When parent Diana Viens realized that she had to get ahead of planning for the school year, she started the Facebook Group, MA Parents Seeking Pods, Teacher, Tutors. The group has now grown to over 4,000 parents looking for consistency and collaboration this school year.
Creating a learning pod for her two kids, ages 6 and 9, offers several benefits. Viens can provide her kids with consistency, safe socialization, and allow them to work daily with a live teacher. She’s also curious to see what benefits small group instruction could have for her kids. “My goal in all of this,” said Viens, “is to get them through this year and keep them on par with the curriculum standards.”
Parents and teachers are overwhelmed with the number of options this year—in person, virtual, hybrid, and now learning pods (also called pandemic pod or micro-school). A learning pod is a group of families that come together and hire a teacher to teach their kids. The teacher may be supervising the kids through the district’s online learning, or they may be in charge of planning and leading their own lessons in person.
Questions about learning pods have come across our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook , so we’re here to answer the most pressing questions about this teaching option for 2020-2021.
What are some of the equity issues around learning pods?
Pods have been criticized for increasing inequality in schools and the education system because they are expensive and clearly not a financial option for many families. Also, when parents from higher socio-economic households pull their kids out of the public schools, it leaves a higher percent of lower-income students, which may impact school funding for the following year. What has yet to be seen is if communities can create a system that creates equity within pods based on the families that are interested, not necessarily their incomes.
Can a learning pod be equitable?
Paying $25,000 a year to be part of a learning pod is one extreme. Many families may be pooling resources or putting funds that would have gone to childcare towards a pod. All that to say, don’t assume that learning pods are only for wealthy families. And, if you want to prioritize equity and diversity in the pod you lead, put that out there for families who may have the same goals.
What are the options for learning pod jobs?
There’s more than one way to connect with parents looking for teachers. There are tutoring companies and established micro-schools, like Evelyn Shaw Corley’s Mrs. Evelyn Educates, an online school with students across the country. Or, you can set up your own pod and find other parents through School House, local Facebook groups, or Care.com.
How do I set up a learning pod?
Carrie Vanover,* a teacher in Maine, decided to take a leave of absence from her school. Her goal was to create or find a pod that allowed her to teach. This would also help her manage work and life during COVID-19. She reached out to parents who were willing to commit to having her teach a small group of their children for a year.
If you’re interested in doing the same, Viens recommends being clear about what you want and putting it out on various sites for parents to find. If you want to work from 9:00-2:00 each day, and work with a small group of second graders, put that out there from the start. Viens sees a lot of demand for teachers, so you may be surprised at the response.
Are learning pods actually a safer option?
On one hand, if your district is going to school in person, a learning pod may be much safer. Teaching in a learning pod, where you can limit the class size, and know every single family, could be much safer than a classroom. You may also have the option of leading class outside in nice weather, which reduces risk.
However, if your school district is doing virtual learning, a learning pod would put you in direct contact with more people than if you taught online. In that scenario, a learning pod could be a good way to keep you teaching in person, but you’ll want to make sure you’re following Center for Disease Control (CDC) safety guidelines.
How much should I charge to teach in a pod?
How much you charge will depend on your local market. Teachers in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group shared that they charged from $150 per week per student to more than $400 per student per week. You could also charge by the hour if you have an hourly rate for tutoring or teaching outside of school. Tutoring companies and established micro schools will likely have their own pricing structure that may be based on the number of students or classes you lead.
Some things to consider: If you want to make the same amount as you made as a teacher, look at your weekly pay rate and translate that to a rate per child or an hourly rate. Make sure you’ve built in the costs for supplies or ask parents to provide them. And make sure to add in healthcare costs if needed.
What precautions should I put in place?
Especially if you’re teaching in-person, make sure you have a clear understanding of how you, and the families you are working with, will handle safety in school and outside. Mask wearing, limiting contact with people outside the pod, and taking other precautions are all things that you can put in your contract to keep yourself safe.
Other things to consider: How will you report any symptoms? What information will you share with the parents, and what information would you want them to share with you, in case someone should get sick with COVID-19 or another illness? If you travel or visit with people from outside the pod, how long will you quarantine before teaching in person again? And do you have someone who can substitute for you if needed?
What are the benefits of learning pods?
Consistency in a crazy year, staying safe, having more choice in what your day looks like, are all benefits, but the most mentioned benefit was teaching a small group. Vanover is excited about the idea. “I have visions in my head of bringing my small group to astronomical reading and math levels,” she said.
What are the challenges of teaching in learning pods?
When you set up a learning pod, you’re really building your own business, and there are challenges that come with it. Viens recommends that you make sure everyone in the pod is on the same page with the parameters so that the pod itself doesn’t change throughout the year. Draw up a contract and make sure that it includes everything that you need to feel comfortable, including health and safety measures.
Are you going to teach in a learning pod this year? What other questions do you have about learning pods? Tell us about it in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
* Not her real name