Policies and Procedures

category119One of my goals as a piano teacher–and probably one of the goals of many teachers and studio owners out there–is to avoid student turnover.  I understand that many students who quit piano at a young age will go on to have regrets as adults for not sticking with music lessons longer, which I find heartbreaking.  I enjoy transitioning students from elementary level music to intermediate and advanced repertoire, and if a student quits music lessons too soon, I don’t get to experience this with them.   I also truly believe having happy students (and experiencing little student turnover as a result) is the best marketing strategy out there.  If students are happy, they are less likely to quit and leave me to quickly find a replacement before it causes too much of a financial strain.  And, if students are happy, they will provide excellent word-of-mouth references in my community–free advertising!

So far, I have managed to avoid much student turnover and my returning student rate each fall has been between 90 and 95%.  I have found the following strategies to be successful in helping me to achieve this rate:

Integrity definition Spring has definitely sprung! Soon your phone will be ringing (or your inbox will by chiming!) with parents of prospective students. How do you handle a transfer from a different teacher? If handled poorly, you lose respect among your colleagues. I have experienced both sides of the transfer student dilemma. When faced with this circumstance, one must practice integrity. Webster’s defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”

The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) provides a Code ot Ethics that addresses this issue in its Commitment to Colleagues section:

    The teacher shall maintain a professional attitude and shall act with integrity in regard to colleagues in the profession.

Furthermore, the last two bullets in the Commitment to Colleagues section speak to the ethics involved in transfer situations among students, parents and teachers:

Helping HandsI recently came upon an article entitled 10 Tips for Engaging a Volunteer Community. The article piqued my interest and led me to Jeffery Cufaude’s blog. Here is a quick summary of his work;

Jeffrey Cufaude is an architect of ideas …custom-designing keynotes, workshops, and leadership conferences that promote learning and community.

What most impresses me about the blog is not that Jeffrey is a musician, a teacher, or even in the arts. And yet his articles are relevant and to the point. As an “ideas architect” (something I had never heard of before), his topics are broad enough to appeal to the masses but specific enough to be useful in my day to day work.

For the most part, my students are blessed with incredibly supportive parents, siblings, and other family members…many of whom accompany them to their lessons and cheer them on before and afterwards.

And while I very much appreciate that parents are not just cheerleaders — they are also responsible for setting expectations and enforcing regular practice — it makes me sad to hear from students that their parents have criticized them as being “no good”, “untalented” and used other negative language regarding their musical skill.

As a teacher, how do you deal with the repercussions of this?

DSC06240 copyMany years ago I instituted a policy in my studio about playing in outside ensembles. The policy states that beginning in 6th grade, every student must commit to a weekly ensemble experience outside of lessons and group classes (my core program includes a weekly private lesson and bi-weekly flute group classes). School band or orchestra, local area chamber music, youth symphony or wind ensemble, even a group of kids forming a rock band that agrees to meet regularly, all ensemble opportunities “count”.