Sunday, July 31, 2016

Badass Yoga Teachers: Things to Consider Before Accepting a Teaching Gig

Next up in the Badass Yoga Teachers series, a post on what to do once you've completed your yoga teacher training and you're starting to look for teaching gigs.

What do you need to look for in a studio? How will you know if it's a good fit?

While at first you may want to say 'yes' to every teaching opportunity that comes along, I believe it's important to find a balance between accepting offers to gain experience and accepting offers that will create long-term growth in your teaching career.

Here are 5 things to consider before accepting your next yoga teaching gig.

1. What's the vibe of the yoga studio, and how does it align with my teaching style? 

Consider practicing at a studio before teaching there (sometimes this is required; the owner and current teachers want to get to know you a little bit before they bring you on board to teach). Whenever you're in the space, notice: how do you feel? What sorts of conversations do you have? 

What energy do the people at the yoga studio bring to the space? Do you feel comfortable and at ease? 

See if you can step back and sense the bigger picture of what's going on with the space. What changes are happening? Is there drama? If you're familiar with someone already on the team, consider having coffee or lunch to chat about what it's like working at that studio. 

How will your unique voice fit in to the mix? Does the studio seem to be wanting a class that's in the style you teach, or would there be an expectation that you'll shift your style toward whatever is consistent in the space?

Taking notes and doing some free writing around these topics can often bring clarity. Consider finishing these sentences:

I see myself teaching here and feeling...
My goal for teaching here would be to...
This studio needs me because...

2. What leadership style does the studio owner have, and what is his or her vision for the studio? 

Studio owners have a big impact on the way a yoga studio runs. Notice if the owner of the space where you are thinking about teaching is present or distant. Does he or she hold regular meetings with staff? One-on-one meetings for feedback on classes?

What's going on in this studio owner's personal life and professional life? What goals does he or she have for the studio? How would you fit into the mix?

Does this studio hire teachers as independent contractors or as employees?

If possible, you may want to ask other teachers about their experience working for this studio owner. Have they had any issues or seen any problems arise with staff? How does the studio owner keep the teachers motivated and supported? What sort of a work environment do they create?

Keep in mind that some of these things may be a little uncomfortable to consider, but they will give you great perspective on whether or not this teaching gig is a good fit. Also keep in mind you're totally allowed and encouraged to ask questions such as:

  • How often will I get paid? 
  • Has payment to teachers ever been late?
  • How much will I get paid? Is my rate of pay based on class attendance, or is it a flat rate?
  • Am I expected to practice a certain number of times per week at the studio?
  • Will I be paid for time spent in staff meetings?
  • What are the expectations of me as a teacher with regards to arriving at the space before class, cleaning up after class, recording my time, and submitting my hours for payroll?
  • What tax documents, contracts, HR agreements, etc will I need to sign before I'm hired?
  • What is the procedure for schedule changes at this studio? If a class I'm teaching is going to change on the schedule, or be removed from it, how soon will I be notified before this change takes place?
  • How will my performance as a staff member and as a teacher be measured? Is there an expectation on how many students will be attending my classes?
  • Is there opportunity for me to grow the number of classes I'm teaching, or offer additional workshops as time goes along, or is this opportunity limited to the class(es) you're offering now?
These are tough questions but will definitely give you a realistic sense of the practicalities of teaching at a studio!!

3. Does the rate of pay align with my needs?

Teaching yoga doesn't always pay well. Before you say 'yes' to a class, consider if the rate of pay meets your needs. How much will you need to spend on gas to get to the studio? How much time will you need to spend at the studio before and after class, and when you do the math, how does that factor in with your rate of pay? 

Will there be opportunities to teach back-to-back classes? Workshops? Do teachers ever get wage increases?

Another note on pay: if you are accepting a gig that is unpaid, will you do me a favor? Please please please set some specific, clear goals about what you want to get out of your unpaid teaching gig. Write them down! Talk to a friend about them! Be accountable for meeting these goals. Whether you're looking to offer something to your community or to gain personal experience that will prepare you for future teaching gigs, be sure you're clear on why you're teaching for free. Because teachers are willing to teach for free, this impacts the economy of the yoga market, and can make it harder for 'full-time' teachers to secure wages that equate to enough income to survive. I totally understand that sometimes we must take unpaid opportunities as we launch into teaching yoga, but be sure to consider what you're worth. Your teaching is valuable! People are willing to pay for it. Don't sell yourself short ;)

PS Also check out this awesome excerpt from a book by Amy Ippoliti about money and teaching yoga.

