Scheduling make-ups - How to deal with missed lessons?

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Postby pianoannie » Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:05 pm

Yes, I also allow the semester payment to be divided up into 4 payments, but that does cost a little bit more. I think that's only fair, since semester payments reduce my bookkeeping time, trips to the bank, and it's easier at tax time.
My fall semester goes from the last week of August until the middle of December. Since I take 3 weeks off at Christmas it's a logical time for my semester to end. Then winter spring goes from 2nd week of Jan to about the end of May.
Since I've gone to semester payments, I've never had more than 2 or 3 parents that wanted to make smaller payments. Oh, I just remembered, I do allow parents who have more than one child taking lessons with me to pay half the first month and half the second month and still get the semester price.
And I do not ever give credits for missed lessons (well, I guess I would in a serious emergency situation).

I think you will love the simplicity of having fewer payments to mess with!
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Postby Stretto » Fri Jun 16, 2006 10:48 am

Thanks pianoannie for the replies!!

I'm trying to make some changes for this fall. I re-wrote my policy a month or two ago but hadn't given it to anyone but I decided to re-write it again. It seems if I try to account for this situation and that situation, the policy gets too complicated and confusing. Families aren't going to keep track of which circumstances warrant one thing and which another. So I think it's best to have something simple across the board that covers all circumstances, i.e. sick, vacation, breaks, conflicting activities like sports.

I think the more a teacher can get the fees upfront the more it gives the control into the hands of the teacher, rather than the families as in questioning whether they get a credit when they've missed or thinking they don't have to pay fees when they know in advance they will miss a few weeks from sports or vacation. Even though I have a written policy stating no credits or refunds for missed lessons, if a family knows in advance they will be gone a few weeks or a child is in a short-term sports camp for 3 + weeks, they still seem to expect a favor in not paying the fees during that time. I don't want to caught in the position of having to say, "my policy states . . . " everytime this occurs. Having the fee collected up front then I'm sure no one would question as much whether they had to pay even for a little longer-term break of 3 or more weeks. I have this problem the most with seasonal and short-term sports activities but this summer have some who committed to coming and paid for June and now want to take July off and are going to miss 2 weeks in June after all.

If I put myself in the shoes of the families as if it were my kids taking lessons, I can see it would be nice to not have to pay for a month of no lessons but from a teacher's persective what happens is if 70% of one's students make such changes, that's too big of loss of fees and too hard to keep track of when everyone's coming or not coming and pretty soon no one is coming during their time, etc.




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:31 pm

When I had more students and some were missing lessons because 'the Mother could not find them' -(they were out playnig somewhere), and some were taking two week trips to Florida, etc.,I decided it was time to set a better plan.

I decided on a trimester schedule, but had summers off as had three children I needed to enjoy.

If children were ill, I offered a make up, it was up to the family to work it out. No refunds were offered. If they went on a vacation, during a non vacation week from school, there was no make up offered.

I followed school vacations, so breaks came at that time. There are many Monday holidays in Mass , so tried not to teach on Mondays, which gave a good make up day. Mondays and Fridays I found hard for some students, so taught a long day on the half day from school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Saturday morning.

Now I only have a few students and most families are faithful about coming and paying a month ahead. I may try the trimester again, but I do hate the paper work! This way I just check off their name in a little book.
I still offer make ups, and the parents are responsible if they wish to make it.
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Postby Mins Music » Fri Aug 04, 2006 10:36 pm

You teach people how to treat you. One of the biggest problems faced with teachers and parents (I've found) is that parents just don't realise what we have to juggle. (Of course they're thinking the exact same thing about us). To help alleviate this problem I have my teaching schedule 'table fom' on a notice board. I ONLY include the days I work and the times I begin and end. All student's names are in the appopriate timed slots which parents can see for themselves. In the past I've had comments like - Oh my goodness I had no idea you taught so many, and 'boy you've got a full schedule haven't you?' When parents tell me their child won't be at a particular lesson so can I make it up, I walk them over to the board and show them if I have any 'spaces' available. They see for themselves if I have or haven't. And then a miraculous thing (sometimes) occurs. They tell me that they've changed the OTHER arrangement instead, so can come to the lesson afterall.

Now mostly, when people ring up with with a sick child - or others have 'forgotten' or 'got stuck' they just don't bother asking for a make up lesson - even though they've paid for it. If I know I have a slot available (that is in my usual working hours) I'll say, "If you want to make up the lesson you can come here." Some parents have said they'll just leave it for the week.

