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Lesson Plan Ideas

Why The World Hates Teachers

“Those that can’t do, teach.”  

This loose remark ended up turning me away from teaching for close to twenty years!  I was exposed to it during my sophomore year as a Music Education/Jazz Performance double major at NYU.  It started to color how I looked at my peers in my Scholars in Education program.  

No Respect For Teachers

Teaching gets no respect in today’s society and somehow and somewhere this statement, “Those that can’t do, teach” was spread and effectively turned off our highest performing graduates from ever going into education.  

It took a long time for me to realize how stupid and wrong that statement is.  Does that mean that the inverse is true?  “Those that can do can also teach?”  Absolutely not.

There are so many examples of excellent sports superstars, business leaders, and amazing musicians who cannot teach.  It takes skill to be a teacher.

Teaching requires self-confidence without arrogance, openness, wonder and gratitude before one can be generous with their knowledge.  But to write off all teachers as do-ers who failed is just tragic.

My Awakening

I’ve been a “multi-potentialite” – a renaissance soul, all my life.  (See the excellent TED Talk on this.)  It basically means I was able to go off on many adventures in my career – from being an actor on stage and television, to journalist, to film composer, to financial salesman to advertising creative director to teacher.

Along the way, I took many personality and aptitude tests, met with counselors, astrologists and even psychics in my vain search to find my one true calling.  Again and again it showed that I was not a one path kind of guy.  I was definitely a creative with an abundance of ideas, energy and passion to create new things and a gift for teaching and writing.  I feel blessed to be able to share so many diverse experiences and examples with my students.  But I’m not alone.

The Greatness of Teaching

What I want to show today is that there is a role for you as a teacher no matter what your skill level or experience.  Teaching is a learnable skill.  It does require one thing:  passion for sharing.  That’s it.  You need to be generous and giving.  What you learn and know can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  And it may not be what you think it is.

Teaching is the reason why the world is what it is today.  We’ve passed on our skills, knowledge and experience generation after generation creating the awesome wonder it is.  

 

Three Kinds of Teachers

When I was starting out as a music teacher, I had a lot of self-doubt.  Who was I to be the one to introduce the world of music?  And yet, this was just an internal limiting belief.    

What propelled me forward was my then four-year-old son who began asking for piano lessons.  I interviewed local teachers to find the right fit and what I found was disappointing, uninspired and definitely not fun.  So I started a deep dive back into pedagogy and rediscovered my love and passion for sharing  and because it was for my son, it made it even more special.  

What gave me confidence was an insight I had along the way;  it was the idea that there’s not just one type of teacher.  In fact, I believe there are at least three.

1) The Foundation Builder – this teacher is the one who teaches the basics and exposes the student to the world of your subject.   Usually a generalist, s/he has a lot of passion, patience and loves to unveil the mysteries and wonder of their chosen subject.  

2) The Next Level – this teacher can be a combination of generalist and specialist working with a student who has had the basic foundations already.   For a music teacher, s/he could expand the foundational skills and concepts while perfecting technique, expression, hearing finer details, and adding more complexity.

3) The Wizard – This teacher is usually a specialist who propels the student into the highest levels by concentrating on minimizing specific weaknesses and accentuating the natural gifts of the student.  S/he may also help the student to find their unique “voice” to go on to be a presence in the world.  In sports, this would be like a Phil Jackson coaching the Chicago Bulls, especially the young Michael Jordan.  In music, this could be Nadia Boulanger teaching and mentoring so many greats from Aaron Copland to Quincy Jones.   Or it could be like Alberto Guerrero teaching the young Glenn Gould with a powerful new technique.

Finding your place in the world as a teacher is important.   It can give you a sense of comfort, validation and identity.   I definitely resonate with the Foundation Builder as a music teacher with my preschool students.  I’ve sent many student on to a Next Level or Wizard when I felt the time was right.  What kind of teacher are you?

 

Parents are already teachers whether they know it or not.  

Last year, only months before her death, writer Maya Angelou said, “At our best, we are all teachers now, whether we know it or not.”  I’d like to propose we use this as our new mantra now, striking out that old ignorant phrase of “Those that can’t do, teach,” replacing it with “We Are All Teachers Now.”

Do you have any personal stories about teachers and teaching?  Please share in the comments below.

And if you are a musician or music teacher who would like to know HOW to teach I’m preparing to release the long-awaited training course The Musicolor Method™ sometime in early November.   It is by far, the easiest, simplest method to teach anyone a musical instrument – even preschoolers.

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Mindset Successful Teaching Business

Pricing Music Lessons and Lifetime Value Of Students

Thinking Through The Numbers For Music Teachers

As a music teacher, you are running a business.  Your business is your service and your product is the successful result of your teaching and your students.

The Value Of A Single Student

How you price your services is a personal decision, but can be one filled with doubts and conflict.  When I first started, I was not very confident in my abilities as a teacher and thus didn’t feel I could charge more than a modest fee.  I looked around my neighborhood and saw the average price of what other teachers were charging and then I discounted that by about ten to twenty percent.  This worked fairly well for a few years.

Pricing is a very difficult decision in many businesses.  There are entire college courses on pricing and many very smart MBA types discussing the psychology of pricing and how to do it.   In the world of smartphones, you’ll notice Apple charges high prices and doesn’t offer any low-end units and yet still has plenty of demand.  Meanwhile, Samsung is fighting for business in the bottom of the market where profit margins are much slimmer.  So even though they may sell more units, they make far less in total revenue.  The same could be applied to a music teaching studio.  If Studio A is charging $20 per lesson and Studio B is charging $40 per lesson, even though Studio A has more students, Studio B will be able to make the same amount of money much faster.

Value Of A Student Per Year and Lifetime

If you run the numbers in the calculator above, you will see that the lifetime value of your students can be quite high.  Making a small change in your  price per lesson can greatly affect your annual income and your lifestyle!

Ask Your Customers

Recently, I was speaking with a mentor of mine, and he totally changed my view.  He said that more or less, you charge what you want to earn.  Your clients have been attracted to you for your abilities as a teacher and the difference in price (almost) doesn’t matter.  You could easily raise your prices by 10-20%.

But, I was nervous.  So I sent out a customer survey using Survey Monkey.   I wanted to know four things:

  1. Why do my current clients choose me?
  2. What did they like about the learning experience?
  3. Was the price above the norm, below or about the same?
  4. Any ideas for improvement

It was an anonymous survey, so as long as they didn’t want to reveal anything personal, they didn’t have to.  The results were a little surprising.  Most of my clients chose me based on these criteria, in order of importance:

  1. Location – convenience on a weekly basis is super important!
  2. Philosophy – they agreed with my approach, which I have detailed on the website
  3. Testimonials – they liked what they heard and/or were referred directly by a current student

Location, Location, Location

Location was far and above the most important factor.  The second and third criteria were evenly tied.   this is redundant)  This is something to keep in mind for those of you who live on the outskirts of a town.  You may want to rent a space next to the school!

Another surprising thing I learned from the survey was that even though I felt like I was already charging at the very high end of the range of acceptable lesson fees, most of the survey respondents said it was “about the same.”

The survey was so informative and I’m now convinced to use it on a regular basis.  It allows me to gauge my client’s needs and desires and also let them give voice to any complaints anonymously, which may be too awkward or uncomfortable in person.

Quality Of Clients = Quality Of Your Life

Over the last eight years, I’ve raised my prices considerably.   What’s interesting is that I no longer have the “time-wasters” and the “tire-kickers” coming to me.   I have also moved to a semester-based billing and because of that, I have less cash-flow issues with last minute cancellations affecting the collection of payment.  My clients pay in advance.  The quality of commitment in my students is also higher as the prices have gone up.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for only serving the wealthiest students.  You can always offer scholarships to committed students who could use the financial assistance.

Gratitude

I’m blessed to have a lifestyle I love. I get to be a stay-at-home parent with a successful music studio that has wonderful students and families.  It leaves me time to spend with my family and my creative projects.  It also makes me energized, grateful and happy to show up for my students each and every day!

There will always be a percentage of customers who are just a pain in the you-know-what.

Here is a question I think you as a private music teacher need to answer at least once per year:

  1. Which clients are giving me 80% of my income and joy through lesson fees, referrals, commitment, energy?
  2.  Which clients are the 20% dragging me down with all the problems, complaints, missing lessons, being unprepared, etc.?

When you have those answers, make steps to remove that 20% from your roster.  It will change your life.