Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Secondary Lesson Student Teachers Demand Higher Wages

Editor’s note: This letter refers only to student teachers in the Secondary Private Lessons program who are paid directly by the College.

Dear Oberlin Administration,

We secondary lesson teachers take issue with the current teaching conditions.

Our issues are as follows:

1. Sometimes, 30-minute weekly lessons are not enough to teach a student thoroughly. Due to this, lessons sometimes run over or need to be extended. However, this extra work is not paid. It is okay for the length of lessons to be flexible, but there should be equal pay for equal work.

2. There is a noticeable lack of communication between administrators overseeing secondary lessons:

  • For drum teachers, it is a struggle to get students a drum practice key. Sometimes, drum set teachers have to lend their own practice spaces and equipment because the rooms are locked. 
  • TIMARA student teachers have been assigned students who use different digital audio workstations than they know how to teach. For example, one TIMARA student teacher who specializes in Ableton has been assigned multiple students who do not use Ableton.

3.  There is no supervision over secondary lessons by faculty; it is completely run by students. The timesheets ask which lessons are supervised by a teacher, but no primary teachers follow this. Student teachers have to take time to schedule their own lessons, and sometimes students cancel without notice. This takes up time and energy — especially if you have multiple students — and this work is not paid for. 

4. Eight dollars per half-hour lesson is not an accurate value of the work that we musicians put into learning our craft and passing it on. It is completely unsupervised, teachers learn how to teach on the spot, and each lesson has to be catered to the individual student. In the professional world, hourly lessons are usually priced at a rate of $70 per hour — and we have all taken lessons and paid this price. For the Conservatory to offer half-hour lessons at a rate of $8 feels insulting to us musicians considering Oberlin’s promise to train us for professional music careers.

5. If the pay is better, it is likely that more people will teach. Currently, student teachers take on more students to compensate for inadequate pay, which leads to an overall lower quality of teaching. 

6. Finally, secondary lessons are encouraged, and in some cases required, to be taken for two credits. Each credit hour is $2,656, so students are being charged $5,312 per semester for taking lessons. Secondary lesson teachers teach about 10 lessons per semester, making $80 per student. There is a discrepancy of $5,232 dollars that the school pockets. This is absurd, seeing as the school is absent in the secondary lesson process past assigning students to teachers. All of the work is done by the teachers: teaching, lesson planning, scheduling, and, of course, learning their own musical craft. However, they make 2 percent of this profit. Why does the other 98 percent go to the College?

 We secondary lesson teachers are asking to be paid $13 per half-hour lesson and for the lesson cap to be 13 hourly lessons a semester. This implies a $26 hourly rate to account for the highly specialized and differentiated nature of our work, the frequency of lessons extending past the 30-minute mark, and the work that we do outside of lessons. We also would like for our other concerns to be addressed by having more robust administrative oversight. This includes having a faculty member devoted to assisting with scheduling and time cards. These demands are very important to us and the student body, and if they are not met it will continue to erode a fair and balanced working relationship between student teachers, our students, and the administration.

– Secondary Private Lesson student teachers

Submitted by Lyric Anderson

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