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I recommend that you require a fee from anyone wishing you to hold a time slot open for them.

Your feelings about how wonderful the kids are and how much you love teaching them are mostly irrelevant if you are teaching piano as a source of income.

As to the teacher trying to "steal" your students: at the moment they seem to be her students.


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I have a question arising from this.
If a teacher is going to be away for a period of several months, are arrangements usually made? For example, if the students are expected to work on their own for all that time, does the teacher arrange that they can contact him/her with questions, asking for help? Check in on students, say once a month to see if things are ok? Arrange with a trusted colleague or two, to take over during the absence, maybe with something like general lesson plans - this is what we've been doing / are aiming for?

What do students / parents do during the time of a teacher's absence?

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Originally Posted by keystring
If a teacher is going to be away for a period of several months, are arrangements usually made?

Different scenarios I've experienced/heard of:

1. With the teacher for whom I stood in way back early in my teaching career (see my second post in this thread), I was not given any information ahead of time about the students, their levels, or anything. In my naivete about receiving students who'd already been studying with someone else, I didn't think to ask about details ahead of time. I simply adjusted to the students as I got to know them, and I taught from the books they were already using.

2. The times I myself took maternity leave (both children were born in the spring -- late-April and mid-May), I had written to my piano parents about when my due dates were, and that I would be taking maternity leave starting when the babies were born and extending to Labor Day in the U.S. (which is in early September). I didn't have anyone teach for me during those months, nor did I check in with the families, other than to send another letter in August to remind them of the date I was resuming lessons.

Those two years, the students simply had a little more time off than usual, since many families took the summers off, anyway. (That was in the earlier years of my teaching, when I didn't teach year-round like I do now. Summer lessons were optional then -- either they could stop for the summer, or do an every-other-week plan [5 summer lessons] or a 10-week summer plan. So a 4-month or 4.5-month maternity leave at that time of year wasn't a whole lot longer than what most families ordinarily had as a summer break.)

3. One younger teacher I know asked another young colleague of ours, who had recently gotten established as a teacher, to take her students for a few months about a year ago when she went on maternity leave. She did pass along information about the students' musical levels, etc. to the stand-in teacher ahead of time, and the transition of the students back to their original teacher when her leave time was finished was very professionally handled. I believe that this is the ideal way to handle extended leaves -- to pre-select a trusted colleague or a few to work with one's students during a lengthier absence.

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Timing of spring babies works really well! In a general time sense, I think Andamento's #3 is the ideal handling (with one small change*). I think the OP's faulty assumption may have been to think that "parent was ok and told me to go ahead with it and the meantime will encourage the kids to do their own practise" meant parent found it acceptable to pause lessons for the few months and return to OP - very dangerous to assume this without hashing out the details up front. If you "say nothing" and arrange nothing, I would "assume the worst": student may seek other instruction because they don't want to go months without and that comes with the risk they may prefer to stay with the newly found teacher.

OP dropped the ball on communicating expectations. Parent also dropped the ball by stringing the OP along with a moving target restart date and should have just said so if at some point they decided they weren't coming back. Stand-in teacher also appears to have behaved with less than full transparency, based on the side of the story we are hearing.

*My change would be that in addition to recommending that students work with my trusted colleague, who expects that students would be returning to me at the specified time (and if this colleague couldn't be trusted, this wouldn't work), I would acknowledge up front that some students might prefer to choose someone themselves and that it's possible and acceptable that they may decide later to continue with the new teacher, i.e., I wouldn't automatically assume everyone is coming back. I would ask them to communicate their choice within a suitable timeframe and there would be no holding of spots for someone who was wishy washy.

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Sadly, I am a private piano teacher so I have no protections at all even though I would have a policy. Most parents when they want to quit or come out with funny excuses usually wouldn't adhere to the policies as there is no law or contract.

Even there are music associations in my country, there is nothing much we as a teacher can do.
After much thoughts and also reading all of your replies, I shouldn't seem desperate to want them back however I like teaching them.

Why am I leaving my slots open for them to return? It's unfair to me. I lost income because of them and I don't fill in their time slots.

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Yea it was my hind sight that I didn't offered a friend to help me with the stand-in while I'm away. I assumed that the parent was okay with me being away.
Parent did told me on how he engaged the teacher.

Through his 3rd child's kindergarten music teacher. (Meaning this teacher has a full time job outside and taking extra students after her work.) He said initially it was to find a teacher to teach him since his 3rd child showed interest in Piano (I have not taught the 3rd child before) and since the teacher came over for 3rd child's lessons, Parent asked the teacher to stand-in for the elder two.

