Reader Question: “My biggest piano pain point is parents who can’t tell time. They come early to lessons and stay late wanting to talk. It is not a problem in the middle of a packed afternoon of teaching but those who come first or last sometimes want to take advantage of the “empty” time. What can I do?”
It’s Hard to Be Loved!
I say this with a smile 🙂 We spend so much of our non-teaching time either working on relationships with our clients or dealing with issues that arise from relationships that aren’t yet strong… and then, once we reach the place where we have a great working relationship with parents… we just want to have dinner and watch TV in a Snuggie!
3 Ways to Stick To Your Office Hours
Usually, I love kibbitzing with parents! I’m fortunate to have piano parents who are simply lovely and I enjoy sharing their child’s progress and learning about what’s happening in their home life. Sometimes, however, my office hours just can’t be flexible. I have two equally lovely daughters and a very patient husband waiting at home (and I’m usually starving!) I can’t always spare an extra 15 or 20 minutes at the start or the end of my day.
Here are 3 ways to politely give yourself some office hour sanity without damaging the relationships you’ve worked so hard to build:
1. Before Lessons – This one is simple. Don’t open your studio door until you’re ready! Working from home means that your clients are entering your house – if they’re in your house you need to acknowledge that fact… and then the chit chat takes up your precious last-minute set-up time before your day of lessons begin. Obviously you’ll want to let them into your waiting area, so leave your front door unlocked, but stay inside your studio with the door closed until you’re ready to welcome them in come lesson time. A sign on the front door that says “Come on in, I’ll be with you in a moment.” is a great way to transition to this way of starting lessons if you’ve previously personally opened the door.
2. Between Lessons – If you’re like me, you run lessons back-to-back. I allow a few minutes of lesson time to fill Mom or Dad in on what happened in the lesson and what their child’s goals are for the week (and I never forget to compliment their child in front of the parent… that works wonders!) but I don’t have time in between lessons for a full-out conversation. To give yourself an “easy out” invite the next student into your studio as you leave with the previous student to give Mom or Dad the debriefing. This makes it very obvious that you have another student waiting for you and then, if a long conversation is on the horizon, you can politely say “Sorry, I have Anna waiting for me, but I can give you a phone call if you have something you need to discuss?”
3. After Lessons – This is the most difficult situation to navigate as it is plainly obvious that you are done for the day. I’ve been stuck in 30+ minute conversations many times after my final lesson of the night as my stomach growls and visions of my little ones brushing their teeth for bed nag at me to get going. But I’ve learned that the following combo of subtle clues lets the parent know that I’m not only done teaching… I’m done being a teacher.
1) Turn off your studio lights as you leave the room with the student. Even if you’re actually heading back in there to tidy up and truly finish for the day once your student leaves, this “lights out” signal shows that you’re on your way out.
2) Have somewhere to be. Start your conversation with “So I’m just heading out of the studio, but this is what we did in the lesson today…” This gives you something to refer to if you need to cut the conversation short without being rude.
3) End your debriefing conversation with an immediate goodbye directed at the child. (“So thank you Anna! I’ll see you next week.”) You want to say a proper goodbye to your student anyway, and this is a polite and effective way to end the chit-chat if needed.
But Don’t Miss Opportunities!
Chatting casually with your piano student parents is one of the most effective ways to build relationships in your piano studio. Because you are so closely connected with their child, piano parents want to have a connection as well. Sometimes, even if you’re in a rush, taking the time to have a conversation with your clients can really do positive things. The time you take (when you are able) for pleasant conversation will usually save you lots of time in the long-run when dealing with the business side of your studio.