Withdrawal Policy

Nancy said: May 5, 2018
 1 posts

Hi there:

My son took piano lessons for a couple of months. Unfortunately, the teacher’s teaching style and my son’s temperament didn’t work out and we decided to leave the class. We were on good terms with the teacher.

I called the teacher last week, May 2nd, letting him know that we were leaving. The studio’s policy is one-month notice for withdrawal.

I thought we’d let him know that we are leaving, pay for May and still go to lessons. But the teacher told us don’t come to classes anymore; we just need to pay for 4 lessons for May. Is this how usual withdrawal policies work? We pay for lessons that we don’t go to?


Marian Goss said: May 8, 2018
Marian Goss
Suzuki Association Member
41 posts

I have been teaching for 25 years and that is not my policy. I could certainly spend the last few weeks preparing the student for future lessons with another teacher. I might be disappointed that things didn’t work out, but I would certainly never give up on a student just because they choose another direction. Sounds like the teacher is insecure. Now if the student had prepaid for lessons and the student quit in midterm, I would not offer any refunds, but I would encourage them to finish the term. I would ask the teacher why she/he doesn’t want your child to finish. It might be a good time to find out what makes your child “tick”. No teacher is beyond learning. We all learn every day. What a good opportunity to find out why it didn’t work.

Joanne Shannon said: May 8, 2018
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Los Angeles, CA
140 posts

Ditto, Marian.

Laura McDermott said: May 9, 2018
Laura McDermott
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Aurora, CO
15 posts

If that is the teacher’s policy—that once you announce you will be stopping lessons you must pay for a month of lessons without getting a lesson—then the teacher should have clearly stated that in their policies. That, to me, is a very different policy then the teacher wanting a month notice.

I have never previously heard of a withdrawal policy that works as described. I have heard of withdrawal policies that are along the lines of “payment is expected for the entire term and withdrawal during the term is not permitted” or something indicating that once you register for the term/month/year you are responsible for paying for the entire term whether you attend the lessons or not.

I understand a teacher not wanting to continue lessons when the student is leaving because of things not being a good fit (rather than moving, graduating etc.) It can be uncomfortable for both parties. But, the teacher set the policy of giving one month’s notice. When a teacher has that as a policy, then the teacher knows that this situation will arise. If the teacher doesn’t want to deal with teaching a student who is leaving because things are not working out, then the teacher’s policies need to allow for that.

Laura McDermott

Kelly Williamson said: May 9, 2018
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
311 posts

I was curious about when the teacher’s session ends. Does the term finish in June, or does the teacher teach year-round and through the summer, without dividing the year into two or three sessions? To give notice at the start of May after a couple of months of lessons seems surprising to me, considering that (at least in North America) most teachers would be winding up the school year sometime in June, anyway. Why the hurry to give notice when there would be just a few more lessons in June? Was it to save the money on those lessons, or to be free to start with a new teacher and see if the fit seems better?

I also wonder what reason was given to the teacher for stopping the lessons. It is true that the more professional thing for the teacher to have done, would be to honour the mutual commitment for the lessons that had been paid for. On the other hand, maybe they felt as though they were not valued by the parent and student. In that case, as Laura mentioned, it might have been very stressful to try to pretend that everything was “okay” for four more lessons. The teacher may have felt that a student giving notice that they were quitting was equivalent to a termination, and that their fee policy justified their not needing to provide lessons after notice of termination. Perhaps under normal circumstances they would have taught the four lessons, but in this case they felt that they could not do so. Maybe they will be rewriting their policy after this experience—it may well be the first time they have found themselves in this position!

It is easy to judge from the outside, with few details given. I would hesitate to judge the teacher without hearing both sides of the story—even if it does sound unusual, the way it has been stated.


Mengwei Shen said: May 9, 2018
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

I had a similar situation last spring except that it was a long time student (2 years). One possible outcome could have resulted in Nancy’s description. So, here is a teacher’s perspective:

My spring term is Feb to June and I allow(ed) monthly payments towards a flat fee tuition amount for the full term, representing a variable 17 to 20 weeks of lessons plus 12-15 weeks of groups/events. I don’t remember exactly but the family may have been trying to make May their last month. This is one of my pet peeves—having people skip out on the last month June (or Jan), conveniently right after the May (or Dec) recital, because that is effectively a 20% discount despite getting the benefit of full enrollment. (One way to eliminate the issue would be to move the recital date back to the end of term, or move the end of term up to the recital date, but I have decided to deal with this in other ways.)

I must have said something like I appreciate the notice but I “expect students to remain for the entire term” and also alluded to the costs of putting on the May recital that are the responsibility of full term students. I would have been within the letter of my stated policy to say “you’ve gotten your 17 lessons, so now you can pay for June and leave”. But I didn’t do that because the spirit of my policy isn’t for me to resent departing students and give them less than my all. They did end up staying through June and the last several lessons were about transitions rather than going through my usual lesson format of things to do.

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