Studio Policy

Lesson Times

It is normal for lesson times to be scheduled & negotiated at the beginning of each School Term. The greatest change to the schedule usually occurs at the beginning of the School Year. Lesson times are scheduled on each half hour for 30 minute intervals. Some students elect to have a 1 hour lesson. I follow the Gazetted School Terms as set on the NSW Public Schools website (see following link).  http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/calendar/?do=setViewPeriod&categoryid=21&viewType=yearVie  It is the responsibility of the student &/or parent to notify me of requested changes to the scheduled times ahead of time, that is, NOT on the day of the scheduled lesson. I expect to be given AT LEAST 1 week's notice for requested changes due to:

  • Family Holidays
  • School Camps/Excursions
  • Your school has a different School Term & you will be away
  • School Concerts
  • Work Roster

If a requested schedule change is for reasons of taking up another activity such as after school sports or other hobbies, unless a new permanent lesson time can be negotiated (that is, not to change for only a short time then revert to 'normal'), then that request may not be able to be achieved (that is, you will need to choose which activity you prefer to do).

Last minute notice of change to a scheduled lesson (that is, 24 hours notice MINIMUM) will only be accepted for reasons of sudden illness or emergencies but NOT for school excursions/camps/concerts, work roster, 'can't be bothered', 'too tired', 'haven't practised', 'forgot', 'chaos' or 'having a shitty day'. Missed lessons that do not conform to this Studio Policy are still liable for full payment of the scheduled fee. Missed lessons that conform to this Policy will be 'made up' at a mutually arranged time which may include another weekday, on a weekend or in school holidays. If the Piano Teacher is sick & misses a lesson, that lesson will automatically be 'made up' at a mutually arranged time.

It is accepted amongst Music Teachers that this is a simple sign of respect for the teacher.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees remain at $30 per half hour. From the beginning of Term 4 2014 I will be invoicing per term. Invoicing will be according to how many weeks are in the Gazetted School Terms on the website listed above. Payment of fees can be paid in advance monthly or by the term but NOT weekly. Those who are more aware of the music teaching industry will know that this is usually the norm nowadays. Payment can be made by cash, cheque or electronic funds transfer online (ask for my banking details). Unless the first month of an account is fully paid & you have told me that you wish to pay by the month, I will regard an Account as Overdue at the end of the first month of term.

Overdue Accounts

We all 'forget' to pay our bills sometimes. We also all have 'tough periods'. If you turn up or bring your child to a lesson I'm automatically going to assume that you are Contracting with me for a payable Service. As in the case of my rent & bills, I'm going to expect my Invoices to be paid by the due date. If I have to 'chase money' on THREE separate legitimate occasions (that is, you keep 'forgetting' to pay, your life is 'chaotic', you are avoiding me or not communicating with me about problems in payment) I will sack you. To date, on the 3 occasions that I have had to sack a student or family,  the reasons have been due to 'family chaos'. It is never an easy decision & in the past has been preceded by at least 6 months of my angst.

AMEB Exams

Some of my students choose to prepare for an exam with the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB). Exams in Newcastle are twice per year – June & November. My students attend their exams at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music in Auckland St Newcastle.

I have an excellent record with students & am yet to have a student say that it wasn’t ‘fun’ to do. It does take consistency in practice & attendance to fully prepare for an exam. I have to ‘enter’ a student for an exam 4-5 months ahead of time. Regardless of a parent’s wish, if I don’t feel that a student will be ‘prepared’ enough for the exam I will not enter them as this also reflects on my Teacher Record.

A great way for young children to learn about the examination process in a more relaxed, informal way is to prepare for the ‘P Plate Piano’ syllabus which precedes ‘Preliminary Grade’. Please follow this link to check out this fun & colourful series of books. http://www.pplatepiano.com.au/

P Plate Piano is also on Youtube. Follow this link to see recordings of children playing from the books. http://www.youtube.com/user/pplatepiano

Youtube

I’m careful about uploading to my channel on Youtube. Several students have been uploaded to my channel with permission from parents or guardians. It is my practice to record on my own device upload under my own identity with minimal identification of the student.

So far we have several ‘famous’ people who are on Youtube playing various pieces. You can see my channel at the following link. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsn-XccpQVd4DaW-JXumLRA

Duty of care reminder

‘Duty of Care’ is a legal definition that defines the responsibility of the professional (ie me) towards the child in their care. Teachers are one profession who are required to be ‘checked’ to work with children. I have a current ‘Working With Children Check’ & have also passed a ‘Criminal Record Check’.

