Summer Scheduling Strategies
Kym N., California
This is going to be my first summer teaching SM. I would like to see if any of you could share with us your strategies on handling summer scheduling. It would be very big help to those of us who are still puzzling what to do.
Patti P., Hawaii
I teach all year round, holidays excepted, plus some vacation time for me. What I do is guarantee that I will be available to teach a certain number of weeks each year (which can vary a bit depending on what is happening that year, trips I need to take, etc.). I tell my families that tuition is based on an annual rate! not a per lesson fee (many things are included in the fee, including recital costs), payable in 12 monthly payments. Just like if they pay school tuition (a common thing here with many families having their children in private schools)and they miss days, there is no fee adjustment. I also reassure them that if something happens that I am unable to be available to teach the guaranteed amount of lessons, I will do makeup lessons in July. I picked July because school starts here in late July/early August, so that is when my new teaching year begins.
The families are reassured that they will be getting the lessons they have been promised and I am assured a reasonably steady income from month to month.
Of course this may not work in another location. I have been running it this way for years and it has served me well. Sometimes new families in the studio take a bit of reminding about the policy the first year, but I’ve never had anyone not adjust their thinking about lesson fees.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I handle scheduling pretty much the same as Patti. Year-round lessons with scheduled weeks off for holidays and vacations. Same monthly fee due regardless, with a specified number of lessons per year guaranteed.
Other teachers do it differently and take more time off during the summer – would be great to hear from them!
Maureen K., California
I too charge consistent monthly tuition all year round. However I do different activities in the summer because many of my immigrant families take extended international vacations and my groups get thrown off. So for two summer months, we perform every other week at retirement homes, with alternating weeks being a lesson to refine their performance pieces.
I started off with, and still technically do, year-round lessons. But I have noticed that students/families — and I myself, too — have trouble keeping things consistent during the Summer. Some people are fine with that, mostly adults. Lots of other people have all sorts of plans during Summer’s break from school, and those plans are often very inconsistently schedules throughout the Summer, including plans that are being figured out as the Summer goes along. It makes for some fairly rocky piano progress.
Over time, I’ve come around more and more to the idea of acceding to the phenomenon rather than staying stuck in the ground expecting consistent piano progress that conforms to how things go during the rest of the year. For several summers in a row, I’ve offered various ways of cutting one’s schedule and having tuition discounted in conjunction with that. There are clearly pros and cons to that, including the amount of work done just to help people pay you less. And obviously each teacher has to weigh how much less they can afford to work during the Summer, etc.
I’m still a little up in the air myself about exactly what I’m going to offer this Summer, but it will be this basic of idea of time/tuition off, and it will be at least as time-efficiency for me to manage as what I’ve done before (which I did manage to improve in efficiency over the last couple of years), and it will also (again as before) ensure that people are prepaying their post-break tuition to keep their lesson slot as opposed to just discontinuing for the Summer with my fingers crossed that they return.
I look forward to hearing particular ideas from others.
Shanta H., Minnesota
Similarly, I teach year round, with specific days/weeks off for holidays, etc. I “teach” all summer, by which I mean everyone who is around keeps coming to lessons and we make as much progress as we can. Between absences, vacations, and disrupted routines, the pace of progress always slow down and I do my best to prepare everyone for that. My first year teaching, I tried doing a “summer schedule” and it was such a nightmare getting my “fall schedule” back in order that I swore never to do it again.
Kym N., California
For those families who take extensive international vacation, like a whole month or more, I feel that it’s very hard to convince them to pay even with all these great reasons. The thing is, most piano/private instrument teachers don’t employ our (SM way) tuition policies So, I will keep my fingers crossed.
Also, if their vacation time is different from my 2 weeks off in summer, the time that there will be no lessons for them will be even longer. The chance for them to quit summer or not to pay the summer months is very high. Of course, we can away tell them that if they don’t pay, there will be no guarantee that they can keep their spots when they return. But, since I have only 20+ students, it’s not very affordable for me to loss them when the new school year begins and I do want them to continue so that I can teach students with higher levels.
For retirement homes, some of them are very picky about who they allow to perform. Some may say that their residents don’t enjoy beginners’ performance. Finding venues for performance is quite a challenge sometimes.
Shanta, do you mean slowing down the pace can keep the group together when the routine resume, even with students who take long trip? Do you handle the summer lesson differently, like using more games or have a different skill focus in the summer?
Any teachers have used workshop styles, like accompaniment workshop, composition workshop for summer? For example, you have workshop schedule and students sign up for it. They can take 2 sets of 4-week workshop. They can come twice a week and have all their 8 lessons done in a month if they are traveling the other month.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
Another idea is to focus on a supplemental program during the summer while retaining the playlist. For example, Songs for Children/Everyone, Foundation Duets. Spend each summer lesson on one of these programs plus repertoire review. Then lessons missed are not covering required playlist items, but everyone can still learn something new.
Cheri S., Utah
Like Patti, I teach year-round, with tuition calculated annually for a set number of lessons per year. I include several breaks for Christmas, Thanksgiving, my own vacations, etc. Like school tuition, the monthly payment never changes, even if a student is absent. I switched to this plan because a couple families were taking too much time off–a month off for a new baby, another month for summer travels & camps. Despite their best intentions, their playlists suffered. It was also unfair to me and to their classmates to put Foundation songs on hold and plan special projects for multiple extended absences.
I like Laurie’s idea to focus on supplemental programs. I worry about completely pausing Foundation all summer, though. Another idea I’ve considered is combining classes, so anyone who is in Level 3 meets together over the summer, whether they’re near the beginning or near the end. And maybe teach supplemental material, plus Foundation songs according to who’s attending. Has anyone tried this? This will be my first summer with my new policies, so maybe students won’t be gone as much, but with scout camps and family vacations, I’m wondering if combining classes would still be more efficient use of my time.