Thursday, November 11, 2010


When did it become OK to disrespect a teacher?

I teach private music lessons, and over the past 4 years I've noticed the increasing trend in students and their parents treating me (and other private instructors) disrespectfully.  No-shows, last minute cancellations, not practicing, not focusing, quitting because it's "too hard".  When did children start ruling over their parents? What is going on here?

No-shows and last minute cancellations (that are not related to being ill, family emergencies or car problems) seem to happen every week. Not only do they happen, but the parents don't want to pay for the missed lessons. This is my Livelihood, people! I have expenses to cover. I have bills to pay. This isn't some hobby, it's what I do!! Why is it so hard for parents to understand this? What about having enough respect for me and my time to call me 24-hours ahead and say, "Janie has a conflict tomorrow and we can't make it." or "Billy isn't feeling well and we don't want to get you sick. We want to reschedule his lesson."  It isn't rocket science people, it's called COMMUNICATION. Email, Text, Cell Phones - those are the tools so why aren't they being used?  Not showing up or canceling last minute teaches that child that it's OK to not keep commitments. It teaches that child that their teacher's time is not important. It teaches that child that it's OK to disrespect others. Again I ask, when did this become OK?

I understand that students get distracted. I understand that students don't always have a lot of time to practice. Life is full these days. School, family, sports, clubs, pets, chores... these things all take up precious time. These things are commitments and need to be prioritized. By the same token, however, these students signed up for lessons. They made a commitment to me and to themselves to practice and learn an instrument. Not being focused and not practicing is another way student disrespect their teachers. Be prepared - be honest - tell me that you didn't practice and I'll work with that. Coming to lessons yawning, slack-jawed and not being present is a waste of everyone's time.  When did this become OK?

Last but no least, the excuse "It's too hard" is bogus. No Shit it's hard! You are learning a new language (reading music)! You are using muscles you don't use at other times! You're doing 18 things at once! If it was EASY then EVERYONE would be doing it.  With everything we do in our lives, there is a learning curve. Things are hard at the start, and it's my belief that they will get harder before we reach the top of the curve, and everything we've been struggling with suddenly makes sense. It all clicks, and as we move forward we start the next learning curve.  "It's too hard" is not the same as a student saying "I'm no longer interested". "It's too hard" is not the same as "I never wanted to play this instrument." "It's too hard" is a cop-out for not wanting to do the work. I'm not suggesting that parents not listen to their children and force them to play an instrument they're not interested in. What I am saying is asking their kids to stick it out for 1 or 2 more lessons, to see if they can get over that hump may be more beneficial than letting them quit because "it's too hard".

How do I know all this?  I've been there. I didn't want to practice. I wanted to quit. I would come to lessons unprepared and distracted. My teacher would talk to me about the disrespect I was showing her and myself, and if that's what I wanted to do then she wouldn't teach me anymore.  She put her heart and soul into teaching me (and her other students) and it wasn't worth her time to waste that on someone who didn't get that.

I love my students.  I teach all ages, all levels, and each one of my "kids" is special.  I know music is a hobby to most of my students, and I have no problems with that. I just want them, and their parents, to see that what they're getting is gift. They're getting a teacher who is investing her time in THEM. They're getting a teacher dedicated to making this a good experience. They're getting a teacher who tries to make the lessons fun and informative.  I respect my students and their parents. I'd like to be treated the same way.


  1. I hear you. Also, I wonder if there is a way to change your payment structure and policies? Perhaps folks have to pay for the month in advance? Also, no doctor or massage therapist would allow a last minute cancellation without payment. Stating your expectations in advance with a simple contract or set of written expectations?

  2. Ditto Rebecca. And if it makes you feel any better, clients pull no-shows with lawyers too.

  3. Jeepers, wouldn't be it great if everyone honored their commitments and paid their bills and made sure their financial obligations were met? How different things would be. At least you and John will be able to teach your child differently. But I don't know about forcing kids to do things they don't want to do...that's different altogether than a child wanting to do something. I agree with others: if this is to be your (sole) livelihood, then you need parents paying for lessons in advance, and that needs to be enforced. No 'being nice' and letting people skip payments or skip lessons.

  4. I think a lot of times kids say "It's too hard" when they mean "I never wanted to do this in the first place" or "I'm not interested anymore".
    Do you have parents sign a contract with you which states that lessons canceled or rescheduled on less than 24 hours notice will still have to be paid for? If not, you should, and then you can waive the payment for those people who occasionally have genuine emergencies.

  5. Rebecca W- I'm revamping my payment structure. I Have some difficulties in insisting on pre-payment because I know not everyone can afford to do that and I don't want to deny someone lessons because the can't pay in advance.

    All - I do have a contract for my students and their parents to sign. I'll be revamping it this weekend.

    Bertha - I don't believe in forcing a student to take lessons when they don't want to.

    Hel - Many times you're right about "it's too hard" mean "I didn't want to play this instrument", but I try to screen the students for that at the first/intro lesson. I generally don't accept students who are being forced into taking lessons.



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