I think one of the most stressful things in teaching piano is trying to “fit it all in.” It’s really quite difficult no matter how much time you have with a students because there are so many things to do! But, it’s particularly difficult if you only have 30 minutes with a student. How do you know when a student is ready to move to a longer lesson? How do you approach the parents about this? What do you do with your schedule?
A Step by Step Guide to Moving Students to Longer Lessons
1. Know when they are ready.
Here are some questions to ask to see if your student is ready for a longer lesson?
- Are you consistently not getting to important things in the lesson?
- Is the student getting frustrated with their lack of progress?
- Is the student getting frustrated that they aren’t learning enough music?
- Is the student’s repertoire getting more complicated and you think that more time spent preparing the student for the piece will help them be more successful with the piece?
- Are you frustrated at the end of the lesson because you know the student doesn’t have enough to practice at home, is capable of more, or could move faster with a longer lesson?
If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then I’d encourage you to begin thinking about moving the student to a longer lesson time.
2. Decide on what to charge for longer lessons.
There are several ways to look at this (all of which are reasonable):
- You are giving more time, so you can just make your rate be proportionate to the shorter lesson. So, if your 30 minute lesson rate is $30, then you could make your 45 minute lesson rate $45.
- Though you are giving more time, you are also not having to deal with that time being used by another student who has a totally different list of challenges (as well as another set of parents). So you might want to make your 45 minute lesson slightly cheaper than the example given above. But note that I said “slightly cheaper.”
Of course, make sure you are charging a yearly tuition rather than by the week!
3. Approach the parent without fear and with the right perspective.
Too often, piano teachers allow fear to dictate their actions. In particular, we worry about whether or not our families can afford our services. But let me be gut honest with you. This is a very unprofessional way of operating. We are the professionals about piano study. We are the ones that parents look at to give them answers about what their child needs. We are the doctors of piano that are deciding what kind of treatments and prescriptions our students need to help them have successful lives enjoying music.
We would quickly change providers if our medical doctors were afraid to tell us what medication was best for our disease, right? So, we must not forget that parents are depending on us to give them our professional opinion about what is best for their child.
So, we should confidently approach parents about this and tell them the truth! For example:
Johnny is doing well in piano, but he really need to move to a 45 minute lesson as his repertoire is getting harder and he is learning more advanced concepts. I know he could make even more progress if we had a longer lesson time! A longer lesson time would allow us to get through more of his pieces, giving him fresh repertoire each week, and less frustration because he will not be “stuck” on pieces for weeks on end simply because we don’t have time to get to them in the lesson. With a longer lesson time, I can spend a little more time with him learning a new piece and less time with him fixing pieces that he has learned incorrectly.
Please carefully consider moving Johnny to a longer lesson time.
Of course, this approach allows them the room to say no to the longer lesson time. If you want to get rid of 45 minute lessons for all second year students (for example), you’ll have to take a different approach.
This year, all 2nd year older students will need to move to a 45 minute lesson time. This is because 30 minutes is just not enough time for advancing students to make appropriate progress. I look forward to spending more time with your child and helping them become proficient in piano!
Remember, that it is a compliment to tell parents that you want to spend more time with their child! You are complimenting the child and the parents on their skill and hard work, so there is every reason to celebrate this moment with them!
4. Deal with your scheduling issues gradually.
Much of the time, the problem with moving students to longer lessons is our own schedule! How can we fit them all in? If you know you can’t move everyone to 45 minutes or 60 minutes at once, just prioritize which students need it most and send out emails to their parents first. If you are trying to eliminate 30 minute lessons all together, then you can say something like this:
This year, I am moving to eliminate 30 minute lesson times for 2nd year and beyond students. This is because 30 minutes is just not enough time for advancing students to make appropriate progress. However, my schedule is very tight, so as time becomes available, I will be contacting you to let you know when your child will need to transition to the longer lessons.
5. Deal with financial issues individually.
Yes, there are some parents that really can’t afford longer lessons for their child. But, let them decide that, not you. You are only responsible for being the professional and telling them what the truth is regarding their child’s progress and their lesson length. Let the parent figure out a way to pay for it and if they can’t, you can be certain they’ll tell you. In that case, perhaps you do want to consider a scholarship (depending on your budget) or other exceptions.
I’ll give you an example. In my studio, I teach a family of 4 children. They are a one income family and live frugally and I know that 4 private lessons could be a challenge for them anyway! So, even though two of their children could really benefit from 45 minute lessons, I only give one of their children 45 minute lessons and the other three get 30 minute lessons. Sometimes one of the kids is sick, so we just distribute that extra time amongst the rest of the kids. They are all making progress and I try to be the most efficient teacher on the planet, so it’s working us. Is it best? No. But it’s working and the students are wonderful. So, deal with exceptions as they come.
I hope that helps. Have I forgotten to cover anything? What is your advice for moving students to longer lessons?
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