If I'm sick I once again use my written schedule and offer times to make up lessons - in my usual work hours. If there's none available the next week, I make sure to ring them -even on very short notice to say, "hey Sally can't come tomorrow - or even today - so if you can make it, we can have that lesson." I don't offer refunds. I'm also no longer afraid to just say "No," and allow the silence to fill the room.

I DO like the suggestion to have a 'swap' list - but I would have to insist that they INFORM me as well. I'd hate for a piano student to turn up when I've prepared for a singing student - or even of the same instrument. Pianoannie I think it was you who does this .... have you had any problems with people just 'turning up' and SURPRISE! oh you're a different person ... or do they let you know well in advance?
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby pianoannie » Sat Aug 05, 2006 9:16 pm

Mins Music wrote:I DO like the suggestion to have a 'swap' list - but I would have to insist that they INFORM me as well. I'd hate for a piano student to turn up when I've prepared for a singing student - or even of the same instrument. Pianoannie I think it was you who does this .... have you had any problems with people just 'turning up' and SURPRISE! oh you're a different person ... or do they let you know well in advance?

I have never had any problems with my swap list. The parent who wants to make the change is responsible to find someone to trade, and to let ME know about the trade. I've never had anyone forget to tell me.

I really like the swap list system, because it reinforces the idea that I have particular hours in which I work, and all lessons must be taught within those times---not during other days and times.
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Postby Stretto » Wed Aug 16, 2006 12:09 pm

Stretto wrote:Another worst for me has been when students sign up for a sport in which games and practices conflict with the lesson time. Parents want to change the lesson for a month or more and usually want a time during which I don't normally teach.
I've discovered the hard way that when I gave a lot of "favors" in the way of make-ups, pretty soon a large percentage of students each week were coming at times I don't normally teach and hardly anyone coming during their regular time.


OK, here I am again getting ready to face the same old situation - students in seasonal sports. This dilemna is not going to go away and I am sure that I will have the same thing come up again and again.

In the past, I have only had a handful of students at any given time so with only a small number of students, I went ahead and and re-scheduled lessons even at times I normally preferred not to teach as was temporary. But even so it did get old for me changing lessons for several weeks at time. It seems big here for elementary age girls to sign up for basketball.

Now with not really wanting to schedule lessons at all odd times and also adding more students, I have re-written my policy to allow ample options for make-ups at times that work for me. This fall students will be required to make-up the lesson during the semester at one of the times I outlined in the policy or forfeit the lesson. There will be no refunds or credits given. My policy on make-ups is much along the lines of the one Dr. Zeigler mentioned toward the beginning of this thread.

I will be sticking with my policy. I was just wondering what experiences other teachers and parents have had when it comes to students in seasonal sports. I had one student in the past who in H.S. signed up for softball. Practices and games kept her busy almost every single day of the week. She was also in some other activities and ended up quitting piano because there was no time in their schedule for lessons. I've changed lessons in the past for girls in elementary school signing up for basketball and one girl I've made changes for who was involved in dance with competitions, and programs quite a bit during certain times of the year.


How do others of you think something like this should be handled both from the teachers end and the parents? I think sports are equally important as music. I would hate to see someone not be in a sport they were good at because they had music lessons and I would hate to see someone quit music lessons because of the sport. If I were to put myself in the parents shoes, I would probably pay for the music lessons during the sports season whether I came or not, try to schedule make-ups if and when possible, and forfeit the rest of the paid lessons I couldn't make in order to hold my lesson slot. Otherwise, I would have the child quit lessons temporarily and take my chances on whether the teacher had a time that worked for me upon return or try to find another teacher (that is if I didn't want to pay for lessons during that time).

I have a student who is going to try out for the junior high basketball team and really loves basketball and is good at it. I'm sure she will continue in basketball all through school. I would hate to see her quit basketball or music because of conflicts between scheduling the two. The student said the basketball season might be for 3 months. Do others of you think it unreasonable to expect a student to pay for missed lessons that can't be made up during the 3 months of a sport? I know the parent is going to be coming to me shortly wanting to work something out in the way of schedule. I don't mind re-scheduling as I am able but think they should pay for missed lessons that can't be re-scheduled. What if a student can't come at all for 3 months?

