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#1458426 - 06/17/10 06:44 PM Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students?
wolfetho Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 61
I'm finding that I often have to remind the parents of my students
that they signed an agreement when it comes to the following:

1. 24 hr notice for canceling lessons
2. 14-day notice for discontinuing lessons

How do you remind your students/parents about these things in a
professional way without making them feel guilty? I find I'm often
explaining to them that this is my living and without the proper notice, I have no way of filling that time slot.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Tom

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#1458436 - 06/17/10 06:55 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13797
Loc: Iowa City, IA
What are the consequences if they don't follow those guidelines?

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#1458450 - 06/17/10 07:18 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 514
Loc: USA
I'm not a piano teacher but I experience the same problems occasionally. I've found that appointments will be missed no matter what you say. If someone fails an appointment it's usually an accident anyway. I just chalk it up as part of the business. yin and yang. Luckily there's a lot more yin than yang. LOL
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#1458468 - 06/17/10 07:48 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Jbyron]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
I think all my piano families know the rules, but sometimes they still ask. Just last week, I had a student completely forget to come to their lesson, then I got an email after the fact saying they were quite busy, and could they reschedule. At a recent conference I attended, I was told a good response to this request would be, "Oh, you mean you would like a FREE lesson?" But I just couldn't get those words out to this parent. I didn't offer another lesson, but I did say perhaps the student could stay a bit longer for the next lesson.

Another student today remembered too late to actually get here for more than about 10 minutes. It must be the summer forgetfulness season!
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Independent Music Teacher
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#1458471 - 06/17/10 07:53 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Kreisler]
wolfetho Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 61
The consequences for canceling a lesson without giving at least 24 hours notice is they
lose the option to make-up that lesson.This is what is supposed to happen. I find I'm
letting it slide more often than not in an effort to not cause friction with the parents.

If they don't give a two week notice for stopping their lessons, I will usually remind them
of the policy and most of the time they will either pay me or continue for 2 more weeks.

** You know the bottom line is- how to make people take our jobs seriously and not think that
this is just casual charity work that can be taken for granted.

Tom

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#1458475 - 06/17/10 08:02 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Kreisler]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
What are the consequences if they don't follow those guidelines?


Great point, this is what it's about IMO.
I used to offer makeup lessons for people who no-showed and constantly were rescheduling at the last minute. By offering these consequences, I created my own resentment and problems in my studio.
No more. This was not a healthy way to operate a business.
My suggestion for you:
say something concise and positive like, "I offer makeup lessons when 24 hours notice is given" or whatever your studio policy states. Keep your response short and positive, saying what you CAN do. Be friendly, firm, and stick to your studio policy.
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#1458477 - 06/17/10 08:07 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Stanny]
wolfetho Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 61
Stanny- Regarding the "free lesson", I had the same thing happen yesterday. I had a mother of a student call me 40 minutes before the lesson and very casually say, that her son won't be in
for his lesson. Then she immediately asks for a make-up. So she cancels the lesson giving me no
chance to fill the time slot, and then she wants a make-up two days later. I gave in because she's been with me for over a year, but it really made me mad. I guess I need to explain to her
that I lose the time when she gives me no notice.

I think a lot of parents just think that they've paid for the lesson so they have the right to cancel at the last minute.This same parent told me last Summer that they would be back
to continue lessons in August so I held their time for them. Guess what- they ended up not
starting till September. Do I ask them to pay me for that month that I held their time slot?
This year I will tell them that I am reserving their time slot for them, and they will be charged if they don't show up.

Tom

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#1458479 - 06/17/10 08:10 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
wolfetho Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 61
Barb-excellent advice!

Tom

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#1458481 - 06/17/10 08:11 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
We all have this stuff happen but it's my experience that it can be minimized by not giving in and offering that makeup lesson. I know it's hard to say no and not offer the makeup, but the more we let this stuff slide and give in, the more times people will take advantage. I know, we're just being nice, considerate, and generous by allowing for this type of behavior, but is the reverse true? Are the people that no-show and ask to reschedule at the last minute being considerate? No.

