Am I evil for wanting to drop this student?

Posted by: ten left thumbs

Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 06:23 AM

I teach adults and children. I have an adult student, a beginner, who has been taking very occasional lessons for almost a year. At first this suited me, she wanted hour long, fortnightly lessons, and this was fine, but then she took about 5 months off during the summer to go sailing (it's all right for some...).

By the time she came back, I explained that my policies now were such and such, I charge for lessons cancelled at short notice, including illness. What really gets me, was she said, 'so, I need to give you a week's notice if I'm going to be ill?' That really annoyed me.

She does practice, a bit, she has made some progress, I just find teaching her dissatisfying. By contrast I so love teaching students I really feel put effort in. She will find reasons not do do various things I suggest (like learning the notes).

It's just the combination of having lots of things that get in the way, and persistent comments about money, and how expensive it is, that irritate me. And, she won't cut her nails.

Am I evil if I find an excuse to drop her?
Posted by: malkin

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 08:23 AM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs

Am I evil if I find an excuse to drop her?


I don't think you need to find an excuse, you have listed some good reasons to drop her.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 09:09 AM

It's not evil at all, but you may want to have a discussion with her before you do.

It sounds to me like she is resistant to learning. I have encountered this many times over the years, mostly from adults but not always. The snide comment about no last-minute cancellations and exaggerating it to the point of needing a week's notice is not being fair to you. You should let her know how that made you feel, definitely. That is disrespectful and not giving any consideration to why you need a policy to begin with.

Bring up the fact that she is paying you good money to learn piano, but she's not doing her part of the bargain. If you give a student an assignment, it is with the goal that they will do it and improve as a pianist. If they do not do it, they do not improve and no one is happy. Ask her if she's satisfied with her progress. If so, perhaps she needs to find another teacher, because you are obviously one who desires to see her students succeed (I'm the same way). I wouldn't have the discussion with her during her lesson time, or if you do, tell her you can reschedule the lesson for another time, but you need to talk about these issues.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 09:51 AM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
What really gets me, was she said, 'so, I need to give you a week's notice if I'm going to be ill?'


Hi ten left thumbs,

I would give a hearty laugh at her response. "Ha Ha! That's a good one. (Pause) No, seriously, what I'm saying is that there are no refunds for missed or cancelled lessons."

Instead of doubting yourself, try writing an affirmation such as "I am a competent teacher..." over and over to help replace the negatives that you've told yourself (about being evil etc).

When I played harp, I'd have adult women say "I'd love to learn to play the harp!". I'd take a look at their long polished nails and say that you have to have very short fingernails to get a good tone on harp (and show them mine). That would be enough information to give them pause. It was clear that clipping nails was way more commitment than they could muster. laugh I just present short nails as a requirement, and then it's up to the adult to decide if they want to do it.

I don't offer lessons less frequently than weekly. Also I have a fee for re-enrolling after stopping lessons. These policies deter those who are not really committed.

Anyway, be clear about your policies. And then the student can quit if she doesn't like it.

When someone arrives with very long nails (8 year old boys do this too), I let them know we will use the time to catch up on theory and do note drills because we can't play piano with long nails. Then when parent picks them up, I tell them the child must have short fingernails to play piano, and tell how we productively used lesson time, but did not play piano. So far that has taken of it.
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 12:17 PM

So if your student is sick and give you three hour notice, will he receive a make up lesson in the future?
Posted by: sonataplayer

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 12:31 PM

Hi ten left thumbs:

I've learned the hard way that students who are not willing to commit to weekly lessons don't last. So, I now have a strict policy that I only give weekly lessons. People who can't commit to a lesson once a week need to look elsewhere for a teacher. I've lost some potential students as a result of this policy, but I've found that the headaches caused by dealing with the "occasional" student far outweigh the benefits.

You are not evil for deciding to drop her; you're a good business person for deciding to drop her and you're preserving your mental health.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 12:32 PM

Quote:
I charge for lessons cancelled at short notice, including illness. What really gets me, was she said, 'so, I need to give you a week's notice if I'm going to be ill?' That really annoyed me.


It is a good question though so I guess something else was troubling you.

Quote:
She does practice, a bit, she has made some progress, I just find teaching her dissatisfying. By contrast I so love teaching students I really feel put effort in. She will find reasons not do do various things I suggest (like learning the notes).


AH, I think you should check her on this, instead of putting up new requirements. And this might be a good reason to drop someone I think.

Quote:
It's just the combination of having lots of things that get in the way, and persistent comments about money, and how expensive it is, that irritate me. And, she won't cut her nails.


Did you tell her to stop that money discussion?

Quote:
Am I evil if I find an excuse to drop her?

Why would you need an excuse? Just consider the facts. Check the contract and what is the norm for this kind of situations.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 05:23 PM

Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
So if your student is sick and give you three hour notice, will he receive a make up lesson in the future?


Make up lessons are strictly on a Saturday afternoon (this seems to be the time no one wants piano lessons, so it is my only free time).

The thing with this student is she has never committed to a weekly slot. All my other students have. When I took her on I was desperate for students, and would have taught anything anytime. I have got much busier. I can teach her during the day, in school hours, which is the only reason I have allowed this to continue.

