Frequent lesson cancellations

May 29, 2018, 6:31 AM · Hello,

My current violin teacher frequently cancels my lessons (often at the last minute). I've been promised make-up lessons, but none have been resculed to date.

Also my teacher demands payment for lessons at the beginning of every month. When I asked if he could remove the missed lessons from the previous months on my current month payment (so that I don't have to constantly pesker him for my make-up lessons)..the answer has been no.

While I have learned a lot and have progressed quickly under my teachers guidance, I fing approach this approach unprofessional (and frankly disrespectuf towards me as a student).

Is this policy common among teachers? Any advice from students who have experienced the same?

Replies (16)

May 29, 2018, 7:00 AM · I think it is inexcusable.
May 29, 2018, 7:07 AM · Welcome Mateo!

Do you have the option of choosing another music teacher?

We all have changing circumstances in life that requires an occasional lesson cancellation but when a teacher cancels a prepaid lesson and offers no makeup date I question his business ethics.

May 29, 2018, 7:31 AM · How often is frequent?. I can live with the occasional cancellation.I have been guilty of cancelling on occasion as well.

Seems like there has been a rash of cancellations/reschedules due to vacations, tests and so forth since my teacher is a music major going into her last year. She is loaded up with commitments and studies. I let the occasional cancellation go with not much thought. On several occasions she completely forgot about me. I have rolled with it because it's not a quarter mile from where I work. On the times she forgot me I just let myself into a practice room and played by myself. No great loss.

I suppose IF I had made great changes to my schedule or had driven a long distance I wouldn't be looking at this as such a trivial thing.

The largest inconvenience is trying to figure out what I owe after a bunch of shuffling around schedules and a cancellation or two. I should keep a record book to make sure I didn't over pay. This can get confusing if I don't stay on top of it since I pay ahead a few months at a time. I've just been paying without question. I know I shouldn't do that. Even more confusing is we didn't absolutely decide on the length so lessons tend to be about 45 minutes with more technique and less chat lately. I think I'm billed for a 1/2 hour and it goes over some. No time clock so some setup time is allowed.

I like the lesson. I hate dealing with the rest of it.

May 29, 2018, 8:15 AM · It sounds to me like your teacher charges a "studio fee" and not a per-lesson fee.

I've known teachers who do this. They explicitly state on their syllabus that the number of lesson per month will vary.

I do sympathize with you. Keep track of the numbers of lesson you receive during the school year. If it's a lot less than 30 it would concern me. But remember - your teacher surely has had to put up with a lot of crap over the years as well.

May 29, 2018, 8:15 AM · It sounds to me like your teacher charges a "studio fee" and not a per-lesson fee.

I've known teachers who do this. They explicitly state on their syllabus that the number of lesson per month will vary.

I do sympathize with you. Keep track of the numbers of lesson you receive during the school year. If it's a lot less than 30 it would concern me. But remember - your teacher surely has had to put up with a lot of crap over the years as well.

May 29, 2018, 10:19 AM · Given the average number of lessons over the course of a year you are receiving, what does the hourly rate work out to be? If it's around market rate, then no harm no foul. If the price is higher than that, though, I would demand makeup lessons or credits towards future lessons.
May 29, 2018, 10:45 AM · For teachers who charge a "studio fee", there is generally an agreement on how many lessons a semester you'll have. If a lesson is missed through the teacher's fault, a make-up lesson is scheduled.

Community music schools often have explicit "make-up weeks" during which make-up lessons are scheduled. The assumption there, though, is that lessons are rarely missed.

Frequent last-minute cancellations are unprofessional, though adults with busy schedules may be willing to trade off flexibility for their own complex schedules with tolerance for a teacher's last-minute scrambles.

OP's situation, which combines last-minute cancellations with no make-ups or financial recompense, shouldn't really be tolerated.

May 29, 2018, 10:53 AM · If your teacher cancels and doesn’t reimburse you then that is flat out theft unless you signed a shady waiver.
May 29, 2018, 12:27 PM · This is not acceptable.

