Re
No shows/no calls

Connie Sunday said: Nov 4, 2012
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I’m wondering what other teachers do when students fail to show up at their lessons, and also do not call and tell me they’re not coming. My students pay a month, in advance, each month. (See Lesson Policy) But just after I got my 49th student this term, I ended up having to dismiss five students (one of them new) for not showing up and not calling.

Four of them were adult students; one was a mother who emailed me in all caps and didn’t tell me the truth about how “she thought it was next week,” since her daughter had a dentist appointment; when I called her, she changed the story to “she was getting paid next week.” Oddly enough, the four adult students were two couples.

Sometimes people have no clue that teacher is sitting there, waiting, and wondering if they’re okay. Once in a while, a good student will do that, but they will have a good reason, they apologize, and they really did not mean for it to happen. This I understand. But just not caring that I’m sitting there, expecting them, when I could be doing other things; I cannot tolerate this, long term.

And of course, it’s a thousand times worse if you call them and email them, inquring if they’re okay, and they don’t return the phone call or the email.

You know, when things like this happen, I always have this underlying guilty feeling, like there was something I could have done to prevent this. But if a student is immature and self-centered, I’m not sure it’s my fault.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Phyllis Calderon said: Nov 4, 2012
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
22 posts

Hi There,

I’m so glad you posted this! What is stated in my policy is that students will be dismissed from the studio if payment is not made timely, if they are not showing up to lessons and not calling in advance (this goes hand in hand), or not practicing as I give them direction to. There are times when I have to become a counselor and find out what is going on because sometimes extenuating and emergent circumstances can cause a student to fall out of step (i.e., divorce or death of parent—which did happen to one of my students recently). But if I don’t know what’s going on, how can I help. Sometimes it is as simple calling me; let me know what is happening. But if a student simply fails to show and call, I have no choice but to dismiss them. I have done this twice.

I also charge in advance. Most pay in full; many monthly or bi-monthly installments.

When I first began teaching I tolerated too much; I was too nice. Now, I nip it in the bud prior to the first lesson AND through parent orientations. Occasionally, I’ll have a student or two not call first and then the next day they’ll contact me…. Sometimes I’ll call and send a “missed-you-at-your-lesson” email. But this is so rare. For the most part, my families understand and if there is a situation (job loss, family split, family tragedy) they do call and let me know about it. And there are times I can be of help and I want to help because I consider my students part of my family!

But I try to stay true to my policy in those situations where students/parents simply don’t follow the rules and “fire” them. My time is too precious and I have people on a waiting list who really want lessons and appreciate and understand what I do.

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio
www.atouchofclassicalplus.musicteachershelper.com

Phyllis Calderon said: Nov 4, 2012
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
22 posts

Oh, and don’t feel guilty. If you have done all you can prior to enrolling a student, letting them know your policies, reminding them if it happens once that they forget to call, and listening to them about any concerns, you have nothing to feel guilty about.

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio
www.atouchofclassicalplus.musicteachershelper.com

Christine Clougherty said: Nov 5, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
19 posts

I have studio policies, and every year I have to refine the policies, because I learn something new. There is a reason behind every policy, because I had to stop situations from happening in which I was being taken advantage of. I think my policies are rather middle of the road, having looked at other studios’ policies. I allow for some make-ups because I know that life happens, but I require 24 hours’ notice, and it has to be by phone call or text, not email, because I may only check email once per day. If I don’t hear the evening before that the lesson will need to be rescheduled, then it says in my policies that “I am not obligated to make-up the lesson”. I will often make-up those last-minute cancellations, but only if the reason is illness, family urgent situation, car trouble on the way to lessons, etc. If I am the one calling them, during what should be their lesson time, asking where they are, then there will not be a make-up. I have had situations where they promised they told me they weren’t coming, and I have had to trust them. I now write it down in my schedule immediately when they tell me that in lessons. I am not in music teaching to get paid for lessons I have not taught, but as we know, having a gap in the schedule, and then having to teach extra another day, or longer on Saturday, is more valuable time to us. I have a late fee if lessons are not paid by the second lesson day of the month, and I now collect tuition for two months at a time (except July and August).

