When I first started teaching (many years ago), I did not have a make-up policy, and was charging by the lesson. No show = no pay. (Yes, fellow teachers, I can sense your horror and disapproval!) I am happy to say that those days are over; I now charge a monthly fee, and have a make-up policy. Still, the issue of make-up lessons comes up from time to time, and is one I find most frustrating to deal with as a private music teacher.
If you are reading this, you have probably come across the famous article “Make-up Lessons from an Economist’s Point of View” written by a parent. (If you have not read it before, it is a great email-forward to parents asking for make-ups!) I want to know who is that lucky teacher mentioned in the article?! In my experience, most parents do not think like this economist. I am sure we have all received the phone call that goes like “so-and-so can not come to lesson because of such-and-such, so can we have a make-up on this-particular-day from this-particular-time to that-particular-time because that is what suits us the best!”
When it comes to make-up policy, there are three basic approaches: None-Whatsoever, Free-For-All, or the Middle-Ground. I sure hope no one reading this is in the Free-Makeups-For-All category: you have got to respect yourself more! A quick search on Google tells me that most full-time private teachers have a strict No-Makeup-Whatsoever policy when lessons are cancelled by the students. (It goes without saying that all of us give make-ups when we, the teacher, cancel the lesson.) My current policy is the Middle-Ground: if students notify me of their absence before the day of the lesson, I will give make-up, otherwise no make-up. (Yes teachers, I see some of you shaking your head in disapproval again!) This policy seemed fair to me, but it means I am constantly rescheduling lessons when people choose to:
1. go to their sports practice
2. host a birthday party
3. go to a birthday party
4. go on vacation
5. study for school test
6. schedule a medical or dental appointment
7. whatever else they deem more important than their lesson
Another quick search on Google tells me that there are several other variations of a Middle-Ground policy:
1. limited number of make-ups allowed per semester
2. make-ups given only if other students cancel that week
3. make-ups given only under “special circumstances”
Some teachers will reschedule lessons missed due to sickness and nothing else – been there, done that, and not good! While some illnesses are genuine and you certainly do not want the sick students to come and get you sick, if you adopt this policy, you will have people cancel and expect a make-up over the littlest of headaches. The truth is, unless you take the None-Whatsoever approach, it is simply not fair for you, for your time, and for your family. So why did I choose to go Middle-Ground myself? It had a lot to do with my relocation and re-establishing a studio in a new city. I also took into consideration my own accompaniment and performance schedules that can be unpredictable, and figured if I am allowed to reschedule with notice, so can my students. What I forgot to take into consideration is that I would soon be dealing with a busy schedule and make-up times eat into my personal and family time. Am I reconsidering my policy? You bet! I am stuck with it though until the next school year.
How do you handle make-up lessons? If you are also reconsidering your policy, you may find the information on The Piano Education Page very helpful. If you need to draft a letter to parents that demand make-ups, you may like to read “The Case Against Offering Make-up Lessons” on the fantastic Music Matters Blog. If you have successfully implemented a great make-up or no-make-up policy, please share your thoughts with us!