Day in the life of a performer + teacher | Classroom vs. Private teaching vs. Freelance
I'm back with a post about my teaching experiences in the classroom, private, online, and freelance. I’m a recent graduate with a MM in violin performance and over the past few years I've been fortunate enough to be able to try out teaching in each of these environments. The only field I haven't had complete immersion in was classroom teaching since I was a teacher assistant, meaning that there was another teacher who was in charge of the class year round and I would come in to provide extra help in the classroom. However, at the start of the pandemic, i was able to get a completely full online studio just because i was one of the first violin teachers to join an online tutoring program. I will break down my experience in a few different catagories: the amount of students, the quality of teaching, prep work/class work involved, pay, and social aspects.
please keep in mind that i am just speaking from my experiences, and this field is very dependent on how proactive/social you are so nothing I say is concrete.For the youtube video I made to go along with this post, please watch below-- keep scrolling for my written entry where I go into a bit more detail :-)
Amount of students
So first up is the amount of students that you could expect to receive for each environment. for classrooms, its predeterminded by the school, but in my experience it was pretty common to have a class size for 20-30 students. this can be challenging depending on the age of the students. handling a classroom of 20 12 year olds is a much different experience than a classroom of 20 17 year olds, so its important to recognize which temperament you're best suited for. Younger kids require a lot more discipline, so for me it was hard to balance that and teaching music since I am not trained in education. I personally found it much easier to teach older kids since they are more independent and are patient enough to go through a more in depth study of technique, but that’s not to say that younger kids don't have that same curiosity.
When teaching with a private academy or school that gives one on one lessons, the student count is still pre determined by the school since it’s their job to hand advertising and scheduling. Also in most cases, they will want to give you the most efficient schedule, so blocks of teaching with small breaks. for me, I also teach small group classes for my school of groups of 2-4 children around 4-5 years old. Because the classes are pretty small I find these very enjoyable to teach, since I can work both one on one with students and we can do group work together.
For both online and freelance teaching the amount of students is more dependent on your drive and networking. I've seen online services that will help you get students, so that can be really helpful, but if you're on your own I would suggest advertising through local high schools, cafes, taking gigs, or getting involved in the communities that your clientele would be in.
Quality of teaching
Next is the quality of teaching, which I think has the most potential for variation. as I was saying for classroom teaching, there is a fair amount of disciplining for the children. In addition to the classroom culture, there is also an overall school culture. I've worked in schools that people may call rougher. And in a way it’s true, theres a lot of pressure for the kids to perform well in school despite bigger issues that they face at home so that can be hard to help them balance it versus the school where the only thing the kids are worrying about are their grades, which can still be stressful, but not in the same ways. So acting out can be a big issue depending on the age of the students and their home lives. But, no matter what the school, the most helpful thing to do is to win the students over. That way, they will see you as someone that they should empathize with and respect. Theres definitely a steep learning curve between you and the students at the beginning.
for private schools, it also is dependent on he school and the type of students they attract/accept. but, like online teaching and freelance teaching, you can grow the community to make the quality better.
For online teaching, it can be very hit or miss with the students. honestly, because it's online it's hard to get people who are willing to take music seriously, so it's important to have things like cancellation policies and codes of conduct in place to avoid communication errors. You have to be transparent about your expectations for the students and the parents so that they know how to support themselves.
Prep Work/ Classroom work
For classrooms there's some broader goals that you focus on such as end of the year/semester concerts, but the day to day routine stays the same. For example you could start class with sight reading or scales, then work on orchestra music for the rest of the class. You're responsible for helping the kids musicianship, orchestra music, and sometimes private instruction.
For private institutions as well as freelance and online work there are usually yearly recitals that you can aim for, but apart from that overarching goal, the lessons can be up to you. I recommend keeping a log of each students progress and ideas you have while teaching them to keep up with momentum that you build.
For schools, this is the most simple. You'll get a yearly salary with the taxes taken out.
For private teaching at academies, depending on the school it can be very good. Even if it’s less than you would charge freelance, you will have a guaranteed steady stream of income, and lots of students. For online teaching, it will depend on the website you use, but they usually take out a percentage of your fee, which is that equivalent of what the academies do. I would expect them to take a fee ranging from 25-50% of your asking rate. This is why freelance teaching has the highest potential income. Since you do not need to worry about any fees, you can keep the total amount that the students pay. The only catch is that the freelance tax in some states can be very high, but you would have to prepare for this tax for most academies and online academies (any institution that distributes 1099 tax forms).
The social scene at schools plays a very big part of your happiness. There is a lot of camaraderie between teachers, so it's important to maintain good relationships with your coworkers and students (the people you interact with every day). Depending on the school, you will have very limited contact with the parents since there are many other teachers their students are seeing throughout the day who are also reporting on their behavior and progress throughout the year. The most contact o you can have with the parents are through conferences that are set up by the school.
Online teaching has the second most limited contact with parents and students. The screen does make it much harder to teach and catch each nuance of the student's playing and the time between lessons to socialize is taken out since all they have to do is log into your zoom room. For communication with parents, it's usually limited to chat rooms and emails, so again it becomes a bit impersonal.
Academies allow you to have a good relationship with the parents since they will usually be there to drop off and pick up their children from lessons. I love having a weekly check in with the students present to see if there's anything the student feels they are struggling with/proud of and to give any extra advice after lessons for what the parents can help with at home.
Ideally the parents can be present during the lesson (depending on the students age). This is possible for freelance teaching since it's the most up to you. I take notes for all my students so they can have advice to consult when they are home, but by far the most effective method is for the parents to also be in the lessons and at least in the vicinity for practice sessions to help remind the students of things covered in the lessons. So much of the student's progress is up to how they practice, so it's important to instill great ideas that they can come back to at home! Because I opt for this more immersive private lesson, it provides you with the most socialization time with the students and parents.
For me, due to the freedom in scheduling and method of teaching, freelance teaching is the best option. I don't mind doing the extra administrative work, as I find it calming to manage logistics and have run into very few contentions regarding collecting payment. For someone who wants a consistent schedule and not to worry about administration, I would recommend going for a teaching position at an academy or school, since all of this is taken care of for you. Even if your goal is to be completely freelance, starting at an academy is a great idea since it will automatically take care of a good part of your income.