Every once in a while, I see a post from a colleague regarding policies for their studio. I always recommend establishing some type of policies for your clients. These policies can, and should be, tailored to your studio. At the end of my full-time experience, I had evolved to using 4 policies. Here are my policies to give you an idea of how you might shape yours.
A firm absence statement was my first policy. To paraphrase the actual policy, my students were required to give 24 hours notice for ANY absence. This is a standard policies that most school districts and band directors will recommend. However, I was more strict about my absence policy. I only excused my students if the absence was due to a death in the family (I didn’t advertise this part). If the student wakes with an illness, payment was still required. This prevented my students from using the illness “card” as an excuse every time they missed a lesson. I also included certain school events within this policy. These events are rarely sprung onto the students without notice (although, I know that some changes are made last minute). Basically, I told my students that if they didn’t show up and didn’t inform me of their absence, then I would charge them for the lesson. I know this sounds a bit harsh but in 15 years, I only had a couple of issues with this one. Most parents understood.
My second policy dealt with payment. This one will most likely need to be fluid as your district will have rules about lesson fees. In this policy, I laid out the process for payments; how, when and who. How: what type of payments I allowed. When: the frequency of the payments. Who: how to write the check. As stated in my last post, I used an online tool during the last years of full-time teaching which allowed for online payments charging the transaction fee to the client instead of me. The transaction fee was what prevented me from allowing online payments for so long.
Expectations of my students was the next policies. This is how I communicated to my students that if they didn’t practice, I would dismiss them from my studio. I only used this policy a few times. I was naively reluctant to dismiss students. I probably should have used this more often.
My final policy focused on commitment. I wanted my students to commit to a long term relationship with me as their teacher. Success in this relationship comes from continued interaction. We are starting a curriculum that is tailored to the student. Hopscotching from one teacher to the next is unhelpful to the student.
Additionally, as a statement add to my policies, I reminded students/parents that they need to speak with me directly with any information regarding the lessons. Often time, parents would say “I called the office and told then that (insert child’s name here) was ill today. I thought they would tell you.” Most of the time, the office staff didn’t know me from all of the other lesson teachers. How would they know who to pass this information onto?
The last concern dealing with policies is the idea of a signed statement of agreement to your policies. I sent my policies to my clients through email and required a return email stating their receipt and agreement to these policies. If they had any arguments to the enforcement of these policies in the future, I could return to the “signed” document. Honestly, I’m not positive all of the parents (and/or students) read the policy email but at least they are writing down and passed on. I know of many colleagues who required signed paper versions of their policies so pick which one works best for you.
Enforcing these rules, at whatever level, is a personal decision. If you state the rules and don’t enforce them then the parents will run over you. If you enforce them strictly 100% of the time, you run the risk of driving your clients away. It’s a tough line to walk but as long as you are both happy and/or respectful of each other then the relationship will survive.