Monday Mailbag – Letting Students Go

I need to let 5-6 of my 21 students go for next fall. How do I tell the parents of those I’m choosing not to teach next year? The ones I’m cutting are the students who don’t practice. I love the families, the kids, and especially the moms. We are good friends and I don’t want to ruin that relationship. Any advice you have will be appreciated!

Wow, that is really tough. I’ve only had to let students go two different times – once because a parent and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on an issue, and once because a student wasn’t practicing. Thankfully, in both cases we have remained really good friends. I think your best bet is to communicate as openly with them as you did in your question to me. Let them know how much you love them as people and want to maintain a good friendship, but that for personal reasons you’re having to cut back on your teaching load and just keep students who are serious about their music studies.

Perhaps you could share that the lack of practice is evidence that their heart is not really in it anymore, and maybe this will give the students a bit of a break and a chance to re-evaluate their own motivation and goals for taking lessons. it might be time to explore some other interests instead.

Also, even though it will be hard, I highly recommend having the parent(s) and student(s) come into the studio for a special meeting with you regarding changes you are making for the next semester. Talking face-to-face will give you a chance to share your heart and let them know how difficult this decision is for you and it will give them a chance to take in the news, ask questions, share any concerns, etc. I would offer to write up an evaluation of their current skills and recommend other teachers if they are interested in continuing to study with another teacher. If they are ready to give lessons a break but want to keep playing on their own, encourage them to stay in touch with you and contact you if they have any questions or need tips on a particular piece. The chances of this happening are pretty slim, but it at least keeps the relationship open and on good terms – hopefully!

You can never be sure how news like this will be received, but just pray and prepare a lot, take courage, and move forward. I would love to hear if anyone else has experienced a similar scenario! If so, how did you handle letting the students go? Anything that you felt worked well? Or didn’t work well?

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!

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