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Protecting your rep.

As a kid, I never thought twice about it when my parents dropped me off at private piano or violin lessons and left.  I never worried that they had just left me with someone we didn’t really know, even when my lessons were in someone’s private residence.  There was a common understanding that private music teachers were safe, trustworthy, upstanding members of the community.   I hope that is still true today, but as professionals, I think we need to intentionally implement a few strategies to protect our reputations and keep in good standing in the community.  A good reputation means more students.  A bad reputation means a struggling studio.  And even false allegations of a crime can ruin a private music teaching career forever.  It’s sad that we have to take these things into consideration, but in the world we live in, with high profile abuse cases in the news every day, it’s important and prudent to protect our rep.  Here are a few ideas that I am using my studio.  What other things do you do to protect your reputation?

Open door policy.  Educationally, I know it isn’t always the easiest strategy to have parents sit through their child’s piano lessons.  But I always make it an option.  That way, the parents are aware of my entire interaction with their child. Most of the time, parents stick around for convenience anyway.   Ideally, I like to have parents wait in an adjoining room, so they can listen in on the lesson without actually being in the lesson.  I like to keep the windows and doors open and the room well lit, too, so that people nearby are also aware of what is happening in the lesson.  Even though it can be a little more distracting for the child, the parent never has to worry what might be going on behind a closed door.   And some parents enjoy learning as their child learns, which gives them something enjoyable to talk about at the dinner table.

Clear studio policies.  I can’t say enough how important it is to have clear, consistent policies.  People need to know what to expect regarding attendance, payment, lesson materials, makeup lessons, etc.  It helps you to be fair to the students, their families, and to yourself.  And if anyone ever questions you, you have an easy reply:  “My policy states…”  You never have to get flustered or cause a parent to be uncomfortable because it’s already written down in your policy.

Be surrounded with people.  When I teach, my house is typically a pretty full place.  My hubby and kids are floating around somewhere in the house, other students are coming and going and waiting in the studio, parents are sitting around, and sometimes there is even a babysitter, too.  It may be a little chaotic at times, but there is safety in numbers. Students and families feel safer because it is like being in a public place, and I feel safer because I know there is someone around.  It may be a little bit noisy, but it’s happy noise, and it makes people feel good about being a part of a busy place.

Beware of Facebook.  I love Facebook – it is one of my favorite ways to communicate with friends, family, and even my piano students.  But I avoid posting anything that I don’t want the entire world to know.  The privacy settings on Facebook aren’t perfect, so I don’t even post things privately that should be kept out of the public eye.  Be wary of who can tag you in photos, what other people say on your Facebook wall, and what you put out there.  A good rule of thumb to remember is that whatever is made public on Facebook can be found on Google.   In fact, there were a few warnings going around that all of Facebook’s private messages from 2010 and earlier were automatically made public and posted on the original senders’ walls.  Would that affect what people thought of you?

Google yourself.   You need to know that your new – and even some of your old – students will be typing your name in a search engine.  It’s a good idea to try it out for yourself and see what information appears.  This way, you can deal with any potential problems up front.  When I search for myself, I see things like articles I have written, blog posts I’ve made, my LinkedIn profile, my studio website through Music Teachers Helper, and links to a few things on iTunes and Lulu.  Make sure you try the search with and without quotes.  You might be surprised what you do or don’t find.

Avoid common pitfalls.  Keep good records so your families will trust you.  Return phone calls and emails promptly.  Keep your word.  Don’t give students rides alone or preferably, at all.  Always be courteous, and maintain your composure.

Maintain a positive presence in the community.   I’m not saying to go do public service just to get more students.  People will see right through you.  But if you are moved to serve others in some capacity, then you definitely should do it.  A passion for helping others and serving the community will help you maintain a positive reputation in your community.

About the Author

Amanda Furbeck
Amanda has been teaching private piano lessons for 15 years. She plays piano, keyboard, and organ, and has worked in church music for 17 years. Amanda received a B.A. in music from Eastern University. She has written and recorded music that is available on iTunes and amazon.com, and writes CD reviews for Worship Leader Magazine. She is the author of "Clef Hangers," a book of devotions for wors... [Read more]

6 Comments

  1. Edna Bloom

    This is an excellent article and something we should all consider. Years ago in a school setting, a student who was physically larger than I am accused me of “throwing her up against the wall.” She was upset that I had changed her seating assignment, so she retaliated. Thankfully it was a classroom situation. None of her classmates went along with the story, unlikely as it would have been for me to have attempted such a feat. It was such a shock to suddenly be on the defensive out of the blue like that. I definitely second the suggestions Amanda has made.

  2. Catherine K. Brown

    I suggest getting a child abuse clearance as required for school teachers. I recommend keeping it up-to-date (I believe it’s required every five years in the state of PA) and letting parents know that you have it on file and can show it to them upon request.

  3. Suzanne

    Yes, open door is a good step to keeping trust. I do allow parents to come into their child’s lesson, but if the child is new, I may need a lesson “alone” with them to establish a teacher/student relationship. The parent may still listen unobtrusively by the door to avoid distracting the child.

  4. Shannon

    Thank you! I use the open door and surround yourself with people policy. 🙂 I also travel to a few lessons (I live in CA), and have had to turn down men that wanted me to come to their house. Usually when I explain myself they are understanding though.

  5. Kevin Smith

    It is such a hard balance. Sometimes parents can almost be overbearing in a lesson but on other occasions we really need their support so they know what they should be doing during the week.

  6. Daniel Howard EML

    We find the vast majority of parents are content to sit in our waiting area while the lessons are ongoing, which gives us an opportunity to get to know our clients and build relationships with parents for the long-term while affording parents peace of mind. While every parent is welcome to sit in on their child’s lesson (and some are more persistent than others), it is usually a distraction for both tutor and student to have a parent in the room and we would always prefer for this not to be the case. We find that even those parents that do sit in on the occasional lesson are quick to change their mind after they’ve established the quality of the teaching and content – especially with our drum lessons where the volume of live drums puts most parents off!