This week, after thorough consideration, I’ve changed the structure of tuition for my studio from a week by week charge to a monthly flat rate. It reads:
“Monthly tuition payments reserve a fixed weekly lesson time in my teaching schedule. Since the time passes whether a student uses it or not, a lesson missed is time lost. The scheduled time belongs to each student, and how that time is used is up to them.”
The motivation for this change came from many sources. It is standard policy for almost all schools not to provide make-up lessons; dance studios, universities, even the Henderson Parks and Rec classes that I sign my daughter up for don’t. If I miss one of her tot-nastic classes, we’ve already paid. It’s the same for daycare. Last week one of her “school days” fell on Independence Day, a day the center was closed. We paid anyway and happily kept her with us for some family fun. I believe that the teachers at daycare deserve a consistent income and paid holidays. They provide a valuable service to my family and are an important part of my daughter’s life. I only hope that my students, or rather more importantly their parents, feel the same way.
Another source of inspiration is this article, Make Up Lessons from an Economists Point of View, which showed up on my Facebook feed about a year ago. It’s written by a parent, an economist, defending the no make-up lesson policy. The author, Vicky Barham, clearly respects her son’s teacher and understands the value of their teacher’s time. Furthermore she articulates why teachers are afraid to make studio policies that reflect the value of our time. Personally, as Barham correctly assesses, I’m afraid of hurting the relationships that I have developed with parents and, honestly, afraid of losing the income that they represent if they are unhappy, chose another teacher or stop lessons altogether.
The spur that finally pushed me to make this change is that this is common practice among successful teachers that I respect, in Las Vegas (Cynthia Mann, Las Vegas Suzuki Teacher, Studio Policies) and nationally (Bonnie Blanchard, Seattle, Studio Policies).
Hopefully, in the long run, this policy change will protect my income, because it’s based on the nature of the service that I provide. As a trained, experienced teacher, I offer students my undivided focus, energy and time, all of which are perishable goods. In the short run I hope that the parents and students in my studio now understand my motivation.