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I don't want to join the teachers group, but I know a lot of you are teachers, so here's my question:

What do you do when a student does not show up for a scheduled lesson and doesn't call ahead of time to cancel?

My wife gives woodwind lessonsin our house, and on a fairly regular basis, a student just doesn't show. My wife usually has made a special to be home in time for the lesson, and we arrange our family's meal around when she has lessons scheduled.

Do you charge full or partial for the lesson? Or do you just ignore it?

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No you must look at this as a business, and because of this a student must be taught that responsibility and the parents have to know that they are not teaching their children responsibilities of commitment.
You are sacrificing your times and efforts to be there and often there are costs associated with that, lost wages and so forth and that these things all play into your life, and commitments to your finances of your family.
So please do not ignore this and charge the full lesson value and remember to look at possibly making a binding contract with the students ( under age ) well then with the parents and have them sign the contract and make sure that you give them the exact same thing you have, with both yours and their signature and explain in plain simple terms the nature of the contract ( in writing ) that if the student doesn't show or cancel by a certain time and date that they will be charged for the lesson if they wish to continue there as students.
Its an honour to teach but you also have to take into account the life disruptions that go with it and the sacrifices she has made to them and if the parents are not holding up their end, then you must force them to accept consequences for that action.This is what is needed in these kids lives and hopefully they will learn more then just music.Ship
I couldn't agree more! Excellent advice!
Hi John,

Almost all students will miss a lesson at some point in their studies, and sometimes students will be unable to give you proper notice due to special circumstances. When that happens in my studio, I usually wait about 10 minutes and then give a call/text/email reminding the student of our lesson. Usually they can explain their situation, and I decide if I can to fit them in for a make up lesson. Since I ask students to pay me in advance for the month, I do not give them the opportunity to reserve my time for free. Ship is right, teaching is a business. When teachers take their business seriously, students also take it seriously.

Susan Palmer
Guitar Instructor at Seattle University
Author of "The Guitar Lesson Companion" Book & CD Package - The book for students who are taking lessons
Dear Ship, Sue, and Tom,

Paying in advance is good advice, and I'll pass it on to my wife. However, I'm wondering if this is a "regional" practice. We've paid for trombone, piano, French horn, guitar, electric bass, double bass, jazz piano, jazz saxophone lessons--you get the idea--and we've always paid after the lesson. It's been 50/50 in terms of whether the teacher came to the house or my kids or my wife went to the teacher.
I charge for, 4 lessons in advance with a 24 hour cancellation policy. If a student doesn't show-up or call, my time is paid for. The only exception to this policy, is if a student even thinks their getting sick. Then don't come, even if it's an hour before. No penalty. No foul.

John I understand your concern here, but you are talking about students that don't show up. It might be the teacher for your family lessons realized their dedication( your families) and that you would at the very least call ahead and tell them that you would not be able to make it.
As for it being regional, no this is a practice used by everyone I know through out the world, from Russia to the US and South America's.
But its up to your wife to develop something she is comfortable with and to express this to her students and this way her time is not wasted nor is your family time lost then.
The only time I charge my students is when they have wasted my time by not showing up ( an irritation to my wife ) when I could have been doing something else instead of waiting and if they do it more then 3 times, then they are advised that they can no longer attend class's here with me and need to find a new instructor. I think when I give my time freely to pay back what I got from others many years back, I expect them to treat me as I would treat them with respect and honour for the things I give freely and hopefully one day I will be attending their concerts for free, my payment comes from knowing that my students have surpassed me and will one day give freely what I gave them.Ship.........hope this helps her out John
Paying ahead is certainly the best way to secure a steady income from your students but not only that I think it helps students understand how they ought to behave as a musician. You're only as good as your phone book and if they realise that early enough they may just learn their most important lesson yet!

That said, it works both ways. Cancelling students lessons will damage your reputation as a tutor. People talk. I employ a 4-6 week booking policy with a 24 hour cancellation policy. Students soon learn to stop cancelling at short notice when they start losing money.

Flexibility is also important. Although it may be easy and lucrative to tell a student that you can't fit them in in the next week and therefore they will lose a lesson, it is a far more effective and mutually beneficial option to try extra hard to fit around your students needs and accommodate them. Again, people talk.


Ship had mentioned a contract. Is there any kind of standard contract available online or one that can be posted?

I teach but only one student. If I were teaching full or part time a contract would definitely be something I'd want each student or parent to read, understand and sign [agree to]. Teaching for profit is a business. Contracts are a necessary part of doing business. Without them you are not protecting your business and will subject the business to losses.

John G.
Dear Group,

The consensus here and with the jazz guitar group I belong to is that students pay a month in advance; a few people talked about contracts. My wife's students are secondary school students, and what "wrinkles" the concept is that they are involved in a variety of school activities that they don't know about until a day or two before. Since my own two kids fit into the category, I'm sympathetic to the late cancellation dilemna. I guess if she were notified in a timely manner (and that seems to be the problem when I hear her complain--students just don't show), the cancelled lesson wouldn't be as much as an issue.

Of the seven or eight teachers my wife and kids have had, only one seems to have charged a month in advance.

Thanks for all the feedback. I'd certainly welcome and enjoy sharing any further thoughts anyone has on the subject.
It is time out of your day, they pay full price.
I teach how to build instruments, the students pay for a certain number of specified days/hours of instruction, when those days are done the lessons are too. I really dont care if they finish or not, that is their problem not mine when they dont show.
That might sound harsh, but when you think about it, it is really they who are being rude by not showing. You have no obligation to give them extra time when they are being rude and irresponsible.
They understand this from the outset so there is no argument.
I handle this ahead of time by charging a fixed price instead of by the hour. On average it takes a student 200 hours to complete a guitar, including finishing.

So the lessons tend to be a day long (actually we tend to lose concentration after about 6 hours). Frequency of lessons has to be flexible since my students tend to be mature professional people with business obligations, vacations, family emergencies, and so on to contend with. I provide as many or as few hours as they require, the only condition being that the guitar be completed within one year, else there is an additional charge.

SInce I'm in the shop anyway building my own guitars, if on a rare occasion they don't show up as agreed, I simply do my own work.

Perhaps a similar arrangement would work for a serious music student.

John W
On the other side of the coin is the instructer who charges for a month in advance

I am NEVER late and if I ca n[t make it I call well in advance.

When the instructor has been paid in advance and goes overtime with the oprevious student, is himslef late for the lesson, is distracted during the lesson, is intent on exhibiting his skills at my expensive rather than teaching, or simply gave me nothing of value during a lesson, I am screwed I will no longer pay for a lesson in advance.

This situation ocurred 4 times in my life and only four times did I ever take lessons; 3 for guitar and once for blues harmonica. ( from a very famous and most publsihed harmonica instructor in history)

Ergo: lesson learned.

I don't pay for vegetables in advance and pick them up next week
I don't pay my barber for haircuts in advance
I don't pay for auto service in advance and collect later..
so what's with this relationship between music instructor and student.. I don't get it.


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