized long beforehand. And so do us teachers, if we want to keep our studio running smoothly and our sanity intact.

The key to staying organized is to create a timeline of tasks that need to be addressed.

First, I locate the school district calendar, and find out when my students will have holidays and vacations. It doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily take the same days off, but it does provide a starting place to create my own teaching calendar.

It’s easy to put all this into a spreadsheet, and then I can color code it for whatever I need parents to know, like recital dates, make-up lesson dates, dates that the studio is closed etc. I’ll eventually email this to parents, but half won’t save it, so I have a solution for this too!

Next is scheduling students. That’s the biggest chore, because it’s often a moving target. There are several programs that can be purchased, but again, I rely on a spreadsheet (because it’s easy and free to use) to write out my teaching days and times, and then I place students in the appropriate spots. Of course, that will change, but it’s very visual and flexible, so I can make changes quickly and easily.

A Welcome Back binder for students is something I like to create for each of them. It’s a great place to put a copy of the teaching calendar (that they didn’t save), my policy statement, a Recital Save The Date (I like putting mine on a refrigerator magnet), handouts I’ve prepared, and room for them to add their sheet music.

I find it fun to purchase inexpensive binders with a clear cover so I can put my own binder cover on the front with each student’s name, making it very personal. Here’s a link to three editable binder covers pictured above that I’ve designed.

The last item on the list, for the time being at least, is taking inventory of the music I have on hand, and then determining what I need to purchase for the next few months. I try to buy only what I think I’ll need to reach the end of December, and then it’s time to start over again in January!

Oh, and find a different day and time for my Tuesday, 5:00 student, because the soccer schedule just came out!!

Here’s Andrea’s design printed on a poster and hung in her studio ordered through Vista Print.


Do you have a knack for organizing? Would you care to share and save others time and agony? If so, please email me, Leila, at lviss@me.com and let’s chat about the next post on tidy teachers.

Here’s to a tidy teaching year!


PS Here’s a Google Calendar template I’m using in my studio this year. Follow this link and edit it to make it your own

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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Well, this is timely! Before allowing myself to open my computer and check email this morning, I forced myself to go through the pile of paper that’s accumulated on my desk this summer. I just took half of it to the recycle bin!

    I think there’s something to be said for digital file organization too. With so many studio-licensed downloads, we teachers need a digital file system that’s just as well thought out as our physical storage. Sometimes I’ll print pieces, thinking “this will be perfect for X,” but I’m not planning to assign it immediately. I should just make a note in my lesson plan document for that student and refrain from printing until I’m actually ready to assign it.

    • Whoa, that is timely! YES! Digital storage is definitely on my list of topics and thanks for your input. Thanks for the tip on not printing until needed…good one!

  • I have several organizational tools that are working well for me. I teach individual and sibling group lessons and so there is no time for printing anything but a lesson assignment Will be glad to share how I handle music that has a studio license to print, etc.

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