Barb said: Nov 5, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

When this has happened to me, I told myself they have paid for the time, it’s not my problem if they miss. (No make ups for no-shows.) But it IS irritating and sometimes worrying. I usually took a minute at the end of the lesson time to write a quick “missed you today, is everything okay?” email. It’s been a while since this has happened. The one who missed the most eventually gave up lessons. My Music Teacher’s Helper account sends automatic reminder emails the day before the lesson, and I did talk to the student about whether she was getting those. “Oh, I hardly ever check my email.”

If I had a full studio, I certainly would rather be teaching students who valued the lessons enough to show up. If they are missing lessons, they are probably also missing practice time, etc. I don’t know if I would “fire” a student for a one time miss, but if it was a regularly occurring thing…

I know another teacher who was thinking of implementing a one-term trial period for all students. No guarantee of continuing if he wasn’t happy with the effort being put out or whatever behavior that might not be appropriate.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Cathy Hargrave said: Nov 6, 2012
Cathy HargraveTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Rowlett, TX
50 posts

Everyone has to do what is best for them; however, Dr. Suzuki said we should not drop students once we accept them. I have followed this as strictly as I can. I have, on a rare occasion, dropped a student when I felt the student was being harmed. For instance, I had one family where the mother did not practice with the students. The poor woman had 2 sets of twins, ages 6 and 4. And she home-schooled them. I could be compassionate in that case until she started pretending to practice with them and blamed them for not playing exceptionally well during lessons. They were having nightmares and she refused to change. I felt it was a form of emotional abuse and did not want to participate in that. I have also dropped a student when the parent was emotionally abusive to me. A parent once started screaming at me and threw her keys across the room b/c I told her there was a C#, not a C, in an A Major scale! She was never allowed in my house again. So I have been known to drop a student. I have one friend and a mom got so angry at her that she kicked through a glass door! These Texans can be something! (Just kidding)

But I remember Dr. Suzuki telling me “You have to educate those American mamas.” This was part of a conversation about how the teacher’s responsibility is to teach and educate the parent week after week about the philosophy and to never give up. Dr. Kataoka used to teach us that even if a student never practiced between lessons, we could still teach them good skills and character traits during the 40 lessons a year. She said the worst scenario was the one who quit.

We all want spectacular students but the bottom line is character development and world peace. Lofty, difficult challenge. It improves our character in the process as well. Just some of my musings and memories. I don’t mean to sound “superior” if it comes across that way. The more I teach this wonderful method, the more I realize I know little or nothing at all. It is actually a nice feeling.

Cathy Hargrave
http://rowlettsuzukipiano.com

Connie Sunday said: Nov 6, 2012
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

It’s so good to hear from other teachers and to know that others have similar struggles. The natural diasters back east have affected people emotionally, I think. Anyone else notice that?

And yes, I had (recently) an emotionally volatile mom (pg, too) who was so angry she slammed my front door and it cracked a window. (Also in Texas, Cathy—Lubbock). I tried to get her to sit down, and calm down, but she just got angrier and angrier (this is the mother of the child in mid-book 1 for four years). She didn’t want to attend the lessons, either.

Sometimes it’s a little scary, letting people into your home. Most of them are wonderful, though.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Kelly Williamson said: Nov 6, 2012
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
247 posts

Re Cathy’s post—hear, hear! Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this discussion.

Kelly

Phyllis Calderon said: Nov 6, 2012
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
22 posts

Cathy,
I really appreciate what you shared about Dr. Suzuki’s advice on teaching parents. I appreciate it because it reminded me of a situation quite recently where after reminding the parent (again) about how important her role is in practicing with her daughters, I felt like she just didn’t get it because her comment to me was, “I don’t have the time; I’m in school…” and so on. Yet she rather blamed me for her daughters’ lack (still in Book 1) rather than looking at the fact that daily practice yields progress. I was so frustrated and wanted to let her go even though her daughters loved their music lessons (they do both piano and violin).

