How to Move to a No Makeups Piano Policy

Are you struggling with moving to a no makeups piano policy? Since giving the “Stress-free Business Practices for Your Studio,” I’ve had a number of teachers write to say that they are no longer giving makeup lessons. In addition, this last winter has been so full of snow days and many of you are now considering “no makeups” or incorporating “flex weeks” into your policy. But, how to get from where you are now, to a decent no makeups policy (and how to communicate that to parents) seems daunting. Here’s a step-by-step guide to moving to “no makeups!”

No Makeups Piano Policy

First though, let me clarify. A “no makeups piano policy” does NOT mean that you do not give other alternatives to missing lessons. That’s the key to getting rid of it AND being a reasonable and kind human being in the meantime. The idea is that you don’t need to be the one that always has to bend to others’ schedules. Your piano teaching business should not be the doormat by which other’s busy schedules wipe their feet! Read this article to see how giving “traditional makeup lessons” is affecting you and those you love!

The main point in preserving your time and schedule is so that you have time to freely give to those in need (including your family and students that need it).

1. Institute a yearly tuition instead of a weekly payment plan.

This is the most important step in moving to this no makeup lesson. It will be impossible for you to administer no makeups if you do not have a yearly tuition plan in place. When parents are calculating what they owe for lessons based on how many times their child is with you, then it only makes sense that they feel like they need a makeup lesson when you don’t spend time with their child. But, if you have carefully explained that they pay a “yearly tuition,” parents find it more easy to appreciate their investment.  The “yearly tuition” covers a number of things like recitals, lesson materials, music selection time, lesson preparation, etc. Download this brochure to give to families explaining this!

Follow the steps outlined in “Stop Charging for Lessons by the Week” to make this transition. Then, use the free “Where Does My Tuition Go?” (send them to that url or go to the bottom of the page and print the brochures to hand out) brochure to help explain how their payments are being used.

2. Carefully word your no makeups piano policy.

Feel free to use this wording:

Private Piano Lessons: Tuition for 45-minute private lessons is $xxxx divided into 12 [or 9] monthly payments of $xxx.  At this price, the student is guaranteed that I will be prepared and present to teach 38 weeks per year.

Notice that this wording does not guarantee that the student will get 38 lessons. Instead, it guarantees that you will be scheduled to teach 38 lesson.

Missed Lessons: Because specific times are set aside for specific students, a student who does not attend a lesson will simply miss the benefit of that lesson.  I will then use that time or other times to plan for the student’s progress, locate materials, etc. Please be assured that your tuition pays for far more than the time spent with your child (see “Where Does My Tuition Go?”). There are no refunds, discounts or makeups given unless I am unable to teach the promised number of lessons.

Now remember that this is wording for your policy. So, in your more personal email to your families, put a little more positive perspective on it. Say it with their perspective in mind. Keep reading to the end on how to communicate this to parents.

3. Offer reasonable alternatives

There are many ways to make families feel that they have some alternatives. Read To Give or Not To Give Makeup Lessons for a longer list. Here is what I offer my families.

Illness:  Students who are ill should not come to piano lessons.  The extra performance class offered can be considered make-ups for absences due to illness.   I reserve the right to send a student home if they arrive sick.  If students are only mildly ill, please email me and we will do a phone or Skype lesson.

Skype/Facetime/GoogleHangouts: Skype, Facetime, the telephone, and Google Hangouts are becoming a very useful tool for teaching students who cannot make it to lesson due to illness, weather, etc.  If you have a computer with a camera close to your piano or a laptop that you can move close to the piano, please create a free Skype account and add my name to your contacts (or add my phone to your Facetime).  This will allow me to call you and have a lesson with you over the internet if need be.  My Skype user name is….

Performance classes: Performance classes can be viewed as a form of “makeup” lessons [I offer these 1-2 times a year right before a recital.].

Swap Lessons: In addition, families of private students may trade their lesson time with another student to help avoid absences. Use these rules to make sure swaps go smoothly:

  • I must be informed prior to and after arranging a swap.
  • No make-up lessons will be given if any confusion from this arises.
  • Should 2 people arrive at once, I will teach the one whose lesson is normally at that time.
  • Please inform me if you do not wish to have your name included on the swap list.
  • Phone or “Skype” lessons during the student’s regular lesson time are also an option for those that are mildly sick or for inclement weather.

4. Carefully word your email the new no makeups piano policy.

ChangeIf you were at the “Best Business Practices for Piano Teachers” workshop,  you know that I spent a bit of time on how to communicate policy changes to parents. The most important point of that segment of the workshop is to communicate with the parent’s view in mind. This means that you should always look at what the positive sides of your changes will be for them. For example:

Regarding tuition structure changes:

This year, I have reworked my tuition structure such that it will be much easier to budget for lessons. No longer do you have to wonder how much you because the annual tuition will be evenly divided into xx payments! This will help free up time and energy for both you and I since we will no longer wonder how much lessons are at the end of the month.

Regarding no makeups piano policy:

In the last few years, I have come to realize that the number of makeup lesson I have been giving has added such a huge stress to my life that I haven’t been able to give students the energy that they deserve in their lesson time. I will now be offering some reasonable alternatives if you cannot make your lesson (like lesson swaps or Facetime/Skype lessons), but moving to a no makeups policy will allow me to give every child the energy and instruction they deserve since I will be now able to spend appropriate time planning lessons instead of making up lessons.

Please be assured that your tuition is always working for your child as I spend a great deal of time outside of lessons choosing repertoire, planning, strategizing, attending competitions, etc. So, even if you have to miss a lesson and cannot use the alternatives offered, you don’t have to worry about receiving less for your tuition. You’ll be receiving more energy, enthusiasm and a more successful lesson each week since I will have the appropriate time to give.

This could probably be a bit more succinct, but feel free to take out what doesn’t apply and alter to fit your needs. The idea here is that you are telling them that their lessons will be better because you will no longer be giving makeup lesson (and they will)!

5. Fix your false narrative.

Just because you have an open spot in your schedule, DOES NOT mean you have time to offer a makeup lesson! That open spot is open for you. You need time to relax, brainstorm, and enjoy your family. When you take the time, you will be a happier, healthier, and more energetic teacher which is good for every student. Do not neglect to fix this within your mind.

I think I have it all covered, but if you have questions or you think I’ve left something out, please comment and I’ll respond! I’m thrilled that you are considering a no makeups piano policy. I know you’ll be much happier because of it! And if you are interested in participating in a “Best Stress-free Business Practices for the Piano Teacher” workshop, purchase a recording here.

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