What is a full-time teaching load?

Richard Lohmann said: Aug 24, 2014
Richard Lohmann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
9 posts

I would be interested in knowing what other full-time Suzuki teachers consider to be a full teaching load. “Full” meaning that teaching is your primary occupation, though you may play gigs, or play in a part-time professional orchestra. I’m interested in knowing contact hours, not total hours including administration. I ask, because I’m teaching 25 contact hrs/ week (basically 5 hrs/day, 5 days/week) and am feeling swamped! Yet I feel guilty when I look at the load my public school colleagues take on! (Background: I’m single, no children, play in a very part-time orchestra, do a few hours of admin each week, teach 39 weeks a year)

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Aug 24, 2014
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I’m a little confused by the nature of your question. To me, a “full” studio means that you have satisfactory number of students for you (not anyone else) to make a living.

This is somewhat balanced with economic practicality. For example, I can’t charge charge five students $10,000 each and call it a day. You have to charge a rate that is reasonable for your area.

I think for most teachers this ends up being somewhere between 25-40 students. Obviously the numbers change if your studio is mostly half hour vs hour lessons.

So my question for you is: why do you feel guilty?

Your “job” is not merely the number of hours that you are physically with a student. All that administrative stuff is part of it. Consoling families, personally seeing to schedules…it all adds up.

Barbara Stafford said: Aug 25, 2014
Barbara Stafford
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
59 posts

I am a recent trainee of the Suzuki method. In my area the middle school orchestra program hosts private teachers and most of my work comes through that route, so I end up spending a lot of time driving to schools and helping kids be successful in their school orchestra program, and not as much time exclusively on the Suzuki program— although I do work it in as much as possible.

I think you are working a lot of hours, but I am surprised it only takes about 2 hours a week administration, and communications, etc. I think maybe it takes me a lot more because my student load is always influx year to year, and in the summer. I spend a lot of time arranging scheduling and jumping around when school events force me to rearrange my schedule, which seems to happen at least 4 times a year. And I don’t directly meet with parents, so I spend a lot of time communicating with them through email. Most years I have between 40—45 students who are mostly taking 30′ lessons although a few are taking 22′ lessons and 45′ lessons.

I don’t feel you should feel guilty at all if you are happy with the amount you work and it supports you to a level that you are satisfied with. But if you are able to answer Danielle’s question above, it would be interesting to know your answer. And if you are able to throw in a little info about how you have attracted such a good solid base of people willing to take a full hour lesson with you, let me know. It seems most of my clients try to get away with as short of lessons as possible and I have a hard time convincing them to take on longer lessons.

Amanda Hockenberger said: Aug 25, 2014
Amanda Hockenberger
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Marlton, NJ
10 posts

Hi there Rick!

I hope you’re doing well! I would absolutely consider 25 hours of teaching a full-time job. You’re a terrific teacher and good teaching requires a huge amount of energy. Let’s say you have 30 students during your 25 hours of teaching. Each student requires their own individualized lesson strategy and you’re building relationships with each student and their family. Wow! That is an enormous intellectual and emotional effort. I am currently teaching around 15 students per week (10-12 hours.) I consider myself to be half-time which is perfect as I have two young daughters that require a lot of my care and attention.

Be encouraged! School teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, pastors, small business owners, chefs, etc. all face unique job challenges. There is no need to compare. Apples and oranges!

If you are feeling swamped and are in a financial position to trim your schedule, you should do so without guilt. Just because you wouldn’t be working as much doesn’t mean that your time wouldn’t be well spent doing valuable things.

I hope to see you again sometime! Warmly, Amanda

Mengwei said: Aug 25, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

I have up to 20 teaching hours per week, which includes my private students, my group classes, and private and group classes through other schools (wouldn’t mind having 1 more school and 3-4 hours more of private students—getting up to your 25). I play the occasional gig and arrange some music; those are “on the side” of teaching but at the same time are part of being a “working musician”. I think there is a perception of private teachers just having to “show up and teach” but along Danielle’s lines, my living is being made this way (almost), and my rate has to be balanced between supporting “work hours” as well as what’s reasonable for the market. Other than the obvious scheduling type admin work and specific preparation for lessons and group classes, I also spend time on “networking” (getting to know others in or related to this field) and “professional development” (what I do to improve myself as a teacher).

