Five Policy Questions - Answered

Since posting about my 2015/2016 Studio Policy, teachers have been emailing me with their questions about things that aren't specifically covered in my policy. There's no way to cover everything that comes up in a year of teaching in a policy.

Here are five questions teachers emailed me about:

1.  My annual tuition/fees are split up into either 3 equal payments a year (at a discounted rate), or twelve equal monthly payments. My problem is the parents that want to take off for the summer and resume in the fall. What do you do with those students who decide they want to take off and not pay and then resume? They are happy to go ahead and pay an enrollment fee and prepay September tuition to hold their spot (as if they are a new student) but I need the dependable summer income that summer lessons provide as well! Just wondered how you handled it if ever comes up. Thanks so much!

Diane Hidy Studio Policy Questions

This is about money. Can you afford to have those spots empty in the summer?  I wrote a post about this exact thing, and the way that one parent reacted when I stuck to my summer lesson policy last summer. It was important to me in this particular instance to make no exceptions, but you may feel differently. If you want to teach every student in the summer and have no exceptions then you know what you need to do. Make no exceptions. Period. One or two of your students may quit. You have to realize that means only one thing: your policies didn't meet their needs. That's fine. You want people whose needs line up with yours. It may be rough when someone leaves, but ultimately you'll feel better about yourself and your policy than if you'd given in and resented it.

If you'd prefer to be more flexible, figure out what that flexibility would look like (which it sounds like you already have - paying the enrollment fee and prepaying September tuition) and feel good about that. Plenty of teachers don't teach in the summer or teach a reduced schedule. Do what works for you and your family. It's not necessarily bad business to be flexible about summer lessons, it's bad business to make decisions on the fly. That's what will get you into trouble. 

2. If a child is ill, do you make up their lesson? Personally, I don't want to get their bugs!

This one is about health AND money. I simply send a child home if she shows up obviously sick at her lesson. My parents know better than to send their kids to a lesson with more than a sniffle. I do not make up lessons cancelled because someone was sick unless the someone was me. Otherwise, I feel that students who happen to be sick on their lesson day simply miss their lesson. I'm not upset by teaching a child with a cold, but someone else might be. If you can't have any germs in your house at all, make a policy that will support that. (Perhaps you'll always make up lessons missed for illness to encourage parents to keep their kids home.) 

If there's a week when I absolutely can't afford to get sick and there's a nasty bug going around I will send out an email reminding parents to keep their kids home if they're ill. That seems to do the trick. I sometimes will accommodate a missed lesson at another time in the same week if one opens up. But that is the exception.

I also have made exceptions in the case of a severe illness of either the parent or child. I'm talking serious illnesses like cancer and brain injuries. In those situations families need all the help they can get and I have chosen to be part of their support system. 

My students' Music Money envelopes decorated with highlighters and washi tape.

3. Regarding your Music Money system. Have you had trouble with students sharing their money with other students? Do they keep their money with them? When do you give it out? Thanks for sharing your system.

Sharing their money? That sounds like something to be encouraged! If my students pooled their money or shared it with their siblings (which they have done on occasion) I'd be all for it. It's their money and they can use it as they wish. I keep all the Music Money in my studio. Each student has an envelope they've decorated and the money stays here. (I learned that one the hard way when a grandmother lost a student's folder and all her money. Since it's only usable here, it makes sense to keep it here.)

I give out money after every recital, and other times when I want to reinforce behaviors or get their attention back. 

4. I like what your tuition and registration fee says. Can I copy your information or something similar on my website?

Of course! Use anything that you find helpful.

5. I have been loaning music out at no charge to my students. Last week I loaned out a brand new book and it came back in poor condition. I asked the Dad to purchase the book for full price and am now wondering if I did the right thing. I had gotten the book at a discount.

It's always tricky when we get something at a discount. Should we charge our students full price? I see nothing wrong with charging students the full price of something I received by attending a conference or workshop. I probably paid to attend and at the very least used my valuable time. However,  I avoid this situation entirely by charging a flat music and materials fee. Everyone pays the same amount and is guaranteed all the music they could possibly need for the year. I don't have to keep billing parents for $5.98 for a book, and instead of worrying about the cost the when their child gets new music, the parents are happy and excited, too.

The bottom line for any policy is "Does this work for me?" Look online at my studio policy and those of other teachers. Take what you like and leave what you don't. Remember that you simply cannot predict and account for every situation that will arise. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a great policy in place to cover the basics.

Feel free to email me with your questions and ideas for posts. I always read them and try to respond with either a post or a personal reply. Now get back to working on your policy for 2015/2016!


A great way to get help with the business side of your teaching is by signing up for one of Wendy Stevens'  Online Classes. Many of the ideas you like here are variations on things I first heard about from her. Check it out!