Dear MTH readers,
As I write this blog entry, I am 39 weeks pregnant and expecting my first child! As a first time mom with a busy private studio, I planned my maternity leave months in advance, and would like to share with you my experience. I also welcome your feedback!
Obviously every pregnancy is different, so this will vary from person to person. I am very thankful that I have had a pretty smooth pregnancy, so I decided to take just a month off before my due date. This has allowed me time to do some last minute shopping for baby stuff, get nursery ready, and just relax and enjoy the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I will admit I have felt a bit restless from time to time, especially these last two weeks, so if I could do it all over again, I probably would have continued teaching for two more weeks or so, to take my mind off this waiting game!
How soon should I resume teaching after the baby is born?
Again obviously this will vary depending on individual health situation and also if the baby decides to arrive early or late (two weeks before or after due date is normal!) I have told all my students that I will take another whole month off after my estimated due date, but that I will keep them posted in terms of how it all goes in the end, and if I should need extra time. Thankfully all my students are very understanding and we will just see how things go!
What should the students do in the mean time?
About half of my students participate in some form of formal music examinations/assessments. In California, the two major programs are the Certificate of Merit and Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. Usually my studio takes a summer break, but this year, knowing I would be taking all of September and October off, I taught throughout the summer months, and gave the students their exam materials, including Theory, Technique, and Repertoire pieces. The improved Music Teachers Helper file area has proven to be a great feature, since I can upload files quickly and students can access them easily at home. For example, after a student has finished their theory worksheets, they can print out practice exam papers from their Music Teachers Helper account and start working on past exam questions. Also, if they happen to loose their Technique requirement sheets, they can print those out themselves as well.
For the non-exam students, I have asked them to review old materials, and assigned new pieces in each of their books to learn on their own. Those that have access to Piano Maestro can also use it to keep motivated and explore new songs. Technology is a handy tool during this time! There are so many music theory/ear training websites and apps they can use to keep them occupied and reinforce concepts we have learned.
Should I hire a substitute teacher?
I asked around and thought about it but decided not to go this route, mainly because of tax implications. I just do not have time to research what my responsibilities would be in regards to hiring someone and paying them, etc. Since I planned on taking only two months off, and the fact that I continued lessons through the summer, I figured this was not necessary. But this option is worth considering if you plan to take a considerably longer maternity break.
I have however found a couple of teacher friends that are willing to give one-off lessons to my students, just to check on things, should the students/parents feel the need to continue lessons during this time. I have made it clear that they are to pay the teachers directly, and it is up to them to arrange schedule/payment.
How will I handle childcare after I resume teaching?
This is the toughest part! Never have I wished more that my family lived closer! For the first three months my mom, who lives overseas, will be here to help me out. After that, I plan to hire a nanny, and have to be creative with my scheduling. I plan to teach more on the weekends (so my husband can babysit) and less during weekdays. I also need to schedule more breaks in between students. I am prepared for a rough transition period, as it will take a while before I figure out what my schedule will eventually look like, what the baby needs, and how I will cope with the demands of motherhood.
Other things that have crossed my mind as I plan my maternity leave:
- Will I loose some current students during this time? I am prepared for this to happen, although so far my students seem to be very understanding and I expect all of them to return after my maternity break.
- Will my family income be affected? I started saving since I found out about my pregnancy, to cover for the months I will not be working. I am also prepared for some income fluctuation after I resume teaching.
- Will I be able to continue with my own professional development? I probably won’t be able to attend annual MTNA and other music conferences like I have been for the last 5 years. I probably won’t be able to attend live concerts as much as I would like to. I probably won’t be able to perform solo and accompaniment/collaborative gigs as often as I have in the past. My number one priority for the next little while will no doubt be my new baby! However, there are many things I can do to keep up with professional development:
- Social Media: read online blogs, Facebook groups for piano teachers (Art of Piano Pedagogy, Professional Piano Teachers, etc)
- YouTube: watch performances by my favorite pianists (a luxury I usually don’t have time for).
- Read the numerous pedagogy books I bought from previous conferences!
- As it turned, out, the Royal Conservatory of Music recently introduced a Teacher Certification program, and certified teachers have access to regular teaching tips, online masterclasses, webinars, etc. I plan to fully participate in this.
- Many conferences offer online streaming for masterclasses, key-note speeches, and post session handouts on their websites. Even though I will not be able to attend in person, I can still benefit from them without leaving home.
I am sure there are many MTH readers that are very experienced in all of this! I would greatly appreciate any tips you have to share! Thank you for reading!