It is my expectation that parents will not:

  • Drop their child off more than 5 mins early
  • Leave young children under the age of 8yrs at the bottom of the driveway to walk up alone then leave
  • Be late picking their child up

I’m VERY serious about my Duty of Care towards child students. My relationship with students becomes quite close often. Sometimes a child or young person will disclose something that may lead me to be concerned enough to phone a parent (during or after the lesson) or email a parent to ask them to call me. 

I HAVE had disclosures from children during the lesson that have led me to be very late. This includes disclosures about thoughts of self-harm, death, their own safety, suicidality & accessing potentially harmful internet sites. I ask you please to be patient if I’m running very late as it is most likely that something serious has occurred before you arrived. I am yet to have a parent unhappy about me temporarily halting my schedule because I had fears for their child’s safety.

Parking & ‘Stranger Danger’

Parking is available on Brighton Avenue, the War Memorial carpark or the foreshore carpark. PLEASE DO NOT DRIVE UP OR PARK IN THE DRIVEWAY. The Strata By-Laws say that blocking the driveway incurs a $500 fine.

Waiting Outside

Outside my front door is a blackboard with my schedule for that teaching session. If you are early for a lesson please wait quietly outside & ask your children to do the same if they are alone.

HOWEVER .... it’s ‘reasonable’ to expect that Sharon won’t get cranky pants if her bell is rung early because a child needs the loo desperately. I have also asked all children who arrive for their lesson after dark to ring my bell to wait inside for their turn. I do not want children waiting outside in the dark.

Young children will also be asked to wait inside after their lesson if their parent is late to pick them up. However I’m asking parents to be punctual as it’s quite a disturbance during another person’s lesson especially if the waiting child is very young & has ants in their pants.

Bugs

Piano teachers HATE bugs on piano keys! It is exceedingly difficult to disinfect a buggy piano! It’s also a financial & health risk for the piano teacher to get sick & not be able to teach. Believe it or not, about 4 years ago this piano teacher had 5 contacts with Whooping Cough over one winter!

So.....the rules are....no bugs in the lesson please. That means sneezy, coughy, runny nosed (especially if they also pick their nose – yes gross!), vomity, pooey, hot students need to stay at home please. Yes I’m VERY happy to reschedule a lesson if a child develops a relationship with a bug at short notice.

Music Books

I expect that students will bring ALL of their books that they are currently using to each lesson. That is, their

  • Lesson books & Grade books
  • Homework book
  • Any other book or music that we are using ie a scrapbook or other music book

Bringing music to their lesson indicates that the student/parent has respect for their teacher & themselves. It also indicates that they are ‘prepared’ for their lesson. If I request that you purchase a new music book for your child I'm expecting that to be done promptly.

I ‘get’ the after-school rush. I also ‘get’ that kids are disorganised. That’s why they have parents. Some of my more organised parents ‘facilitate’ their child to have their music out ready the night before (with a quick after school snack/drink), or place their music in their school bag on music lesson day.

In the past I have not continued to teach children who repeatedly come to their lessons without their music.

Website & Contacts

I have a Studio Website with Music Teacher’s Helper. It’s my organiser, my schedule, teaching records, contacting students etc. Each student & parents have their own log-in details to gain access to the private information behind the website & utilise resources, links, practice notes etc. Follow the link https://sharonellam.musicteachershelper.com/

My Invoicing is now done on a separate platform called Invoice2go. Invoices & payments are emailed to parents/students from there.

I can also be contacted by email at sharon@ellamentary.com or by phone or sms on 0419 161516. If I am busy I may not answer immediately. Please be patient or consider whether your enquiry can be accomplished during the next lesson.

New Students

I often get asked about when a child is ready to start to learn piano. My response is ‘the earlier the better’. I do teach from age 4 years. Basically they need to be interested & able to follow direction & ‘be good’ for the lesson.

Regarding ‘Big School’ my advice is either:

  1. Begin piano lessons at the beginning of Term 4 the previous year OR
  2. Begin piano lessons at the beginning of Term 2 ie not at the same time as starting Big School.

There’s a great article online about when kids are ready to start. Follow this link to read it. http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/when-is-my-child-ready-for-lessons/

As for when people are too old to start learning, I offer a discount over 104yrs & advise against continuing lessons if someone forgets where I live.

Acknowledgement & Recommendation for Further Reading

This Studio Policy has been written with partial inspiration from Elissa Milne in her blog post entitled '15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning the Piano' at the following link http://elissamilne.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/15-things-you-need-to-know-about-supporting-your-child-learning-to-play-the-piano/