Group Class attendance is dropping…what’s wrong?

Janelle said: Mar 2, 2006
Janelle Severson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
9 posts

Over the past two years, my group class attendance has dropped significantly. I used to have groups on a 3 week rotation. Week 1)Pre-Twinkle-Book 2
Week 2) Books 3 and above
Week 3) Everyone
Sometimes I added a week to the rotation to include parent meetings or rehearsals.

This year I had another teacher join me and now have the students bi-weekly for group class with the Pre-Twinklers coming almost every week.

I keep trying to give them the opportunity to get to a group class, but it seems like I have my “regulars” and then sometimes I get a “just dropped in” student.

This semester I tried adding an incentive—if they come to a certain number of group classes during the semester, they can come to an ice cream party at the end of the semester and it just seems like the “regulars” keep on coming.

Do you think I’m having group classes too often? What is your group class attendance percentage? How do you get students to attend more regularly?

said: Mar 2, 2006
 103 posts

My group lessons are weekly, except when there is a holiday etc. that interfers with Mondays.

As far as people not attending group regularly, I think the problem lies in our culture. If we aren’t “busy” we are almost looked down upon, as though we aren’t doing our part. It’s a fine line balancing act for parents, or anyone for that matter. Assuming that a family has 3—4 kids (though it seems like the norm tends to be 2 kids now a days), and each child is involved in 3 out of school activitys (kids club, music lessons, and sports or ballet), never mind all the regular shopping etc. and possibly working parents—It’s no wonder people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off!!!

Lynn said: Mar 3, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Weekly group class is part of my program, and the cost is included in the monthly tuition. Attendance is expected. I am more that happy to wax eloquent about all the benefits of group, and why the class makes for a far superior product that just lessons alone—BUT…..if the family is not already on board, and what I find I am doing is “making the case” to try and convince them to make group class more of a priority in their schedule, then the ending paragraph is along the lines of “but if you really don’t see for yourselves that this is important, then you need to switch to a studio where group is not part of the program.”

I do not enroll students who have irreconcileable conflicts with group class, and I let go of students whose interest and commitment to other activities makes them mostly unavailable. The only exceptions are high school students who are actively involved in school or extra curricular orchestra, and who are pursuing sports, clubs, drama, and other activities that are, I think, an important part of being in high school. Everyone else: no exceptions. I try and be flexible about accomodating the occasional/seasonal activity conflict, but insist that parents figure out a way to divide the time part and part, not all and nothing. I learned the hard way that “allowing exceptions” infected the entire program, and seriously undermined the message I was trying to deliver.

I evolved into the position I hold now, and part of my strategy for establishing firmer expectations without losing a whole bunch of kids all at once was to delineate who was part of the entire program, and who was “lessons only”. Lesson only kids were not included in group class, and did not participate in any of the other “fun stuff” that my studio or the larger Suzuki community did in the area—concerts, recitals, play-ins, etc. If the parents asked, they were told that they were welcome to join in—but those opportunities were only available to students who attended group class.

NB: I made the distinction, not the parents. I did the whole welcome-the-intermittant-walk-ins bit with the hopes that they would enjoy the group and be motivated to come regularly, but it reality, with small classes, having kids drop in and out at random made it really really hard to maintain a coherent progression from week to week. Since I plan my classes with the specific kids in mind, I would find myself trying to change my lesson plan on the spot so the drop-ins would either have something they could play, or didn’t spend and entire class on material that was way below their current level. Plus, I decided it was rude, presumptive, and just plain bad manners for folks to assume that I would run classes for their child that they could just waltz into when it was convenient, and blow off when it wasn’t!

As far as frequency: I found that classes only once or twice a month had worse attendance. Percentage-wise, each missed class because legit conflicts or illness was much bigger miss. I also suspect that many families get into a weekly routine, and when group only happened intermittantly parents would either forget that it was group week, or think that the intermittent schedule made it reasonable to try and schedule a second on-going activity for the same night of the week.

Mariam said: Mar 3, 2006
Mariam GregorianViolin
Ashburn, VA
34 posts

I have group classes three times a month.

I agree with the previous poster about billing for group classes. Parents need to feel that they are paying for it…they will be much more likely to show up if $$ is on the line!

I also have a policy that if a student misses more then three classes in a given semester, they are not eligible to perform in the concert.

Corinne said: Mar 3, 2006
 Violin, Piano
44 posts

Lucy

As far as frequency: I found that classes only once or twice a month had worse attendance. Percentage-wise, each missed class because legit conflicts or illness was much bigger miss. I also suspect that many families get into a weekly routine, and when group only happened intermittantly parents would either forget that it was group week, or think that the intermittent schedule made it reasonable to try and schedule a second on-going activity for the same night of the week.

This is a problem I’m experiencing in my studio. I have one girl who has almost never missed a class, and the others come occasionally. I finally decided to give up on group classes for the remainder of the school year and start up again with a different plan next fall.

Diana said: Mar 3, 2006
Diana Umile
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Coatesville, PA
36 posts

I voted “Other”…I currently have groups once per quarter, but plan to have them more often next year. I teach piano, though, and I think perhaps they’re not quite as essential for piano students. I also have students play duets when their lessons are back-to-back.

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