Friday, July 11, 2014

Teaching Art at the Park District: How I got that gig and why I love it.

Do yo want to take an art class?

I wrote an email in the winter to the recreation supervisor and my local park district.  I asked if I could teach classes there.  I didn't get a response. So, I went one town over.  I wrote asking if I could teach art classes this upcoming summer, and got a reply right away.  That was my "in" with parks & rec.  I was feeling like a real Leslie Knope.

I had no idea how people were chosen to be part of a park district brochure.  I didn't know the criteria, or how you'd get paid.  I did know that I wanted to teach private lessons, I wanted to get my name out there,  I was on a mission, and it seemed plausible.

First, I was organized.  I came up with a list of about 10 different classes I could teach.  I formatted the list to look like how the classes would be listed in the brochure.  Catchy titles, descriptions, age ranges, and class time were included.  I tried to think of projects that were successful in my public school teaching, and I tried to think of tools and media that would not be too expensive.

If you want to teach at a park district, you are hired as an independent contractor.  You are your own entity hired by them to teach classes with your own expertise and supplies.  They provide the promotion, registration, and space.  You are responsible for everything else.

I had nailed down a summer schedule with the supervisor - but before it became official I needed to supply her with a current resume and references.  This was easy for me since I am currently employed in a school district and have two principals who were eager to let anyone and everyone know how fabulous I am. (I'm sure that is how it went down.)

Second, insurance.  I needed to provide proof that I had professional liability insurance up to $100,000,000.  I think this could be done fairly easy, and I've learned that many people can get this for about $200/year.  However, I ended up with the fanciest, most premiumist, most bestest insurance in the world - and I'm paying a lot more.

Third, how will you get paid.  I looked at all the surrounding communities and saw what other franchise programs were charging for their classes.  I had an idea in my head how much I'd like to get per hour/student.  I just didn't know how these would come together.  I would have to purchase supplies and I figured classes wouldn't be that big.  I learned that the park districts take out a flat rate per student/class.  I've also learned that this is negotiable and could vary.  In the end, I figured the amount families were being charged and the amount to the park district was worth it for the publicity, and experience.

Fourth, planning the classes.  I've had some experience with teaching art in weird places before.  I used to teach through the youth department at our local community college.  I didn't have to provide my own supplies, but my classes would be set up in a teacher's lounge or lecture hall. I have experience schlepping supplies too.  I co-lead my daughter's Daisy Troop and invested in a wheely suitcase from Goodwill to bring crayons, markers, sharpies, glue, scissors, etc. to 15 antsy girls 2X a month. And who could forget about my Art-on-a-Cart experience that lead me to this experience?  I've become a pro at teach anywhere art classes.

Fifth, teaching the classes.  This was the best part.  My classes this month are small, but the children are wonderful.  Every single one wants to be there and has a real passion and talent for the subject.  It makes steps 1-4 worth it.  I felt like I was really teaching and that my students were really learning.  I had not realized how tense and on edge teaching in the public school had felt lately.  Discipline, Common Core, differentiation, modifications, technology, STEAM, PBIS, and interruption after interruption, after interruption,  - it's stressful!  Teaching with the kids in the park district was what I needed to remember what it feels like to be teaching. To ACTUALLY be teaching.

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