My students pay for 4 lessons at a time, on the first lesson. Today was the last of 4. We had pencilled in another lesson in December, though she did ask if she would need to pay for all 4, I said yes. Her problem was she won't take the other lessons until next year. So today she cancelled that lesson as she didn't want the extra expense, it being so near to Christmas. It wasn't till she'd gone, I thought, I want a Christmas too.

So I am not due to teach her till January, though I may see her at the piano party in December, I had offered to play a duet with her then. So if I quit with her now she will feel aggrieved about that, I'm sure.

I do like the idea of an enrolment fee, I was thinking of starting that next year, to cover the costs of venues for the piano parties, etc.

I told her today I thought she needed weekly lessons, she agreed to weekly lessons in January and Feb, not sure about March... I want to build up clients during the day, am trying to get some home-educated kids, and offering discounts for school-time lessons. We'll see how that goes.

So, after agreeing this at today's lesson, I thought that was OK, then after the lesson it just all got on top of me, the various things I was annoyed about, and that maybe I should just quit.

Sorry this is all so jumbled.

The other thing that is influencing me is I lost a couple of rubbish students over the summer, and life is *so* much better for it. It's really like some students just drag me down far more than their proportion of my schedule should allow.

And in answer to another question, I want to make an excuse to drop her, precisely because I don't want to have a conversation with her about the things that really annoy me. Partly I just want her to go look for another teacher that will do half the things I've done, and then appreciate me in some way.
Posted by: toejamfutbol

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 06:57 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs


And in answer to another question, I want to make an excuse to drop her, precisely because I don't want to have a conversation with her about the things that really annoy me. Partly I just want her to go look for another teacher that will do half the things I've done, and then appreciate me in some way.


You keep talking about these policy violations as if they are just little pet peeves of yours. I don't think your student will take you or those policies seriously if you refer to them this way. It's really simple, actually. Just bring it up to her professionally by saying: "This is what it takes to be a piano student in my studio. Period." In a nicer way, maybe... smile But stand your ground! If you take your policy seriously, your students will take you more seriously and will value their lessons more. (As a side note, I would definitely get rid of your makeup policy altogether. You would be amazed how fewer lessons students will miss when they know they won't be able to make it up. I take the "snooze you lose" approach.)

Some teachers don't care whether their students are progressing or getting the most bang for their buck, they're just happy to take the money. You're obviously not one of them, so let the half-committed students go off to the half-committed teachers rather than waste your time. Don't let this lady boss you around! If she really wanted to learn how to play the piano she would make it a bigger priority!
Posted by: emilypianist89

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 09:50 PM

Originally Posted By: toejamfutbol


Some teachers don't care whether their students are progressing or getting the most bang for their buck, they're just happy to take the money. You're obviously not one of them, so let the half-committed students go off to the half-committed teachers rather than waste your time. Don't let this lady boss you around! If she really wanted to learn how to play the piano she would make it a bigger priority!


Very well said! I never thought of it this way before!
Posted by: malkin

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/20/12 09:55 PM

She's complicated; it sounds like you neither need her as a student nor want her as a student.

A way to soften the situation (and avoid the issues that bug you) is to recommend another teacher (or two) and tell her that you are reducing the size of your studio.
Posted by: rlinkt

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/21/12 12:02 AM

I would recommend separating the sickness policy from all the other things. If you do not want to continue teaching this student, that's your decision and you can communicate that many different ways.

The no refund policy even for sickness is harsh. Things happen. My daughter had an accident a couple of hours before her piano lesson once, and had to get her scalp stitched up. I would have been pretty unhappy if the teacher enforced a no refund policy due to the short notice. You have to make a judgment call on the sickness clause.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/21/12 02:55 AM

Just dump the student. Unless you are really strapped for cash.

I have had several non-weekly students. The great majority of them are just terrible students with really noncommittal parents and absolutely zero practice. I do have one good bi-weekly student, but her progress is (for obvious reasons) at 50% rate of her peers.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Am I evil for wanting to drop this student? - 11/21/12 03:06 AM

Overall I'm happy with how my 'refunds' policy goes - no refunds. Students, and students' parents understand I get paid whether they show or not. I do not do make-up lessons, except for sickness, and, since offering the make-ups for sickness, not many of those who were sick have actually taken me up on it. I originally offered the make-up lessons to encourage those who were sick to actually cancel - as I was being asked to teach sick children. It is working well now.

Thankyou all for your posts on dealing with this student. I have decided not to do anything rash. I will keep her on just now, let her play, or not play at the upcoming recital, and give her the weekly lessons in Jan-Feb as planned. I will start 'studio' fee for all students, and make it clear that she would pay it again if she takes a break. She won't like that, she may decide to quit at that point. I am still free to drop her later, and I'm fairly clear in my own mind I'm not evil.

Thinking on this some more (and I don't know if this is really relevant - to me) but she may be coming under some pressure from her husband about money. Judging by where they live, and the holidays they take, they are not poor. But I hear stories about his comments to her about her playing, and I just think he may be undermining her at every opportunity, and the money it takes may well be a part of that.