If you run a studio, one of your biggest tasks is keeping a staff of good teachers. That can be one of the hardest parts of your job. I’ve managed music lesson studios and hired teachers and I can honestly say this was one of the more stressful parts of the job. Here are some of the things I learned. Please feel free to add your own input. I’m sure many studio owners would love to know how others handle this task!
1. Have them teach you a lesson.
Whenever I interviewed for teaching jobs as a teacher, the best schools had me teach a mock lesson. The ones that just interviewed me like any business would have, ended up being disorganized programs with lots of unhappy teachers and badly behaved children. When a school has you do a mock lesson, it shows the candidate that this is a serious institution and we only hire quality teachers. The lesson doesn’t have to be long. You can have your candidate teach you a specific type of lesson, perhaps a beginner piano lesson or maybe a lesson on reading 8th notes. If your school caters to more advanced students, have them critique a performance of an intermediate/advanced student.
2. Take the mock lesson with a grain of salt.
I know this sounds contradictory, but it’s not. The mock lesson IS important. It shows you how organized the candidate is, their level of creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment to the job. This is all very important, but it’s also important to know that this is an audition and any good performer will put on a spectacular performance as long as there is a judging audience. You need to get to know them and try to figure out what they will be like on days when there is only an audience of students and no boss is hanging out. You need to find out how seriously they take lesson start and end times. How well do they get along with people? How important is teaching to them? Is it just an “easy” way to make money while they pursue their real dreams of becoming a performer. For some in this category, they can still be dedicated teachers, but you need to weed out the ones who think teaching is easy work that requires no more effort than simply showing up.
3. Ask personal questions.
I don’t mean meddle in their romantic life or anything! Just get to know them. Since you need to get a sense of what they will be like as representatives of your company, you need to get to know them a little. Offer them some coffee or tea and ask them a little about their life. Where did they go to school? How did they get into music? Try to relax your body language so they don’t feel like they have to answer you in “interview speak.” One thing I hated about interviewing in the past is that no one is ever their real selves on an interview. They are this perfect actor version of themselves. Then a month later, you find out they have been showing up late and ending lessons early. Not ok, and certainly NOT the person you thought you hired. So, the best thing to do is try to get to know them. If you were at a party, how would you talk to them? How would you phrase your questions? Try to keep your own self comfortable and relaxed. You are looking for clues beyond their words. When I interview someone now, I look for personality traits beyond their words. Do they seem enthusiastic or anxious? There is a difference but sometimes one can be mistaken for the other. Are they relaxed or unmotivated? Relaxed is good but it can sometimes be mistaken for laziness. You want someone who is comfortable in their own skin and also has respect for getting the job done.
4. Hire on a trial basis.
Hire on a 3 month trial basis. 1 month is not long enough. People start to show their true colors as time goes by and you want to see what their true colors are. No one is perfect. I know I have my days when I am tired and I just want to do the bare minimum in my job. But I don’t make it a habit, and even on my tired days, I make sure all of my students get a good, well rounded lesson. Those are the teachers you need to have in your company. Ask parents questions regarding timelines, child’s interest and respect for the teacher, and also progress levels. If a kid is having fun, that’s great, but it’s NOT an indicator of a good teacher. If I brought candy and played games the whole time in every lesson then any child is going to say lessons are great. It is important to have fun, but are they progressing? How does a teacher deal with a student who doesn’t want to work on difficult pieces? Does she gently push through or cave in? Does he have a fun spirit while also cultivating good practice habits? These are details you will find out during the trial run.
5. Welcome to the team or give em the boot.
After the trial run, if you decide to welcome them to your staff, make it a big deal. Have a welcome treat like a cake or a plate of brownies and invite all the teachers to welcome them officially on board. Let them know that you only hire the best teachers and that she or he is among the BEST. Make them feel privileged to work for you and it will remind everyone on your staff that you have a good team that truly cares about the education of your students. Give them a token of some kind like a special pen or manuscript book. It doesn’t have to be big. It’s a nice gesture that says “you’ve made it!”
On the other hand, if the teacher shows signs that he isn’t as good as he was in the mock lesson, LET HIM GO. Don’t even think twice. A bad teacher is bad for your business. You will lose students who learn under him and it will make your reputation look bad. Remember that your teachers are representatives of you.
I hope that helps! If you have anything else to add, please do so in the comments below. What have you learned from hiring teachers? Are you thinking of bringing on a new staff and nervous about how to handle it? Ask questions here!