This advice has been offered to me many times in this forum, I find it helpful, and we need to keep supporting each other by passing it along.


Edited by Barb860 (06/17/10 08:17 PM)
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#1458495 - 06/17/10 08:50 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Barb860]
Jennifer Eklund Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 162
Loc: SoCal
I make the parents sign a new "studio policy" at the beginning of each school year after reading all the cancellation policies.

I also try to be flexible because I've found that sometimes *I* need them to bend to my school schedule so for me it's a two-way street.

However, when it starts to become a recurring thing I pull out their signed contract and remind them of the rules.
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#1458509 - 06/17/10 09:42 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Jennifer Eklund]
wolfetho Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 61
Jennifer:

Yes, I plan to go over the policy again with everyone this fall.
I still can't figure out why it so hard to get the parents to think
of their lessons as a "class" that runs month to month. Would they
be able to ask the teacher at their school or college if they could
make up a class they missed? Why are piano lessons any different?

Tom

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#1458537 - 06/17/10 10:31 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Volusiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/10
Posts: 770
I think even a 24-hour cancellation notice policy is still very lenient. There's very little chance the teacher can manage to fill that spot within 24 hours anyway. Imagine if a parent cancels on you 3 or 4 times in a row but gave you 24-hour notice so they still abide by your policy. How would you like that? Most probably not!

I think what's more fair is to allow a free make-up only if there hasn't been a cancellation/free make-up X times before, and the teacher can determine what this X times is in their policy. I think a reasonable number for X is maybe 12 times (3 months). This should be sufficient for the occasional illness or emergency. If you're in school or working, you wouldn't be able to miss school or work more often than once every 12 days and get away with it, would you? Same with piano lessons. And a missed lesson already paid for (but not qualified for a free make-up) still counts toward this X number, of course, to be fair. It's not about how many missed lessons prior to the free make-up. It's really about how many previously paid lessons that would enable the entitlement of the free make-up.

If parents complain that X=12 is too long, you can clarify to them that you're not asking them to book 3 months worth of lessons. If you normally ask parents to book only 4 lessons at a time (1 month worth) like many teachers do, parents always have a chance to book around planned absences. For example, if they plan a vacation for week 3, they can just book weeks 1, 2, 4, and 5 and skip week 3. But if they have last minute changes on the 4 lessons they already booked, it should be their problem and not yours.

There can be a million reasons to cancel lessons and still be able to cancel with 24-hr notice. Student's been invited to a birthday party. Family decides to go camping that weekend. Relatives in town for a visit. On and on. Why should teachers be left holding the bag with a 24-hour cancellation for these choices made by parents at the teacher's expense, while they're holding up their end of their bargain and keep their schedule reserved for those lessons.

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#1458540 - 06/17/10 10:35 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
AnneJ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/10
Posts: 48
Loc: Toronto, ON
Probably because if a student misses a class at school/university, the class still runs because other students show up. So the teacher still teaches.

However, they probably regard one-on-one lessons as a private and mutually agreeable arrangement that can be altered on a whim by either party. You need to make it clear that you are not available "whenever", and that to reserve the lesson time for the student every week, they owe you for that time even if they can't come. If you have exceptions (eg. sufficient notice, or sudden extreme illness), you should spell these out clearly, along with what the arrangements are likely to be in these cases. Be as consistent as possible. People talk.

Parents will ask for things anyway and you can't really stop this because it's human nature. While annoying, this isn't really the problem. The problem is when they insist your policies don't apply to them.

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#1458548 - 06/17/10 10:44 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: AnneJ]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1265
Loc: California
If you were to implement a 'no makeup lesson policy', it might help to cut down on parents who try to take advantage of you. But, YOU have to stick to your guns. If parents know when they sign up that you don't offer makeups for any reason, well... they know. If they don't like a teacher with a policy like that they will find someone else, right?
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#1458708 - 06/18/10 07:56 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
I also have a very hard time sticking to my policy. I do notice that I have an easier time dealing with it via email, rather than "thinking on my feet." In an email, I am comfortable saying, "It is my policy to not give make-ups for missed lessons. If you need another copy of the policy, let me know and I'd be happy to send you one."