4. If I accept the opportunity to teach this new class, or new classes, how will this impact my schedule?

One wonderful thing about being a full-time teacher is that you have freedom to create the schedule you want. The tricky part about this is that depending on the yoga market you're in, you may find yourself with a somewhat chaotic schedule if you're driving all over town to teach in different spaces throughout the day!

A couple ideas to consider with regards to schedule:

  • How many classes per day is your 'sweet spot?' For some teachers, 1 or 2 classes is perfect; others can handle more like 3 or 4. You may have to use some trial and error to discover how many classes a day you can teach without feeling too exhausted.
  • Similarly, it may take a little while to figure out how many classes per week is your sweet spot.
  • Take days off! If possible, get two days in a row off! Protect these days and schedule yourself some much-needed R&R when you're not teaching.
  • Before saying 'yes' to a new teaching gig, consider: will I be rushing to get to the studio in time to teach this class?
  • Discover what times of day you want to teach, and then say 'no' to the opportunities that fall outside of that schedule. When I first started teaching, I accepted gigs for 6am classes and 7pm classes. Over time I realized it was not a good fit for me to have to get up super early (I'd get anxious the night before, and have trouble sleeping). I also realized it wasn't ideal to teach later than 5:30 or 6, especially on days when I'd already taught a morning class, because I'd be exhausted and hungry by the time I got home, and it would take a few hours to wind down before bed.
  • Watch out for the 'split shift' schedule. If you teach an early morning class and a late evening class, consider what you'll be doing in the middle of your day. Driving back and forth from home can be exhausting. Consider stacking classes differently, or bringing your laptop and working from a coffee shop in between classes. Taking a nap or doing yoga outside at a nearby park during your break can always be fun too :)
  • SUBS! Get clear on what the protocol is for getting a substitute teacher when you're out of town or sick. How hard will it be for you to get a sub for this new class? Can the other teachers usually accommodate a last minute sub request, or will you need quite a bit of advance notice to get your classes covered? Getting subs can be a real headache, so be as prepared as you can by knowing who is available to teach during your time slots. Trades can also be a really nice way to support the other teachers at your studio. Get to know the teachers who teach right before you or right after you. Take their classes so you have a sense of their teaching style and the ability of their students. Then, if they need coverage, you can easily step in and help out!

5. What are students saying about the community?

What are students looking for? What's missing? Does this community seem like it's growing and changing, staying static, or is the energy and enthusiasm in the space dwindling? Do you feel connected to the students? 

Give yourself permission to be real with your students. Be open and honest with them from the start, and willing to be vulnerable as you move forward.

6. (BONUS question to consider!) What does my gut instinct tell me about teaching here?

If you're getting any sense of why you shouldn't teach in a yoga studio where you have an opportunity to, explore that hunch. What feels off? Who can you talk to about this? Clear up any doubt or negativity before you teach there, so that you bring clarity and excitement when you start. Alternatively, if you discover that this teaching opportunity is not the right one for you, give yourself permission to say 'no.' Be kind and honest with the studio owner or hiring manager about your decision (you're allowed to keep your personal life personal, but be real with them) and keep the communication lines open and positive; you never know how things may change down the road.

Trust yourself!

Was this post helpful? I hope it offers you some insight into making an informed decision before you decide to add a class to your schedule. I'd also love to hear your feedback on this post or any others in the Badass Yoga Teachers series! You can always email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com.


PS Some other posts for yoga teachers:
Sharing space with your students.
Tips on what to track when you're going to be filing taxes as an independent contractor.
5 books that will bring your teaching to a new level.

Illustration made using Canva. Photos in this post by Lucid Reflections (2, 3), Brett Miller (4), Respiro Photography (5, 7) and Felipe Silva of Uprise Collective (6).

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