Tell me if this scenario is familiar: It’s Friday morning and you’ve had a long week, teaching every evening. You just have to get through today and a few lessons Saturday morning and then the weekend is yours to spend however you wish. You can see the light!
Then you check your phone and the daydream comes to an abrupt end. You see not one, not two, but THREE messages from parents asking to reschedule lessons for later in the weekend or next week because Jonas has a soccer game, Hailey has a birthday party, and Parker’s family decided it would be a great weekend to go camping.
Just like that, the blissful weekend you were counting on is in jeopardy.
It might not seem like that big of a deal, except that this happens every week. The students and excuses change, but the disruption is the same and you’re beginning to resent every rescheduled lesson.
Is this familiar? I’ve been there.
Now, I love seeing my students every week and I miss them when they’re on vacation, but I also love having a day off to get out and spend time with my family and friends. When the makeup lesson requests started to get out of hand in my studio, I had to make a change.
I struggled because I didn’t want to seem completely inflexible, but I also knew I couldn’t sustain the constant schedule changes. My solution: I came up with some alternative offerings for makeup lessons that worked with the rest of my life instead of against it.
1. Skype lesson at the regular lesson time (with or without an instrument)
This is a great option when students are sick and contagious but feeling well enough for a lesson, or when they’re visiting Grandma and Grandpa for the week, or even spending the summer in a different city. Even if they don’t have an instrument with them, you can still make a great lesson by answering all the theory questions you run out of time for during regular lessons.
2. Take-home packet
If a student knows well in advance that they’ll be traveling, you can prepare a packet of music-related activities and car-friendly music games that they can take with them on the road. Consider including a CD or emailing MP3s for listening activities that the whole family can get involved in. (What parent wouldn’t love ideas for road trip entertainment??)
3. Video feedback
If the regular lesson time just won’t work for the student, have them record themselves playing through their pieces and submit the video to you in advance. When their regular lesson time roles around, review their video and send a video of personalized feedback back to the student.
4. Repertoire selection session
I often spend an entire lesson at the beginning of the school year playing music for students and letting them help select repertoire. I could easily get this done over the summer by recording a video of me playing samples of different music and having them watch the video on their own time to choose their favorite pieces.
5. Friends or family substitute
Students in my studio know that if they can’t make a lesson for any reason (sickness, travel, sporting event) a friend, sibling, or parent is always welcome to take their slot. Who knows, this substitute student could end up enrolling!
It’s so much easier to say “Sorry, I can’t reschedule that lesson…” when you can follow it up with “…but I can offer these alternatives…” Parents can see that you’re making an effort to be flexible and you can maintain reasonable work/life boundaries.
P.S. A Word About Studio Policies
If your policy promises makeup lessons, you have to honor that commitment. Suck it up and reschedule those lessons. As soon as you’re done, go update that studio policy for the next term!!