studio policy and guidlines

Angela said: Jul 26, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
York Springs, PA
33 posts

I am looking for some samples of teachers studio policy and guidelines. I am in the process of changing mine and would like to see what other teachers have in their policies. Ex. sick days, vacation time, how many lessons alloted per year, student cancellation, teacher cancellation, fees, do you combine lesson fee with group, do you add in another fee for accompanist, room rental for group, etc. Do you make families sign a contract. How do you work scheduling and leniency when you have a young child that has to be with you do to no sitter (only for some lessons, I have a sitter for the majority of my time teaching). Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

Angela Schlessman

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 26, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Here is a shortened version of my studio policies, which is always handy in my studio (a longer, more detailed version is handed out to all new students, and I go over it with them to answer any questions they might have):

http://www.freewebs.com/visick/student/pol.html

Regarding a contract: I don’t have them sign anything but I do make it clear that signing up for lessons constitutes an agreement to abide by all of my policies.

Fees change each year so I don’t put my rates in my policy—only the rule about when it’s due (that way I don’t have to hand out new ones each year).

I work with a group of teachers in my area for group classes and so that fee/registration form is separate from the “individual lesson” fee/registration form. However, participating in a group is one of my requirements on the policy sheet.

Hope it’s helpful.

You can google for something like ‘music teacher studio policy’ for quite a few other examples.

Connie Sunday said: Jul 27, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have three documents associated with managing my studio:
**
Studio Policies**
http://beststudentviolins.com/Studio.html

Teacher’s Résumé
http://beststudentviolins.com/vita.html

MUSIC LESSON FAQ
http://beststudentviolins.com/LessonFAQ.html

It may be a bit much, I don’t know. I get a lot of inquiries online, from the ads I run and the entries in Teacher Directories, and so frequently I will email back with just the Music Lesson FAQ. Some parents are I think overwhelmed by “too much information” and are turned off by the Policies; others find it an encouragement to study with me.

Some will study with me because of the résumé, others will be turned off by it. Hard to tell, sometimes. Nevertheless, if they do start lessons, the **Lesson Policies **is what I give them in hard copy, and I have a separate sheet which they sign, indicating they’ve read the policies. (I tell them “It’s not a contract; it’s just an indication they’ve read the policies.” I took contract law in law school, and so I do make this distinction.) This helps out tremendously in the long run, in case there are any misunderstandings.

I’ve been working on these documents a long time—maybe as long as 10 years. I’d love to hear what you think of them?

For teachers interested in promoting their studio, I also have my own Teachers’ Directory, which anyone here is welcome to join (small donation requested):

Teachers Directory
http://beststudentviolins.com/Teachers.html

If you’ll notice, at the bottom of the Teachers’ Directory page there is a collection of other Teachers’ Directories, some free/some paid. I have especially good luck with “TakeLessons.com” (paid but well worth it). A referral is about $7, but I almost always get a good student from it.

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

Connie Sunday said: Jul 27, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

RaineJen

Here is a shortened version of my studio policies, which is always handy in my studio (a longer, more detailed version is handed out to all new students, and I go over it with them to answer any questions they might have):

http://www.freewebs.com/visick/student/pol.html

Jennifer, I really like your policies. I would also love to have a copy of the longer, more detailed version.

I need to incorporate #6:

No lesson will ever be given where there is one teacher and one student and no other adult able to see both parties at all times during the lesson. For children, A LEGAL GUARDIAN OF YOUR CHILD MUST BE ABLE TO SEE BOTH ME AND YOUR CHILD AT ALL TIMES DURING THE LESSON. NO PARENT = NO LESSON, NO REFUND, NO RESCHEDULE—NO EXCEPTIONS.

That seems like a really good idea to me; how did that evolve?

Also, I really like #8: “All my students past book 4 in the Suzuki repertoire will study both viola and violin.” I would love to do this, too. Do you require students to buy a viola? You must live in a area with a lot of wealthy or upper middle class students??

Another thing I really like about your policies is the last point, #14: “Before your last lesson with me, please schedule an exit interview.”

Do you get people to do this? How does that work out, how is the interview formatted?

Thanks,
Connie

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

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 27, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

6 came at the suggestion of one of my teacher trainers, Susan Kempter (especially the bit about “No Parent equals No Lesson, No Refund, and No Reschedule—No Exceptions). The idea about parents being in the line of sight of both me and the student (as opposed to requiring them to be “in the studio during the lesson” came when I realized there are some times when the parent may need to sit outside the studio- Therefore, there is always a window in such situations. If I’m teaching where there isn’t a good window, the parent has to be in the room or the door has to be open….

Sadly, the existence of those who use the name of “teacher” or “clergy” but who prey on children—and the nature of litigation in today’s culture—makes this precaution the best way I know of to protect myself and the families I teach.

8 does get some resistance from certain students (I don’t want to have to study another instrument!) But I just tell them that this is the way life is in my studio. I don’t make them study both at the same time—rather, they “switch” for several months (I tell them at least 6 months). Renting a decent student instrument for 6 months does not usually break the bank. OR—if they are playing on a fractional sized instrument, it is not that hard to just change the strings on the instrument they have (this isn’t ideal, but it can work). Also, I work with a suzuki program which owns a fair number of instruments that we can rent out to students at a somewhat reduced rate if necessary. At the end of that time period, they can choose if they want to continue studying the “other” instrument or not. I don’t teach violin past book 4 anyways, so if they choose to continue violin and drop viola, I send them to a teacher who is a violinist.

The exit interview is a late addition to the policies. I’ve only had it in there this year. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and last summer during my viola book 5 and 6 training, the teacher trainer (Betsy Stuen-Walker) assigned us to write a paper: on how we currently educate our parents and how we can improve in that area. Teaching the parents not just how to be in my studio, not just how to hold the instrument and help their child practice, but also how to leave the studio, seemed an appropriate addition to the ‘parent ed’ portion of my studio.

