Yesterday I decided to start teaching private music lessons from my home. Maybe that doesn’t sound radical…but it’s a large shift for me from being a public school teacher to being my own boss and working out of my own home with students one on one.
I’ve had my girls go to various lessons over the years. Lydia took violin lessons for years. Lauren took drum lessons. Both took piano lessons. Lydia has taken voice lessons and she’s taking bass lessons currently. My girls and I have been surrounded by music and have more instruments in our home than people and cats put together:).
Mark was a huge music person too. He didn’t have a career in music…but if he could’ve swung it he would’ve been happy to be a roady/sound guy for the group White Heart back in the day. That tells you how what generation we come from!
All of that to say that as many years as I’ve done music…yesterday when I got the idea I still automatically low balled myself as a teacher. To be honest…I tend to be the overly generous type. When you grow up poor you tend to want to help others who might be tight on funds. But a lot of my low balling myself just comes from me not believing in myself nearly as much as I should.
The public outcry was great when I said I would do lessons for $10 a half hour. Seriously…I started receiving emails, private messages on facebook, comments, etc. I didn’t have one person who thought that amount was really what I should be setting my lessons at.
Everybody thought I was devaluing myself. Interesting…my gut reaction was…no I’m not…I wouldn’t do that.
Until about the 6th interaction with a trusted friend who said…yes you are. (Thanks Ron for taking the time to comment. Others were saying what you were, but your comment upon reading it this morning caused me to rethink my plan.)
So…today I started asking around. I mean I work with a bunch of music teachers and several teach private lessons so it wasn’t hard to get a ball park figure of what I should be asking for a lesson. I even put it out on Facebook to see what normal people were paying these days for their kid’s lessons.
My discovery led me to change my price to $20 a half hour for a lesson. Part of me wants to apologize for that figure but the more sane part of me is telling me to just put it out there and see what happens, no apologies necessary.
This is why…
Today we had choral festival at our school. This is when the high school choirs come and perform for the middle school choirs and vice versa. The idea is for middle school kids to get an idea of what’s coming and to have their appetite whetted for more.
We started on three new pieces of music when we came back to school after Christmas break. So we had probably about five weeks with the three songs we performed today as a 7/8th grade choir. These songs are not required to be ready til organizational contest in April. We weren’t planning that we would need to have them performance ready today. I also just taught three new spirituals to my 7/8th grade honor choir which again I wasn’t planning on them having to perform til our spring program.
Here’s what happened. They performed those three songs today…each group. While I would not say the songs were perfect, I have to tell you I sat there with all of this thought going through my mind about private lessons and what my expertise is worth and what I have to offer and I had to smile. The choirs that my co teacher and I work with every day sounded really quite good. The dynamics were there, the pronunciation of foreign languages fairly accurate, all of the parts present for the most part.
I was sitting at a stool at the piano listening and it was as if God just whispered in my ear…”Hey, Ruth…listen to them sing. Now don’t you think you have some real expertise to offer and that it would be valued by others?!” I just had to smile and say “ok God” you got my attention.
I’m a good teacher. It’s incredibly hard work and I have frustrations with it and am ready for a change but I am a solidly good music teacher.
Just in case there was any lingering doubt about it…when my sixth grade choir came to class today (They observed the other groups performing today). I asked them what they noticed about the program…what was good, what needed work, etc. The very first person I called on was a gem of a boy named Sam…this is exactly what he said with an excited expression…”Mrs. Jackson…wow…you are an amazing piano player.” I played three spirituals today for honor choir and they are the type of pieces I love, lots of bass movement and great fun to play on the piano. The fact that out of everything he could’ve said…he commented on my piano playing was just further confirmation for me. I thanked him and smiled again…by the end of the class I knew my decision to ask $20 a half hour for a lesson is honestly valid.
Why is it so easy to devalue ourselves?
I was driving in my car tonight thinking how many years I’ve played the piano now regularly…it’s been 35 years. I’m not going to go start performing concerts…but clearly I know what I’m doing. I have all of the education I could possibly need and if I don’t know something I surely know how to find an answer. I have experience with all ages of people and all types of people. I am a solidly good music teacher.
Tonight I sit here realizing that in just a few short hours I’ve gone from trying to be the ‘bargain’ music teacher, to being the music teacher that you would want most for your child or for yourself. I honestly believe in myself. I believe in my education, my experience, my ability to teach what I know. I can do this and do it well. I might even be exceptional at it, if given time.
I wouldn’t have gone through this process of thought or discovery if I didn’t have a few close friends who immediately cautioned me about devaluing myself.
Mark believed in me. He believed in me long before I ever believed in myself. Mark saw things in me that I didn’t see. Mark gave me freedom and talked highly about me if I was in the room or if I was out. I’ve missed that. Sometimes when you don’t hear those kind of things, or feel them you stop feeling like what you have to offer is special. I struggle to believe in me.
At this point…my kids and I are making needed changes in our house. I’m giving up my master bedroom and bathroom to the girls so that we can move the music area into the larger main floor bedroom where they have been and I’m moving my bedroom into the small bedroom. It might not happen all this weekend…although I am Ruth after all, so it might. My kids are in support of this dream. They believe in me.
I’m excited. I don’t know how much I’ll do with the travel thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the writing thing off the ground to actually provide any kind of income…but I know this music lesson thing is definitely something that I can do well.
So…I’m going to make up business cards, get my ‘studio’ set up the best I can, research materials at the music store, advertise and pray and see what happens. Right now I’m hoping for 10 students by fall.
When I started planning this sabbatical thing I had no idea that this idea would even come to me. That’s what I’m excited about…I know without a doubt that this whole change for me is going to give me time and space to make radical changes in my life. I don’t think life will be the same at all when I’m through.
Today I’m grateful for the confirmation of God. The whispers of “you can do it…in fact you are doing it already” from Him all through my day. I’m also grateful for friends who care enough to be honest. Not just talk about it behind my back but to really take the time to speak truth and belief into my life. Thank you.