Makeup Lessons—Friend or Foe?

makeup lessonsIf you have switched to the monthly tuition model for charging students, then you will have to decide what to do about missed lessons. It’s a complicated issue, so I will highlight five ideas that have worked in my studio and others. Do whatever feels fair for both you and your students. My own makeup policy has taken many forms over the years. My policy is much more firm when I have 25 students than when I have 10.

1. No Makeups. Ever.

Many teachers have a strict no makeup policy. The student reserved a specific time slot, and if the student didn’t use it, it still needs to be paid for. The studio policy guru Wendy Stevens has in her policy:

Because specific times are set aside for specific students, a student who does not attend a lesson will simply miss the benefit of that lesson. I will then use that time or other times to plan for the student’s progress, locate materials, etc. Remember that your tuition pays for more than your weekly lesson. See Where Does My Tuition Go?

She also says that, “If you have difficulty in seeing the need for no makeups, consider this: You have reserved a specific number of minutes for each of your students and you should not be required to offer 2x that number of minutes with a makeup simply because they cannot be there.  If you schedule even a few makeups a week, you will lose hours of time that could be spent with your family, exercising, [practicing], or relaxing, which is something [studio] teachers need to do more often!”

2. Limit the Number of Makeups 

I allow three makeup lessons per year, one for each season of study (fall, winter, summer). These lessons can be taught on a Saturday, as a group class, or only during lesson times that other students have cancelled. Once a student has used their makeup lesson for the season, it’s easy to say, “Sorry, you already used your makeup lesson.”

I offer the cancelled lesson time of one student as a makeup lesson for another. I require that lesson cancellations be made more than 24 hours before the lesson. Then I post the open lesson time on and inform any students with outstanding makeup lessons. First come, first served.

3. Skype or Facetime Lessons

These lessons can be useful in the case of illness or inclement weather. However, bassoon teaching is not well suited for a digital interface. You can’t fix a reed through a screen.

4. Group and Performance Classes

From Wendy Stevens: “You may want to offer all of your students the opportunity to attend a few free group or performance classes in the year.  This can help parents feel like they are getting a makeup for a missed lesson since the class is free.”

5. Use a Swap List

Again, from Wendy Stevens:

[A swap list] can be used by a student to swap lesson times with another student.  This is helpful in case of doctor’s appointments, being out of town, or even sickness.  Of course, if you use a swap list, you will want to get parents permission to include their name and phone number on the swap list you will distribute (I do this on the yearly “agreement to terms” form).  Also, you might want to be specific with your rules for securing a swap.  Mine include the following:

  • I must be informed prior to and after any swap is made.  (This helps me make sure that a 45 minute lesson is being swaps for a lesson of equal time.  This also helps me make sure that any back to back lessons that need to be preserved will indeed be preserved.)
  • No make up lessons will be given should confusion from this arise.
  • Should 2 people arrive at once, I will teach the one whose lesson is normally at that time.

I hope you found some of the above ideas helpful. I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Makeup Lessons—Friend or Foe?

  1. Reply
    Vanesa Young - June 6, 2015

    I agree with all the points, because, as a teacher we put a lot of thought and preparation for every class so we can help our students with their goals and the more students you have, the harder will get to find “extra” time for a missed lesson.

    1. Reply
      Jessi Vandagriff - June 8, 2015

      Thanks, Vanesa!

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