“Teach like your hair is on fire.” I once heard an interview on NPR with Rafe Esquith and that was the title of the book that he had just published, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56. That phrase has stuck with me so long at this point, it has made its way into the “mantras” section of my brain. I have been teaching voice and piano lessons since early in my Charm City days, but only recently has it become a main staple of my day-to-day life. So, I wanted to start writing about how my teaching studio works from organizational matters to techniques and more. I want to help you revolutionize your teaching studio.
It all starts with policies. Incredibly enthralling, I know. Relationships are made and broken through communication and miscommunication of expectations. It is so important to make sure you are leading the conversation. Each new student begins a teacher/student and client/provider relationship – especially if you have a student and their parents with whom to communicate.
Let’s break down the parts of your teaching studio policies:
This is your chance to outline the mission behind your teaching studio. What do your students and their parents need to know first and foremost? Mine reads:
Music lessons are a regular practice designed to increase your love and understanding of a particular instrument. The process is just as important as the end result in this field of study. It takes time and perseverance to master the essentials. I pledge my focus and skills to your continued success.
It is important to me that potential students/clients know that they’re entering a regular, weekly practice with me to work toward their musical goals. Any teacher will tell you that learning “how” to learn can be equally important with “what” you learn.
I provide a free initial consultation, for students/clients who want one, and I outline that in the policies. I’ll dive more into this in a future blog post. The initial consultation serves multiple purposes. It allows everyone to meet in a short amount of time to assess whether or not it is the right fit for each other. This goes in both directions. For the health of your studio and for your own balance, you need to work with students that you genuinely want to help. It also gives the student/client a chance to figure out if they’re ready for lessons with you.
The belly of the beast when you run your own studio! With our culture of busy-ness and overcommitted students, scheduling can be extremely time-consuming. My studio policies outline the overall teaching schedule that I keep. I don’t teach on the weekends, except for the occasional make-up lesson, so parents can see that isn’t an option from the get-go.
Instead of just replying back to emails asking what I charge per lesson, I include it in the policies for a couple of reasons. First, I’m able to provide a range of lesson fees in one grouping according to the length of the lesson. Second, my policies also give insight into the kind of teacher I am, my background/skills, the other aspects that go into running a studio, etc. When pricing is nestled into the rest of that information it is easier to communicate to parents why you charge what you charge. Pricing does not have to be difficult to decide. We’ll discuss this at length soon.
The most important part of my policies. Last minute cancellations are the worst! I have a strict 24-hr cancellation policy that I make sure to communicate expressly with all of my students and their parents.
YOU MUST PROVIDE 24 HOURS’ NOTICE TO CANCEL OR RESCHEDULE. Students are responsible to pay for lessons cancelled without 24 hours’ notice. No refunds will be given for no-shows or tardiness. My phone number is xxx.xxx.xxxx please text or email. Email is the best way to communicate with me regarding scheduling and payment information. If you are sick, please contact me as soon as possible. Please attempt to reschedule rather than spreading illness.
I make it clear that I will work with my students if it is an emergency or illness to find suitable makeup times. It is part of my job to prepare my students for how to keep their commitments and that is why this is such an important part of our shared expectations.
I’ve added this section over time. It is important to me that potential students/clients understand that teaching is just part of my career. Performing is a huge part of my career and life and I travel often for gigs. The policies make that very clear and also how my students will know when I’ll be gone and that I do not charge up front for weeks that I know I will be missing.
Finally, that brings us to payment. This section outlines how the invoicing in the studio works. I’ve used different systems over time and it turns out that monthly billing for the number of lessons to be taken just works the best in my case. The policies make it clear how clients/parents can pay for lessons and when. This is where I clarify that students are responsible for purchasing books/materials. I also include a few lines to let students and their parents understand that it is never my intention to create a financial burden. If that happens to be the case at any time, I encourage clients to have a confidential conversation with me.
Writing out your policies doesn’t make you feel like you’re teaching like your hair is on fire. But, it does free you up to spend more time communicating musical concepts rather than talking clients through how to pay you or how to schedule make-up lessons. Clear communication is what builds lasting relationships in life and in business. Informative studio policies are the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.
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