Do you want a job as a music teacher? In my line of work I often find myself interviewing teachers and deciding who to hire. It occurred to me that many potentially good candidates don’t know what their prospective employer is looking for. Here are a few tips from inside to help you with your next interview. Good luck!
Demonstrate you’ll support your employer.
We’ve all had a job where we had to do things we didn’t fully understand or agree with. I’ll do my best to explain our school’s policies. Help me by letting me know how you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt when it comes to supporting those policies and decisions.
Internal conflict can put organizations in gridlock. I am not a space alien with inscrutable motives. You should try to support your employer unless they ask you to do something unethical, in which case your duty is to refuse. I have good reasons for the decisions I make. It’s frustrating when my teachers agree with me “on paper,” but then in the “lesson room” they don’t seem to be interested in the guidelines. If my policies are mistaken, how can I find that out if you won’t carry them out for me?
Know the business.
Reading a book or two about being a private teacher will give you an idea of how the business works. Basically, we meet prospective new students, and want them to come back to take more lessons. We want our students to attend the lessons because missed lessons is an indication of a student at risk of not meeting their potential, and eventually leads to them quitting their lessons. It’s all about enrollment and retention. Some teachers hang onto their students for years, and others for months. But from a business perspective, that makes quite a difference. A school that attracts 5 new students per month with an average length of study of 6 months can reach an enrollment of 30 students before leveling off. But if students stay for an average of 12 months, that number doubles to 60. It really matters.
I ask all candidates questions intended to measure their knowledge of how to attract and keep good students, and to gauge their awareness of how important this is. This has been a disqualifying factor during my interviews. I know most people can eventually learn this stuff, but I can’t afford to hire someone if they don’t know the first thing about the business. The bottom line is I’m looking for a teacher who can build good relationships with their students. This criterion has consistently helped me make good hires that have withstood the test of time.
The easiest way to judge this is to listen to a few examples of your musical recordings, so have those ready. I’m not interested in your production skills, but your ability to perform the instruments I’m hiring you to teach. I’ve found the difference in musical ability shows here, and it’s hard to hide, even with production magic. Many times I made it to the last round with several otherwise wonderful candidates but after listening to their musical samples I could not deny that some of them just didn’t yet have the requisite musical ability to represent our school.
Care about education.
Look, it’s a teaching job. It doesn’t come with a bowl of all-brown M&M’s. But if you want to be a teacher, you need to see some meaning in it. If you just want the paycheck, get real. There are higher-paying jobs out there, after all. Trust me, you don’t have to look hard to find joy and meaning in sharing the gift of music with others.
Since I can’t judge this by watching you teach a lesson, I’m going to ask questions about your teaching philosophy. I’m going to find out what your total number of teaching experience is in hours. I want to know what makes you think you can teach.
I’m asking myself: do I trust this person to keep my students safe? Because you may conceivably end up alone with your students, that means I have a responsibility to society to investigate your moral integrity. I’ll determine this by asking some questions, checking your references, and doing criminal record checks where allowable by law.
The best teachers I know of keep their lessons organized. They take lesson notes, they track student progress, and they’re always trying to point their finger at a very precise spot in the student’s playing that is weak and needs improving. I don’t expect to see this kind of insight in someone who is disorganized. When I see a teacher that is organized and collected, I think “here’s someone that will make a good teacher.”
What do you bring to my team that I don’t already have? I want to build a successful music school. That means providing my students with different options. It would benefit you to take a look at my current team so you can find out what it is that you will be bringing to the mix. Maybe you play a different style, or maybe you just have a unique background or life experience. When I list a job opening, it’s common to get 20-30 applicants. You should let me know what makes you stand out.
Sum it up:
- Show support for company policies
- Understand the basics of how the business works
- Bring 2-3 recordings of your best instrumental performance
- Be passionate to teach
- Ideally, have some teaching (or equivalent) experience
- Demonstrate trustworthiness and moral integrity
- Demonstrate organizational skills
- Highlight your unique strengths
Good luck in your search!
Disclaimer: the ideas expressed herein are solely the personal opinion of the author and should be interpreted as general advice only. There are many factors going into every employment decision. The author accepts no responsibility for your results should you choose to follow this advice. The author is himself not limited to these criteria, and this article should not be construed as insight into the author’s own individual hiring decisions.