Piano teaching : Why I moved to No-Make-Ups

No more Make-ups when students miss piano lessons

I recently switched from 100% Make-Ups for missed lessons, to No-Make-Ups with ‘Flex Slots’.  Each student who practises regularly qualifies for un-charged extra class time each month during my ‘Flex Slots’.

In this post, I discuss my decision to make this change and tell piano students and their families a little more about what piano teaching means. I hope this post helps other piano teachers who are starting out teaching in this locality, where the role of the piano teacher, and the role of the teaching community in general, is vastly underrated. 

My 100% Make-Up policy of the earlier years had been really great! Because my piano students and parents had flex when they needed it, and it helped my students attend lessons in a relaxed frame of mind. It worked really well for about 10 years, until it just didn’t.

My new piano students and parents seemed to have a lifestyle that was a lot busier than the busy of earlier years. By 2017, class cancellations had reached a point where I worked the full year without any breaks from teaching, apart from a one week annual holiday.

100% Make-Ups just weren’t working anymore!

There were other reasons to change :

No 1 : When students miss lessons or attendance is erratic, piano practise often gets irregular and this isn’t good for them. For some reason, knowing that the lesson would be made up seemed to make my students and piano parents more casual about attending with practise done. I felt that the Make-Up Lessons no longer had value because students usually attended Make-Ups without practising, and there was zero value to the class in terms of student progress. It was a waste of time to me.

No 2 : Students began to miss the Make-Ups or cancelled at the last minute and scheduling these last minute changes took up a lot of my time. I’d spend time on sms messages and phone calls, checking student availability and adjusting slots to meet my students changing schedules. Time that I had reserved for myself and for teaching-related study or administration work got allotted to scheduling. So making made time to study ate into my off-work time.

A note for families of students new to music and learning the piano

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Families new to piano playing need to understand that piano teaching is a profession that requires quite a bit of non-class activity :

  1. A very sound knowledge of piano playing and different methods of teaching.
  2. An understanding of different learning styles with a leaning towards special education so that teachers adapt the way they teach to the students learning style and level of music exposure.
  3. An understanding of different ways of communication.
  4. A teaching attitude that is very flexible and willing to adapt to the way a student learns.
  5. Piano teachers, particularly those who teach young children, often use their floor for off-the-bench activities. And need to be physically fit and have a high energy level.
  6. And we need very high level of empathy and patience and we work at this every day.

New piano parents often think that piano teaching is an easy profession and ask questions. Here’a are some posts that answer them.

What do piano teachers ‘DO’?

What your piano fees pay for

We ask students to leave lessons on time, unless we request them to wait because :

  • All of this teaching, learning and piano practise is done indoors and we sometimes have to schedule free time slots so we get out.
  • We often use time between lessons for practise, study and to assess our teaching.
  • The time at the end of our teaching day is important, as we need to unwind, assess the effectiveness of our teaching that day, and move from ‘teaching’ to ‘home’ mode.

The time teachers need to put in to learn, practise and upgrade to provide quality teaching remains the same more or less, irrespective of the number of students a teacher takes on.

But those teachers who work comfortably within their capacity, often put more time into their education, providing a higher quality of teaching with more flexibility in their teaching methods.

One important thing that helps us piano teachers have patience is a schedule with breaks from teaching.

This gives us a different perspective, time to get out of our teaching studios, and time to grow as musicians and experience the joy of music, just for ourselves.

So that we start each lesson rejuvenated and excited to teach, and help our students on their journey as they discover this joy.

It’s why we teach.

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Piano Teacher, Poet, Relaxed Housekeeper & Blogger

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