When I first started giving lessons, I lived in a small town that had 1 violin teacher and 3 piano teachers. I charged $4 a lesson and taught in my church basement. I gave a sibling discount for a large home-schooled family. They would bring me THE most wonderful bread that they had not only made from scratch, but they had also grown the wheat and ground the flour.
Two years later I was able to drive and would go to homes of students, and give the lesson wherever the parent wished. Being a “Travelling Teacher” was hectic and distracting for me, but I had a full schedule. Two years after that I started college in a new town which was much larger, but had LOTS of private violin and piano teachers.
I expected I would have ten times as many students as I had in my small town, but instead I had ten times LESS interested in what I had to offer. I lived in college dorms and could only give lessons in the noisy and small practice rooms. I didn’t really have a policy, and often times I wouldn’t get paid-ever, and always late. I had no ability to ask for money and much less on time. I started working for the public radio station to get by~but, listening to classical music was a definite perk!
My second year of college I joined the “piano” club, which was the student chapter of MTNA. I was the only non piano major playing member of the group and I felt awkward and outnumbered to say the least, but I am so glad I did. Right away I was inspired by not only great musicians, but really organized teachers who were already at the top of their game…and still in college! I scrounged up the money to attend my first national conference, and my mind was blown by all of the amazing ideas being thrown at me (and learned that lots of other Violinists were MTNA members too!)
I hadn’t realized yet that…………..
1. I can and should “toot my own horn.”
2. I needed a policy-and quick!
3. I needed a spine when it came to payments.
4. I didn’t need to teach the way I had been taught.
(look for more information on these 4 topics in my blog posts)
I came home from my 1st convention and immediately quit teaching one of my students (who had been on the same piece of music for three months), drafted a policy that I still use parts of today, and collected a late fee from a student for a bounced check.
Presto Chango I was a new teacher. The student who I had dismissed, had been first on my busiest day of teaching, putting me in a grumpy mood the rest of the day. By letting her go I was a much happier teacher, which certainly made me more attractive to my other students; and I had a new sentence for my policy:
“A good attitude is important for lessons, everyone has a bad day, just not every week!”
“I do not tolerate any student’s inappropriate behavior during private or group lessons. ”
I hiked my fee by 25% (turns out other teachers were charging a lot more than even that for lessons!) and stopped buying books for students out of my own pocket. I found other method books to teach from that I liked better than what I was raised on, and my students responded well to the updated literature!
From homemade bread to making real“bread,” I was a changed teacher, and my success started translating into other areas of my life. I won a seat in the local Symphony after a nerve wracking audition process. My string quartet business also started to grow rapidly. I had joined a new church and was assuming leadership roles, like service leader and I was even elected to the Board of Trustees!
I was gaining confidence and making new connections daily. I was learning how to “toot my own horn” or market myself, without being conceited.
20 years later I’ve written a book that is a best seller in it’s category on Amazon.com and love to spend my mornings doing consulting work with other Violin and Piano teachers. I really love helping other Piano and Violin Teachers find enthusiasm for teaching and the tools to make it a full time job. You can find my book here:
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