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Interview/Audition for new clients?

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#1 music-teacher-81

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 11:06

I was wondering if people could give me their opinions on the idea of carrying out an audition/interview with potential clients? I have recently had a few bad situations that have really affected my enjoyment of teaching and I want to try and prevent being in this position again. I would be looking to invite any potential clients (and their parent/s) in for a consultation to find out why they want lessons and to make sure that they are totally committed to learning and that the parents know from the start that I am not just a childminder while they go to the supermarket. Some of the situations I have recently had to deal with:

 

  • Parents coming in and out of the teaching room, back and forth, back and forth, peeking through the gap in the door
  • One parent who shouts at her child the whole way through every lesson, repeating everything I say, but ten times louder!
  • Clients who constantly cancel or don't turn up
  • Clients who turn up 45 minutes early EVERY week, interrupting other clients' lessons
  • Parents who drop their young child off one hour early then pick them up 50 minutes after the lesson has finished!
  • I hate to say this one, but it really bothers me, one family who turn up (Mum, Dad, four children, Gran and even two cousins once) and, I'm sorry, but they stink really bad! I have to open all the windows after they leave! 
  • A child who has a SEVERE attitude problem and huffs and puffs at everything I say and hates everything
  • Parents who forget to bring money EVERY WEEK! 
  • Same few clients who turn up, unpracticed, forgot their books, forgot what I asked them to do
  • A parent who lets her two other young children run absolute riot around the place whilst I am teaching their sister
  • A parent (whom I did give the boot) who would scrutinise every single thing I gave his son to play, questioning why I hadn't given them something else, should they not be 4 grades ahead by now, am I even a musician!!!! (the chap was a doctor and my goodness, he didn't let me forget it!)
  • This really isn't anything but two things that really bother me, one adult client who chews gum like a horse the whole lesson and one mother who feels it is ok to turn up and sit in on the lesson with her other daughter, stuffing their faces with McDonald's or crisps and cola then leave their rubbish when they leave.
  • And finally, one adult client who plays when I am speaking, plays when I am playing, when I am pointing out things on the sheet music he just keeps playing and doesn't even look up at the sheet

 

Now, a few things I would like to point out:

  1. Of course, I want to make money and pay my bills, thus why up until now I have taken on anyone who comes along
  2. My reasons for wanting to set up interviews is because the issues above are seriously affecting my love for teaching
  3. I do get the vibe that some clients & parents see me as just another club they can attend to pass the time, I only want people seriously interested in learning
  4. I want the parents to know that they also have a responsibility in their child's practice and encouragement
  5. I want there to be an element of respect, I feel eating McDonald's, turning up an hour early and not practicing/not bringing book, well it is just not on (am I being too sensitive?)
  6. My big worry is that by me advertising my interview process and selecting clients, that it may come across as arrogant and big headed, not only to potential clients, but to other teachers in the area
  7. I'm also worried that it might backfire in my face and I'll lose a fortune from my income. I don't want it to scare potential clients away
  8. How do I politely reject the ones whom I don't want to teach without them spreading bad word about my studio to everyone in the community?

 

Can anyone offer any tips, comments, advice etc on my predicament? I would be very grateful indeed.

 

p.s. I teach piano and guitar and have taught full time (45 hours per week) for 16 years. One hour price £39, half hour £25. I am VAT registered, so 20% goes straight to HMRC, I also have a teaching studio on a main street to pay for and all the overheads that go with it including a receptionist. All lessons are pay-as-you-go as I feel I would struggle to find enough customers who can afford to pay £390 upfront every 10 weeks. 

 

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#2 Splog

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 11:36

Most of this sounds like quite normal human behaviour, and the way to stop it is to tell the people doing it that you don't like it. People are doing this because they don't know any better, and it is up to you to tell them. Various ways to do this - terms and conditions can include your rules such as when to drop off and collect, whether parents are allowed in the room, sitting outside quietly during someone else's lesson etc. Signs up in your waiting area can also help, eg no eating. There are plenty of people on here who can help you with terms and conditions. And if they are well worded and friendly, they shouldn't cause you any bother.

 

Can you bill them for three or four weeks in advance, rather than ten? That would lessen the sting.

 

The idea that you can only take on clients who are keen and motivated is fine, but it is rarely the reality. You can build in a requirement for practice, but there will be clients who are just coming along because they enjoy it but don't really have much in the way of motivation, and you may find you don't really mind.

 

Is your last person (adult who plays constantly) a guitarist by any chance? This seems to be a guitarist behaviour and I encounter it at times and it irritates me no end. It seems to be impossible for some people to hold a guitar and not play it. You need to teach him/her to do just that. And enforce it. Stop the lesson until they stop playing and look at you or what you want them to look at.

 

Good luck! That's a fine set of issues you have there....


