Writing your Lesson Policy & Agreement
Creating a contract without a legal background
Okay, I’ll admit that I barely have any understanding of our traffic laws, so how on earth did I put together a lesson contract? Take a look below to see my formula.
Disclosure: I am not a lawyer nor handing out legal advice! These are just recommended ideas to implement in your own lesson contract (without hiring a fancy lawyer) and is by no means the ‘right’ way of doing things.
A lesson policy is a lot like the busted umbrella (don’t ask why…) I keep in my car. I have it in place, just in case, hoping to never have use it. Four years into teaching privately with having over hundreds of students at multiple schools over years, I still have yet to use it! KNOCK ON WOOD. Here are some points that I’ve gathered over the years and currently have implemented within my own lesson policy. Taking ideas from other instructors, online content, and with the help of my legal-minded mother (thanks mom!) I’ve organized my policy in the following way:
A no brainer, but include the year and title of the contract. 2020 Lesson Agreement & Policy works just fine. I usually include a sub-title with ‘Drum/Percussion Lessons’ to inform parents what exactly it’s for.
Let the client know it’s a contract or agreement between yourself (the instructor) and them (the student and parent). Make sure the word-choice is clear and consistent throughout the entire contract. This is also a place to give a general overview of lesson details.
This is your time to shine! Parents love knowing what exactly their kids will be working on. Use this as an opportunity to showcase some of the things you may help students accomplish and learn throughout the year. This also holds you accountable to helping students reach their goals.
Lessons are designed to help students improve. While you can feed them all the information, full-potential cannot be reached unless they put in the work during their individual practice time each week. Adding their responsibilities will instill an expectation of weekly practice, in hopes of building overall self-discipline.
It’s been proven that parent involvement increases higher chances of student success! Let parents know that they are part of the learning process. They have to be the voice at home that pushes their kids. This might be reminding them to practice or keeping tabs on their progress.
You have to get paid! Setting a strict and clear payment policy is vital. Without clear notice of pricing, payment dates, late fees, your chances of getting paid on time, or in general, might be real slim. Will you offer online payments? If so, through what method? Give parents the courtesy of a clear outline, leaving room for confusion.
Sickness, family vacations, and unwanted emergencies happen. It’s part of life and should be expected from time to time, but realize you’re running a business and time is money! Like your payment policy, be sure to have a clear attendance policy in place. Will you offer makeup sessions? How many reschedules do you offer each month? Do you charge for missed lessons? How many hours of notice do you expect to receive if a student is out? These are all questions you should be thinking about and answering for your clients BEFORE being asked.
Inclement Weather/Teacher Cancellations
Go ahead and prep for the yearly snow apocalypse and flu season. You’re going to miss lessons due to gigs, UIL contest week, state-wide testing, and more. Have makeup days readily available and know how you’re going to implement them. If students are going to be held accountable for their attendance, so should you.
Termination of Lessons
Some students drop lessons from here and there. Most of the time is has to do with financial issues. If that’s the case, be sure to communicate this with the student’s band director. It’s your job to do everything you can to keep those students involved in lessons! You need to know if scholarship or financial assistance is available and how student’s can access this funding. Have scholarship forms on file and ready to send if needed. On a personal note, I always tell my students that money shouldn’t be a reason for them to NOT take lessons. That may mean having a student or two pay $15 instead of the regular $20. If you get them on a half scholarship, that means they only need to pay $5. I’d rather take a reduced payment, then no payment at all. Unless you have multiple students on your waitlist, swallow your pride and just teach the kid! Think of it as giving back to the arts, you’re not only giving to the kid, but to the entire program.
Waiver of Liability & Indemnification
The super boring part, but the most important! Accidents do happen and you want to make sure that you’re not getting served papers if something does occur. Overall, you just want to make this part clear of any liabilities towards accidents or problems that may occur during your lessons.
This part I recently changed. Usually I had parent’s read, print, and sign my lesson policies. Most wouldn’t actually return it back or students would lose them. Not only that, but I had to maintain record of more unnecessary paperwork. This past year I scrapped the signature portion and added the following:
“Your first payment constitutes your agreement to the above terms and conditions outlined above in this (or the attached) 2017–18 Lesson Policy & Agreement.”
This was an idea I got from one of my own lesson teachers who would put this in his emails. It’s simple and eliminates paper wasting. I usually email lesson policies and attach this text in both the policy document AND the written email. You want to make sure that parents do NOT miss this. Not only do I send it in emails, but also attach it into OMNIS for students and parents to view directly from their personal login accounts: