Private Lesson Cancellation and Make-Up Policy

One of the most uncomfortable issues a private music teacher faces is what to do about students who cancel a lesson at the last minute or don’t show up. A few strategies have helped me deal with this issue:

1. I charge for the month up front. If a student misses a lesson, they’ve already paid for it, so there’s no uncomfortable conversation the next week like “By the way, you still owe me for last week.”

2. I teach in a rented room in a music store. Doing this has helped keep my business more professional. I make it clear to parents that I have to pay to use the room, and other teachers use it the other days of the week. I remind parents that I only have access to the room for a limited amount of time and can’t just do a make-up any time.

In the past, I had taught lessons out of my home. This this kind of situation may give some parents a misconception that they’re really not inconveniencing me if they cancel at the last minute or don’t show. It can also make parents think they can schedule a make up lesson anytime because they think you’re always available anytime.

3. When a student cancels in advance, I try to call other students to offer that time slot, even if I don’t owe them a make up lesson. I think parents appreciate that offer even if their schedule doesn’t allow it. I’ll even admit that I know in advance that some families can’t make it at that time, but I call them anyway just as a goodwill gesture.

Also, I try to remember that a majority of lessons are missed because of the parent, and through no fault of the student. So I try to avoid reprimanding the student if the parent brought them late.

Teaching private lessons definitely has a business component to it. I think the more we do to demonstrate professionalism and treat our students and their parents as business clients, the more likely we are to make wise decisions about how we handle issues like cancellation, no shows, make-ups and billing.

In the Music Teacher’s Helper blog, Sarah Luebke wrote a post dealing with the issue of cancellation and make-up policies for private lessons. Some great thoughts and good discussion there.

Your thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “Private Lesson Cancellation and Make-Up Policy

  1. Pingback: The First Ever Music Education Blog Carnival | So You Want To Teach?

  2. This is one of the trickiest parts of being a private music teacher. But we must stand firm! A student’s scheduled lesson time is just that, the specific time that has been arranged for his/her lesson. For those teachers will especially large studios it is imperative to stick to a strict makeup policy, or else their family time will be compromised week after week. Something that has worked well for me is to have a set number of makeup lessons the student is entitled to for the school year, and then set makeup dates well in advance. This way parents can mark their calendars and plan accordingly for the makeup date that you have predetermined. Most parents will be respectful of your personal time if they know the policy and can plan acccordingly.

  3. You could try a swap list. Families are presented with your teaching schedule at the beginning of the year, along with e-mail contact information for your students. In the event they need a different lesson time on a given week, they can take the initiative to see if another family would swap times with them for that week and that week only.

    A few caveats to ensure this system works smoothly. First, families need to opt-in to the system. Don’t just go ahead and give out people’s e-mail addresses without their approval. Also, families need to know that when they are contacted by another family to swap, they are under no obligation to do so. If they can help them out, great. If not, that’s fine. And finally, families need to know that in the event they are unable to find someone to swap with, that are not going to receive a refund or make-up lesson just because they ‘tried’.

    It has worked well for me in the past. It doesn’t settle all the conflicts, but a large percentage of them can be worked out without me even being involved.

    – Luke Bartolomeo

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