Justine is a writer, teacher, mother and mountain bike rider.
To answer this question, I decided to explore who, what, where, when, why, and how these partnerships between parents and private teachers are happening.
Why Are Learning Pods Forming All Over the Country?
In spring 2020, schools closed overnight and parents suddenly had to homeschool their children while also working from home. This situation was unbearable for many parents, who became desperate to set up a better situation for themselves and for their children as they faced the prospect of hybrid and distant learning programs again in the fall.
All over the country, families have started forming learning and social pods and hiring private teachers so children can have social interaction and so parents can get back to work without their children driving them crazy.
How Do Parents and Teachers Find Each Other?
There are many ways parents and teachers can find each other, such as:
- Pandemic Pods Facebook Group (In two weeks, this group went from 0 to 26,000 members. Local chapters had to be formed.)
- Job postings placed by parents or matchfinders on Indeed and Care.com
- Ads placed by teachers and tutors for their services on these websites
- Teacher training colleges responding to daily family inquiries
- Word of mouth
Who Are Parents Hiring for the Learning Pods?
- Homeschool teachers
- Pod instructors
- Student teachers
- College students
Who the parents hire depends on their actual needs. Some parents want a trained teacher to teach curriculum and provide supplemental learning while others just need someone to supervise their children while they play.
How Much Do Parents Pay for a Private Teacher or Tutor?
How much parents will pay for a private teacher or tutor is directly connected to their needs and what kind of services they expect from their learning pod teacher. Here is some data I have found:
|No. of Students||Rate per hour||Rate per day||Rate per month||Rate per year|
up to 6
Where Will the Learning Pods Take Place?
Many learning pods will take place in a room or part of a house of one of the parents. Some parents will rotate the pod between different houses. Some learning pods will gather outdoors in parks or in backyards. Some parents are also renting studio apartments or spaces. (This brings up interesting questions of insurance and liability.) Others are building tiny houses in their back yards.
When Will the Learning Pods Take Place?
Typical hours for the learning pods will be 8-2 every day. But some will want only a few hours per week. Hours range from 3-40 per week. Some hours will be very flexible while others will be more set depending on the needs of the parents.
Ask Many Specific Questions Before Entering Agreements
There are so many variables in the needs and wants of the parents that it will be very important to ask many questions before agreeing to a partnership. If these expectations are not clear for both parents and teachers, the partnerships will fail. Parents might think that what they want is to hire a private teacher but they might want to only pay babysitter prices.
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Conversely, parents might agree to pay private teacher rates but what they really need is just a Zoom babysitter and someone to keep the kids out of their hair all day. A professional teacher with 10 plus years of experience and multiple credentials and offerings is not going to feel good earning top rates without being able to also offer their amazing teaching and tutoring services.
The Wild, Wild West
You can see from the variations in the parents needs and rates that are being offered, that setting up learning pod agreements is like the Wild, Wild West. Some see this as an opportunity for teachers to make a lot of money. Some feel that teachers finally have the opportunity to ask for not only a decent wage but to actually ask for a great income just like other professionals.
But others think teachers are being greedy by asking for their worth and that they should do it for free because they went into the profession to help others. This is of course lunacy but you need to know this before entering into an agreement.
And for others, the private learning pods that are forming are troubling in many ways, as they are not equitable solutions for ALL students and families. However this should not be a burden for an individual teacher to carry as this is a wider systemic social problem.
Contracts: Do Not Enter Into a Learning Pod Partnership Blindly
Tara Boertzel, an experienced teacher and coach, explains everything to both teachers and parents that they need to think about before setting up a learning pod partnership. Both parents and teachers should watch her video called Wanna Hire a Teacher. You can find it here. Below I highlight a few things she said.
- Things start out all butterflies and rainbows but teachers need to protect themselves.
- At the very least, creat a M.O.U. (memorandum of understanding).
- You can get a boiler plate M.O.U. off Legal Zoom or just Google it.
- Parents are only going to do this until school resumes which can leave a teacher high and dry so commit to a time period.
- Teachers should get professional liability insurance at the very least.
- Better would be to also incorporate yourself and set up a LLC.
- M.O.U. must include waivers and provisions about Covid-19.
- What happens if teacher or families get sick?
- What if the government goes into a lockdown and the pods must stop?
- The teacher should be able to continue virtually until the contract is over.
- Teachers need to be paid well.
- Teachers have to cover taxes, health insurance, liability insurance.
Other Questions for Agreements
- "Can I leave the children alone for a minute to go to the bathroom?"
- "Do I get a break for lunch?"
- "Do I bring my own food for lunch?"
- "Can the child ever check in with you during our sessions?"
Essential Questions From the Teacher to the Parents
As you meet and get to know the children and parents in your learning pod, some essential questions to ask will be:
- Are there any significant behavior problems I should know about?
- Are there any learning difficulties I should know about?
- Are there any allergies I should know about?
What Are Your Offers and Supplemental Learning Services?
Some parents will be paying at least $300-$1,500 a week for Learning Pod services possibly in addition to the independent or private school tuition they are already paying. As a teacher or tutor, what are you offering to the parents in addition to being a warm caring human being taking care of their children while they work remotely in the next room? Some supplemental learning can include:
- Movement and Brain Break Exercises
- Inquiry based projects connected to the students' interests
- Social and Emotional Learning strategies
- Setting up Routines
- Hands on Math
- Foreign languages
- Art, music, cooking
- Assessments, progress reports, and building a bridge back to the school
We all want what is best for the children so it is essential that we make our parent-teacher partnerships successful. We all have to watch our backs and protect ourselves with legal agreements. And let's not forget our humanity. Keep an open dialogue. Ask for clarification when confusion arises. Check in daily to make sure the learning pod is working for the children, parents, and the teachers. Who knows if these learning pod partnerships will disappear when virtual learning is over or if a new age of one-room school houses has begun.
Helpful Books for Teachers and Parents Setting Up Learning Pods
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Javi on August 11, 2020:
After reading this marvelous article,
I realized teachers deserve to raise their salaries in all levels and I say why not right? In addition I believe, they deserve to be more respected for their hard work educating our children.
Thank you so much for sharing your positive informations and guidelines.