The longer you are a piano teacher or voice teacher the more it becomes obvious that it is much more profitable to keep current students then to go looking for new ones. The average time most teachers keep a student is about two years. Some teachers manage to keep the majority of their students much longer than two years while others only retain them for a couple of months. After studying the teaching habits of some successful and some unsuccessful teachers there are some trends that are absolutely crucial to keeping your students long term. Here are some of the skills teachers employ to maintain their students.
1. Be on Time. Musicians tend to be a little more creative and therefore also lean toward being unorganized and often unprepared. This shows itself very apparently in their timeliness. A large number of teachers have the bad habit of being late or even of not showing up at all. This is the biggest mistake I see teachers make but it is also one of the easiest to fix. Invest in a good calendar, keep it accurate, and try to be a few minutes early to each lesson so you can focus yourself and prepare for the lessons ahead. There will always be times when you cannot make it on time or you have to miss lessons but make sure this happens as little as possible. Be extremely apologetic when this happens and I would offer some sort of compensation. A little goes a long way with most students and you will find that if you prioritize them and their busy schedules they will do the same for you. If you miss part of their lesson or even miss entirely perhaps offer them a free lesson or a month discount. It might not be best for you financially at the moment but its far superior than losing a student or getting a bad reputation as a teacher. Here are the first five ways you can keep your current students.
2. Be Excited. I hear time and time again that when people dropped out of lessons as a child it was because their lessons were boring. A little enthusiasm goes a long way and it is highly contagious. Bring as much energy and excitement as you can to every lesson. You will find that your lessons are more productive and students stick to it much longer. You might have to force a smile every once and a while and pretend to be more interested than you are but eventually you will find that you mean it.
3. Like the Student. Find some time to praise a student for a job well done and let them know that you like them and enjoy teaching them. For the most part you will like your students and enjoy their lessons (If you don’t you should rethink your career choice) but we have all had that one student that makes you dread teaching them. Try and find something that you like about them and focus on it. Maybe they practice a lot or they at least pay on time. Find something you can complement and admire about them and make a point to do so out loud every lesson. Students will enjoy lessons so much more if they feel like the teacher enjoys teaching them. Growing up my favorite teachers were always the ones who enjoyed teaching me.
4. Continue learning. I am a firm believer that a teacher should constantly be learning. Either they continue to take lessons themselves, they read pedagogy books, attend lectures or even meet with other teachers to discuss techniques a teacher should always learn and progress. It is very easy to become stagnant in this field and just teach what you know and let the checks come in every week. You will never become a truly great piano teacher or voice teacher unless you are a great learner. You should bring something new to each lesson and its difficult to do that unless you are learning something new yourself.
5. Be clear about what you expect. Make sure that your students know what you want them to do. Be clear about what to practice, how to practice, and how long to practice. It is easy to get frustrated when students do not progress or achieve much during the week but a lot of times this can be eliminated if the teacher is more clear about what they expect. Talk to parents and student about exactly what you want and write down weekly goals for them to take home. Have clear detailed studio policies in writing that can be a reminder to students as well. Make sure your calendar, schedule, and payment policies are clear and in writing as well. Consider posting these to your website to allow families easy access or sending home regular handout or emails as well.