Giving private lessons at public schools?

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Lisa June said: Sep 4, 2009
 Violin
23 posts

I’m currently trying to start up my new studio. I live in a rural area and finding a good central place to teach isn’t easy. I’m very active in my school district and thought it would be great to give lessons at the district’s elementary schools, before and after school. I brought it up with my superintendent, and he has balked at the idea, citing policies and facilities use, etc. He hasn’t given me an answer yet. I think the sticking point is someone making money (not that much, really!) on school property. I’ve given him lots of arguments in favor of letting me do this but he keeps putting me off.

I know I have heard of teachers doing similar activities at schools. I don’t mean Suzuki in the Schools, but someone giving a private lesson independent of the schools programs but on school property.

Can anyone point me to where this might be taking place, or to anyone who has knowledge of similar activities, so I can use them as examples?

Thanks,
Lisa

Michelle said: Sep 5, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
25 posts

The only time I’ve been able to do this is when I was also teaching a few music classes at the school. I think it’s a liability issue, you’re not covered by their insurance as you’re not one of their teachers. Also if you have student come in who is not a student at that school, they wouldn’t be covered.

I looked into renting classrooms from the local public schools when I left the private school, and found the rent to be more than my lesson rate!

Churches are generally more reasonable in their rates, and more open to renting out space during the week, as they mostly use the space on the weekends. The only catch is that some will require you to be a non profit organization for tax reasons. We managed to find one that didn’t for our group classes.

I’ve also had good luck at music stores with studio space, which is where I’m currently teaching. The shop owner is happy that I bring in business, and gives my students a discount. My families are happy that they can just pick up supplies when they come to the lessons. Many also have violins from the shop. Rent is a cut of what I make, so I’m not paying for time that I don’t have a student—yay for breaks. They can also be good for referrals. My studio has been full with a waitlist for a few years now.

Now available in blog form.

Lisa June said: Sep 5, 2009
 Violin
23 posts

Here’s an interesting page I found—this school district makes lessons available with a list of teachers, and the lessons can take place at the school. However, the lesson fees are paid directly hto the teacher. This is the kind of thing I’d love our district to do.

http://www.masonbands.com/PrivateLessons.htm

I can’t see any downside to this system.

Ruth Brons said: Sep 5, 2009
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Let me share my experiences with teaching privately in a school setting:

For nearly 30 years, and through moves through half dozen different cities, I have always found independent contractor teaching opportunities with various private schools. Public schools do have different rules with which they need to comply, AND they are less concerned with trying to provide any additional services for parents and families.

Some private schools have asked for a straight weekly rent, while others have asked for a percentage [6% at the last one], or most have asked for no compensation at all.

Some schools allows students to take lessons during lunch, recess, “choice time”, or even class time, while others strictly limit it to before or after school. The private school I am currently working with allows me to work with Prek-2 teachers to find pull-out times during the day and limits Grade 3 and up students to having their lessons during lunch or after school.

The private schools I have worked with like having a violin program they can brag about; they like offering a convenience to their families; and they like having this all be “zero-budget”—meaning no cost to them. I have the students present a violin assembly once per year, and they also perform at one of their annual fund-raising events.

I have offered Group Classes either before school, or during lunch. I have recruited in the lower grades, and have offered six week “Twinkle/Try It!” group classes to introduce kids to the program before they have to procure their own violins and sign up for private lessons.

Teaching in a situation where you probably won’t have regular contact with parents of young students, doing things to increase and ease communication is important. In the last couple of years I have used a web-based scheduling/billing program that has increased ease in communications with parents. Emailing home mp3 files made with SmartMusic during lessons has also increased parent involvement in their child’s progress. And as always, sending home a practice sheet with a clear assignment is important.

Hope this helps!
Good luck.

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Bow Hold Buddies[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessory for violin/viola, and
CelloPhant[tm] bow accessory for cello
http://www.things4strings.com

Lisa June said: Sep 6, 2009
 Violin
23 posts

Thank you, that is very helpful!

The area of Maine where I live is so rural and sparsely populated that the public schools are the only ones of any size in a huge geographic area, so it’s really the only possibility for me.

It’s a delicate situation since I serve on the school board. I’m willing to resign if it becomes an issue (although there is no conflict of interest, as I will get no money from the District) but the advantage is that I have access to the Superintendent and Principals. However, trying to convince them that I really believe it would be a great thing for the District to make private music lessons more accessible, and not just advancing my ability to make money, could be dicey. I have to go carefully, and coming up with examples of other public schools that do it would make my job a lot easier.

