Why Teaching In My Students’ Homes Really Did NOT Work For Me.
There are so many options when it comes to deciding where to teach. Should you rent a space at a music store, church, or office building? Maybe you could teach at a local school or at your own home. Each option has pros and cons, individual to the teacher and the intended student base. It took me a few years to find what worked for me.
When I first started teaching, I was so desperate for students that I would do anything to gain just one more student. I also shared my apartment with five roommates so teaching at home wasn’t a great option. I had no extra money to rent a teaching space. That severely limited my choices. I decided to be a traveling violin teacher (or a teaching troubadour.) At first, I was nervous about traveling to a student’s home for each lesson, but I found a lot of hidden pitfalls that hadn’t even crossed my mind beforehand!
1. Alone Time in the Car
I spent a lot of time alone in the car in between lessons. This was actually when I started my love affair with NPR (which has made me a much better conversationalist!) This time was even more stressful when a lesson would go late and I had to drive, umm…, expeditiously to get to the next lesson in time. My stress and discomfort were compounded because my car had no air conditioning. My 4-60 Coolant System (four windows down, 60 mph) did amazing things for my hair.
2. Double Duty
Occasionally I had to play dual roles when I taught at my students’ homes, violin teacher and babysitter. The parent would say, “I just have to run to the post office, and since you’re here…” This was even more exciting when they asked me to just “keep an eye” on their two year old as well. I really find that I don’t do my best teaching when I’m multitasking…disciplining and violin! Yikes.
3. Distracted Parents
On a related note, I never had a parent watch a lesson when I was at their home. That means that if they actually wanted to know what was going on in lessons, they talked to me after, turning a 30 minute lesson into 35-40 minutes. Then I would have to hurry to the next lesson (and as I mentioned before, I don’t enjoy being in a rush while driving.) Those extra 5-10 minutes? That really adds up.
Usually, I didn’t see the parent at all. This meant that no one was helping the child practice (or even reminding them to practice at all.) Because they weren’t practicing, I taught essentially the same lesson and over and over. Repeating myself lesson after lesson is frustrating for the student and the teacher.
4. Who’s Got the Power?
When I teach in my own home, my students behave differently. Because it’s a place they aren’t as familiar with, they usually are more respectful towards their teacher and their teacher’s belongings. When I taught at my student’s house, it seemed more like I was a friend coming to play, or someone hired to spend time with them. They got to tell me things like, “Well it’s my house so…,” or “the rules at my house are…” Obviously, I want my students to be as comfortable as possible with me, but treating me with respect is essential.
5. Forgotten Schedule
Because the parents didn’t have to plan around the lesson (didn’t have to collect music, get the kids in the car, etc.) it was harder for them to remember violin lessons during the week. Occasionally, (sometimes as often as once a month or more) I would arrive at their house, knock on the door, wait in front for ten minutes, call repeatedly, and get nothing. On these days, I spent all my time driving, and didn’t get to teach at all.
When this student would then complain about me billing them for this lesson, I would cave and make no money for spending my time driving and sitting and waiting. Not only was I not teaching, I wasted my own gas money and had less money for groceries.
6. Fewer Students
I would much rather teach than drive around town. When I taught at my students’ homes, my studio growth was limited. I couldn’t teach any more students because I had to schedule 30 minute for travel between each lesson.
7. Too Much Stuff
Carrying all my teaching material from house to car, car to house, and house to car became really taxing. I often forgot items I needed. It is so much easier to stay organized and teach efficiently when you have all of your teaching materials on hand and always in the same place.
When I finally decided that I preferred (much, much, much preferred) to teach somewhere other than a student’s home, I missed those students. These were terrible circumstances. The parents were friendly, the students were sweet. I really think that if they had been coming to me it would have been a great teaching relationship (Or at least some of them would have been). After trial and error, I’ve found that I feel like more of a professional (and am treated more professionally) when my students are on my turf. It was much easier to enforce policies for payment, parent attendance, lesson cancelations, and respect when I taught at a school or at my home.
Do you teach at your students’ homes? How have you resolved some of the issues I mentioned above? Do you feel like the atmosphere affects your teaching and your student’s behavior?