I send out monthly general info emails, and this year, I plan to have a tag line reminding them that no make-ups will be given for last minute cancellations, so please don't ask. Maybe if they see it often enough, it will sink in.

Part of the problem is that I teach out of my home, and many people think I haven't "lost" anything because I can do chores or whatever if they aren't here. And because I don't have back to back to back students, they figure I have flexibility.
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#1458717 - 06/18/10 08:29 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: AnneJ]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: AnneJ


However, they probably regard one-on-one lessons as a private and mutually agreeable arrangement that can be altered on a whim by either party. You need to make it clear that you are not available "whenever", and that to reserve the lesson time for the student every week, they owe you for that time even if they can't come. If you have exceptions (eg. sufficient notice, or sudden extreme illness), you should spell these out clearly, along with what the arrangements are likely to be in these cases. Be as consistent as possible. People talk.


I think one could also reverse this argument to the parent: "How would you like it if you showed up for a lesson and the child was prepared to play what they had worked on all week and came with their books, only to find the teacher not there? Then getting a call as you were waiting that the lesson would be canceled? Certainly, you'd think that unfair and a waste of your time."
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#1458728 - 06/18/10 09:17 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Morodiene]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
My policy is that if parent gives 48 hours notice, I will offer a makeup lesson if one is available. There is no guarantee another time will be available.

But still last week I had a parent call 2 hours ahead to cancel and request a make-up. The answering machine got the call since I was teaching. And the same parent sent an email asking for a makeup. I responded to the email by saying thanks for letting me know your daugher wouldn't be here for her lesson. I went on to answer another question in his email. All week I worried that they were offended that I gave an indirect answer, and of that I didn't offer a makeup. I even wondered if they would discontinue lessons because of it.

This week the child showed up for lesson, and it was all OK. I had imagined that the parents were annoyed with me, but they weren't. I was relieved. My point it that I do stick with my policy, but it can be difficult. I even went so far as to tell the parent "I'm sorry that I wasn't able to reschedule her lesson last week". I know I had no reason to apologize other than to meet my own need to please people. But at least it brought up the issue, and that's how I found out they were not the least bit upset over it.

I felt upset that I was being asked to reschedule. But I have to accept that people will continue to ask. I just have to get more comfortable in saying no. It helps me to say that I won't be ABLE to reschedule, instead of saying I won't reschedule because you didn't give adequate notice.

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#1458732 - 06/18/10 09:25 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
There are ways of being polite, nice and sincere while telling parents to go take a leap.

"I'm so sorry David will be missing his lesson today. I was so looking forward to hearing his progress on that Ballade, and finding out how he's done tackling that Shostakovitch. But life happens - we all know that. We'll see you next week. In the mean time, tell David I'll be pulling for him and to keep up the good work." (Don't say this unless you really mean it, otherwise, your tone will betray you!).

If parent continues to insist, say, "Of course, I may be able to find a free opening later in the week, but I just want to remind you that there is a $50 additional lesson fee if I add an extra lesson in for David."

And if the parent continues to insist, you can further remind them that "Rescheduled lessons must be made at least 24/48 hours in advance."

"When you signed up for lessons, we covered the no make-up lesson policy and the reasons why. You told me you understood and accepted it. And we covered lesson rescheduling, if openings happened to be available, with 24/48 hrs advanced notice. I sincerely regret that this week, I just don't have any openings available for David."


Always try to stay positive and on-topic. It's best to avoid anything which can become argumentative.
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#1458806 - 06/18/10 11:05 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13797
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Actions speak louder than words. Your actions (letting it slide) are different than your words (studio policy), so you've made it known that your studio policy isn't really valid.

Put another way - why do you expect your clients to follow your policy when you don't follow it yourself?

