As we head towards the end of the 2020 teaching year (cue the happy music) a lot of doggone weary music teachers are facing up to a particular horror- the Catch Up lesson.
For some this is a term thing, for others a month thing. For me, it’s a year thing, but only for the students I teach at schools. In my private studio, I bill every 4 lessons which allows a lot of flexibility to work around my ever changing schedule.
However, the 2 schools that I teach at require a minimum of 32 lessons per school year. Sometimes that goes like a dream, but often there is a last minute panic as the number of weeks left to teach, and the number of lessons to fit into that time simply don’t add up.
The sensible thing to do is of course not end up in this position to begin with. But life is unpredictable. All it takes is a couple of sick days from you or the student and the delicate balance of lessons given and weeks remaining gets thrown out of the proverbial window.
There are, however, some things you can do to help avoid the quagmire.
Start each term by asking the student if they have any events coming up that will interfere with lesson. Camps, excursions, big sister’s basketball break up etc should all be known in advance.
Likewise, if you have any gigs booked in or other commitments that will impact the time you are available, let the student know as early as possible.
With the right information at hand, schedule your lessons around these other activities in advance of the clashing dates.
With each teaching term measured out in weeks, know how many teaching weeks you have to deal with at the start of the year. Bear in mind that the first and last term of each year can be minus a few weeks depending upon orientation programmes, exams, or other school or year level events.
Then keep a careful tally of how many lessons you have achieved in each term so you can track if you are falling behind or keeping the pace.
With the schools I teach at, 32 lessons is the golden number. With 4 terms in the year, I should average 8 lessons per term. With most terms between 8-10 weeks long, this should work easily.
But we rarely start instrumental lessons in the very first week of term. Every student is missing for at least 1 week with camp, and at least 2 more with varying excursions. The biggest issue occurs in Term 4, where the senior students can disappear up to 4 weeks before the end of the year courtesy of exams and work experience.
So what on paper should be a walk in the park, usually ends up as a juggle of numbers and availability.
On average then, I actually try for 9 lessons in each of the first 3 terms, with 5 then remaining for the crazy Christmas term. Does it always work out like this? Oh, no. But by breaking the bigger goal down into smaller targets that are easier to track and achieve, the end of year catch up conundrum can be avoided.