There are always questions coming up about studio policies. Recently I was asked to help draft a studio policy for the Arts Center where I teach. The idea was to come up with several different options and decide on which type of policy would work best for all of the teachers involved. I thought I would share these ideas with all of you. Here are some ways to draft a piano studio policy.
In my home studio, I am much more, flexible with my students. This is because I need to travel often to see my family in another state. Being flexible works for me right now.
The bottom line is all teachers need a studio policy so that everyone is clear about what is expected. As the teacher and studio owner, you have the right to set the policy that works best for your situation.
Drafting your studio policy
These studio policy options deal with cancelations and make-ups. But in drafting your own policy you also want to consider how you want to collect payments (weekly, monthly, or by semester). What to do about late arrivals and pick-ups and studio etiquette issues. You also need to address things like inclement weather, holidays, etc.
Also include things like how payment will be taken (cash, check, Paypal, etc.) How books and materials will be obtained. Will Parents get them? Will you provide books and materials? (Like the ones here at Paloma Piano.)
What about recitals, festivals, and competitions? Will participation in these events be required? Will there be a fee?
A “No Show” is a lesson that is missed without notifying the teacher/studio prior to the start of the lesson time.
A “Missed lesson” is a lesson canceled within 24 hours of the lesson time.
A “Rescheduled lesson” is a that is changed and rescheduled with 24 hours or more advanced notice.
My goal is to set up a situation that optimizes student learning and does not refund monies collected for lessons.
“No show” lessons will not be made up.
Lessons can be rescheduled if given 24 hours or more advanced notice.
I also assume that teacher-canceled lessons will be made up as a private lesson.
So we are basically talking about “Missed Lessons”
Allow students to make up lessons.
This means deciding which missed lessons will be made up and how many. I have seen studios set a certain number of allowed make-up per semester. Or only provide make-ups for lessons canceled with 24 hours notice or in the case of an emergency.
- It’s flexible, parents love this option.
- Teachers usually don’t mind if there is a set number of make-ups allowed so that their schedule isn’t disrupted too much and students get a weekly lesson.
- Teachers who gig a lot need flexible schedules.
- Sometimes hard to enforce because it’s hard to know what really constitutes an emergency and who really is sick.
- Scheduling make-ups sometimes becomes a problem because of a teacher’s schedule and other activities in which a child may be involved.(In my experience when this happens parents always want refunds or credits).
- As the studio grows it will become increasingly difficult to find space for make-ups to take place. (The last studio I worked at had 300 students and 4 piano rooms. It was difficult to find open rooms in which to conduct make-up lessons).
- Teachers really hate to come in stay for 5 hours get paid for 3 and then have to return on another day to make up lessons. (I believe this is the number one biggest problem studios and private teachers alike deal with).
Read the post “Best Piano Teacher in Town”
Offer Group make up lessons.
How it works.
Students who miss a lesson during a certain period (usually monthly) sign up to come to a group class which serves as a makeup for the missed lesson. These classes are conducted by the teacher. Classes can be recorded for students who are unable to make the class time.
- Students get to expand their musical horizons with music history or music appreciation.
- Teachers never do make ups.
- Money never has to be refunded
- The group class is twice as long as the regular lesson so students get an extra half hour of instruction.
- Takes some advanced planning and coordinating
- Space is needed for the classes
- Some teachers/students may not be able to fit it into their schedule.
Include makeup lessons into the existing tuition,
How it works:
It’s actually mostly psychological (if you ask me). If a unit of 16 lessons is $600 you say that the unit is 14 lessons plus two bonus lessons for makeup lessons. This means they get (or think they get) two free lessons if they have perfect attendance.
- No makeups
- No refunds
- It encourages perfect attendance.
- Limits missed lessons
- If the student misses two lessons he misses the instructional time.
- No makes ups
- No refunds
- Doesn’t really seem fair to parents (although many teachers and studios are going to this model)
- The students don’t really get anything out of it.
- Some parents miss lessons and don’t worry about it because “After all the teacher is getting paid” so the student loses out on valuable instruction.
Use a Google calendar or similar application that allows parents to check in and swap lessons with one another.
- This takes the responsibility of rescheduling off of the teacher.
- Teachers do not need to give refunds for missed lessons.
- Parents like it because they can have make-up lessons when needed.
- Parents have to agree to be part of the swap arrangement.
- Most parents will want to be accommodated if they can’t find an opening
- in the schedule for their lesson to be made-up.
These are the 5 basic models I have experience with. We could do one or some combination of them. Ultimately it is your decision. You need to do what works best for you and your family. In my experience, most people will accept and abide by your studio policy as long as you are clear about what you expect and ready to hold your ground. This is how to draft a piano studio policy.
Update since 2019: Online Make-ups.
A lot of teachers are teaching online these days. Basically, your policy options are the same for online lessons as they would be for in-studio lessons.
One thing that I do now is to offer to see students online if they can’t make it to the lesson because of inclement weather, car trouble, because a sibling or parent isn’t feeling well, or any reason that would enable the student to have the lesson.
I also offer online lessons if I need to be out of town for some reason.
This works beautifully. You can use FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts. This cuts down on missed lessons.
There is much more about all aspects of Piano Teaching in my book.
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