This is not one of my new students, it's a student I've had for 3 years. I've worked around the elementary basketball time for them before but going into junior high and high school, they probably won't be able to re-schedule as easily for basketball I'm sure with increased number of practices and games.

How do other teachers out there and parents view such situations?




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Postby Mins Music » Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:18 pm

I was just wondering what experiences other teachers and parents have had when it comes to students in seasonal sports.


One former student really stands out. He was with a different teacher for a while, and then suddenly came to me because the lessons clashed with his swimming training. So all went well for a while. He didn't miss any lessons, but he also didn't practise. When I suggested he try to squeeze in just ten minutes a day, his mother told me he wouldn't be coming to lessons anymore. I don't know if he went to another teacher.

I think sports are equally important as music.
Some people think sports are MUCH more important than music, and we'll no doubt continue to get people like this in our studios.

I have a student at the moment who plays soccer. He's missed 1 lesson because of finals training, (They won!!) but his mother paid for the lesson anyway, and didn't expect to reschedule. We were both happy.

Do others of you think it unreasonable to expect a student to pay for missed lessons that can't be made up during the 3 months of a sport?


My diplomatic answer Stretto would be: it doesn't matter what other people think, it's what YOU think that will help you get through your days.
If you're prepared to keep a spot open for a student for three months, and if the parent is willing to pay for unattended lessons for three months, then there is no problem.
If you're prepared to keep open that spot, but the parent DOESN"T want to pay for lessons, then THAT problem is solved too - you don't hold the spot, and the parent takes their chances of what you have available in three months.

My personal answer would be, there'd be no way on this earth I would pay for lessons for 3 months knowing I wouldn't be using them. I'd quit, and come back in three months. If you weren't available then, I'd find another teacher.
BUT, I don't know you, don't have a relationship with you (and have never been close with any of my piano teachers) If you were VERY important to me, and I didn't WANT to go to another teacher for whatever reasons, and really really wanted to continue having lessons with you and only you, then I would pay out all that money just to keep you.

My point is, YOU call the shots - stick to them, and be prepared for whatever happens, even if it means losing that student forever. If you're not prepared to lose the student, then you need to re evaluate your 'shots'. But sometimes, we just can't have everything the way we want them.

Stretto, I have been AMAZED at what some students are willing to do to stay with me. I've had ones who couldn't possibly change their lesson, suddenly be able to change their lesson when I tell them they will have to go to another teacher - I've even had a student change INSTRUMENTS, because she didn't want to go to another teacher. So don't be afraid to stand your ground once you've made a decision that will work for you.

I would hate to see someone not be in a sport they were good at because they had music lessons and I would hate to see someone quit music lessons because of the sport.


Unfortunately, life is all about decision making, prioritising and even sacrifice. I don't see it as your job to ensure that someone else's kids can have it all - that's THEIR parents job. It's only your job if you're the parent! :D hope that makes sense.

I think being reasonable is important just being human, so of course you must be reasonable as a piano teacher, but it's up to you how much you 'bend over backwards' for your students. Do be aware (as I'm sure you already are) that it's the resentment that can build up from this 'bending over backwards' that can lead to burnout. And burnout is VERY difficult to recover from.

I don't mind re-scheduling as I am able but think they should pay for missed lessons that can't be re-scheduled.


Talk to the parent, let them know you can reschedule HERE, HERE, and only HERE - give them those options letting them know you expect any lessons not attended still paid for. I don't think this is unreasonable, but if the parent thinks it is, well there's nothing you can do about it. If she's been with you for three years, I really would be surprised if you can't reach a compromise you're BOTH happy with.

they probably won't be able to re-schedule as easily for basketball I'm sure with increased number of practices and games.


You've asked for personal opinions Stretto, so personally, I wouldn't reschedule for sport or ANY other activity on a week by week basis. I would reschedule their lesson time if I had any available and then it would become a PERMANENT arrangement. No more changing. If they asked again, and if I had a spot available, then no problem. Sure it's a pain in the but if they want to change all the time, but if it's in my time frame, there really is no problem. (And I haven't actually had anyone who wants to change frequently). If I DIDn't have a spot available, then the answer would be no, and the result would be they'd have to find another teacher.

I have very strict 'opening hours' - they've recently become very narrow, from 3pm to 5:30 pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That's the ONLY time I've dedicated to teaching -that's the ONLY time anyone can reschedule.

