/, Piano Teaching, Preparing for fall, Studio Policy/And You Thought MY Makeup Policy Was Severe!

I think it’s always helpful for us teachers to look into other professions to see how they handle things like missed payments, missed appointments, and such things. I’m in a great place to do that these days with school aged and younger children. So I thought I’d share an interesting interaction I had with one of my children’s Kids Day Out program.

We had a slew of snowy days this winter and one of them happened to fall on the day one of my children has Kids Day Out. The KDO provider cancelled class that day (it was not a crazy blizzard, but there was enough snow to question driving safety) and I was curious how they were going to handle this. I watched the subsequent weeks’ newsletters and nothing was said about an extra lesson at the end or a reduction in payment for the last tuition payment. So, I just waited and wondered, thinking about how I handle snow days.

As you know through the Snow Days, Jury Duty and Illness…Oh My! post, if I cancel lessons on a snow day, I use one of my flex vacation weeks (these are unscheduled weeks of vacations which parents do not pay for). If I have used all of my flex weeks in a year, then I would give a refund for a lesson that I actually cancelled (remember no refunds are given if the student cancelled). You might also remember that parents pay a yearly tuition divided into equal payments which is exactly the way my child’s KDO program handles payments. They too have realized that this is a much easier way to pay both for parents and for teachers!

To continue the story, it was near the end of the semester and so I wrote an email to the director and her assistant and asked,

I was just wondering if there is going to be a price adjustment for May because of the snow day cancellation, if there will be an extra week of KDO, or how that is handled?

What I received was a very friendly, professional response from which we all can learn. Here is what the director said:

I am sorry to tell you that the KDO policy is that when the USD (the local united school district) closes their doors, so do we. In that case there is no refund. If by chance we elect to cancel then we will refund. Thanks for inquiring.

I wrote back:

Thanks for letting me know.

Here’s what I learned and I’m curious about your response:

  1. The director expressed that she understood that I might be somewhat disappointed in her response by beginning with “I am sorry to tell you…”
  2. She had a policy that she could fall back on (and blame) if necessary. Now I know that usually we alone are responsible for our policies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to keep the response from being personal. Instead of saying, “I don’t give makeup lessons,” we can instead say, “I am sorry to tell you that policy states that makeup lessons are not given in the event of a snow day where the local school district closes.” It’s interesting to think about responding that way even if you think it’s out of your comfort zone. But you can see why an email that shifts the emphasis from YOU being harsh to your policy taking the blame might be beneficial.
  3. You might also note that the KDO program itself had something else to fall back on because their cancellation in which they don’t give refunds is the result of the USD’s decision.
  4. She reminded me that they weren’t completely unreasonable because there was indeed a provision for me to be refunded money if they could not fulfill their obligations. “If by chance we elect to cancel, then we will refund.”
  5. She didn’t give a long explanation about WHY they have this policy. She just closed the email courteously.
  6. Me? Well, I wasn’t as bothered by it after her response. It seemed to disarm any angst I had about the issue. I’m not sure why except for all the reasons cited above.

And I’ll bet she didn’t lose sleep over my inquiry.

So in case you think a no makeups policy is strict (actually, none of you have said that my policy was severe), I thought it might be helpful to share what another profession does. Actually, I’ve learned a lot from various KDO programs over the years and I’ll share more about that in weeks to come.  

[Actually, though I am a huge proponent of no makeup lessons, anyone who is at the “Stress-free Business Practices for your Studio” workshop will also know that I offer a swap list and occasional performance class. In addition, I offer a number of other alternatives that you can learn about at the workshop.] You can read more about makeup lesson options here: To Give or Not to Give Makeup Lessons and Top 5 Reasons You SHOULD Give Makeup Lessons.

What do you think about this policy? Have you ever thought about this kind of snow day provision to be a part of your makeup lesson policy?

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13 Comments

  1. Anna Fagan May 8, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I always appreciate replies that are short, courteous, and direct. What is the USD?

  2. April Hamilton May 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a helpful response in that scenario. I’ve been thinking a lot about how things are worded, even in studio policies, so that the policies are stated in a friendly, non-threatening way. I think it makes a big difference. 🙂

  3. Wendy May 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Oh I’m sorry Anna. It was the United School District and then a number followed that (e.g. USD 425), but I was trying not to give any hint of location of the particular KDO program. It’s church based.

  4. Wendy May 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks for your comment, April. I agree that it makes a huge difference in how things are worded.