Originally Posted By: wolfetho
The consequences for canceling a lesson without giving at least 24 hours notice is they lose the option to make-up that lesson.This is what is supposed to happen. I find I'm letting it slide more often than not in an effort to not cause friction with the parents.
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#1458817 - 06/18/10 11:23 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: wolfetho
I still can't figure out why it so hard to get the parents to think of their lessons as a "class" that runs month to month. Would they be able to ask the teacher at their school or college if they could make up a class they missed? Why are piano lessons any different?



They're not, really. College students make just as many unreasonable requests. You'd be surprised at how many of my undergraduates will miss/skip class, then come to my office and ask me to go over "anything important" that they missed.

(This is a little O.T., but often when students ask me "did I miss anything important?", I'll just hand them a sheet of paper containing this poem: "Did I miss anything?" That's if I'm in a good mood. If I'm in a bad mood I just tell them that, as it states clearly in the syllabus, I am not responsible for repeating lecture material individually to students who miss class and that they will have to borrow notes from a classmate.)

p.s. Lest I sound like a heartless monster, I then offer to go over any questions they might have about the material AFTER they've borrowed the notes from a friend and have looked them over.


Edited by Monica K. (06/18/10 11:25 AM)
Edit Reason: added p.s. to avoid sounding like a big meanie.
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#1458867 - 06/18/10 01:07 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Monica K.]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Monika, I love that poem! Thanks for sharing it with us.
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#1458901 - 06/18/10 02:17 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
thumper49 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 170
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Lovely! Tom taught at the college where I used to work decades ago. Thanks for unleashing a flood of memories!
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Currently working on: Suzuki Piano School, book 4, second half

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#1459152 - 06/18/10 10:52 PM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Lollipop]
Kawai_Teacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/10
Posts: 25
Originally Posted By: Lollipop


Part of the problem is that I teach out of my home, and many people think I haven't "lost" anything because I can do chores or whatever if they aren't here. And because I don't have back to back to back students, they figure I have flexibility.


Lollipop, I agree with you -- some parents think that because we're at home, we're sitting around doing nothing. I get bothered when they're 5 minutes early, 10 minutes early, 5 minutes late picking their kid up, etc. Since we're at home, we must not be doing anything important! Very annoying.

I like your idea about repeating the cancellation policy in your monthly email. If we keep repeating it to them, maybe they'll finally get the hint.

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#1459187 - 06/19/10 12:54 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: wolfetho]
Kawai_Teacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/10
Posts: 25
Good questions Tom. I know, I don't enjoy reminding parents of studio rules either.

I wonder if anybody has enforced a fee when these types of studio rules are broken? Let's say that a parent calls the day of the lesson and says that they can't make it that day for a reason that's not so compelling (i.e, kid has to go to some school party, parent is working late, etc.). They don't tell you in advance and you can't fill that spot because it's so last minute.
I would think it's fair to charge a fee for such a last minute cancellation. If there's a monetary consequence, then they might take it more seriously.

I'm thinking about adding this to my policy...

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#1459207 - 06/19/10 02:17 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Kawai_Teacher]
Volusiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/10
Posts: 770
Originally Posted By: Kawai_Teacher
I wonder if anybody has enforced a fee when these types of studio rules are broken? Let's say that a parent calls the day of the lesson and says that they can't make it that day for a reason that's not so compelling (i.e, kid has to go to some school party, parent is working late, etc.). They don't tell you in advance and you can't fill that spot because it's so last minute.
I would think it's fair to charge a fee for such a last minute cancellation. If there's a monetary consequence, then they might take it more seriously.

I'm thinking about adding this to my policy..
Instead of trying to charge a penalty fee, which can get complicated and make you look bad, it's simpler to just have a policy of no free make-up or refund for missed lessons. I assume most teachers require advanced payment for X number of lessons at a time, so you should have already gotten paid for that missed lesson in the first place.

Furthermore, if that penalty fee is a lot less than the cost of the lesson itself, parents would still prefer to pay the fee and cancel because the monetary consequence is still cheaper than the cost of the lesson.

