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I don’t teach any lessons from my own home. A few of my students meet me at a studio location, but for most lessons I go to my students’ homes.
Travel teaching has been great for my business, but it’s not for everyone. Travel teaching adds wear and tear to your car, uses up valuable lesson time on driving, and makes scheduling lessons more difficult.
It’s also more difficult to be prepared for lessons when you can’t run to your supply closet for the perfect theory activity.
There are some perks, though.
1- My house doesn’t have to be spotless, which is good news for me, since my kids destroy it on a daily basis.
2- I can charge more. I teach in a nearby city where lesson rates are higher than my hometown. In-home services also come at a premium, as there are not many teachers in that area willing to travel.
As far as being prepared, I’ve developed a system which works pretty well for me. I take all of my must-have supplies along to every lesson, and have a few other things that I switch out depending on what needs I noticed in the previous week’s lessons.
I keep all of my supplies in this fantastic rolling suitcase. It makes me feel like Mary Poppins because I almost always have what I need.
The bag is the best purchase I’ve made in the last year. It’s relatively compact, but there are several compartments with many usage options. I’ve got areas to store writing utensils and small supplies, as well as books or games, and everything is very organized and easy to find. My bag is pretty heavy, but that’s why I love the rolling feature. Before I switched, I was carrying a bag on my shoulder, and my neck and back always ached.
To give you an idea of how much this bag will fit, I’m sharing what I fill it with. These are my “must-haves” for travel teaching, and everything on this list is in my bag right now.
What’s in my travel teaching bag?
1- Things that would go in a purse (Cell Phone, Wallet, Keys, Chapstick)
As a traveling teacher, I need to have a way for students to contact me if something comes up while I’m at another students’ house. I often get text messages saying someone is ill, so I know not to go to the next house.
I also use my phone to look up YouTube Performances of songs my students are playing, check payment information in the Music Teacher’s Helper app, or to Google music terms or composers I haven’t seen before. (It’s not often I see unusual markings in my students’ music, but it does occasionally happen).
I like having room for my wallet, because that means I don’t have to carry a separate purse in addition to the bag.
I live in a dry climate, which is why I carry chapstick with me. (Also, this isn’t in my bag, but I like to keep an insulated mug in my car, especially during the Summer. If you’re driving to students all day, you need to be drinking water!)
I’m really picky and hate writing with a dull pencil. In College I carried around a small sharpener to every class, but now I’ve graduated to mechanical pencils. Right now I’m using these. They’re pretty sturdy.
I usually keep two or three pencils in my bag at a time because I have a bad habit of leaving them at students’ houses.
I also keep these highlighters with me. (For some great ideas on how to use highlighters, check out this post over at the Teach Piano Today blog.)
3- Reusable Highlighter Tape
This stuff is my favorite thing for analyzing music! I love using it to mark repeating patterns in pieces. I cut the size that I need and hand it to the student to find the patterns on their own.
This works really well for young students, who seem to have an easier time applying the tape than using a regular highlighter. And in piano lessons, it’s nice to change things up once in awhile.
Another plus is that the tape can be removed later on and reused. I’ve used the same pieces on several different songs before I need to replace them. (One note: If you use Piano Pronto as your method series (which I love), the ink is such high quality that any highlighter tape you use will pick up some of it and you won’t be able to reuse that piece of tape–but it doesn’t damage the music.)
At $20 for six rolls, the tape isn’t the cheapest option, but it does last for a very long time. (I bought mine a year ago and have used less than half of it, even though I use it nearly every day I teach.) It’s available in regular or fluorescent colors.
4- A Metronome:
I carry a basic digital metronome with me. I’ve had it for years, and it just keeps working. I also have a free metronome app on my phone that I will use occasionally, depending on the student.
5- A Small Notebook
I picked up a 4×6 notebook from my local Office Depot. I think it’s meant to be a journal, but I use it to keep track of song requests, cancellations, scheduling changes, and to remember what I need to bring to future lessons.
I always enter things in my computer when I get home, but it’s nice to have a hard copy, just in case.
I used to use a day planner instead of a journal, but I think the notebook saves space because I don’t waste empty pages or need to buy a new one every year.
I’m not big into using stickers yet, but I do have a few students who thrive on passing off a song and putting a star in their music.
7-Wright-Way Note Finder: I’ve found that younger students often have a difficulty understanding the concept of up and down on the staff. This little tool is incredibly useful, because they can see it moving up and down.I can also hand it to them and let them move the note on their own. I often ask students to hold it sideways next to the keyboard so they can see how the keyboard mimics the direction of the notes.
8- My iPad:
I have an iPad Air that I use for music theory & note reading apps, as well as keeping track of all my studio licensed music in the ForScore App.
I love using ForScore when students are choosing a new piece, I can grab my iPad and demonstrate several songs for them, let them choose, then write down their choice in my notebook to bring to the next lesson. I ‘m able to digitally carry hundreds of studio licensed songs and books.
9- Three-Ring-Binder:I always carry a three ring binder to my lessons for important papers like photo release forms, copies of my studio policy, composing materials, copies of studio licensed music that are popular with my students, or competition sheets. (Last year we did the 30 piece challenge. This year my students are doing Scale Challenges–another post is coming on that soon!)During the Summer Months, my schedule changes a lot as well, so I keep a calendar in my binder that I printed from my Music Teacher’s Helper Account.
10- Manuscript Paper:
I like to use blanksheetmusic.net for younger students, because I can easily alter the size of the staves and add in the bar lines.
For older students, or when I’m composing something myself, I like to use the old fashioned book. Depending on your printer & ink set up, it can actually be cheaper to buy the book than print that many pages.
11-Music Books: My bag fits a lot of music books at once. I have a lending library, so I’m often taking books to students. I also carry around my Piano Pronto Teacher Duet Books everywhere I go, since several of my students are in that method.
12- A Picture Frame:I bought an 8×10 picture frame from a local thrift shop for $1.00. I use it as a photo prop for my Facebook Page posts.
You can find the free printables I use with the frame on the Teach Piano Today blog here and here.
13- Printed Theory Games:
There are blogs all over the internet offering free games and activities for music lessons. Whenever I find a game I like, I print it off and laminate it with my Thermal Laminator. (Tip for buying a laminator: put it on your Amazon watch list. They often go on sale. I bought mine for $17 dollars.) The rolling suitcase comes with a folio where I put the games to keep them safe. The folio is legal sized, so there’s plenty of room without worrying about corners getting destroyed.
I obviously don’t carry all of my games everywhere, but it’s pretty easy to change them out based on learning needs I’ve noticed in previous weeks.
What are your personal must-haves?That’s it: Everything I use on a daily basis! Now I want to hear from you: What are some supplies or tools in your studio that you couldn’t live without? If you travel teach, how do you carry your supplies?