  5. Anna Fagan May 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks, Wendy! I figured it must somehow be related to the Public Schools being closed.

  6. Leia May 9, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I feel that parents with whom I have interacted are much happier to follow policies of schools or organised programs, but try to push me around (a) because I am young and (b) because I work out of my home, so they treat it more like a hobby rather than a profession. I really try to combat this “hobby mentality” by enforcing studio policies … but those parents that can’t take me seriously will just ignore my policies, constantly asking for make-up lessons when I tell them I don’t offer them, and constantly coming into the studio when I am teaching even though there’s a clear sign on the door that says “Parents please wait outside.” I feel it can be hard to be taken seriously in our profession, because we are individuals, not a school. I wonder if other people have experienced similar situations?

  7. Phil Mann May 15, 2013 at 1:45 am

    This policy seems strict but fair, and I think it’s always wise to have a written policy to fall back on.

    Also, Wendy, I wanted to say thank you for sharing so much of your insight into building and running a music studio. Your Marketing Piano Lessons 101 & 102 posts really helped us build up my wife’s piano studio after we moved cross country.

  8. Wendy May 15, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Phil, Thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment. I’m thrilled that the marketing posts helped you build your wife’s studio! That’s exactly the kind of help I hope to be to teachers. Feel free to share about the site with your teaching friends. The more that can benefit from it, the better for all of us and our profession.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. It has made my day!

    -Wendy

  9. Jacqui Graham July 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Leia, I hear you! Fighting the “hobby mentality” is hard. Parents who would never question – or take liberties with – the requirements of schools, dance studios, or sports clubs will treat us with a total lack of respect.
    and consideration. Do not hesitate to demand this!

    For the past three years I have been teaching Simply Music Piano – whose recommended policies re payment and makeup lessons are the same as the ones in Wendy’s excellent article “how to move to a no makeups piano policy” – from my home in a small town. When I started out, however, I stuck with the traditional approach. The result: parents cancelling at the last minute, then expecting a makeup lesson, – often cancelling it or asking for a reschedule. Or else they would expect me to adjust the following month’s fees (which already reflected school holidays and my scheduled breaks!) The last straw was when following a lasst-minue cancellation – a mom rescheduled the makeup lesson three times, then bailed on it at the last minute! I sat down and rewrote my studio policies: a yearly fee system with equal monthly payments and a no makeup policy. To my surprise, my clients accepted this without a murmur! I wish i had done it years ago.

    My policies now read:
    – “Regularity of attendance is crucial to a successful outcome! Plese do not miss a lesson except under unavoidable circumstances,
    – If you must miss a lesson, advance notice (24 hours or more) is appreciated. Last-minute cancellations due to emergencies will be taken into account.
    – The educator will never cancel a lesson unless unavoidable circumstances (i.e. sudden illness, family crisis) prevent her from teaching. Fees willl be adjusted accordingly.
    – It is not the policy of this studio to provide mkeup lessons.

  10. Rhonda Trull January 9, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Great article! You’ll probably be hearing this from me for awhile–I’m so glad I stumbled across this site. Our studio is well-established and I don’t get much blow back about policy in general. What I DO get from time to time is parents of long term students asking for special consideration. “I know the policy is xxyy but we HAVE been with you a long time…” I’ve found it best to make exceptions only in extremely rare circumstances, no matter how long a student has been with us.

  11. Donna HALLECK April 24, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    My make-up policy for snow days: There are no make ups for weather, however if you can travel without difficulty, I will be here to teach.
    If a child is mildly sick, we can do our lesson over the phone or Skype.
    Final option is a Swap List. You may choose to be included and will receive a copy of all the parents, contact numbers, and times available. I only ask that you include me in that information if you are switching times.

  12. Marta Zeegers March 14, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Great!
    As an early childhood educator, I often use visual reminders of transitions, for example, first clean up then snack.
    As with your administrator’s policy, this takes the personal “because I said so” out of the conversation and gives a clear indication of the expectation.
    Yay for policies, and yay for being able to stick to them. As teachers we can easily fall into the trap of “being nice”.
    Cheers!

  13. Pamela Friske April 9, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I love all these comments. Thank you Wendy and other seasoned teachers. I have a no makeup policy also and appreciate the help of the language used in this article . I charge by the semester. There always seem to be that one parent who just keeps asking. I had so many moms cancel and ask for a makeup this last semester that I finally made a statement and mentioned that any more requests would be referred to the policy statement . It worked.

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