No matter what's the outcome, that teacher has all 3 of them now.

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Originally Posted by allegrettoforte
since the teacher came over for 3rd child's lessons, Parent asked the teacher to stand-in for the elder two.

No matter what's the outcome, that teacher has all 3 of them now.

This is certainly a new development. If the parent intends to have you return to teaching the two children you did, will he also retain the other teacher to teach the third child? Will there be two teachers, you and the "stand-in," coming to their house to provide piano instruction?

I'm guessing this other teacher is not traveling there multiple times a week to teach the family's children. She probably works with them all back-to-back on one day.

I'm sorry to say this doesn't sound good for you, allegrettoforte. I doubt that they will want to rearrange their schedule to have you come over on a different day than the other teacher does, and it would be beyond awkward if you or the other teacher were there at the same while one of you was arriving and the other leaving.

This is an assumption, but my guess is that Parent A wants just one teacher to be working with all three of the children. I believe the choice has been made -- and the other teacher has been selected. The parent keeps kicking the can down the road, delaying the time when he has to be forthright and say, "We will be going with this other teacher. Thank you for your service."

I know it's hard to lose students you really enjoy. But this family is making you jump through hoops while you're hoping to get the students back. You don't need such mental anguish. Free yourself of people like that; especially when you've got a new little one to cherish. smile

I still maintain that the best thing you can do (after making it clear how and when your transition from maternity leave to teaching again will occur) is to put an end to in-home lessons.

Clearly state -- in writing -- that all lessons, effective [specify the date] will be at your place of business, and not in client homes. It will give that family an out, and you won't have to deal anymore with the frustration of their manipulations if (likely when) they quit.

You will also have room for more students when you don't have to spend time traveling to client's homes. (I hope you've been charging them more for the extra teaching time you lost in travel, for the wear-and-tear on your vehicle, and/or the other costs or hassles involved in securing transportation to their home, etc.)

I wish you well, allegretto. Things will get better for you, whatever route this family chooses: whether they respect your timeline and return, or they walk away, in which case you won't have the hassle of further dealing with a family who doesn't respect your policies.

All best,
Andamento

Last edited by Andamento; 11/27/21 11:44 PM.
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Originally Posted by allegrettoforte
After much thoughts and also reading all of your replies, I shouldn't seem desperate to want them back however I like teaching them.

One other thing I wanted to say, allegretto: It is natural to want to teach these wonderful students again. You enjoyed working with them; they progressed well, and you had fun.

Your feelings are your feelings -- you've experienced a loss in that they didn't return this month like you thought they would, and the more time goes by, and the more developments to the story there get to be, the less likely it appears those students will ever come back.

Grieve that loss without disparaging yourself with "I shouldn't..." statements.

I really am sorry this all has happened as it did. You bonded with those kids, and it's hard to face the possibility (or likelihood) of losing students you care about.

I hope how ever this all unfolds, you'll find peace. Do what you can, and whatever happens that's beyond your control, I'm hoping and praying the best for you.

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Originally Posted by Andamento
Originally Posted by keystring
If a teacher is going to be away for a period of several months, are arrangements usually made?

Different scenarios I've experienced/heard of: [snipped for brevity - whole thing read].


Thank you for that full and thoughtful answer.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Andamento
Originally Posted by keystring
If a teacher is going to be away for a period of several months, are arrangements usually made?

Different scenarios I've experienced/heard of: [snipped for brevity - whole thing read].


Thank you for that full and thoughtful answer.

You're welcome, keystring. That was a good question you asked.

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Originally Posted by mostlystrings
*My change would be that in addition to recommending that students work with my trusted colleague, who expects that students would be returning to me at the specified time (and if this colleague couldn't be trusted, this wouldn't work), I would acknowledge up front that some students might prefer to choose someone themselves and that it's possible and acceptable that they may decide later to continue with the new teacher, i.e., I wouldn't automatically assume everyone is coming back. I would ask them to communicate their choice within a suitable timeframe and there would be no holding of spots for someone who was wishy washy.

Good considerations I hadn't thought of, mostlystrings.

Originally Posted by mostlystrings
Timing of spring babies works really well!

Yes it did. smile

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I sincerely thank everyone's input especially Andamento and keystring's.

I felt much better now and I will give Parent A a deadline to resume lessons with me.
Whatever the outcome is, I'm prepared for it and I will face it positively.

Thank you for this community of awesome people!

