Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Back to Basics: How I Use Email Reminders and Lesson Categories

I have often gained new ideas from learning how others use Music Teachers Helper (MTH), regardless of how many years I’ve used MTH. This post is about various ways I use event categories and email reminders, and I hope it contains a few ideas you find intriguing. Feel free to share your perspective by adding a comment below or on Facebook so that readers can benefit from your ideas too.

My MTH day begins at 5am the previous day – that’s when my automatic email reminders go out, and when I learn which notifications have been sent to people. (Several times I’ve been asked why I was up at 5am sending those reminders out!)

No matter how long it’s been since a lesson or class, I know students will receive a notice about their appointments the day ahead of time. Not only does this avoid missed lessons and all the hassle or disputes that can go with them, it also serves to put student and teacher on the same page. There have been times when a student and I agreed to change a lesson time, but I failed to change the calendar, or times when a student proposed a change of time but did not follow up on it – in these cases, the reminder prompts the student to get in touch with me and say, “Really? Do we have a lesson scheduled then?” and I can look it up and sort out any misunderstanding before anyone misses a lesson, or before I find myself waiting for a no-show.

If you’re not using automatic reminders, you can set them up by clicking on “Settings” at the top right of the screen, and going to the “Email Notifications” tab. Check off “Remind my students of scheduled
events” and then select which categories send reminders. You can also determine how many days before the event you would like the reminder to go out. My reminders are all sent 1 day in advance.

Don’t forget to edit the way your notifications come across. It’s important to me that the tone of my emails to students are not overly formal, so I have edited the email notifications to my taste. You can do this by looking under the Students tab – hold the mouse over “Email Students” and select “System Email Templates”.

The Lesson Notifications that are sent to me by email tell me which reminders were sent to whom. I hang onto these just to be able to double check if a reminder was sent or not, especially if someone doesn’t show up or claims not to have received a notice – which hasn’t really happened as yet. However, it could also help you do a little detective work – keep in mind that students can turn off their ability to receive reminders at any time, from within their profile.

Here are a few other uses I make of the email reminders. Since I have made a “student” out of myself, with my email address, I can add myself to any event that I might like to receive a reminder for, such as personal rehearsals or events where I’d like a reminder emailed to me the day before. Another use for me has to do with my website, where I offer Tunelearning Pages that people can subscribe to for a period of 4 months. When someone subscribes, I enter them as a student and have a special category for online subscriptions, so that they can be reminded when their subscription is ending – and I add myself to that event so that I am reminded, and can contact them to see if they wish to renew, before ending their subscription.

Some of my event categories do not send reminders. For example, if I know a student doesn’t like reminders, I can choose a lesson category that does not send them (I can also let them know how to turn reminders off). If a lesson is set up the same day or day before, it’s too late for a reminder to go out, so I use a category without reminder. Also, if I want to enter a new student before they or I have had a chance to collect and enter their profile information, I will create an event with myself as the student, and write in the Event Title the name and phone of the student, and in the Description I can enter any info I may need about that student. If the lesson is to take place more than a day away, I can select the category so that I get an email reminder about this new student’s appointment. When the student does enter profile information, I add their name to the event and remove mine.

One important category that sends no reminders is my “Available” category. This is an event on the calendar which displays times I have available for lessons. This allows me to invite students looking for a lesson time to simply check the online calendar for available slots, instead of engaging in a game of email or phone tag about it. Because I allow someone to register for Available time slots, students can even click on an Available slot and sign up for it. In the description, I’m a little sneaky because a typical entry is “to 5:00, open for lessons” – the reason for this is that MTH displays first the time and then the description. Because I start with the words “to 5:00 …” the resulting description will read something like “4:00pm to 5:00pm” and I write, “open for lessons.”

I have set my Available colors to an aqua text that is legible but does not compete with the solid colors of my regularly scheduled lessons and classes. Any time you create or edit an event on the calendar, you can create or edit categories, including colors, by clicking the link to the right of the box showing the category. Here is also where you can create or edit locations, by using the link to the right of the box displaying the location.

Speaking of colors, I like to have different colors for lessons vs. classes so that they are easy to distinguish at a glance. I use a different colors for events, and for biweekly and specially scheduled lessons as opposed to weekly ones. My daughter has substitute taught for me sometimes when I’m out of town, so I created two categories for her lessons that are of a different color, making them easy to spot. Keep in mind that the calendar is not only for the teacher’s eyes, so the text should be legible on the students’ calendars – I used to have my Availables colors too light for people to easily read, so I had to adjust them after a few complaints alerted me to the problem.

I look forward to hearing from you if you have additional or different approaches to emailed reminders and categories – or if you have questions. Until next post…

About the Author

Ed Pearlman
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the countr... [Read more]

3 Comments

  1. Amanda Furbeck

    Thanks for sharing the info about email reminders. I haven’t set them up yet, but I have been thinking about it. You’ve inspired me! 🙂

  2. Ms Jean

    I use the calendar for anything that I need to send out or to be reminded of for myself. I have a student named Notes that appears in red ink on my calendar, only visible to me. I add things to the student Notes, that I will see when I open my calendar.

    I also have things such as annual notes on the calendar. The are also under Notes, but I change the category to Reminders so it shows as a different color. These can be lengthy and cut and paste into an email to send to specific students or all.

    I always make certain to set the fee to $0 and can either assign a random time or create an “all day event”.

    I make most of the annual reminders visible to all by setting up as an event for all where they do not have to register to attend. These do not show on invoices but allow all students easy access to much information.

    My calendar is used for so many more things than a calendar 🙂
    Have fun!

  3. Edna Bloom

    Thanks for these great suggestions. Your summary and the others’ input will save me lots of trial and error time as well as making MTH even more beneficial to me as a “newbie.”

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