EDIT: September 24 2015 @ 8:22am
To clarify, subs work best in a 'classroom' setting, as piano lessons are more than often one-to-one, subs would then work best if lessons are taken outside a students home, at a music centre -for example. For private in-home lessons, I have not tried hiring a substitute teacher to go in my place, as that breaches my morals for privacy standards for in-home lessons. I know I wouldn't feel comfortable having someone other than the usual teacher come to my home, therefore emit the same respect towards families I work with.
(Original Posting: September 17 2015 @ 9:58am)
In the past, I never felt a need to search for a substitute teacher for one week of missed lessons. Probably because I related it to school subs and how nothing really actually moves forward. But this year, I feel differently:
Student benefits: one week of thinking "I HAVE NO PIANO LESSON THIS WEEK!" = 'I DON'T NEED TO PRACTICE'. Having a lesson with a sub keeps them responsible for practicing because there will be a piano lesson and someone will be there to listen to them. It also benefits the student to play for someone other than who they've been used to sharing their music with, some students never share their music with anyone other than family and teacher. The occasional student will share with friends, and on the rare occasion (usually a performance opp.) will they share with the public.
Substitute Teacher benefits: the sub I have hired in my place is actually a student of mine, whom I've worked with for over 3 years, so I know her personality, her playing style, and can vouch for her hard work and dedication towards piano and consistent weekly practice. She's recently completed her Level 8 RCM Exam, and is now exploring options for her career. I initially suggested she sub for me, (one student to start, during the summer, for 3 lessons) to experience teaching piano. She expressed liking for it, and now I have her subbing consistently once a month for 2 students, to experience the growth and progress of students. In reflecting on my experience and journey to this point, my childhood piano teacher provided opportunities for me as she saw fitting, and I do this day am so grateful for her thoughtfulness and caring about my growth and future career options. I am so happy to be able to be in a position to pay it forward to another, who is on the same stepping stone in life where I once stood.
Preparing the Sub.: it's necessary to make sure your sub. feels confident and prepared to teach,
regardless of how many students. Just like a TOC for the School System, teachers should havea general outline of the lessons prepared, including special notes for each student, if possible. Jot down the pieces currently working on, and a guideline to the lesson structure (ex. Technique to warmup, theory activities/games, pieces working on and what to work on, closure to the lesson with stickers, etc.) Type this up, it's just friendlier to the eyes :)
Provide the stickers, materials, and other supplies. Run them through necessary housekeeping tasks, such as attendance and marking systems, routines (if any), provide contacts in cases of no shows, and other necessary concerns. Just make sure they feel ready to teach, especially if they are new to this field!
Heads Up to Parents: I like mentioning to parents about having a sub. for lessons at least 2 weeks prior to the lesson, so if they like, parents can chat with their kids. And then reminding parents again one week before the subbed lesson, to jog their memory. Parents have several things going on, some kids have several activities during the week, so it's nice to have that friendly reminder. :)
Preparing the Student: I let to kids know one week before and explain a little about the sub., if possible, and what I expect of them during that lesson. I feel that mentally preparing students for this is important, I can only imagine how I would feel if I went for my piano lesson expecting my teacher and then not seeing him/her in the lesson room. It would be like playing in front of a stranger without any warning -can be nerve-wracking. I also like to mention for the student to help the sub., for example, if trying to find lesson notes, or pieces they are working on. I ask them not to just sit there, but to be active helpers!
Follow-Up: the week when I go back, I usually ask both parent and student how things went, if they enjoyed their lesson, what they think, etc. Also to ask the sub. how things went and if they enjoyed it as well. I believe both are important, checking in to see how both parties experienced the lesson. :)
In conclusion, having a sub. may take a little more prep work for the teacher, but it is worth it for everyone! :)