Delivering group piano in schools

It's a big issue that many of us contend with.


"I only have a few after-school hours where children are able to attend my piano lessons, and no teaching during school hours!" This is particularly pertinent if you have children of your own, who also need you after school.


Well today I am going to outline one way in which I have gone to address this. Ok so freeing up those after-school time slots means that I am now instead just driving my kids to tennis, swimming, cello etc. But I am grateful that I am able to do this (otherwise they wouldn't have those opportunities) and I try not to get grumpy about essentially being a taxi driver!


Why you should be teaching groups in schools


I am hoping you have come to this post having already been convinced about the benefits of teaching groups generally. But now let's think about why you should be delivering group lessons in schools. These reasons will outline why everyone's a winner!


It is good for the children: This one needs very little explanation as we all know how important music is in children's lives, but taking it into schools means that more children are being exposed to the opportunity that they might not otherwise have had.


It is good for you: You get to fill up time and earn income during those elusive daytime hours. Recruitment and retention of students is excellent; I teach six group lessons in one afternoon and easily have enough on a waiting list to add another if I wanted to. Just like with out-of-school group lessons, the earning potential is far higher than if you were to stick with private lessons.


It is good for parents: Honestly they are so happy to have what they see as an essential part of their children's education (piano lessons!) being delivered during the school day; it's also one less extra-curricular activity for them to get their kids to in the evenings or at the weekend!


It's good for the school: Bringing your group piano lessons into schools (and bearing in mind that we believe group piano lessons should cover so much more than just learning the piano), gives the school community extra music provision, which can only be a good thing right? In fact in some cases this could be the ONLY provision, as we live through times when cuts in education mean that "periphery" (I mean, really?!!) subjects are neglected in favour of Literacy and Numeracy.


So you see, literally everyone wins!



A well-designed guide that outlines your offering is essential when approaching schools

What you will need in place before approaching schools


There are certain elements that will need to be in place before you even think about approaching schools. This is because you should have a very clear plan and structure in terms of how you deliver your lessons, curriculum used, lesson and unit objectives, knowledge of music curricula, teaching philosophy, assessment and monitoring framework; you need to speak their language!


It is not a good idea to approach a school without a clear idea of these aspects of your delivery because the school will want to be sure that what you are offering is of a high quality, is grounded in applied pedagogy and is going to benefit their students.


I have a pdf document that I use to communicate all of these elements to schools.

Download it here.


How to approach schools


The ideal scenario is that you already have a contact at the school. Maybe you already teach one-to-one there, or you have a friend who is a teacher. Or lots of your students attend the school. Some prior knowledge/relationship with you, plus all the elements that you have in place (as per the description above) that you can present to them, will really help to get your foot in the door. Even then, I wouldn't go all in with the desire to teach six classes or more; start small and let them see the demand.


What if you don't have any contacts in any schools? You probably just need to do some good old-fashioned networking. Approach the teachers that have any clout and convince them that you are going to revolutionise the musical opportunities for their students.


Emails will only get you so far; request a meeting with the person who makes the decisions. Take your curriculum and plans with you and show them you mean business! You will need to check what their position is on you taking children out of their classrooms (is there a particular time of day that is protected?), whether they will charge you rent for the space you use, whether they have storage for keyboards, discussion about fees and how you invoice parents, and all the practical aspects of delivering your lessons. In the UK you will need to show/apply for a DBS Certificate (a criminal background check), and these may apply in various formats elsewhere too - they basically clear you to work with children.


I would advise that at this stage you start small - I went in with just an after-school club for example. Once that proved to be so popular that no-one was leaving and I had built a long waiting list, the school could see the value in me offering my lessons during the school day.


Delivering in schools - the practicalities


It is most likely that schools will have given you a time slot to work within. I take eight children at a time for 30 minutes (schools are unlikely to agree to any longer than that). You will need to decide how to group the children in a rough sense, before you ask the school to send out some communications about your lessons (you should have a digital flyer that advertises your lessons). Once you can confirm which children have shown an interest, you will be able to group them, usually by age if they are all beginners.


Here are a few other practical tips:


  • I make sure I allow time in between lessons to drop off one class and pick up the next, as this can take a little time.

  • You may find that some students forget their books but you will get to know who they are and I simply carry spares in my bag!

  • Send your class lists to the admin staff so that they can distribute it around the teachers and they know to expect you.

  • Make sure you have a system for communicating with parents. I use My Music Staff for lesson notes and post practice videos into our dedicated Facebook group.

  • Ensure your term/semester is one week less than the school's term: there is always something on, whether it be a nativity play or Easter bonnet parade, and if you have one week to play with it is ok to cancel that week and just add it on at the end. And if you didn't have to cancel any lessons, well then you get the last week off!

  • It is increasingly becoming the case that schools won't let you use your phone on their premises - so if you were hoping to play some tracks through spotify or even take some pictures/videos of lessons, it may not be allowed!

  • Invite the students' classes into watch the last lesson so that your students get an opportunity to perform. They will love performing to their peers and their classmates will be inspired (I'm certain that is why I still have a long waiting list even though I have continued to add classes!).

As I alluded to earlier, teaching in schools is such a great way for us to move some of our teaching to the daytime, and to benefit and impact even more children.


Be clear on your offering, approach your local schools and start making that impact!


Download my school's information guide here.


Best wishes,


Melanie

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