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#1506648 - 08/31/10 02:28 PM Re: New student contract [Re: keystring]  
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Ben Crosland Offline
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Well, the very first paragraph says 'ask your teacher to clarify any section where necessary' wink

Plus, it's not like we'll be forcing them to read and sign it in solemn silence - I plan to hand it to them personally, with the specific instruction to read it and sign it there and then, with the offer to explain anything they don't understand.

I don't think there's any point in idiot-proofing it any more than I already have - you have to draw a line when it comes to simplifying text, otherwise you end up reducing it to nothing. My philosophy on this is: if they are too stupid to understand the meaning of this sentence I've painstakingly written in plain English, then they will likely struggle to read it in the first place...

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#1506651 - 08/31/10 02:31 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Mark_C]  
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Ben Crosland Offline
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Question from someone who doesn't look at this section of the site very often and doesn't know about these things, and I imagine this is 'old hat' to most of you:

Does the benefit of having any kind of "contract" really outweigh the possibility of turning people off and making them look elsewhere? I would think it would not; to me, the mere thing seems like an extreme turn-off. But I realize that I just don't know, and that I'm biased by having grown up and taken lessons at a time when there wasn't any such thing.


Well, to put it in context: I just showed it to some friends of mine who have young children, and they thought it was fine. The comment was "looks just like the kind of thing I had to sign for the kids' swimming lessons".


#1506654 - 08/31/10 02:33 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Ben Crosland]  
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Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted by Ben Crosland
.....I just showed it to some friends of mine who have young children, and they thought it was fine. The comment was "looks just like the kind of thing I had to sign for the kids' swimming lessons".

Thanks for the quick reply, and please see my edit -- I added a little.

Also, let me say that one person's reaction doesn't really answer the possible concern -- and swimming lessons could be a bit different because of the physical danger, which I would imagine is one of the main reasons they have a document.

#1506656 - 08/31/10 02:36 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Mark_C]  
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Monica K. Offline

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This kind of thing is standard for a lot of children's activities, Mark, so I think parents are used to it. Adult students might be a little more turned off by the legalistic prose, but again I think it is a matter of presentation. A friendly initial conversation that is then followed up with, "Here's a handout that lists all the policies we've just talked about. If you want to enroll for lessons, I'll need you to sign it, and I'll give you a copy to keep for your records," will be much less off-putting than starting off with the document as the initial approach.


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#1506657 - 08/31/10 02:38 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Monica K.]  
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Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted by Monica K.
This kind of thing is standard for a lot of children's activities, Mark, so I think parents are used to it......

Thanks to you too for the quick reply. As per my above post, are you sure those things aren't usually with regard to activities that are potentially hazardous? If so, it could be a totally different thing. If not, then what you said really does answer it.

#1506660 - 08/31/10 02:40 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Mark_C]  
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rocket88 Offline
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Ben, what problems have you had that influenced the creation, and the general tone, of this contract?





Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1506662 - 08/31/10 02:44 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Mark_C]  
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Monica K. Offline

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Well, in today's litigious society, you could argue that ANYTHING is potentially hazardous. wink But, no, I've had to sign such agreements for children's theater, soccer, karate lessons, arts camps, etc.... any kind of activity involving a time commitment and multiple payments.

I've read enough threads here in the teacher's forum to realize that, because of a few bad apples, teachers need to protect themselves from deadbeats. Having a signed policy is often enough to convince such a deadbeat to pay up. Not always, of course, but it's better than not having any kind of protection at all.

It's too bad we don't live in world where we can count on people always to do the right thing on a handshake basis, but we don't. frown


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
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#1506664 - 08/31/10 02:49 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Monica K.]  
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Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted by Monica K.
.....I've read enough threads here in the teacher's forum to realize that, because of a few bad apples, teachers need to protect themselves from deadbeats....
It's too bad we don't live in world where we can count on people always to do the right thing on a handshake basis, but we don't. frown

Thanks again -- that's pretty thorough.
I guess it's also that lessons aren't like $3 any more. ha
When it was $3, there was less of an issue. But then again, back then $3 was real money. smile

I think if I were a piano teacher, I would still try initially to do it without anything in writing, or at most something extremely brief and simple (like 2 or 3 sentences) -- and try hard to make that work. I realize it might not.