If you were in another client-based job, you wouldn’t spend 40 hours a week meeting with clients either (we’re ignoring the fact that there are jobs where more than 40 is expected). In an office job, you might even take a lunch break, meet with your colleagues on stuff, twiddle some time away surfing the internet, etc. whereas when teaching, you’re probably “on” the whole time!

Kathleen Andrews said: Aug 26, 2014
Kathleen AndrewsViolin
Pittsburgh, PA
2 posts

I would keep in mind that public school teachers do not teach every hour of every school day. They get paid planning periods during the day. Honestly, they probably spend the same number of hours interacting with students every day that you do (most school days are 6 hours, minus an hour of planning/lunch break, so 5 hours a day/5 days a week). It sounds like you definitely have a “full time” teaching load. Keeping track of the 40 or so students you have, keeping up with communications, thinking about lesson plans (whether you physically write them out or not), scheduling concerts and recitals, etc. probably take a lot more time than what you are factoring in. I know that I feel like my mind is constantly on my teaching. That is time that you are not directly paid for, so hopefully the hourly rate you charge your students covers some of that planning time. I wouldn’t worry, you are definitely working full time.

Kathleen Andrews
Pittsburgh, PA

Meghan Coil said: Aug 26, 2014
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Portland, OR
16 posts

One of the smartest things I have done is charge monthly fee on top of lesson charges. I tell families it is for administrative time and costs, supplies, recital expenses, and professional development. That way I’m not taking a pay cut or feeling resentful every time I need to invest time, energy, or money beyond normal “contact hours.” It legitimizes those investments to myself and to my families.

Heather Figi said: Aug 26, 2014
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

Great Question! I really like what everyone here has shared and wanted to add my 2 cents:

Essentially, I sell an experience with me so making sure that I have ample time for rest, exercise, time with loved ones and professional development is important so that I can go into every lesson and perform at my highest level. I expect this of my students and also think that self care for myself is very important to model and prioritize.

I balance in the elements above with approximately 5 hours a week of administration (ranges from 2-10 hours) and created my lesson tuition to take all of these things into account.

I feel that tuition covers being involved in my “program” vs. “hourly rate” and again, this distinction is reflected in how I view my rates.

An ideal teaching day for me is 5-7 hours long with breaks 4 days a week and group classes twice a month. There are also plenty of special events, recitals, outreach performance, practice parties and parent lectures to fill in this schedule so it equals about 5 days/week of professional time.

Every teaching year has had it’s own nuances but the longer I have done this, the smoother it gets and the happier I am with the schedule I create.

Hope that helps!
Wishing you all an excellent year.

Laura said: Aug 27, 2014
Laura Appert SpringhamViolin, Viola
33 posts

I work for a school. Several years ago this was what they decided warranted a “full time” position:
29 contact hours (group and lessons)
you may have to teach 6 days to fit in all those hours.
Recitals and other concerts on top of these hours, with rescheduling for these events.

After I had my son I decided that was too much for me. I cut back and did 23 hours, but really felt like I was still doing almost the same amount of work, and now for less pay.

You have to decide what works best for you. If you can afford to cut back a little bit, then by all means, do it. Teaching takes a lot of energy!

Henry Flurry said: Aug 27, 2014
Henry FlurryInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Prescott, AZ
22 posts

Over the course of the year, when in-house recitals, service recitals, public student performances, repertoire research, group class planning, parent contact, individual lesson planning, administration, etc. is considered, I have figured that my non-contact and extra-contact hours almost match my regularly scheduled contact hours.

I could teach (and have taught) with a lot less non-lesson hours, but with the extra hours I feel I grow more as a teacher and offer more to my students (not only in depth, but also in bang for the $$). Consequently, I enjoy my teaching even more.

25 lesson hours would totally swamp me and leave little for my non-teaching-related musical endeavors (which also add to my teaching abilities).

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