Even though we work from home, we use our own personal piano, we are still a business, and like any business should have specific working hours. I know others don't agree and I even teach a hairdresser that works from home, and she basically will cut anyone's hair ANY time of day or night ...she's also run ragged and in need of some serious vacation time. She couldn't understand why I wouldn't teach her at 8 in the morning, but when I said she'll have to find another teacher, she accepted it. She comes at 3pm. We're both happy.

students in seasonal sports. This dilemna is not going to go away and I am sure that I will have the same thing come up again and again.


Yep. Nothing will change, kids will always be involved in sport - at least I hope so. There'll always be clashes with peple wanting to take on too much in their life. It sounds like you already know how to tackle the problem, just a little scared of the result. Work out a policy you're happy with, stick to it, and embrace WHATEVER results.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Stretto » Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:40 pm

Mins Music,
Thanks for taking the time to give me such a detailed reply. Up until now, as I mentioned have only had a small number of students and while my kids were babies and toddlers, I really didn't want to do a lot of making up of missed lessons so didn't charge for missed lessons. So the family who's daughter will be in basketball is used to not having to pay for missed lessons. However, before they mentioned the possibility of a conflict in basketball, I did send them a notice of a rate change and also stated in the notice that beginning Sept. 1 this year, I would no longer be giving refunds or credits for missed lessons and included the times and days I was available for make ups. This is the only family affected by my change as everyone else has started this year under my new policy.

I will be holding this family to my policy of making up missed lessons by the end of the semester or forfeiting those lessons. I've found that when families start canceling or changing a lot, they tend to bow out within a year so when I have given a lot of favors for missed lessons in the way of credits and make-ups hoping to hang on to those students, they typically bow out anyway.

I am a big advocate of not being spread too thin. I do believe kids should pick only 1 or 2 things to be involved in at a time. But if a student is on the high school volleyball team and takes music lessons and that's about it, then I don't think it's unreasonable in the way of too many activities. I think as a parent, however if my child was in both, I would pay for any missed music lessons during the sports season (if I wanted to hold my spot) or stop music lessons during the sports season and take my chances on getting a spot back or find another teacher. The only thing on having to find another teacher, then when the next season came around, one might have to find another teacher, then the next year, another and there might be quite a bit of lag time counting the time of during the sports season plus the time a new teacher was found and then changing one's child from teacher to teacher.

I think sometimes those in the music community and those in sports can kind of be down on the other, but I think both are important. The only thing I do have against sports is that at least from the students I've had that have been in a sport, the number of practices and games per week are a little excessive especially number of games. For example, the student I had in softball, besides the practices, there were 3 games a week most weeks. Also, more than one student has told me at their lesson, "I'm really tired because our game lasted lasted until 9:00 p.m. last night" and these have been elementary-school aged kids! I think that's a little rediculous having kids and parents out until 9:00 p.m. on a school night. Now I've heard a couple different parents I know recently complain that they had to leave the house at 5:30 am to get their kids to school for sports practice before school. Hey, at least then it wouldn't conflict with after school music lessons! But because of the mandatory rules involved in sports of having to be at all the practices in order to be on the team (which I can understand), parents scramble to re-arrange music lessons. Again, I don't have a problem with kids being in both. I don't have a problem with kids not having much time to practice during the sports season. I just think parents should pay for the missed music lessons during the sports season even if that were to mean paying for 1-3 months worth of lessons not taken.

Thanks again for the advice and moral support Mins! By the way, when I first found this board last year, I read through quite a few old threads and gained a lot of valuable tips from your posts. I am glad to see your back!

Well, I really wonder how most parents have handled juggling seasonal sports and music lessons. Are there any parents out there who have juggled both?




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:35 pm

As a parent, long ago, (now a grandparent) if I signed a child up for lessons for the year , that was it. Other things had to work around the those lessons.

Over the years, more parents have asked for changes in the schedule - first for the town skiing program and then for soccer and baseball. I have been very flexible, because I can be. I do not have a lot of students now and no kids to drive somewhere. It can get flustrating at times, but I try to accomodate eveyone. There are also birthday parties and other unexpected occassions that come up. I do not like to charge for lessons
missed. Parents are usually very good about calling ahead and we try to arrange a make up. If there is a sudden illness, it is rare and chances ae the child will not feel like practicing or a make up lesson.

Each teacher needs to work out whatever works best for them in their situation.
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