‘Adam is going on a school trip next week so please could we organise a make-up? ‘ ‘I’m sorry but it’s been sports day today and Emily is exhausted. Please could I cancel her piano lesson today and arrange a make-up another day.’ What do you say?
I’m sure many of you have been faced by this kind of scenario in the last few weeks. Summer term in particular is vulnerable to these type of problems and queries.
Teachers can find themselves either run ragged in the last couple of weeks trying to fit everyone in or teaching during their official holiday period. Neither situations are great and can lead to a feeling of stress or growing resentment towards parents.
We’ve been discussing some solutions to the problem of fitting in make up lessons over in The Community. Here are some of our top tips and ideas for how to respond.
#1 SORT OUT YOUR T&Cs
The next few weeks is the best time to check over and tighten up your Terms and Conditions. What do they say and do you stick to them? Is the wording unambiguous and clear? Giving yourself some space and thinking through what you offer can save a lot of headaches in the long run.
#2 FIXED TEACHING WEEKS
In my own teaching I commit to teaching for 37 weeks in the year. Parents pay for 34 lessons spread over 10 months however students are welcome to attend all 37 if they can manage them. So as the end of term approaches next week most have had 34-35 and a couple have had 36-37. This how I have phrased it in my own Studio Contract:
‘I have a commitment to teach 34 lessons during the academic year. If no lessons are missed students are welcome to come for 3 extra lessons during ‘catch up’ weeks at no additional cost’.
‘If a lesson is missed pupils can re-schedule during a ‘catch up’ week. No refunds are available except in exceptional circumstances’.
#3 NO MAKE-UP POLICY
Some teachers have a clear no make-up policy. This is especially important if you have a large number of students. Other teachers offer to make up a maximum of one lesson per term. Another approach is to just offer a make-up slot if there is a cancellation from another pupil.
#4 USE A SCHEDULING SERVICE
Scheduling services are one way to reduce the amount of admin that any rearranging causes. This includes some of the music studio software programmes such as My Music Staff and Tonara. Whilst these involve some fees the payoff of money versus reorganising hassle is always worth considering.
These considerations can all be brought into your budgetary calculations (see the previous blog Running your Piano Teaching Business). For example, if you pay £10 a month and have 25 weekly pupils the extra cost to add onto lessons per week would be 10p or 40p a month.
#5 END YOUR TERM BEFORE OVERWHELM SETS IN!
A couple of our members individually made the decision to stop all lessons at the end of June. Here’s why:
‘if we are teaching younger pupils, July is a moot learning month – most young kids are too tired to take anything in… and when I pushed through in past years, even less practice took place and, at pupils’ homes there’s resentment when parents have to push too… So I just gave permission for everyone, including me, to take a long summer break’. Angie.
#6 SHARE REARRANGING PERCENTAGES WITH PARENTS
So if none of these suggestions are going to work for you keep everyone in the picture regarding what is and isn’t possible.
If you have a high percentage of make-ups requested send out a group email/newsletter. In it give the percentage of students who have requested one, specify the times you are available and clarify these are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Here’s a template for the sort of thing you might say – do feel free to adapt and use:
‘As the end of term approaches I have had an unusually high number of requests for make-up lessons from X% of my students. With only [X] teaching days left it is not possible to fit everyone in.
As per my contract make-up lessons are [insert wording from your contract].
Nevertheless, I have found as many additional lesson slots as possible. My available times are given below and these will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that once these times are filled no other times will be available this year’.
Finally, should you offer refunds? Well, that largely depends on your current T&Cs. Generally offering refunds makes a complicated situation even more complicated and can leave you feeling heavy and resentful. This is why it is important to get really clear on what you offer and update your T&Cs accordingly.
Piano Studio admin can feel quite burdensome at times, especially if there is a lack of clarity about the details. With the next few weeks of holiday times ahead maybe it’s time to take action? I’ll be back in two weeks time to help you with some more studio matters.
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers