Recently, I ran into a situation with a student who has been canceling last minute, sometimes even after the lesson has started. I’m extremely flexible when it comes to cancelations, I get it, life happens. But when someone simply blows me off, not so much. You have to give notice when you cancel other appointments, after all, is my time any less valuable than a doctors? (please note that writing that made me laugh)
I learned a long time ago not to take things personally, I know I’m not important enough for someone to think of ways to disrupt my serenity, but I think I’m important enough to not be left hanging.
In this case, the student is an older woman and I’ve always enjoyed our time together, sometimes I have to interrupt her conversation to remind her that we’re together for her guitar lesson. The stories she’s shared with me are jaw dropping at times, she says she tells me more about her life, than her own sister. I sit and listen, she sits and talks, I try and move her into the lesson, she moves us back into her life’s story. She calls me her “therapy”, that’s okay; I’ve been called worse.
Each week I prepare for our lesson, she doesn’t practice, so I know we’ll have to start over again each week, that’s okay too. She’s very kind, ready to tip me at times, I tell her, I don’t want her money, I just want to teach her, she insists, I resist and we lock eyes in stubbornness.
So when she started not showing up a couple weeks ago, my first concern was her health, she lives alone, works a lot and is a cancer survivor. Turns out health was an issue, then she got caught in traffic another time and then was simply “too busy to cancel.” Since it’s been about a month since her last lesson, I didn’t expect to see her again, but last night there she was at her regular lesson time. At first, I thought, “you dirty scoundrel, where’s my money?” But, then we sat and talked, she said, “you gave my time away, I’ve lost my spot.” It’s an interesting thing, when you feel your heart become involved, because the look in her eyes made me want to hug her.
Perhaps, I’m a bad business person, because there we sat for half an hour and chatted about her life, why she hadn’t shown up and about if she wanted to continue taking lessons. I felt uncomfortable telling a woman my age, how to treat a woman of my age, business is business, time is money.
I know she felt badly, for gosh sakes, I felt bad. We agreed to wipe the slate clean and she’ll be in for another lesson next week. I walked her out to her car, carried her purse, let her lean again me for support, hugged her goodbye and thanked her for coming in. She said, “Ya know Kat, you’re like family to me”, I told her she was like an “older” sister to me, we both laughed and off into the night she went.
So, here is a suggested guideline for common courtesy, which obviously isn’t so common.
- Please cancel with enough notice to allow me to schedule another student in your place, so that I can continue to pay my electric bill and feed my cat
- Please arrive on time (early is on time, on time is late)
- Please if taking lessons at my home, take off your shoes at the door (if you need socks, I have ‘em in all colors)
- Please don’t complain about my cat, she’s part of the package and I offer free hair roller removal service at the end of each lesson
- Texting me is the best way to reach me, my phone is on silent a lot. What’s up with all these Robo calls ~ who answers their phone anymore? (My tip is to answer the phone saying, “yes” instead of ‘hello” ~ seems the word “hello” activates the recorded message)
- Please give me a heads up if there is something special you want to learn. (It’s crazy hard to learn a song and teach it at the same time ~ plus it’s my job to be prepared for your lesson)
- If you have questions, don’t understand something, for God’s sake speak up and let me know. I remember taking lessons and feeling like I should already know what I was learning. (If you already know everything, why aren’t I taking lessons from you?)
- Please know that anything I teach you, comes from my frame of reference. It’s okay to disagree with me, it’s really okay. It’s my job to meet you on your playing field, not visa versa
a) I recently had a student tell me that he wants to learn chord/melody instead of what I was teaching, his honesty helps me to be a better teacher
b) A student wanted to learn Ava Maria in a certain style, I tabbed out the lesson exactly as he wanted. Some students read music; others can’t and simply aren’t interested.
c) A student said he didn’t know what to practice between lessons, so I made a daily practice schedule for him, turns out all of my students wanted one. (Once again the teacher becomes the student)
In Conclusion, and this is important:
Please don’t worry about disappointing me; I continue to be surprised when students say this to me. It takes a lot of courage to learn an instrument; some say it takes at least 2 years to really learn it. So let’s just take it slow, remember to breathe and let’s have fun. If you’re on the fence about taking lessons, reach out with any questions.
Today’s Musing: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!