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Originally Posted by Andamento
You're welcome, keystring. That was a good question you asked.

smile What prompted it is something that happened to me, which is not really a same circumstance, because I was a rank beginner. I was about 6 weeks into a technically difficult instrument, when the teacher took a break for almost two months - told me to go ahead on my own, but call if I had questions. Ofc I was too shy to call, and also felt I knew what I was doing (I didn't). When lessons resumed, I was spot-tested on various pages, and since I played the right notes or whatever, I got passed and was given the next level book. There were certain foundations that I got on my own due to that. Certian problems that plagued me at higher levels were traced back to those foundations I had gotten wrong, because my playing had developed unsupervised. It would have been better for me to not touch the instrument for the period this teacher ws gone. Or be under someone's supervision. A student with a few years experience will be less vulnerable I'd think. But who knows what odd things you might end up doing that need to be fixed later on, in a few months. Hence the question. smile

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Originally Posted by allegrettoforte
I sincerely thank everyone's input especially Andamento and keystring's.

I felt much better now and I will give Parent A a deadline to resume lessons with me.
Whatever the outcome is, I'm prepared for it and I will face it positively.

Thank you for this community of awesome people!
Let us know how it goes. smile Rooting for you.

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Your idea of the deadline is probably the best. However, my choice would have been to send a message like this:

In reviewing my financial position, I have decided to find two students to replace your children's spot beginning in December. I'm sorry I can't hold your spots for you anymore. I've enjoyed teaching your children and wish you all the best.

They will almost certainly not respond to this. Here is my reasoning: The parents disrespected you and caused an irreparable break in your relationship. They have become students of the other teacher now, particularly the third child. Your position was usurped by this teacher. It's happened to me once too. If they are sniffing around another teacher, it is best to drop them.

I have learned several things from your post. Four months is too long a period to expect students to return to you. Secondly, never drive to the children's home. Thirdly, let people go when they have flown the coop. Fourthly, advertise more. Fifthly, we as teachers need to become less emotionally involved with students, particularly if they are not emotionally committed to us.

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I agree with Candywoman. I would prefer more neutral wording in the message to parents, something like :
"Beginning December 1, payment of (whatever amount you want) will be required to hold lesson times for all students."


Like Candywoman, I doubt that you will hear from them. When you don't hear from them, you could send another message stating that you have enjoyed teaching them, you wish them well, and that they are welcome to contact you should they be interested in your services in the future.


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As Malkin recommends, keep the door open in any farewell note. Students sometimes return, and it sets a tone in any event.

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Keeping the ending friendly may also further open the door to receiving the children of those students someday. The students probably have fond memories of the time you spent with them, and may just bring their children to you someday if there's a clean ending to the current relationship.

Right now I have a student whose mom was a student of mine for only a very short time -- less than a year -- and that more than twenty years ago.

We don't always know the impact we have had on our students, even if they were with us for a brief time.

Believe that you have made a difference in the lives of these children. Sometimes the fruit of our labors comes back a long ways down the road.

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One thought. Does the parent even know that there is such a thing as "holding a spot open"? When I started lessons the first time, I had no idea how it worked. I figured that if I was gone for several months, my slot would be given to somebody else - but basically I didn't think about it. I would have expected, that when I return, my teacher would propose whatever time slot was available, IF there was one available. The idea of a fee for something that I know nothing about would just be weird, and also off-putting, and suspicious seeming.

People not in your business, don't understand your business. They can do or say things that seem rude or entitled, when they just don't have a clue. We are used to accessing our ATM or a company's after-hours phone service - a teacher is another holograph doctor who pops up instantly to ask "How can I serve you?" and stops existing at other times. I run my own business, so I understand that "free time" isn't free time - that the logistics of organizing your time over 24 hours are a real challenge and so on. Those in regular employment won't have a clue. You have to explain what seems obvious to you.

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Originally Posted by allegrettoforte
Sadly, I am a private piano teacher so I have no protections at all even though I would have a policy. Most parents when they want to quit or come out with funny excuses usually wouldn't adhere to the policies as there is no law or contract.

Even there are music associations in my country, there is nothing much we as a teacher can do....

From this response upthread, I'm wondering if allegrettoforte is not in North America or western Europe and if the cultural norms with respect to the teacher/student "business" relationship might be different compared to what we are assuming. (I could be completely wrong here, and if so, will apologize in advance.)

I do agree with the general consensus, that the students are gone and the teacher needs to move forward and fill those slots, leaving open the possibility of the students returning at some point.


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