Do you have a contract that the parents must sign about piano lessons, etc.? I have tried doing a contract and it falls through every year. I now have a 24-hour policy, but it is so hard to keep that policy with certain parents (those being the parents who give me the most business and usually have a good excuse). I feel like I am in a rock and a hard place with contacts and policies. I haven’t found anything that sticks and sometimes feel like a pushover and am scared of losing students.
This is hard – I’ve been in this same spot before! First off, if you are interested, you can look at the wording of my studio policies on my studio website. I don’t have a contract, per se, but when I conduct my initial parent and student interview, I do require the parent to sign their interview form indicating that they have read and agree to abide by the studio policy.
Here’s what I would recommend: you have set aside certain hours each week for teaching. When you look at your calendar, you have to start to see only these set aside hours as available teaching hours. If a student cancels and wants to know if they can have a makeup lesson, you can look at your calendar to see if you have any other times available. If any other students have canceled for that week, or perhaps the next, you could offer that time. Otherwise, say something to the effect of, “Thanks so much for letting me know that you won’t be able to make your lesson this week. I’m looking at my calendar, but unfortunately I don’t have any other times available this week. If I have another student cancel, or something opens up, I will let you know.”
You have to be kind, but firm, and stick to this – at least until your families learn the principle that their lesson time is their lesson time. That time is reserved specifically for them, and does not guarantee the availability of another time if something prevents them from being present at their lesson. Once you have firmly established this and your families don’t automatically expect to be able to makeup missed lessons, you have some freedom again to make exceptions to this policy if you are so inclined. Part of the hurdle you have to overcome is feeling pressured or obligated to give a makeup lesson just because you technically have some “free” time.
I wouldn’t worry too much about losing students over this. If you are a good teacher, parents should value you and your time. They don’t want to take advantage of you; you just have to put in some effort to help them understand your policies and why they are important. The purpose of such policies is to help guarantee your ability to continue providing excellent instruction without getting burned out because of the business side of running a studio.
Hopefully this provides some helpful thoughts for consideration. Does anyone else have some input on this issue? What type of makeup lesson policies have you found to be effective?
Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!