Fast forward to today and especially after reading your comments, it reminded me that yes, I have to be patient with parents and educate them, and not allow them to give up or even myself, give up on them. I don’t know if it was my stern communication to her about practice and how I was not going on to Book 2 until they mastered skills, but over the summer and even now as we are ending the fall term, this mom shines! Her girls are doing excellently with listening and practicing. And the older has graduated to Book 2 while the younger is quickly catching up. I have shared with the mom how proud I am of her and the progress they have made since last spring.

So, thanks Cathy, for reminding me of Dr. Suzuki’s words on the importance of educating our parents. There is so much I learn from you all; so much to grow in as a teacher!

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio
www.atouchofclassicalplus.musicteachershelper.com

Barb said: Nov 6, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Yes, thank you Cathy for sharing that. And thank you, Phyllis for sharing about your students.

The other teacher I mentioned is not a Suzuki teacher, btw, and the student I had trouble with missing lessons was an adult, not a Suzuki student, so that is where my head was, but I’m sure if it was a younger student whose parent was forgetting or skipping lessons (meaning the child missed) it would be MORE frustrating. In my short experience as a Suzuki teacher, I have learned that parent ed needs to be an ongoing thing and I learned from you folks on this board how we have to nurture the parent as well as the child.

There are always exceptions, and I think if I found myself or the child in an abusive situation I would let a family go, too.

In the Mini Online Conference videos Michiko Yurko talks about being selective in taking families, and how you can see how the parent will work with you or with their child by observing them observe your lessons. She uses a waiting list and tells them they can come observe any time, and the ones who come to observe the most will be the next student to be accepted. I’m sure she gets very dedicated parents! It’s nice to be in a situation where you have a waiting list and can choose, but it’s hard to turn away any when your numbers are down or you are just starting out. In our ECC course Donna Lim talked about not turning away kids because of disabilities etc, but of course if the parent is not willing to be a Suzuki parent, well…

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Pia said: Nov 11, 2012
 Violin
34 posts

Very interesting (and on-going) subject! I would like to ask for opinion or advice; I have a student, 11 years old, teached her 6 years now and she is not further than book 3. I don’t mind so much if the students are slow (because of too short daily practice), I value their good-will, politeness and doing their (in her case, very few) assignements.
It’s just that she (and her mom backs her in these matters) has been rejecting every concert, group-class, orchestra project and workshop the last two years. She has never been industruos but at least turned up once in a while. Her mother always excuses her daughters absence with family obligations, her daughters many other activitys and so on..
This year, in the beginning of the term, I sent all familys a couple of mails with informations about when group class and solo-concert were scheduled, and when the christmas concert were to take place. I asked all families for notification. From this mother, I did not get any respond. Not one mail, no call, no reaction at all (I first thought, they have to check time-table and will let me know). I was very upset and angry as I realized, she just didn’t mention anything in the lesson because they had absolutely no intention whatever to participate in anything offered. Maybe the mother also hoped, when she don’t mention anything, I would just “forget” about the whole concern.. Now I’m really considering kicking her out. Is this inappropriate reaction? In addition to this- she is doing sooo little practice and I really am struggling to keep my patience in the lessons (5 months ago, she got the assignement to start with the Bach book 3 Gavotte, finally, last week she managed to come through the Gavotte I in medium tempo..)

Barb said: Nov 12, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Have you had a heart-to-heart talk with the mother and/or the student? Are they happy with the level of progress? What are their goals? Is keeping this student preventing you from taking on another student? Does the student enjoy playing? Do they understand the reason and value behind group and performing opportunities, etc.? The relationship between lack of commitment to practicing and lack of progress?

I am sure you must feel frustrated. I have had a similar situation. Rather than kick them out (which might feel like rejection to the student), I suggested a break until things settled down in their lives. They were continuing piano lessons, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting music. I did let them know that if they chose to continue now or come back before the student is old enough to practice successfully on his own, I would like to spend some more time working with the mother first. We needed more parent ed.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

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