Thanks for responding!

Lisa

Ruth Brons said: Sep 6, 2009
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Also, although not the format you had in mind, the only example I know of in Public schools is a program getting, last I knew, exciting results in Newark, NJ.
As I understand it, the classroom teacher receives one Suzuki private lesson per week; the entire class receives one group lesson per week; and the whole class practices together EVERY day, led by their regular classroom teacher—the only one getting private lessons. Despite the challenging demographics of Newark, and the high turn over of kids in any given classroom, the statistical results are stunning. Not only do the kids actually learn to play, they are able to focus and achieve more academically, with HUGE leaps in standardized tests scores.

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Bow Hold Buddies[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessory for violin/viola, and
CelloPhant[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessory for cello
http://www.things4strings.com

Michelle said: Sep 6, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
25 posts

It’s nice to know this does work in other areas. Perhaps it doesn’t work where I am due to the strong strings programs already in place at the schools. Although, one would think that private lessons could only make strong programs stronger.

I’m sorry I can’t help with more examples of places that are doing this kind of thing, but I wonder what exactly is causing the principal to balk at the idea. Do you think it might be a liability concern? Perhaps they’re worried about the cost of maintaining the facilities for another program. Perhaps the principal just doesn’t want to take on one more thing. Perhaps there is a perceived threat of “competition” from a current music program teacher. I think if you could find out more specifically what the potential hurdles for the school would be, and could address those issues at the same time as presenting all the wonderful benefits, it could make your case stronger.

Does the school currently have a strings program? Are you interested in setting up a whole program, or just private lessons?

Now available in blog form.

Lisa June said: Sep 7, 2009
 Violin
23 posts

It’s the Superintendent who is balking and I think he’s just concerned about setting a precedent where someone is making money using school facilities. He’s going to discuss it with the policy committee, and if so I think I’m ok since the chair is a good friend. I have no ambitions beyond teaching privately. The Super. himself has had kids taking Suzuki lessons so he understands the benefits. It could also be that he is afraid of showing favoritism since I’m on the school board. I’m reluctant to badger him about it but he’s holding me up at this point!

The benefits to the district of what I want to do are so obvious that I’m pretty uncertain as to how to proceed with him. I’m hoping that showing him examples of other districts doing it will help.

ljc

Sara said: Sep 8, 2009
 Violin
191 posts

I am very interested in your outcome. Please let us know how it all comes out!

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Constance said: Sep 21, 2009
Constance BarrettCello
11 posts

Hi, as a public school Suzuki teacher, I know that the School Board has questions of liability.

In our school system, we have offered “Afters” and “Befores” programs through the PTA, along with teachers and parents who are offering foreign language, cooking classes, candle-making, bridge lessons, etc. The PTA charges the amount we request plus an administrative fee. For private lessons, it is conceivable to use the same program or through the district’s Continuing Education program. If you are renting the facilities, either under the auspices of the PTA, the CE program, or yourself, go ahead and look into purchasing individual liability insurance.

That might work for you! Let us know what happens.

Mikaela said: Sep 21, 2009
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

[color=FF0040]I teach private lessons at a public school; I had to get $1 million in liability insurance (still working on that, since I only had $300k up to this point, and I just found out about the million today). There are several people that teach in the school, and the Principal told me that they try to make the school as available as possible so that people will vote for the levies. ;-) ;-) Maybe that tactic would work with the Sup.?
However, it’s not as idealic as it sounds; I just got a call today from the Sup.’s office saying that they couldn’t approve my building useage form because I am for-profit. They’ll let me teach there this year, but I might have to find something different next. So I have an “example” for you, but it’s a tenuous one! :confused: [/color]

Susan said: Nov 5, 2009
 Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Bass, Cello, Viola
16 posts

This is against ed. law in some states. You can sometimes get around it by becoming part of a rec. or childcare program that uses school facilities, or finding a sponsor. There is another side, though. If your school district affords a choir & band program w/tax payer funding, it is only appropriate that they also fund string instruction for interested families. Maybe someone on the music staff would be interested in getting involved. Try MENC or ASTA for ideas on starting a school string program, which could be school-modified Suzuki following the guidelines for same published on this site.

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