Piano Teaching Q&A: Maternity Leave

I am due with my 3rd child in about a month and currently have 8 piano students ages 7-11. They are all in the Primer Bastien book, except 2, who are in level 1. As important as my piano students and their success is to me, my family comes first, so I have been thinking of taking a break for about a month to adjust to the new baby. I'm due January 26th, so I was going to just teach through January until the baby comes and then start up again in March. I would love to get your input and advice on how to make this break time not hinder the progress of my students and what kinds of things to give my students to work on while I’m out. I welcome any suggestions and thank you in advance for your help.
Haley Castillo

Hi, I just had my second baby a few months ago, so this is fresh on my mind. I'm exhausted! Good luck with your third! I hope I can answer this in a way that will apply to other teachers as well. There are a couple of different ways to handle a maternity leave. One is to find a substitute teacher to teach your students while you are gone, and the other is to just give your students a break for a while.


If at all possible, I recommend finding a substitute teacher to take your students while you are recovering and adjusting to life with a new baby. Brainstorm possibilities for someone who might be able to do this: do you have a younger sibling who would like to learn to teach? Do you have any nearby relatives or friends with teaching experience or a good piano background? What about piano teachers in your neighborhood? Maybe an older person who used to teach and might enjoy a short-term return to the trade? Consider that someone who is less experienced than you will appreciate the opportunity and training, but may not push your students as hard as you would. On the other hand, someone with more experience than you should be able to keep your students challenged, but might be more expensive, and honestly, you could lose some students who may decide to transfer to the substitute's studio permanently. There are bound to be drawbacks with anyone you choose, but it will usually still be better than losing the momentum by giving your students a month or two off of lessons entirely.

Once you have a list of a few possibilities, contact each one of them to gauge their interest and availability. Let them know how many weeks you are planning to take off, what your current teaching schedule is, and what tuition your students are currently paying. Ideally, it would be great to find someone who can maintain the same schedule and tuition your students are used to, but minor adjustments may have to be made.

Once you have arranged with someone to be your substitute, contact each of your students to let them know what you have set up. Tell them when and where their lessons will be, who they should make payment to (if you already have a good payment system in place, it might work best for them to continue to pay you, and you can just write one check to the substitute), and any other details you have worked out with the substitute. The smoother you can make this transition for your students, the less likely you are to lose any of them in the process.

Write some notes about each student for the substitute teacher. Let them know how long the student has been playing, what pieces they are working on, what skills they need to focus on, what your practice expectations are, what your reward systems are, etc. If your students will be ready to start any new literature during your absence, select that literature ahead of time and let the substitute know when to assign it. The more info you can give the substitute about your students and your systems, the smoother the transition will be for everyone involved. But keep in mind that every teacher does things differently, and the substitute will probably do some things with your students that you wouldn't have done. And that's okay; you might even learn something!

No substitute

If you can't find anyone that you feel good about teaching your students while you are gone, then it can work to give your students a break for a while. You run the risk of losing some who might decide not to come back once they get out of the habit of lessons, and you will absolutely have to do a little backtracking to re-teach lost skills, but there are a few things you can do to minimize the negative impact of this time off.

I hope this helps a little. Obviously there are lots of details that could be handled differently, and you will need to think carefully about each of your students and what will be best for them. I hope other teachers will add their ideas in the comments!

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