The most critical part of keeping a music student long-term is attendance. With everyone being so busy these days, that’s a real challenge. However, when lessons are frequently canceled, it can hinder the learning progress and may cause students to cancel early on.
Make Sure You Attend Each Lesson
You, the instructor, set the tone for the lessons. So if you’re not committed to the schedule, neither will the student. With exceptions to unavoidable events, it’s critical to attend every lesson.
What If The Student Cancels?
The student’s attendance is a whole different matter. What do you do when a student consistently cancels? And worse, EXPECT you to reschedule or give them a credit? Offering make-up lessons cause you to use another time slot you’re not getting paid for. If you have plenty of openings, that may not be a problem, but what if you have a booked schedule?
What Is The Solution?
Having a clear policy on cancellations is critical. I’ve heard many extreme policies. Some will have a 24 or 48-hour rule where the student is guaranteed a make-up or credit. But how is that fair to you when you reserve that block of time expecting to be paid? And if the student isn’t held accountable for their cancellations, there’s no incentive for them to attend every lesson. Without consistency, the learning progress is slow to none, and the student may lose interest. On the other hand, policies that NEVER offer make-ups may be too harsh, causing you to lose students.
The Best Policy
I believe a happy medium is the best policy that is fair to you while offering some flexibility. Here is my policy in a sentence: For student cancellations, there is no credit, and make-up lessons are not guaranteed; that is up to the instructor’s availability. This policy lets the student know they’re accountable for attendance and doesn’t obligate you to make it up while giving some flexibility.
To Make-Up or Not Make-Up?
When deciding to reschedule, consider the student’s track record. For the student that rarely cancels and gives advance notice, doing your best to make up the lesson is a good thing. If you don’t have any other times available, extending the following lessons is the easiest way. However, for students that cancel regularly, I recommend NOT giving a make-up lesson, even if you’re able to. Continually rescheduling perpetuates their lack of commitment. When I have one of these kinds of students cancel, I politely tell them I’ll see them next week with no mention of a make-up. If they ask for one, I tell them I have no openings. By not making up the lesson(s), the student will either attend each lesson, knowing they’re paying for it, or cancel, and you can replace them with a more committed student. Either way, you’re better off! And by the way, even if you DID make-up every lesson for this kind of student, I guarantee they will not be long-term.
I hope this tip helps you to be the best music teacher ever!
Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers for piano and singing method books. The learning model is small steps using drills and repetition, how students think and learn.