It’s that transitional time–Mid Summer. If you haven’t already, it’s time to plan your fall registration and paperwork. My fall registration is due by June 1st for a July 1st “new year” start (my new year encompasses summer session.) Every spring I take a look at my studio policy and ask myself what worked, what didn’t and if anything needs to be shored up. Your studio policy is a statement of who you are as a teacher, your studio expectations, and most importantly, sets the tone for the type of studio you run. Policies for studios with group class piano differ from those working with private lessons or lessons in pairs.
I was very fortunate when I first moved to Virginia that my local MTA had a workshop on Studio Policies. Members were encouraged to offer up copies of their policy (redacted with such things as price, etc) as they were comfortable sharing. What a treasure trove. I took what would work for my studio and altered things as necessary to fit my specific circumstances. I was able from there to tweak each year to update and continue to have a working document that has served me well all these years.
Here is an outline of my policy sections along with some ideas for you to consider. My policy is 2 pages with a separate page for tuition fees, etc. I have found it useful to use bullets–they make things clear and concise without unnecessary wordy sentences.
I Missed Lessons: RIght off the top, this is for me the number one issue teachers face. A well-constructed and direct statement for your make-up policy will save you a lot of grief. I offer a make-up only for illness which is handled by keeping a list of qualified absences. When I have time or someone else is out of town I offer that spot a maximum of twice in the year for that absence. I make no promises for the make up but I do try to work people in wherever possible. I make it clear that I do not make up lessons for out of town trips or conflicting activities. For that they I offer my 2nd section to the policy:
II Student Swap List: Unless a parent opts out, I offer the schedule with parents names and a contact email they can use. It works very well. Of course, a parent can opt out but I’ve never had that happen.
III Snow/Inclement Weather Policy: If you live in the south you must worry about hurricanes and storms and the further north you go there are snow storms to maneuver. I open on all snow days for those who can make it in. For those that cannot, I offer a Snow Workshop on an available Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Each student can bring 2 most needy pieces that we work on in a masterclass setting. If the student cannot make the workshop, so be it. No other options are offered. I’ve never had a problem with it. That said, I do open early on the days students are out of school due to the storm but school is closed so they can come in daylight hours. That’s worked very well too. While this policy does not offer a complete make-up time wise, it splits the difference.
IV Summer Session: This section offers my summer program with a simple statement that no summer lessons can be carried over to the fall.
V Studio Calendar: two bullet points that the calendar is posted and updated by the start of school and any time an adjustment must be made.
VI Student Expectations and Responsibilities–practice expectations, and how you personally handle lack of preparation are handled in two bullet points.
VII Student Withdrawal From the Program; December and June or 30 days in advance of the end of a quarter. I do not refund quarterly payments.
VIII Commitment to the Studio: For mid year pullouts and beginning of year changes. Again, three bullet points, clear and direct.
IX Studio Contact Information
X Practice Guidelines –by level and age. Also a brief explanation that all assignments are done on a google spread sheet that is always available to the parent/older student.
The more concise the better! Also, the more options you offer for payments, make-ups and scheduling, the murkier things can become. Flexibility is nice, but can often lead to misunderstandings and arguments over details about how your studio is run. Keep it Concise–Friendly–Straightforward.
In closing, I make sure I actually SIT with each parent and go point by point on the studio policy during the interview. I want to be sure they have looked through it. It’s amazing just how few people will actually READ what you offer. This takes a few minutes, but it’s worth the effort and when questions arise, there’s the printed policy in their folder plus a reminder or your previous discussion. With a good policy in place, you then have the option to give a little here and there when it’s appropriate, help out that long-standing family on a rare occasion they are leaving town outside of the school year, etc. Remember you want to spend your time TEACHING and not fielding endless phone calls and emails about tuition, vacations, etc. My policy changes very little from year to year. A sentence or choice of words here or there. If it’s not working well or you find yourself having difficulties with parents, analyze what’s the fly in the ointment and fix it!