Sunday, July 21, 2013

Studio Policies

Policies and Parent Guide

Right now, I am preparing my program, events, and studio policy for the coming school year. 

Although I am careful to interview before I accept a new student, but unfortunately, I have had clients who make it necessary to become more specific each year in my policies. 

When this happened before, my studio policy became too long and too full of rules and regulations. So I cut it as far back as possible- even down to one page. Many teachers feel this is the best route, as a policy that is too long won't get read. Well, that didn't work either, because too many things were left out and if something happens, I find that I want to correct parents oversights by directing them back to the policy...the one page policy that doesn't include things that I feel are important.

What is important in a studio policy? Whatever I feel is important. 

The things I feel are crucial to my studio and the way I teach. Some policies may be generic, but they should also be designed individually- and creatively. Piano teachers are creative individualists and as such, we design and run our business very differently from one another. Our end results are the same; we put out competent, experienced, and skilled pianists. But how we get there is as individual as we are ourselves.

I insist that my students learn to play the piano. This seems simple enough, but I can't count the transfer students who didn't know the music alphabet, couldn't find middle C, and had no knowledge of what a treble clef was for.  And this was after 2 YEARS of lessons. Frankly, these "teachers" need to be sued so the parents can get their money back.  I've also interviewed the parents of potential transfer students who did not choose to study with me because they wouldn't [couldn't] enforce practice in their homes. Well, how else does one learn to play piano? Osmosis?

I've had new parents write out the check incorrectly for tuition, and some who just don't pay without reminders. I had a talented pianist quit this year because I wouldn't continue with piano competitions.  This was important to the mother, but I didn't feel it was in the best interest of the student.  I had another mother with 2 siblings suddenly withdraw both children from lessons because after a year of trying in a variety of ways, I was unable to make a connection with the younger sibling. It wasn't a good fit. It happens. After a conference and no subsequent change or improvement, I had to suggest they find another teacher for the younger student; she promptly removed both. My mistake was in letting it go on too long and not addressing the importance of relationship up front.

I like to think of my studio as a one room school house where all the students know each other and even become piano buddies. A place where piano is fun and parties are looked forward to by the students. A place where parents get to know each other and are happy to swap a lesson or two when someone else is in need. A place where teacher and student have developed a relationship and can talk about the music and its meaning. This simply cannot happen when students are isolated, don't come to events or promptly leave as soon as their child is done playing a recital, or when a student won't speak to me. So these things are important to me. 

If you don't want to do anything except take a lesson, go home and practice until your next lesson, then go to the local music store for lessons. My studio policy is written to reflect who I am as a piano teacher and what is important to me.

I won't avoid making rules and policies for my business. It's my livelihood; my paycheck. And when it is running smoothly, I can focus on teaching. So this fall, my studio policies will include the basic things that affect lessons directly- paying on time, lesson swaps, terminations, studio and recital expectations, and attendance. 

Within the same booklet as my polices will be a "Parent Guide to Piano Lessons". This will include how to handle practice at home, the importance of encouragement and building a good teacher/student relationship, how awards and testing work, and other services like Guided Practice Sessions. I'll also include practice suggestions, tips for parents in enforcing practice, establishing a daily routine, my philosophy on competitions, and what to do when they want to quit. 

I don't know if they will read it all, but its there for them to refer to. And its there for me to refer them to when something unexpected happens.


  1. Great post! My policy is 2 pages, I try really hard to keep it straight forward so there are no questions after reading it. But at the same time make sure everything that is important is in there.

  2. Thanks Jennifer! Mine is 2 pages also. Sometimes it can be really difficult to distinguish a policy from a philosophy.