Letting Students Go
Karina S.-C., California
Gosh, there are SO many things I want to comment on, but at this moment, I want to encourage all of you who might be on the fence about letting someone go from your studio to just do it! I realize we all have our own situation and sometimes this is simply not feasible. It has taken me 3 years to finally “weed my garden” and I currently have my lowest number of piano students! I am fortunate though that I teach guitar and other subjects so that’s my fall back. The good thing though is now I get to build again and be much more selective.
I just hit “send” on a note to a family who has been with me since I launched my studio…I have limped along for over 3 years! I won’t take the time to go into detail, but I’m sure we have all had this experience. As a graduate of the “Teaching from the Future” program this family simply did not fit my vision for the next year, and beyond.
We read and share with each other our struggles, breakthroughs and victories (Peaks, Plateaus and Valleys) and I hope this note encourages all of you to be true to yourself, your vision for YOUR studio while continuing to grow as a teacher of this wonderful program along your personal growth.
Kasia H., Washington
I just wanted to say, how much I appreciate this letter. There are times that I feel like I have a hard time letting go of some students who are I would call “high maintenance”. But I am learning as well and I have some new ideas from all of you teachers.
Vivien K., Washington
How do you approach those families and tell them that you want to let them go? Did they come to you and let you know they want to quit and you decided to not persuade them to stay? Did you, or would you initiate the conversation?
Thanks for sharing. It will help me in deciding how to approach one family in my studio.
Darla H.-B., Kansas
One approach that I have found to be very effective is to pick some natural break (before starting a new level; before beginning a new stream, such as reading rhythm; before Christmas break or summer vacation, etc) and use this as a time to ask students and families to re-assess their commitment. I have talked about how I’m re-evaluating myself as a teacher and realizing that in order to ensure success for each student, I need to be more clear about my requirements and better at enforcing them. I communicate with the families which particular requirements that I want them to re-evaluate (for example, are they absolutely committed to practice happening 15-20min 5-6 days a week.) Then I ask them to take some time and thoughtfully reconsider if they are willing and able to put forth the effort that is needed for success. We discuss how it’s unfair to the student themselves not to make the most out of this opportunity to learn, it’s unfair to others in the group if some don’t keep up with expectations, it’s unfair to parents to be paying for the lessons if students don’t put out the required effort, and it’s unfair to me as a teacher to have students who aren’t making much progress because of their poor habits. I always do this in a way that is totally non-threatening and with love and care for my students. I’ve had a number of students decide to leave after a discussion like this, and we’ve parted on good terms. I live in a small town, so I often run into former students, so it’s especially important to me that we retain good feelings toward each other.
Having conversations regularly before problems begin is really helpful in keeping from needing to let students go as often. I still have areas which I need lots of work in, but I have come so far from my first years of teaching!!
Kasia H., Washington
Try to teach those students with patience and as long they are willing to pay and have lessons I do the best. But when they decide to quit or have some excuses not to come for lessons I don’t try persuade them to stay. That is what I am doing now, but there were times in the past that I would try to “please” the students and keep them.
Not anymore and it feels good to know that I am working with students who are willing to learn and I am very happy to teach them.