If parents complain that the no make-up/no refund policy is too strict because there may be an occasional sickness and emergency that justifies the absence, then allow a free make-up only if the student hasn't had a free make-up X many lessons ago.

You shouldn't try to evaluate the reason for the absence to see if it's justified or not because you can't really tell if parents will give you the real reason or a made-up reason anyway. So it's just simpler to give them a free make-up every so often in our policy no matter what the reason is, but no more than that. That helps avoid any unnecessary confrontation with parents about whether the excuse they use is legit or not.

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#1459218 - 06/19/10 04:22 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Volusiano]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Airlines don't let you fly on any old flight you happen to turn up for: if you miss your booked flight you forfeit the fare, unless you have paid a premium to have a flexible fare. Maybe the approach is that students can pay a premium rate for unlimited flexibility!!! Airlines work this so that the flexible fare is at LEAST twice as much as the restricted conditions fare, sometimes 4 times as much!! I suspect none of us have students prepared to purchase the premium, unlimited flexibility option!!! I would happily offer it!!

On the other hand, I used to operate a system where students who did not have a regular booked time worked on a pay-as-you go system with a 33% loading (a $30 lesson was $40 when taken at random intervals).
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#1459244 - 06/19/10 08:05 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Elissa Milne]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Everyone has really good suggestions! I usually take it case by case. For chronic cancelling I tell them "I'll give you a call if something opens up". If it is a family that's been with me awhile and I know it's unusual for them, I will try to give them another lesson. My policy states 48 hour notice.

I have asked for 30 day notice if they're going to quit. I worded it: "out of consideration, please let me know 30 days in advance if you plan to discontinue lessons". Hopefully they will think of it as them being jerks if they don't lol. I don't send them a bill if they bail early, there really isn't anything we can do if they don't offer that consideration.

One time a girl came and told me that her brother was quitting (that day!). So I emailed mom and told her that I would be using Sissy's next lesson fees to cover Johnny's missed lessons. She got mad and quit.
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#1459256 - 06/19/10 09:31 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Ken Knapp Offline



Registered: 04/18/06
Posts: 2246
Loc: Pennsylvania
Anybody ever consider charging a fee for scheduling make-up lessons? After all, it takes your time to make those arrangements. Maybe a $10-$15 fee if sufficient notice is given, up to full lesson fee for no notice?

Ken
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#1459287 - 06/19/10 10:52 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: Ken Knapp]
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Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
The way I understand it, teachers are complaining about frivolous cancellations, possibly last minute, and possibly frequent. I don't think that they would want to discourage a responsible student who has been prevented from attending lessons due to something beyond their control from making up a lesson. If you go two weeks between lessons, errors can get engrained, especially if you are learning new technique. Preventing the error from the start saves a lot of time trying to undo it later on. I cannot see a teacher wanting to discourage students from seeking help in time by throwing in punitive measures. That sends a message that lessons aren't important.

While it is true that some time is taken in rescheduling, teaching is a profession, not a time-punch job. All professions, afaik, involve efforts that are not billed, which is one reason why professionals get paid more per hour then the clerk ringing in your groceries. I would not want to be treated in a way that I do not treat my own customers. I understand that what is being looked at is unreasonableness and thoughtlesness. Am I mistaken?

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#1459291 - 06/19/10 11:09 AM Re: Do You Have these Conversations with Your Students? [Re: keystring]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
No, you are not mistaken, Keystring, I think we are talking about unreasonableness and thoughtlessness as you say, along with being inconsiderate.

My opinion is that we as teachers set ourselves up for these problems in the first place by not enforcing our studio policies, if we even have them. There will always be people out there who take advantage. It's up to the professional to set and enforce the standard. Like Ebony and Ivory said, some clients will get mad and quit. I used to actually offer makeup lessons to folks who would no-show me, and sometimes I would even issue them credits towards next month's lessons. Dumb on my part!!!! I thought I was just being nice and extra flexible with clients. Instead, it was a bad way of conducting business and I feel that clients did not respect me.
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