Rescheduling lessons made easy

The topic of make-up lessons is always a controversial one on piano teacher blogs and Facebook groups. This discussion is not about whether you should or shouldn't do make-up lessons, but rather a discussion of an efficient way to reschedule lessons if you should ever need to.

I was prompted to write this post last week when a colleague related her feelings of overwhelm after emailing her students to remind them that any make-up lessons owed to them needed to be scheduled before the end of term or they would be forfeited. She was swamped with emails requesting make-up lessons and was faced with the arduous task of finding time slots for them all. Here is how I dealt with a similar (but different) situation at the end of last year.

Before Christmas I needed to take the last ten days of the term off to undergo surgery and allow the Christmas holidays for recovery time. As most of my students pay by the ten-week term in advance, this was clearly a case where either make-up lessons or a refund of money was appropriate. I needed a time-efficient way to organise any make-up lessons and remembered that many months prior to this, I had read a blog about using a Google calendar for make-up lessons. Unfortunately, I don't remember who wrote the blog or where I found it. If you are reading this and can give me the information in the comments below, I would love to give credit where credit is due!

Using Free Google Resources

I set up a new Google Calendar in my Google account, imaginatively entitled 'Make-up lessons available' and made it 'public.' I squeezed in as many available time slots as I could find in my already busy schedule (which, of course, meant I was giving up some of my preparation and practice time or family time, but it seemed appropriate under the circumstances, especially with many students about to sit for exams). I then embedded this calendar on a free Google Site. I have included information about how to do this below.

Asking the student to choose their own make-up lesson time took all the pressure off me and placed the onus on them.

Next I sent out a newsletter to my students informing them of my need to finish the term early and giving them the option of receiving a refund or choosing a make-up lesson from the link to the Google Site I provided. Here's a screen snip I took at the time (there is no point giving you the actual link, as there are no spaces available now!):

You can see that the calendar only shows the lesson times that are available. Students cannot see my personal Google Calendar or my Music Teacher's Helper Calendar (which is synced with my Google Calendar).

For the title of each event I wrote how much time was available and suggested that if they needed a 30 minute lesson, but the time slot I offered was 60 minutes, they could request the first half or the second half of the hour. Students needed to contact me to actually book the lesson slot, which gave me flexibility with those wanting a 30 or 45 minute lesson in a 60 minute slot - I could suggest the portion of the hour that best fitted in with my day. It would then be a matter of deleting or amending the time slot in the calendar.

Requiring the students to contact me to claim the time slot they wanted enabled me to retain more control of the process than a method whereby the students could book their times directly.

I made it clear to all students that I was very happy to refund lessons that couldn't be made up and that there was no obligation to schedule a make-up lesson, but was amazed to be greeted the next morning by a string of emails from students who had chosen their make-up lesson time from the calendar. This was so much quicker and easier than the usual process of emailing back and forth about what times I might have available and what might work for them.

Have you tried a system like this? Can you offer any improvements? Are you the person who blogged about this idea some months ago? Let me know in the comments below.

More Information

Using Google Calendars: https://support.google.com/calendar#topic=3417969

You can customise your calendar as you wish, but you must make your make-up lesson calendar public for this system to work.

Using Google Sites: Create a Google site in which to embed your calendar. You will find plenty of helpful information about how to do this at https://support.google.com/sites/answer/153197?hl=en.

Set the sharing settings to enable anyone with the link to view the site.

Embed your calendar on your new website - https://support.google.com/sites/answer/90569?hl=en&visit_id=undefined&rd=1 tells you how to do it.

I put a short explanation at the top of the page about how the system works, reminding students that the earlier they notify me of a cancellation for me to enter it onto the calendar the more efficiently the system will work. Underneath that explanation I embedded the calendar.

Using Google Calendar with Music Teacher's Helper: To find out how to sync your Music Teacher’s Helper account with your Google Calendar (or iCal), go to the calendar settings page in your MTH account. There you will find a URL that you can use to sync your calendar with your Google Calendar. If you have entered your available lesson times into your MTH calendar, these will then appear in your Google Calendar when the calendar syncs. From there you can copy them to your new Make-Up Lessons Calendar.

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