And I’ve only done it with one student so far: it did seem to work. I put together a list of things the student had been studying during their time with me, and I went over it with the parent. Hopefully this helps solidify what they’ve been practicing in the parent’s mind—and gives the parent something solid to point to when the next teacher asks what they’ve been working on. There are some things that we marked “accomplished” and some things that we marked as “in progress”. I gave advice about switching teachers and finding a new teacher (they were moving across the country) and about what to do in the meanwhile. I talked about how to keep the good things we’ve done and I tried to encourage them to be open to new ideas from their new teacher…

Of course, one can’t stop families from unexpectedly stopping lessons if they decide to up and leave without telling you. However, I hope that pointing out a better, less hurtful way to leave my studio will cut down on that sort of thing.

(on the other side of things… I have a separate “teacher’s” studio policy written out for myself, that I don’t give to students. It spells out things like “I will not take transfer students without strongly encouraging them to speak to their current teacher about the transfer first. If I know their current teacher, I will contact that teacher before taking the student into my studio”).

Connie Sunday said: Jul 29, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I very much want one of my students to study viola, but I don’t know if I can get them to buy a viola; I can get them a viola for $200. The advantages are so great, learning both instruments, but he has school and several performance groups, and it’s difficult, making my case.

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

said: Jul 29, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

RaineJen, thanks for answering the questions posed on your policies, and for sharing them in general. It is so nice to share. One teacher in my area, who has since moved away, was so helpful to me when I started teaching full-time. She said, “why reinvent the wheel” and gave me her policies and many, many other helpful ideas.

Ang, have you been able to ask any teacher trainers for their policies? They are usually happy to at least talk about, if not provide a copy of, their policies. Some of my policies are derived from several of my teacher trainers.

Like many other teachers, I have a no-makeup lesson policy. I do not set aside any special days or week for makeup lessons, unless I need to do some rearranging for special performances that I take on. So, if I have to cancel or rearrange a lesson we work out a mutually agreeable day/time to reschedule. I try to do it very sparingly. I give myself a week off at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, and one week in spring (all unpaid). Until this summer, students were expected to take lessons over the summer. This summer I took a job teaching at a music festival out of state.

Families receive 2 registration sheets (tuition information, personal lesson schedule, group class schedule) and two policy sheets. They sign one of each and return them to me to indicate that they have read them. I also give them a color-coded calendar that details studio events for the year. They get it in August, and I ask them to keep it on their fridge for referral.

I ask for a non-refundable registration fee of $85, which is used for several purposes: accompanist cost, for local music federation fees, photocopying, parent education newsletter, and membership in our local Suzuki association. Usually this is payable at the first lesson of the month in fall. This year I asked for it by May 31 and worded it so that paying the registration fee would secure a spot in my studio for the fall.

I pay a pianist for group recitals—for 3 rehearsals and the performance. When we do a solo recital parents pay the accompanist individually. One teacher in our area charges $175 per student for a “group activity fee”, which allows her to pay for room rental for her group classes, and have a pianist at every group class. I am fortunate to have a free location for group classes (knock on wood!).

Families pay for group class (about 26-28 per year) whether they show up or not. The policy for the past several years has been that students need to come to a minimum of 1 per month, but they are charged for all group classes. Someone decided to take that literally this year, and I am now changing the wording to read that “it is expected that all students attend group class.” They need to attend the dress rehearsal in order to attend the concert. Participation in recitals is expected, and in general I have not had much trouble with this. If there is an unavoidable conflict I allow them to miss, but request that they make every effort to attend the next one. If they keep missing we have a chat about that commitment, perhaps they go on notice, and if they do not make the effort I ask them to find another teacher.

I hope that helps.

said: Jul 29, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

I forgot to say that if a student can’t make a lesson they can try to switch with someone else in the studio. If they can’t find someone that’s able to switch with them I add their name to the Missed Lesson list. Then when someone cancels, I call down the list to see who can make the suddenly available time. I know several teachers who do this, and it seems to work well.

Grace said: Jul 29, 2008
 Violin
110 posts

traim

I forgot to say that if a student can’t make a lesson they can try to switch with someone else in the studio. If they can’t find someone that’s able to switch with them I add their name to the Missed Lesson list. Then when someone cancels, I call down the list to see who can make the suddenly available time. I know several teachers who do this, and it seems to work well.

I have a Missed Lesson List as well, and it works great. The list is also very handy to show people when they start to fuss about not getting a make-up lesson. I just show them the list of how many students have to miss a lesson here or there, most for very valid reasons, which adds up quickly when you have a studio! Then, it makes sense about how much of my time it would take to make up every lesson that gets canceled.

Angela said: Jul 30, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
York Springs, PA
33 posts

Thanks everyone for giving me your input. I like a lot of your ideas. Me having to change my policy and guidelines is do that I’m a single mom. Before I adopted my son it was easier to do this and that. But I want to give him as much stability as possible. He’s 3 and thinks mama shouldn’t work. He wants me all to himself. (That goes with any kid not wanting their parent to work). I’m thankful that I have the flexibility. I had been having lesson fees X amount and then group fees X amount. Payment for lessons at the beginning of the month for that month and group at the beginning of the semester. The group fee covered room rental, piano player for the recital, music, copying etc. I would take whatever was left. Definitely not the wisest move. That’s why I am changing. I have some hard copies of other teachers policies in my area that they were willing to give to me. I just want to make sure I do what’s fair all around to myself, my son, and my students. Some parents get it and others don’t but those that don’t sure do make life HARD! Thanks again. I look forward to reading whatever else someone else wants to share.

Angela Schlessman

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