I handle my current work exactly that way -- nothing in writing. I figure that whatever I lose, I make up from the other considerations, and I'm not planning on taking anyone to court anyway.

#1506666 - 08/31/10 02:53 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Ben Crosland]  
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Ben, you asked for feedback, and it is up to you to decide which you find valid and which you don't. Mine was based on certain observations but you'll be the best to judge whether it applies to the kinds of families you deal with.

#1506679 - 08/31/10 03:17 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Mark_C]  
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Monica K. Offline

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
I handle my current work exactly that way -- nothing in writing. I figure that whatever I lose, I make up from the other considerations, and I'm not planning on taking anyone to court anyway.


This is a good point. If a teacher wouldn't be willing to pursue a claim in small claims court, one could argue that the opportunity cost in families who decide to look elsewhere because they don't like the official legalistic language of the contract is worse than the compliance you'd gain from the timid deadbeats the policy would scare into paying up. (The fearless deadbeats aren't going to pay up no matter what.)

The only way Ben will know this is to try it out. For the first few months, I'd recommend following up on any studio inquiries that don't pan out and ask a few short questions about why the family decided not to enroll, and see if anybody mentions the policy explicitly as a detractor.


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
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#1506684 - 08/31/10 03:24 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Monica K.]  
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bitWrangler Offline
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As a parent I have no problems with the wording or tone of the contract in general. Now, it may be handy to have a "welcome to the studio" sheet to go along with this with items that might be useful (vs contractual) such as good practice habits/suggestions, suggestions on instruments, etc that can be worded in a more "friendly and inviting" way. While keystring is right and one should never underestimate the ability of people to misunderstand, this is true no matter how "simplified" you try to make things so I don't know that it's really worth the effort to go that route if that isn't where one already started down or if one feels more comfortable with a more formal approach.

#1506693 - 08/31/10 03:46 PM Re: New student contract [Re: Monica K.]  
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Ben Crosland Offline
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@rocket88 - specifically the situation I mentioned earlier in the thread, where people ring up to cancel permanently *on the day* (or worse, don't even bother ringing - they just don't turn up) of their first lesson after the holidays (i.e. the one to which they should be bringing payment), because their kid hasn't practised for a few weeks, and doesn't want to come any more because, well... they haven't practised for a few weeks.

Everyone is informed of the half-a-term notice policy, and most stick to it, but the ones who do the above *never* pay the fee for the notice period. This is unfair to the teacher and to everyone else who abides by the policy. So by putting it in a contract, it makes it less likely that they'll think they can get away with it. I seriously doubt proceedings would ever get further than a warning letter threatening action via a small claims court, but at least the contract would give me the leverage to send the warning letter.

The other reasons for the contract are to try and bring across the message that learning music is a relatively serious commitment, and also to make it easier for us as teachers to enforce the lesson cancellation policy, as it can be very difficult with some clients who deliberately lay on the guilt to get you to give them catch-ups for lessons they cancel for pathetic reasons, and often at the last minute. Once you give in to them, it becomes increasingly difficult to enforce the policy and, again, it's very unfair on the other clients who don't behave like this.

I think you'll find that it is not just the safety aspects of swimming, karate, etc that prompt the necessity of student contracts, either - rather, it is a necessary evil for anything which requires commitment to a course of lessons.

I notice that nearly all of the responses to this have been regarding the overall 'tone' of the contract. Now, I think that the latest draught comes across as very neutral for the most part, with the "Lessons Missed By Student" and "Notice To Quit" clauses being the only 'scary' ones. I've had hardly any suggestions that the clauses in themselves are 'unreasonable'.

@keystring: I'm sorry if my reply came across as dismissive of your feedback, for which I am grateful. It's not that I disagree with what you are saying, but rather that I'm not prepared to pander to the illiterate - I've written a few instruction manuals for synthesizers in the past as well, and I have often found myself arguing a similar point with the manufacturers over something which they have found to be maybe not as simplistic as they'd like: that is, that if by a certain point someone still doesn't get the meaning, then you're dealing with someone who probably couldn't even figure out which way round to sit on a dining room chair, let alone read or understand the menu wink

Last edited by Ben Crosland; 08/31/10 04:35 PM.
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