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#3 linda.ff

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:11

First of all, welcome to this forum - this is just the place to share issues like these, and some of the things we discuss at great length are things which some people would consider quite trivial (like "does anyone else rush the end of one lesson book when the next is in sight?" which I'm afraid I do) as well as much wider and more disturbing ones, and some parents do read the teachers' forum too (though it doesn't sound as though many of yours have ever seen a teacher's viewpoint)

 

You are on the very expensive side - twice as much for half an hour as I was charging up to the beginning of this year! and I'm not "cheap" - so I'm faintly surprised that people who aren't taking it seriously are coming to you. I don't "audition" my pupils as such - indeed I couldn't really, as many of them come to me as beginners and would have nothing to show for it. I have a "to-see" session which I don't charge for, and I often try to demonstrate a tiny bit of teaching in it so that we can all see how the pupil and I respond to one another.

 

You might try to make a sort of leaflet about what you expect, possibly even describing some of the things you have listed above, though not exactly saying they have been clients of yours: exaggerate them if necessary, get some kind of cartoon showing these things (fat piggy family on your sofa surrounded by the spoils of McDonald's) and superimpose a big red cross over them. They will probably assume that all of your other pupils comply with these conditions. Make it humorous, whether you find it funny yourself or not, but make it sound as though OF COURSE nobody behaves like that in a lesson.

 

Have you often had this kind of behaviour in a first encounter, or has it been during lessons? I have rarely had anyone come to see me whom I know I won't want to teach, and as for being serious about learning, I find even a lot of the parents of first-time young learners in the family don't know if it's going to turn out to be serious or not. You can always specify one term's trial to find this out.

 

I'm a bit puzzled that you have a receptionist and still have these problems - where does your receptionist sit? Can s/he not deal with all the things like turning up early, picking up late, etc? And enforce things like only two other people at most sitting in the lesson and absolutely no food? If the receptionist's area is small and not very hospitable, so much the better in many ways!


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#4 Misterioso

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:17

Sorry you've had such an unpleasant set of experiences; it's hardly surprising that it's affecting your love of teaching music.  Actually, what you have gone through would drive me crazy!

 

Just a few suggestions that may, perhaps, help:-

 

A notice on the teaching room door saying something along the lines of "Lesson in progress; please do not disturb".  If you are still disturbed anyway, just reinforce it, pointing out that it's distracting for both you and your student.  It's your teaching studio, and your rules stand.

 

Hmmm, just read through your post again - add no eating to the notice!!

 

Point out to parents dropping off and picking up children early / late that you cannot be responsible for them before or after the lesson has finished; you have been paid for that time by other students, and they must sit quietly in the waiting area (if they are old enough to be trusted) or wait in the car with a parent until the time of their lesson.

 

The adult who plays when you are speaking needs a little training.  I have a violinist who does this, and I just stay silent until she decides to stop.  She soon gets the message.  

 

Don't advertise your selection / interview process; instead, when people enquire, just say that it's your practice to have an informal chat with potential learners (and parents) to go through everything, make sure you can work with them and they with you, and then you will take them on (or not!)

 

Finally, a set of T&Cs to cover everything in your post that you don't like.  I'm happy to send you a copy of mine if that would help.  

 

And as Splog said, good luck!


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#5 Louise H

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:17

I would start by setting some straightforward terms & conditions - ie dropping off / collecting from lessons on time. Definite expectations about payments and cancellations; what the cancellation policy is - 24/48 hours; options to pay monthly or split payment into two installments etc. With food, either make sure there is a bin available for rubbish or state that eating on the premises is not allowed.


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#6 GMc

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 12:21

I think you will have an uphill battle here that is unlikely to be solved by interviews.  Teachers who are not dealing with a selective population (eg a music school or conservatoire or the sort who only take on aspiring professionals)  only have a little group of highly committed pupils and parents from my experience.  

 

One of ours has been known to moan at me about this situation!    She is very stern at interview (yes, she does a trial lesson) and tells you all the things she expects.   Which is a fair bit from both parent and child.   She doesn't ever sack though for lack of commitment. She takes the point of view that  if they are coming they are being exposed to music and she doesn't want to risk ruining their relationship with music for life.  She just does a practice session during lesson time.  She does not have behavioural problems with parents though - she would not be backward in telling someone what constitutes unsuitable behaviour and telling them to stop it!

 

The thing that she finds get some of her lot going is the promise of a slot in one of her concerts if they......do x, y, z.  Parents like that too.

 

However, if you do not nip undesirable behaviour in the bud at the outset it is very tricky to get them to change their ways once the ways are established.  If you don't mind losing the dross then lay down the law about the things that are driving you mad.   They will leave of their own accord if they don't like it.   Parents only in the room to observe - must be silent, no other family members in the room, no eating,  no early drop offs or late pick ups, no money no lesson etc etc.  I too think you need T+Cs even though I have never been given any by any of our teachers but at least the current mob of yours will have something to adhere to. 

