Traveling teacher

Nora Hamerman said: Aug 8, 2013
Nora Hamerman
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Voice
Reston, VA
4 posts

I have given up on making peace with my condo neighbors and decided I have to travel to students for piano lessons. This is something I am so reluctant about, since it means not having all my equipment on hand, and dealing with more driving than I care to do, but I feel I don’t have a choice if I am to continue teaching. Who has had experience with making this work, and what tips do you have both positive and negative? Thanks.

Nora Hamerman

Danielle said: Aug 9, 2013
Danielle Dotson
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Violin
Cheverly, MD
10 posts

I teach home-schooled families at their houses during the day, if they have many children (5+) and at least 3 of the children take lessons. Total lesson time is 90 minutes or more (for me). Some things that work for me:
Have a clear start time and finish time, and walk out of the house as soon as the lesson is finished. Otherwise you will be stuck chatting and talking and another (at least) 15 minutes will go by. Unless you want to chat, of course. Otherwise, email is best.
The mother/parent has to be there in the lesson for the younger kids. Students have to come to the piano in a timely fashion, with clean hands and prepared to play, and it is okay to remind them (several times if necessary) that time is passing and you are on a schedule.
I make sure to write down in their notebook what to do, because students having lessons at home rarely, if ever, concentrate as much as in a studio.
Minimize distractions from people walking in and out as much as possible.
Allow enough travel time in traffic, plus an extra 5 minutes. Traffic and time constraints can be a big stress factor.
Learn the back roads really well! Map out your path in advance and group students as well as you can geographically and timewise. Avoid main roads unless you know they will be clear.
When setting lesson times, if they have a time that is impossible, okay. If that time that suits you for their lesson is merely inconvenient for them, put your schedule first before theirs. Let them know you can’t be “on call”. “Rush hour” is a perfectly acceptable excuse for you not to put their lesson at a certain time. Plan your day around minimizing traffic if possible.
Make sure to plan meals for yourself and take everything with you, including a thermos if you like hot drinks. Stopping at Starbucks can eat up a lot of time, no matter how necessary caffeine may be!
On the plus side, you may well get homemade cookies, soup, coffee, be shown all sorts of things by younger kids (!) and really create a lovely relationship with the families beyond what you can do in a studio.
Having said that, I’d still go with studio lessons every time if I could!

Danielle said: Aug 9, 2013
Danielle Dotson
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Violin
Cheverly, MD
10 posts

I forgot—travel time and payment for such. I would suggest adding a charge for travel from the beginning, because it is hard to add it in later.
For my families, they have multiple lessons, during the day so there is no traffic, and because of that I didn’t start with charging a special travel fee.
However, I regret that now. Some of the families have moved another 10 minutes away, which is another 20 minutes there and back.

I would suggest either flat fee based on calculating the miles from your place and back for all students, and then charge “time plus gas” at whatever your rate is. Make sure they know it is in place of the rent you would have had to add to the lesson charge had you been able to find a place…

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