Develop your career 21cMusician toolkit Teaching Three easy tricks to help lesson scheduling take care of itself You’ve got your students, now to arrange them into some sort of timetable. Easy, right? Sometimes everything falls into place, but other times scheduling can be a total headache, especially as nowadays students seem to be juggling so many extra-curriculars they barely stop. Here are some tricks you can use to avoid the endless back-and-forth emails that scheduling can become. 1: Google forms (the fairest for scheduling fixed slots in schools): This is really useful when you need to organise a large amount of students into pre-set slots, especially in a school where all the students (and their families) know each other. You can invite each student to fill in their availability for time slots that you have pre-set, then later can see at a glance who is free when. Make sure you ask them to fill in all of their availability, and don’t make any promises until you have everyone’s reply! 2: Doodle bookable calendar (the ‘dog-eat-dog’ method for small amounts of private teaching): This is more suited to when you are offering a ‘first-come-first-served’ booking system, perhaps for fewer students who you’re teaching at home and don’t necessarily know each other. A free trial of Doodle Premium allows you to select free slots on your calendar, that students can then book. If you envisage keeping the same timetable basically all year, you could use the free trial for students to book a specific week on the understanding that this would be their slot all year. The trial lasts 14 days and you don’t need to input any card details. 3: Take one week at a time (best for students in schools on a rotating schedule): Many schools run a system where students have a different time slot every week. You might want to arrange the whole timetable in advance, shifting each student along a half hour each week. Further down the line, however, this can cause more trouble, as students become busier with sports fixtures, exams and even their friends’ birthdays. Sometimes you can end up changing a student’s lesson time every single week! To avoid that, you could instead arrange each lesson at the end of the previous one: students usually know a week ahead of time what their commitments are for the following week, and by choosing it themselves they are more likely to remember. You’re also helping them to take responsibility for their own schedule – an essential life skill! No matter how many students you teach, having a strategy for scheduling can help streamline your to-do list. Less time spent answering emails means more time teaching and playing music. Who can say no to that?