Group class fees when working with other teachers

Jennifer Taylor said: Oct 29, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Durham, NC
10 posts

About eight teachers in my area decided we would try once a month group classes together. We’ve mostly all been doing our own small group classes, but we thought it would be nice to have a bigger group and let our students learn from other teachers. Right now we are trying to figure out a fair way to pay teachers for teaching for this class. Some teachers include group class fees in their regular tuition fees and others don’t. Some teachers have big studios and have 10 kids coming to our joint group class and others have only 1 student attending. Any ideas?
The teachers with big studios who include their group fee in the tuition would rather not take money out of their accounts for this group since they rely on that money. They also don’t won’t to charge their students any additional fees since the students already pay a lot. The teachers with smaller studios don’t have enough of their own students to pay themselves for teaching.
Thanks for any suggestions!
Jennifer

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Oct 29, 2014
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I work with a co-op of three other teachers. I don’t know if I can give you all the answers but I can tell you what we’ve kind of muddled through and figured out over the years.

The primary issue of running group class is the cost of renting out space.

Now there’s two ways to look at a teacher’s contribution. You can either look at the number of students each teacher is bringing to the table or you can look at the amount of work each teacher is putting in to the group class itself.

I will spare you the dirty details but suffice to say that it is impossible to work together harmoniously if your focus is on how many students each teacher is bringing into the environment. Studios are naturally going to have changes and it makes any little change a major source of stress.

Everything works better if you look at the group of students as a whole with each teacher doing an equal amount of group class work. So the payment you receive is based on your contribution as a teacher, not the number of students you bring in.

In our school co-op we charge the parents an administration fee of $10 per student per month. This is on top of what the tuition they pay their private teacher.

Every teacher teaches an equal number of classes. We rotate who teaches what class every four weeks.

The money we collect goes into a joint fund. We use it to cover all school expenses, including recital hall rentals and whatnot.

Any leftover money gets split equally between the teachers since they all did an equal amount of work.

I do not recommend having anyone pay for the expense of group class out of pocket. Again, this causes needless stress. We’ve never had a complaint about the administration fee. Schools ask for money constantly so parents are completely used to these types of requests.

Jennifer Taylor said: Oct 30, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Durham, NC
10 posts

Thanks— that all helps a lot!

One question related to all this is what are expectations for teacher payment? Do you have much left over to pay teachers? Are teachers willing to teach group without pay?

I tend to be a bit business minded perhaps and like to get paid for teaching— I also think group classes are an opportunity to get paid well since there are more students participating in one hour (especially since music teachers often struggle to make a decent living). I’m struggling with my love of teaching and wanting the best for my students and how to manage fair payment.
Jennifer

Anna said: Oct 30, 2014
Anna Draper
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Valley City, ND
4 posts

My group classes have been open to any student outside my studio who has the Suzuki Rep. memorized. We charge 10-15 per class or they can sign up for the whole semester series and participate in the recital.

If you want to keep it simple, why not assign each teacher to host a large group class? Each family would pay the host teacher directly. If there is concern about attendance, offer or require that families who want to participate sign up for the whole series of classes up front (or in payments) and divide the money evenly among teachers who are hosting a class. Since this is not a regular group class, I do not think it should be included in a teacher’s regular group fees unless that teacher decides to require his/her students to participate, in which case the fees paid that teacher would go up and that teacher would be responsible for paying the host teacher.

If I was organizing this on my own (not with a group of teachers), I would do it differently—but you can see where I am coming from. I would add extra monthly classes to my tuition payment (continuing to invite any student with the Suzuki Rep. memorized), hire teachers and pay them an agreeable flat rate (or percentage) regardless of how many students are present (since they have already paid), keeping a percentage for myself for organizing and administrative fees. It is a privileged for students to have the opportunity both to play in a large group and work with other teacher. I think every student should pay a fair market value for the classes—but if I was the one organizing it on my own, I would also be working hard to market it appropriately to my community and fellow teachers in order to guarantee enough student participation to make it worth while…which is in itself a lot of work.

I like to get things moving—which usually means that I set up events and invite others to participate.

As for pay. I personally would not teach a group class without pay unless it was as a favor for a fellow teacher. I think I am at a minimum $50.00. If I had any organizational duties it would be more. If someone was paying me to just come in and teach for 45-60 minutes with no other obligations or responsibilities (if I was the guest of a host teacher), $50.00 minimum. I would look for class space accordingly. Teacher pay first, group class space that can be covered without dipping into teacher pay. I love teaching, but I have a mortgage to pay and if I can’t make enough teaching, I would have to go become a nurse or something and teach on the side! (I remind myself of this when determining whether the pay is worth the time.)

It sounds like a great opportunity for the students—I hope it all works out happily!

