“Weekends Away” Guest Post

How to Get a Gig Teaching a Mini-Course at Your Local Libraries
Ever since I was a kid I’d play “teacher,” complete with real lesson plans beyond the years of my sister and brother (captive students). We covered a full range of topics including Calculus formulas sung to the tunes of the Beach Boys. (Incidentally, all of my siblings remember these tunes to this day!) This is why I cannot tell you exactly when kidCourses started, but it started when my kids were young and I was coming up with educational songs and games for them (my new captive students). In the mid-90s I started volunteering, teaching the ABC Signs Program, which tapped into childrens’ predilection for fingerplays, but incorporated real ASL (American Sign Language) signs into the rhymes. 
One day I called a local library to see if I could volunteer there. I was told: “We don’t accept volunteers here. We’d have to pay you.” They proceeded to pay me $60/hr to teach my sign language program. Though I have a master’s degree now, I didn’t have one then. I am not now, nor was I ever a certified teacher. This is why I decided to guest blog about how to get a gig teaching a mini course at your local libraries. Adventuresfrugalmom.blogspot.com is a super-creative blog with a super-creative audience. My advice will be centered around how to package your creative content and pitch it to your local libraries.

Getting Started
Decide on the educational or creative content you want to share. Practice on your kids and their friends. Pick out a book or crafty activity that could go along with your lesson. Try to make it a 45 min or 1 hr lesson depending on your age group. Realize that the beginning of class will likely be a welcome wagon (as opposed to actual teaching). Also, decide how many kids (or how many mom-kid combos) you can handle at once. For the ABC Signs classes, we probably had closer to 20 mom-kid pairs per session. When we did mini-MTV (video shoot / video editing), I kept it to about 15 middle-schoolers per session. Once you are happy with your course and are ready to book some gigs, publiclibraries.com is a great resource for finding libraries in your area. You ultimately will be calling ahead to find out the name of the person who books outside programs, job titles are along the lines of:
  • Children’s Program Coordinator
  • Childhood Program Coordinator
  • Program Coordinator
  • Coordinator of Children’s Services
  • Children’s Department
Plan 2 scripts:

These are not my actual scripts, but you’ll get the idea. You want to come up with 2 scripts: One for the person who answers the phone, and one for the person you get patched through to. Print or write these out and keep them with you when you call. I personally sound so much better when I have my cheat sheet to read off of. Even if you don’t need a cheat sheet, you’ll feel better to have it with you. Use your full name when you introduce yourself.
1. Sample Call Ahead Script, Generic (A brief intro before your call is directed):
Hi, my name is Jessika, and I’d like to come to your library to teach the ABC Signs Program, a sign-language program for children. May I please speak with your Children’s Program Coordinator?
2. Sample Starter Script for Conversation with Program Coordinator:
Hello, my name is Jessika, and I’d like to come to your library to teach the ABC Signs Program, a sign-language program for preschool children. The ABC Signs Program incorporates over 120 real American Sign Language signs into fun and catchy rhymes. The course is flexible, generally running in one 1-hour session, and can be adapted to accommodate multiple sessions. Kids and parents have fun learning and get sent home with a packet of all rhymes and illustrated signs. Do you have a few minutes to speak, or would you like me to send you some information?

If you can talk to the person on the spot, try to book back to back sessions, for 2 different age groups. If your content isn’t appropriate for more than one age group, you can suggest that the coordinator pencil you in for a second class to accommodate the overflow of students.

For example, my course options probably looked like:
  • Preschool (ages 4-5) Single-session Option (60 min)
    Preschool (ages 2-3) Multi-session Option (45 min)
    and let the coordinator know your availability in the event of filled courses.
  • Preschool (ages 4-5) Single-session Option (60 min) 1:00 Sat, Week 1
    Preschool (ages 2-3) Multi-session Option (45 min) 2:00 Sat, weeks 1 & 2
    Additional session 1:00, Sat Week 2, as necessitated by demand
If you have more than one idea for a mini-course, you can pitch back to back classes for 2 different courses.

Can’t I just eMail?
I know you may be thinking: Maybe I can just eMail the library. Yes, you can mail actual mail or you can eMail, but the response is will be much, much less. Be brave. Calling on the phone is best. Go for it!

Recommended Pricing:
Charge about $150 for 1 hr session. If you are booking two back to back sessions, reduce to $250. Consider the cost of supplies or outside work. For example, with the ABC Signs Program, all students received a nicely packaged set of handouts, in a colorful, branded folder. For mini-MTV, though the students made all the editing decisions, I would have to go home and burn DVDs.
Other Perks
In the ABC Signs Program example, it was a plus to have my 4-year old helping the little hands around the room. Also, because I was wielding a sign-language puppet, it was nice to have the extra pair of (tiny) human hands doing the signs in addition to my puppety hands. Since we did run this course (more often than not) for free, my daughter was volunteering in the community before she was even in school. She went on to spend 3 summers (during high school) building houses and teaching in poor communities in Fiji. This makes me feel great. It also felt great to have cute little kids request to have their photo taken with me and my puppet.
Now it’s Your Turn
Get to thinking about what you want to teach and let me know how it goes. And maybe someday you’ll be guest-posting your creative class as an online version for me, at kidCourses.com. ?
Keep in Touch

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