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I am new at teaching piano and I do some students from my home. I realize I need to start getting organized now that I have more than 2 students. Is it better to set a policy to be paid at the beginning of the month, rather than weekly? Would you just count the lessons in that month, or do the math thing with 52 weeks and 12 months? Do you have the students fill out a form at the first lesson? What is the most valuable information to have, besides name etc? Is it easier to keep a card file, sheets of paper in a notebook or computer records? Thanks Mary JO
-- Mary Jo (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 07, 2001
Mary Jo, A big mistake I made when starting out was that when I just had 2 or 3 students, I was pretty casual about things, and as you're realizing, that won't work as your studio grows. You need to figure out now what you would want your policies to be if you have, say, 30 students (or whatever your goal is). No way will you want to be collecting money weekly! In fact, I find that by the semester is even better than by the month, so I give a little discount for semester payments, and almost everyone takes advantage of that. I also don't like to even quote a "per lesson" price, because so much more goes into teaching than the 30 or 45 minute lesson (think of all the prep time, seminars, choosing and purchasing materials, recital prep, etc etc etc!!) Set a monthly or semester fee that reflects all the time you put into teaching, and explain your fees that way (which can be your justification for charging whether or not the student shows up for lesson that week--you'll get tired of not being paid by students who don't have good attendance). At the very least, I suggest setting a non-fluctuating monthly fee (in other words, it doesn't change regardless of whether there are 3, 4, or 5 lessons that month. Just tell the parents it all averages out, and it sure makes your bookkeeping easier). Also think through if you want to have makeup lessons offered--it may be easy to do so right now, but what about when you have 30 students who are frequently asking for a makeup--it becomes a nightmare. So you may want to say only one makeup per semester, or make the makeups be a group lesson once a month, or something so you're not having your personal schedule be butchered (I speak from experience!) Also don't forget to put a "dismissal policy" in writing--what your expectations are, and what are grounds for dismissal. I know when you're starting out, it's hard to imagine being able to be "picky" enough to dismiss a student who doesn't practice enough, but as your studio grows, and you have enthusiastic kids on your waiting list, you'll grow weary of your students who don't put the needed effort into practice. Another thought--decide if year round study is required, or if summer will be optional. What if a student decides he wants a 2 month break and wants you to hold his spot, but you have kids on a waiting list who would love to have that spot? Have your policy on these things in writing. I keep student info (incl name, address, birthday, other interests, home plus work ph # for parents in case of last minute illness on my part, starting date, an on-going list of all books and sheets used, etc) in a 3-ring binder, which is easy to add to or remove. I have all parents and students sign my written policy--they keep a copy and I keep the signed copy. Valuable for when they try to argue about a policy not being "fair" or whatever. Show them that it is what they agreed to. With the students you now have, you may need to just keep on being casual for now, but perhaps starting in the fall, you can send letters saying that you now have the following written policies. You will be glad you did!
-- annie (email@example.com), June 07, 2001.
Thank you, Annie. You really helped me. I made up a form and will go by the month with a quartley option. I hadn't thought about the make-up lesson problem, but I can see how that could get bad. I think maybe a group theory lesson could be helpful for everyone. Maybe, while I don't have so many students, it would be helpful anyway to make one lesson a month or so a group lesson. It could be a fun experience for everyone if I organized myself first. I also like the 3-ring binder because I can keep it by the piano. I have a terribly one-track mind, and if I need to keep a record on the computer and can't do it immediatly it may or may not get done. Thanks again, Mary JO
-- Mary Jo (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 09, 2001.