Mengwei said: Oct 30, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
119 posts

“Teaching without pay” is a dangerous concept. I’m not saying that you think this, but too often the mindset is that music teachers so love what they do that the intrinsic satisfaction from teaching should make up for the lesser money. It’s one thing if I choose to volunteer my time and expertise, but at the end of the day, I’m also a professional making a living. I think it was someone on this board who said something to the effect of—the best for her students is to charge enough (and enforce your policies in a respectful manner) so that she can remain in business!

With that said, I did teach group “without pay” at first. Basically, I counted my time as nothing and considered the rent expense to be something I needed to absorb on a short-term basis (a few months) for the sake of growing my studio. When I decided to continue groups and raise my fees, everyone was fine with it. I can choose to operate that way as a sole proprietor, but when other teachers are involved, I can’t expect that they’ll be okay with the promise of future payment.

As for group classes being better paying—keep in mind that a fair market price for group is lower than for individual lessons. If you otherwise teach out of your home, perhaps you don’t consider your rent or mortgage as a direct expense, but if you need to rent a separate space for group, and depending on the actual number of paying students, you may or may not end up with more profit. My marginal cost (both monetary cost and opportunity cost) to accept each new student is minimal until (for example) my schedule is full or I need to rent another hour, a bigger place, etc.

Without discussing specific numbers and geographic/demographic context on the public board, I will just say that I’ve taught at places that CHARGE their students the same amount that other places PAY their teachers. Most places, where profit is a primary need, pay the teacher 40% to 60% of the student fees, and the one that are more generous have another reason. Reviewing your numbers has to be part of the planning process; it’s one thing if you need to skimp on teacher pay once and everyone is okay with it, but then you’ll need to balance income and expenses in order to be sustainable.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Oct 30, 2014
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

@Jennifer:

We are all very business minded in our co-op. We are all full-time teachers.

For our case in particular, we do view ourselves as a school. The group class is part of our program along with solo recitals, group performances, etc.

However, since the group is in addition to private lessons, we don’t view it as our primary source of income. Each teacher is free to set his or her own personal tuition and that’s where each teacher is going to be making their bread and butter. The leftover money we have is seen as a small bonus on top of this.

The reason why we do it this way is because it’s advantageous for all the teachers involved. The shared teaching makes group class less burdensome and our student retention/progress rate is higher because the parents get a strong feeling of belonging to “a program.”

Long story short: the money from teaching is going to be coming from your private lessons, not your group.

Alice Wright said: Oct 30, 2014
Alice Wright
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Anchorage, AK
11 posts

Understandable about the $.  The love of teaching/music/students is there“but you also must eat and pay your bills.  You’ll decide what to charge.  Check the price out with the parents, and go forward.  Alice (Alaska)

On Thursday, October 30, 2014 6:00 AM, SAA Teachers’ Corner Discussion wrote:

New Comment on Group class fees when working with other teachers

Group class fees when working with other teachers

Jennifer said:
Thanks— that all helps a lot! One question related to all this is what are expectations for teacher payment? Do you have much left over to pay teachers? Are teachers willing to teach group without pay? I tend to be a bit business minded perhaps and like to get paid for teaching— I also think group classes are an opportunity to get paid well since there are more students participating in one hour (especially since music teachers often struggle to make a decent living). I’m struggling with my love of teaching and wanting the best for my students and how to manage fair payment.

JenniferT

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 1, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

You can’t charge a private lesson rate for group classes (or, well, you COULD, but who will pay it?); and a group class costs more to run (usually) than a private lesson due to needing to rent a large enough space in a location central to all of the students (especially with students from multiple teachers), have liability insurance, hire a collaborative pianist (or other musician to accompany or assist with accompaniment), etc.

Additionally, I’ve usually found that there is an ideal number of students in a group class, above which it is difficult to teach concepts and get work done (unless you are looking at group classes as play-ins instead of as technique or ensemble skills learning forums).

So, depending on how much your students’ families can and are willing to pay for a group class, and how much you pay your pianist, and how low cost your facility and other “incidental” group class expenses are, and how large of a group class you are willing to teach, (and whether or not you have close to your maximum or close to your minimum number of students in a class), there is a range of pay for group class teaching in a cooperative situation with other teachers, which is usually (in my experience) not as lucrative as teaching private lessons.

It sounds like, regardless of the fact that some teachers already offer group and some don’t, since this is an additional class (or workshop) that none of the families would have otherwise, and it adds value to the students’ lessons in that students get to learn from other teachers and meet students from other teachers too, it is reasonable to ask the families to pay an additional fee per group class.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Nov 1, 2014
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

You can’t charge a private lesson rate for group classes

This is really the bottom line, especially for Suzuki teachers. The group is seen as something that teaches separate skills but is not where the kids go to learn how to play.

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