 

In the end you only get treated the way you allow them to treat you and interviewing is perhaps not the way to address this.....sorry to be so blunt.


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#7 maggiemay

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 14:13

Yes, I certainly DO interview prospective families, and it's not because I take only aspiring professionals - within reason I take all comers. But it is very helpful to everyone involved, I find, to meet face to face and talk over a few things before deciding (and this works both ways) whether to proceed.
I don't call it an interview, though - it's an informal chat. No charge. Chance to see where we are and where I teach. Etc. ps and I should have said, it's definitely not an audition.

First impressions can be quite interesting. Like the poor girl who was expected to babysit her hyperactive baby brother during the meeting, while mum simply sat and ordered her about. Yes, I needed to talk with mum - but I also wanted to chat a little with the girl. Virtually no chance. And the 6 year old boy, who shocked his mum (I actually felt sorry for her) by picking up the piano stool and waving it about above his head.

Plus I do a four-week trial period at the outset.
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#8 Norway

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 14:37

My outfit is quite different from yours (small, run from home), and you are probably best placed to judge this, but as you have set outgoing costs, I think I would do Ts and Cs if I were in your position. Would a slightly lower charge but money up front be more successful? I think an initial meeting is a great idea - most people are fine, but I can think of one or two I would not have taken on had I met them first.  

 

The matter of the low level disruptive behaviour management comes down to personality - showing people where the boundaries are comes more naturally to some than others (I don't like having to do it, especially to adults who should know better!) You have to believe that you deserve to be respected. A thought experiment is handy - did you treat your own teacher/s like that? No? Then you shouldn't have to put up with it either!


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#9 ma non troppo

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 20:28

I have used phrases like:
"Have you by any chance forgotten to pay me or is there some difficulty with payment?"

"I'm really sorry, but I don't allow eating in my studio as the piano has be kept away from accidental spillage"

"Do you have a problem with the time of this lesson as I noticed you dropped off little Jenny very early today?"

" I'm sorry, but I have a very selective concentration and I find it hard to concentrate on teaching when there are lovely children enjoying themselves and running about. It makes me want to join in!"

 

etc etc....in other words I usually make my point whilst giving them a chance to "not feel bad". Until I think they really deserve to feel bad, then I will not pull my punches.


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#10 music-teacher-81

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 20:33

Hi folks, thank you so much for the tips and advice. Can anyone post there own Terms & Conditions on here for me to have a look at? Thanks again :-)


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#11 sbhoa

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 20:51

Hi folks, thank you so much for the tips and advice. Can anyone post there own Terms & Conditions on here for me to have a look at? Thanks again :-)

Mine are on my web site.


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#12 RoseRodent

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 09:22

It's trickier with piano than with any other instrument, but my "interview" process is to ask them to bring the instrument along to make sure it's suitable (you'd be amazed what I've seen!) so with guitar that's an easy way to explain that you want to meet people but it's clear that it isn't a lesson, you just meet for 10 minutes, explain what you expect, make sure they have an instrument you can work with, get the measure of the way people behave. 

 

Adults who play while you are talking are more difficult, with children I just make them put the instrument down (with piano you could make them move to a different chair) but it might be a bit much for an adult to be treated so much like a child, I'm not sure. 

 

For the late pick-upers, do you call them when it's pick-up time? It's worth the aggro of a few weeks ringing and telling them they are late, some people will get the message (others will still not care, and will have their phones turned off) - you need to have a late pick-up charge in yor T&Cs, make it big and make people pay it! They know that if they are late picking up from nurseries and childcare clubs that they will be clobbered with an instant £15 penalty with another £5 for every additional 5 minutes, you need to match that or you will be the one who is left out. You are not a childminder, make it clear that your insurance cannot treat you as a childminder and that children who are not in lessons or waiting (no more than 10 minutes) to go into their lessons need to be off the premises. 

 

Working in a studio, you have an excellent chance to make someone else the bad guy "My landlord says absolutely no eating and drinking in here" and then every time you need to remind someone you can say "I'm terribly sorry but my landlord doesn't allow you to eat in here" - people will usually leave, but you have to make them do it! 


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#13 linda.ff

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 10:48

If they play while I'm talking I usually just stop, preferably in mid-sentence and even frozen in position. It usually stops them; I don't think they're being rude, I think often they don't realise it.

 

One thing of course that most of us have learnt: if we don't say to a young child "listen to me and THEN copy what I did" they'll join in while you're showing them, because in school they do so much "copy what I'm doing" activity.


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#14 Cyrilla

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 11:51

A lot of what I do with children relies on them developing the discipline of 'copy the leader AFTER they have finished'. This also builds respect for others.

:)
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#15 RoseRodent

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 16:25

A beautifully simple version of that which I picked up in primary teaching is "my turn, your turn" and remind when they join in, "no, no, my turn, then your turn"
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