December 6

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The Curse of Flexibility

When I first started teaching during grad school, I was very flexible. If students needed to miss a lesson for any reason, I would make up the lesson. 

Driving to their house on what would normally be a day off. Or, during a timeframe I wouldn't normally be teaching.

Why?

Because I wanted to keep the students, and I thought my flexibility would be a perk to retaining students.

But two things happened.

I burned out because my teaching schedule was all over the map, every single week.

And, the students who were always asking to reschedule lessons? They still ended up quitting...

In the end, my flexibility didn't help anyone. The students, or myself.

What's interesting is that, over the past several years, more and more community music schools have changed things.

It used to be standard for most schools to have a no-makeup policy. But now, there are schools that pride themselves on having more flexibility.

Some offering as much as a month of leave time while having their slot saved (meanwhile, the teacher losing that month's income for that saved slot).

The same problems persist.

Teachers lose their consistent schedule and income, which then affects the quality of teaching.

And the students are losing out, too. Because flexibility is not a gift. It's a curse.

The piano lesson is about more than the teaching. It's about the accountability. Knowing you'll see your teacher, and you want to show up prepared.

When students reschedule left and right, it sends an unspoken message. A message that says, "Everything else is important enough to deserve consistency. And piano comes last."

And this is what leads to quitting. And why good music schools don't have an infinitely-flexible policy on makeup lessons.

Because while flexibility might feel nice, in the end, it doesn't help anyone.

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About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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