Flex Weeks™: Taking Time Off for Snow Days, Jury, Duty and Illness Without Losing Income
We recently had two major snow storms in our area which dumped 14 inches the first time and 7 inches the second time. These storms were back to back, piling snow on snow and making my entire community a bit paranoid about driving! I could have done phone/Skype/FaceTime lessons, but because my babysitter couldn’t get here, that was not an option. I mentioned on Facebook that I was taking the week off of teaching using one of my flex weeks and someone asked how “snow days” factor into the yearly tuition plan that I use and encourage others to use.
I thought it might be good to share how the yearly tuition makes it super easy to deal with snow days, jury duty, teacher illness, maternity leave, and illness with your own children.
First, you should know that the yearly tuition plan works because you take the number of weeks you want to teach in a year, multiplied by the price you want to charge for each lesson, then divided by the number of months you want to receive tuition (in my case it’s 12 months, but others may want to charge for the school year differently than summer…all those options are discussed in the yearly tuition plan blog post). I would strongly recommend that teachers not teach more than 43 weeks per year. That’s actually high in my opinion, but when you factor 2 weeks off at Christmas, 1 week for spring break, 1 week for Thanksgiving, and 2 weeks off between both spring and summer and summer and fall, it only leaves one unassigned vacation week. I actually only teach 38 weeks the entire year which gives me six of these unassigned weeks.
Add Flex Weeks
The key to making snow days, jury duty, maternity leave and illness work is to make a calendar for your school year with your scheduled time off, but then allow for some some “flex weeks” which you don’t have scheduled on the calendar, but have accounted for in your billing. In my case, this means that I can hand out a schedule for my fall and spring calendar, but I wait until the end of the spring semester to hand out the summer calendar so I can account for weeks that I still have off and flex weeks that I have taken as vacation.
For example, I start my calendar in August and usually take off 2 weeks before the semester starts, 1 week for Labor Day week, 2 weeks for Christmas, 1 week for spring break, 2 weeks between the spring and summer semester. (I do a group lesson the week of Thanksgiving that takes the place of their private lesson, so no time off is needed). This means that I will have taken 8 weeks of scheduled time off by the end of the school year and will have 6 weeks left as flex weeks for any sickness I might have, my kids might have, jury duty, and a vacation with my family. I don’t tell my families when I am going to take those weeks off ahead of time, but rather just use them as I need to. If I don’t use many during the year and have leftover weeks, then I take all six weeks off at the end of the summer right before my new fiscal calendar begins.
Flex Weeks Work for Maternity Leave Too
Here’s a more extreme example. One year I knew that I was going to have a baby and wanted to take 8 weeks off of teaching. Since I have 14 weeks to play with, I decided to take 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week between the spring and summer, 1 week between the summer and fall, and 8 weeks maternity leave. Of course, this did not give me many flex weeks, so if I had to take more than 2 weeks off for snow or illness, I would have had to make it up. But even with only 2 of these weeks, it worked for me that year.
But most years, I am not having babies! Lol. So, this is usually my studio calendar for a typical year:
- Labor Day week – 1 week off
- Thanksgiving week – 1 week off (or some years, I give group lessons at the beginning of the week and don’t take this week off)
- Christmas – 2 weeks off
- Spring break – 1 week off
- End of spring semester – 2 weeks off
- Between summer and fall semester – 2 weeks off
This leaves me with 5 flex weeks! This concept make it an easy decision to cancel lessons because of illness, jury duty, snow days, and illness. I will still get paid the same amount, because my yearly tuition plan has accounted for the fact that I am only teaching 38 lessons in the year and has divided the year into equal payments. Of course, if a festival or competition is coming, that makes the decision to take a flex week more difficult, but you get the idea.
In Summary The Process for Implementing Flex Weeks:
So in case this is confusing, let me say this succinctly:
- Determine your scheduled time off. [Make sure that you establish a yearly tuition plan so that you are charging for the total number of lessons you plan to teach in the year and you are collecting equal monthly payments.]
- Add flex weeks (You may want only one. You may need three. It’s up to you!)
- Send out your calendar and include your scheduled time off, but not your flex weeks. [I recommend sending out your calendar only one semester at a time and then including “dates to remember” for your next semester.]
- Use and keep track of any of these weeks or days that you use during the year.
- Take off extra flex weeks or days at the end of your term. For example, if you are on a yearly tuition plan and have 1 flex week off left, then at the beginning of the summer you might send out this email:
“The last week of lessons will be July 22nd unless I have an emergency and have to take off a week of teaching in which the last week will be July 29th.”
Read more about how to use flex weeks with the other two tuition plans (school year + summer or semesters + summer).
Do you have any of these weeks built into your teaching? Perhaps this is the year you can build in some of those weeks. If you are hesitant to institute a yearly price increase, then giving yourself an additional vacation/flex week and charging the same price is a way to give your families a break from price increases, but give yourself more flexibility and a pay raise.
You may also be interested in reading this follow-up article about flex weeks.
- More on Snow Days, Jury Duty and Flex Weeks
- 5 Things Piano Teachers Forget To Do
- No Makeups Piano Policy
photo by @doug8888