One of the frustrations Independent Music Teachers often deal with is requests from parents that seem unreasonable and outside of what is allowed in our studio policy. The importance of communicating openly and clearly with parents became clear to me in a recent situation I encountered.
A student showed up at my studio for her lessons even though I had scheduled that week off, as I was out of town. (There was a phone message waiting for me when I got back home alerting me to this.) In addition, the student was going to be unable to attend another lesson that month, thus reducing the number of lessons she would receive that month to two. Her Grandma (the one who pays for and brings her to lessons) called me and expressed concern that her granddaughter would only be receiving two lessons that month and that she was paying more for lessons now since I raised my rate the first of the year. I acknowledged her concern, but also tried to let her know my perspective on the situation. Later that day I decided to send her an e-mail explaining things more clearly. This is what I wrote,
Because you expressed some concern over the cost of lessons, I wanted to let you know that once you spread out the cost over the spring semester (18 scheduled lessons), it averages out to just under [$$] per lesson. This doesn’t factor in the additional group classes that are also offered and included in the regular monthly payment. This is actually at the low end of what most of the teachers in the local associations charge for lessons and I try very hard to make sure that I offer all of my students a good value for their money. I put in quite a bit of time outside of the lessons planning and preparing for lessons and organizing different events so that students gain the most benefit possible from their music lessons. I am so pleased with how [student] is doing in piano and I’m so grateful for your willingness to invest so much in seeing that she takes piano lessons.
I hope this adequately addresses some of the concerns you mentioned. Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions or concerns. Thanks!
A short while later, I received this very nice reply,
Natalie, thanks for explaining to me. I guess I was just thinking of a monthly rate, instead of the overall lessons. I really do appreciate the way you work with [student] and feel she is making much more progress this year. I will let you know about this week’s lesson, as soon as I talk with my daughter. You are a wonderful piano teacher! [signed]
It is SO important to communicate to our students and their families what we expect and to address their concerns in an honest and kind manner. It’s so much more effective than taking these misconceptions personally and getting frustrated and irritated over a [often perceived] lack of respect. We’re all coming from different perspectives and different frames of reference in regard to music lessons. Try to get right to the heart of the issue, address it, then move on and continue being the best teacher you can be!