How are you doing with the new software? Here’s a window into how I’m adjusting to it as a teacher — I hope you find this helpful!
I’ve used Music Teachers Helper since way back in 2006. Nearly all updates to the system have included real improvements, and there was one major update some years ago that required some getting used to. I’m happy that the new version stays the course but provides a number of improvements, including one feature I’m excited about — the File Area. This is a feature I used to use it all the time but the last major upgrade made the File Area less workable for me. Now it’s better than ever, and I’m looking forward to working with it again! Yay!
I’m going to focus here on a few essentials I use in my studio plus a few favorite features — emailing, the student list, lesson notes, selected uses of the calendar and its settings, and the File Area.
Mostly I’ve been able to keep using MTH as before but I did have to adjust to the changes in the Students List. This is where I used to go to email students, and we still can but you have to select the students first (click in the box to the left of their names), then click the “Send Email” button in the upper left to start the process. You can even select just one student, and then click “Send Email” — then add more students to the recipients list by typing the first few letters of the name and selecting them as they appear in the filtered list offered to you.
Another great way to send emails to students is via the calendar. If all or some of the students you want to email are scheduled for lessons on any particular day, just click that day, and click “Email students” and an email form will appear with those students in the recipient list. You can remove or add students as you like to the recipient list.
A few other notes about the Students List: There are easy filters at the upper right for showing all students, only active students, etc., and by clicking the heading of a column you can sort by that column. For example, if you click “Waitlist” you might want to click the header for the column “Date Started” so as to see who signed up most recently.
If you click on a student’s name you see their information, and there’s a nice feature allowing you to quickly see the site from that student’s point of view — just click the button at upper right that says “View site as Sarah” or whatever the name of your student is. Sometimes I may need to explain to a student where to find something on their calendar, so it’s handy to actually view the site as that student in order to explain accurately. In testing the File Area, I went to a student’s site in this way so that I could make sure a file was available to them and could describe how they could find it (it’s in a different place than on the teacher’s calendar, see below for more details!).
The Students List is also a great place to check on a student’s payments. I am used to reviewing the Transaction Log for this, but now if you click on the student’s name in the Students List, you can click on the Payments tab to see a full list of their payments. There’s also a handy tab for their Invoices, and for their lesson history.
For those with many students, note that the default is now to alphabetize the student list by last name, but by clicking First Name, you can sort it that way instead, if you like. Also, you’ll want to decide how many students to show on the page. I like to see all my active students on one page, so I click “Show 50 entries” and it remembers this each time I return to the list. But if you do choose to use multiple pages of students, it’s good to know that if you select some students on one page, they are still selected when you go to another page to select more students.
One big change for me in the new version was simply learning how to change the date or other information for a lesson. You can still simply drag a lesson to a different date, but if you want to write in a new date or time, just click the “Reschedule” radio button in order to have access to that information.
I like the new button to the far right of the name of the month — “Attendance.” This allows me to Set Attendance for any students or events that haven’t yet been reconciled. This can still be done from the Dashboard, or by clicking on a particular date, or a particular lesson, but the Attendance button makes it all easier, I find. The only trick here is that in order to enter Lesson Notes you have to click the plus sign next to the student’s name. I couldn’t do without the Lesson Notes! They help remind students what we talked about and what’s expected, firming up their understanding about the lesson, at a time when they can read and think at their own pace. For the teacher, the Lesson Notes turn the Daily Summary Report into an amazing resource for knowing what was done in the last lesson.
If you click on your picture (or the silhouette of a person) in the upper right corner of the page, you can choose Settings. There, you can click the Calendar tab and see all the options for adjusting your calendar settings.
I like to Edit Categories so that my calendar shows different colors for 30-minute, 45-minute, 60-minute lessons, online lessons, for classes, and for time slots that are available.
Farther down in calendar settings, I have clicked “Allow lesson cancellation” because it’s helpful to let students go into the calendar and cancel if need be; that way I’m sure to get the message quickly. It’s nice that the new system lets us set up the consequences of a cancellation before or after a certain time, and to enter our cancellation policy to be displayed when someone cancels. This is also something I list in my Rates & Policies section on my MTH studio website, which is very handy to refer to by giving the student a simple link, and it’s very good for transparency, letting the student know you’re treating them the same as everyone else.
Note that if you make changes to any tab of the settings you have to click “Save Calendar Settings” at the bottom of the page before moving to another tab.
OTHER SELECTED SETTINGS
I’m not going to discuss in detail other key settings but I recommend you take a look at your Messaging settings to know what automatic messages you’re sending out, and make sure they’re up to date, and read the way you want them to. The Rates tab allows lots of options that can make things easier, but fortunately, the transition to these rate packages has been automated so that we can continue everything as is. When I have time, I plan to sort out my rate packages to see if that will be as helpful as I think they will be!
THE FILE AREA
Finally, as promised, a few notes about the File Area. This has been greatly improved so that it is easy to upload and organize sheet music, recordings or other files, and make them available to specific students. This saves the work of emailing files individually, and also gives students a good reason to become more comfortable logging in and using Music Teachers Helper on a regular basis. When you choose a file in the File Area, click the pencil icon to edit it, and then select “After students login” so that you can give particular students access to the file.
For the teacher, the File Area is located under Website — at the bottom of the leftmost column of your MTH screen; File Area is the last option on the Website submenu. For the student, the File Area can be found under the topmost option — the Dashboard. It’s the last item there.
Of course, there are loads of other features, but these are the main ones that keep me going! If you have comments about your own systems for using MTH, it would be nice to hear about them — leave your comment below!