How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 4. Lesson Policy

VivianaProtecting your teaching business is as important as building it. Sooner or later you will have to deal with students cancelling classes or paying late. This can have a negative effect on your business growth and can quickly zap you of enthusiasm. Be one step ahead and create a Lesson Policy Agreement to establish the rules. It is crucial to create and maintain a teacher-student relationship in order for the lessons to be successful.

Every tutor, studio or school will have different conditions under which the operate. At the same time, there are some common areas that should be included in every lesson policy. It is always better to have things spelled out in a written document to form a partnership where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Your lesson policy should be fair to both parties to protect you as well as the student.

This information is meant to serve as guide only. You should always seek the advice of a professional  before acting on it.

Roles and Responsibilities

Rules for the teacher

Image by mick62 via Flickr

What is your responsibility as a teacher and what do you commit to? In this section you can outline your teaching style and your role as a teacher in terms of motivation and encouragement of your students; as well as your commitment to creating a stimulating and friendly atmosphere.

What do you expect from your students and what are their responsibilities towards you and your lessons? Perhaps you can specify how often you expect them to practice, state whether you will require them to complete their weekly assignments, or explain that it is their responsibility to show up on time.

These points may sound like a common sense but it is always good to lay down the ground rules to articulate a set of expected behaviors for everyone.

Attendance

It’s a common practice to require certain attendance rate for your course, namely if you provide some kind of certificate at the end of the term. Students are usually required to miss no more than 20 – 25% of the classes. This can be an important information for some people as they might need a course completion certificate for their employer or school.

Cancellations and Reschedules

Closely related to the attendance point is a question of cancellations and reschedules. From talking to many freelancing tutors and teachers, I understand this is one of the main issues they have to deal with and that continuously frustrates them. Even though you put your conditions down on paper, people will try and negotiate with you later and request make-up lessons when they are not, according to your policy, entitled to them. It’s ultimately at your discretion how strictly you will stick to the rules, but you need to be prepared for these situations.

Schedule

Image by theogeo

What you should consider when creating your cancellation policy:

  • How much notice will you require for reschedule?
  • Will you allow exceptions to this requirement, e.g. illness, family emergency?
  • Who will determine the time of make-up lessons?
  • Will you allow reschedules of make-ups?
  • How do you want to be notified of scheduling issues and cancellations?
  • Will you issue credits for cancelled classes?
  • What is the notice period required for termination of the course?
  • Will you charge a fine for terminating the course before the end date?

I did some research around and it seems to be fairly common to ask for 24-48 hour notice for any schedule changes. Same day cancellations and no shows usually results in full lesson fee being forfeited with no rescheduling available. In most cases, make-up lessons are solely based on teacher’s availability and cannot be rescheduled again. I also came across a teacher who has a make-up lesson week at the end of each semester for all students who missed a lesson, which I thought was a great way to deal with this issue. It is a common practice not to issue credits for cancelled classes, unless cancelled by the teacher. Some teachers reserve the right to terminate the contract after two unexcused absences, some charge a fine if the student terminates the course early. The conditions differ from business to business.

It might be a good idea to include all days with no lessons held in your policy, e.g. public holidays or school holidays. Do your lessons follow the local school calendar? Are they weather dependent?  If so, indicate what will happen in the case of bad weather.

Read more about make-up lessons:

Payment

Money

Image by martinhoward via Flickr

This is obviously one of the most important parts of your lesson policy as it determines how you will get paid for your teaching services. You have to determine how much you will charge for you classes and what are the conditions of any discount you may offer. Specify how and when you want to be paid. Do you want your students to pay on a monthly basis or do you require them to pay the entire course upon enrollment? Will you accept late payments? How are you going to deal with consistently overdue accounts? These are some thought starters for you to consider. In any case, you might want to seek the advice of an accountant and/or a lawyer to determine the best terms and conditions for your business.

Teacher Absence and Refunds

As mentioned earlier, you need to decide under which conditions you will issue refunds for cancelled classes. It is recommendable that you, as a business, offer compensation for services you could not provide; for any reason. In the event of absence from your part, you might want to offer make-up lessons based on the student’s availability. If you don’t find a suitable time, issuing them a credit is probably the best solution.

Some more questions to think about: How much notice will you have to let them know of your absence? What happen in case you need to terminate the entire course due to unforeseen circumstances?

Tardiness

Time Flies

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

How long are you willing to wait for your students? Again, it’s ultimately up to you, but you it’s a good idea to include this in you lesson policy so they are not surprised next time they arrive twenty minutes late and you’re gone. To play fair, you should apply the same time limit to yourself and offer them a make-up class or a refund if you are significantly late. Having said that, you want to aim at not being late under any circumstances! It is your prime responsibility to be on time and prepared for each lesson.

What Is Included

What is covered in the tuition and what is not? Do you provide your students with any study materials as part of the course? Are your travel expenses included in the fee? Are students expected to bring any specific books, tools and equipment? This will obviously depend of what you teach and where. Just make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re paying for, so there is no surprises later.

I hope by now you are ready to create your own Lesson Policy Agreement. Do you have any other tips I didn’t include in the post? I’d love to know them, so please share them with us in the comments section.

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