Because I must frequently ask my students to reschedule their lessons around my symphony, other professional, and family obligations, I offer flexibility in return. I never charge for a lesson I canceled.

Edited: May 29, 2018, 1:33 PM · What you are dealing with is totally unprofessional BS. Insist on a more client-friendly contract next time.

We pay studio fees. We're supposed to get a certain number of lessons for a semester and we pay the whole semester up front. Any lesson that we cancel does not need to be made up (but our teacher has always done so, and we do not abuse that generosity). Any lesson that the teacher cancels is made up. Our teacher is very diligent about scheduling the make-ups. Sometimes that takes a while because his schedule is packed. Well his schedule has to be packed to make a living, that's how the business works. But it all eventually works out, always.

May 29, 2018, 2:09 PM · Mateo,

My assessment is that the "teacher" cannot tell you that he doesn't want you as a student directly. There are people that simply cannot speak the words but their actions speak for them.

My advice, find another teacher, charge your losses to "the school of hard knocks" and move on. Sometimes firing your teacher feels good.

May 29, 2018, 3:50 PM · Yes, but before you fire him get your money back. I don’t know where you live, but in the USA you cannot charge someone for a service and then cancel it without a refund unless they made you sign a waiver.
May 29, 2018, 4:12 PM · I charge a month in advance, because generally it is the students that are sketchy about showing up, and that motivates people to be there (or at least not waste my time). If I have an emergency, I either knock it off that month's lessons if they haven't paid yet, or give them a reduced fee next month to make it up, depending on how it works out with the timing.
Your teacher sounds like someone who is over-committed and views teaching as his lowest priority.
KEEP RECORDS, because I bet he doesn't ;-)
Edited: May 29, 2018, 4:38 PM · If he can’t make up cancelled lessons within the next month, demand a refund or credit. If he refuses, find another teacher and then fire him.
Edited: May 29, 2018, 5:09 PM · Just to balance things out a bit: Every teacher has horror stories about lesson payments/makeups. I've been teaching long enough to feel professional and confident now when I deal with students and parents financially but it wasn't always like this for me. It took a while, and some parents took extreme advantage.

This is one of my favorites, always makes me chuckle looking back.

When I was first starting out as a teacher I got a job at a prep music school. The school was in charge of tuition and the contracts were very straight forward: if you miss a lesson the makeups are at the discretion of the teacher. No refunds.

My first crop of students included two brothers who were impossibly busy. I had to bend over backwards to fit in their lessons every week because they had so many conflicts. So when the summer rolled around the mother signed them up for summer lessons (10 lessons and recital, iirc). After a single lesson the family decided spur of the moment to travel to India for the rest of the summer. The mother demanded a refund; I told her: talk to the school. She was angry but what could I do? I wasn't going to refund her out of my pwn pocket. It bears mentioning that this was a wealthy family; both she and her husband were physicians (still are, I'm sure). I prepared not to see them again, which was fine by me.

No such luck. They registered for the next school year, which went about the same. The next summer rolls around, and you guessed it: she demands free summer lesson makeups. I didn't have the energy at the time to fight it so I went ahead and taught them no charge.

But not the whole summer. She registered them for some camps halfway though and I only ended up teaching them 3 or 4 times. So - finally the end of it, or so I thought.

A big fat NO. lol

The next summer, TWO YEARS LATER, she demands the rest of the lessons she was "owed". Hahahahahaha.

I finally found my voice and told her to stick it in the nicest, most diplomatic way possible. And I do think she finally may have realized that she was way out of line. So we found an understanding and her sons actually went on to have quite good "careers", both ending up near the front of the firsts in the top student orchestra in the area.

I don't have proof but I'm SURE she complained about me to everyone who would listen. And the people she was giving a earful to wouldn't have any reason to doubt that she was egregiously wronged. There are always two sides.

Edited: May 30, 2018, 5:39 PM · Interesting story Ryan, and I agree, if I miss a lesson, I loose (within reasonable agreed upon make up possibilities) but if the teacher cancels (as in the OP’s case) and can’t accommodate a make up at some point in time, he/she should equally loose and issue either a refund or credit in my opinion.

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