First of all, what is studio policy? It's a written statement of the rules by which you run your studio. It enables you to function in a business-like manner. It tells students (and their parents) that you are a professional. You will treat everyone that way and expect the same treatment in return. It tells families specifically what to expect in regard to tuition payment, make-up lessons, cancellations, tardiness, vacations, and many other important topics.
Is a studio policy important? You bet! Don't go to your piano without one!
And it should be in writing. More about that later.
I have divided studio policy content into three large areas: required, recommended, and personalized. Money concerns and make-up lessons comprise the required elements. Discussion of logistics, recitals, and materials are the recommended points, and items unique to your program are in the third area.
Every studio policy -must- address the following basic issues:
You have now covered the universal questions and problems you and students will encounter. Now custom-tailor your studio policy for your particular program. Ideas:
You can put just about anything in your policy, but I would advise against putting specifics about tuition fees because when you change them, you must reprint your policy.
Change your policy whenever you feel like it. Remember, it's -your- business!
Change and redistribution requires substantial effort, so make notes of all you wish to change and do it all at once, if possible.
In practice, I'd say that you shouldn't change the policy more often than once a year. More than this makes you look unorganized (and thus unprofessional).
If you are a brand-new teacher, you may need to reissue your policy more than once a year, as you learn the ropes, but as you mature in this calling, you'll find that your studio policy will be firm in a couple of years. After that, all you will need to do is some fine-tuning.
At the audition, give every student you accept a copy of the policy. If the student is a child, ask the parent to read the policy while you talk with the child; if an adult, allow time for reading. Thereafter, ask if there are questions. Even if there are none, go over the specifics of when payment is due and when you will allow a make-up lesson. These are the two points which cause the most consternation, and 98% of your problems will be in these two areas. I like to recap my policies in these two areas and conclude by saying, "Is this acceptable to you?" Some teachers draw up a dated contract stating that the responsible adult "has read, understands, and agrees to abide by" the studio policy. Both teacher and the other adult keep a copy of the contract.
Any time there is a major change, such as institution a late payment penalty, everyone needs a fresh copy of the complete studio policy. Of course, you will be sending a letter to everyone explaining this major change, but enclose a copy of the complete policy, also. At this time, if you use a contract such as the one described above, create new contracts which both parties will sign.
Some teachers send out a copy of the studio policy every fall, at the beginning of the studio year. If there are changes, even small ones, a letter should accompany the policy, drawing attention to any changes.
copyright 1998, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me about reprint permission.