First, thanks for all you do to build children from the inside out. What you teach with music adds beauty and happiness to life for so many. So it's a loss to us all that legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic have forced you to close the in-person version of your studio. It may even have left you and your students' families struggling with bills and childcare and psychological distress.
In response, many teachers like you have pivoted to offer online video lessons. Maybe you've taught on video before with apps like Skype, Whatsapp, or Zoom. But more likely it's the first time. And for your students it's the first time too. Many clients are finding it hard to adjust and have simply said they won't take piano lessons online!
When they give no reason, it's pretty hard to convince them to come back. But below I've found 15 common reasons parents give, plus the counter reasoning you can give them to convince them to keep taking lessons. Yes it's for the health of your business, but it's also for the relief of beauty and kind attention from you that it offers your students during these trying times. So take a look through. And please comment with any tactic you used that made a student change their mind and say YES to taking online lessons with you.
A few cautions before the list: When we're squeezed, our juice comes out! If a client deeply doesn't highly prioritize music lessons among their values, then you can't argue them out of that value ranking. If they truly want music lessons, even in reduced measure, they'll get them and one of the reasons below will convince them. Where there's a will, there's a way. But where there is no will, there is no way. So don't take it too hard if you can't convince them. It runs deeper than any words you can say.
Also, some families face true financial restrictions as they lost their jobs and those might not come back after the crisis. They can't reasonably spend money what could be saved for basic living expenses in case of that eventuality. I've included an option for that below but this is an area to go lightly with and lower expectations for adopting online now, too.
In in each one you'll find 1. the excuse they gave when they said no, 2.the deep worry behind it, (what's really going on), and 3. how to comfort and convince them to re-start lessons.
So let's go!
1. Special needs
Worry: My child will fail or be embarrassed further for disability
Comfort: Many teachers have found that some kids with ASD or sensory processing issues do better without the pressures of direct face time in person with teachers and are more comfortable taking the lessons remotely from home with teh contrl and sheild of a screen. And when there is a problem with directional issues, like dyslexia, something as simple as flipping the camera upside down or directing the student to flip theri own device upside down could help with mirroring issues.
2. No or weak internet access (rural, etc.)
Worry: The lesson won’t be consistently visible
Comfort: There's a workaround many teachres have used successfuly. Call each other on a landline to disucss the lesson plan, keep speaker phone on to hold rest of lesson. Separate hands for spot checks.
Worry: They wont’ be able to concentrate given emotional distress with covid concens
Comfort: Music is a soother and a better expense of time than watching the news. Also a good way to change gears from other modes of work. Online. And keeping the normalcy of things they are used to is really helpful for nerves.
4. Too many kids at home.
Worry: With too many other kids too look after at home, we can’t supervise the lesson to make sure it goes well and maybe the kid won't even be able to hear. It’s hard for mom to help the piano student with 3 others pulling on her
Comfort: Think of it as time off – the screen keeps her occupied and since she already knows me, trust that our relationship and my teaching / classroom management skills will keep her on task while we do the lesson. It has worked with other families (give examples as this suits). And if it's too noisy for the student to hear the lesson, suggest anasynchornous lesson where the learner chooses a quiet time on their own to record their response and send back to you.
5. Screen-free family
Parents don’t like screen time and never did.
Worry: They will expose their kids to a mode of life that violates their values and harms their mental or spiritual health
Comfort: This needs a workaround. Offer to send parents plenty of resources for printable theory and history worksheets they can do and listening assignments. So they can still do the work without being on a screen
6 Limited number of devices in home.
Worry: There won’t be time for the kids to use them as parents need to work
Comfort: Suggest pomodoro (productivity approache with 30 mins work and 4 off) and TAKING A BREAK of one hour per day so the kids can also have a break and be easier to deal with in your background when you do work
7 Sick of screens
Worry: Fatigue from too much of the same thing
Comfort: Offer asynchronous lessons with audio only, and send by books if they don’t have any.
9 Money worries
Worry: Their company fired them in response to Covid restrictions and they can’t afford to continue
Comfort: Some teachers are offering reduced prices for video courses. And some are also glad for the reduced workload as most students are in fact agreeing to go online and the reduced stress is good in these times.
10 Students too young to manage tech themselves.
Worry: The kids will struggle and not get the benefit of the lesson as parents can’t come to help
Comfort / Convince: Give them a taste of how a lesson is, let them sit in but just watch how simple it is to focus the camera, set and forget it for their children. Tell them it’s like facetime with grandma. Many young children have done these lessons successfully with other teachers.
11 Focus is a problem - especially for younger attention spans of preschoolers
Worry: The lessons will be a waste of time as the kids won’t focus enough to learn
Comfort / Confince: Remind parents that screens focus kids – the addictive quality we hate, that makes them ignore us when we call them but they are absorbed in a game or show,helps keep their attention captured when we as teacher are on teh screen.
12 Not as personal
Worry: Children will not learn as much if they lose that 'connection' of being in the same facility.
Comfort / Convince: Ask them to do a trial and see if the kids make progress – or let you evaluate the progress!
13 Elder students who don't like tech
Worry: They wont be able to handle it and they are already intimidated or annoyed by tech and don’t want to feel small
Comfort / Convince: Let them try on the phone as above.
14 Tried it and got frustrated
Worry: The frustration will never go away and kid will never learn, plus it will add to general stress in trying times.
Comfort / Convince: Remind them learning taking time. Tell them there is no pressure. Ask them to give it 2 more lessons for things to feel easier and more familiar.
15 Afraid it won’t work online
Worry: It’s all too new and scary.
Comfort / Convince: Give them a pre-recorded lesson so they can see what it’s like to do it. Also with permission give them a short exceprt of a recording of someone else’s live lesson.
Remember, if you feel overwhelmed and don’t want to push it with parents, that one of the above will work because you're not being salesy - this is a good thing that your students already value and y ou are helping them have some of it instead of none. Also if people don't really value it, you can't convince them so do take some pressure off of yourself. And if people are really frozen in fear because all the circumstances of this strange pandemic situation are too much for them, then that's also a no-go. Sometimes people get so scared that the rational part of the brain turns off. These are scary tmes. No reason given for saying no to online lessons is the HARDEST one I heard from lots of teachers. Basically there is no way to reach out. Some people are lost in the mix of things or simply can’t explain whey they are saying no, and won’t give it a try at all as they are stunned by current events. Leave these ones alone. Hopefully you have a great majority of your students who are in a space to make a positive choice at the moment.
And finally, if you're worried about whether you're giving real value to your students In general, there are a couple of practical tips you can tell your students to use to make this a successful online experience. Remember that during online lessons there will likely be many distractions in both of your homes, including children, pets and neighbors, etc. . And more people at home means more internet bandwidth being used. Try to minimize these problems by advising your students to close the doors to the room with the piano, and disconnect wi-fi devices at home that do not need to be in use during the lesson.
Wishing you more music , happy students, and a strong studio!
Hi! I'm Ekanem Ebinne. I've been teaching school and studio music for kids for fifteen years. I love how preschool kids immediately focus on music and stay engaged longer when I use movement and development insights from Gordon Music Learning Theory. And I love hearing from teachers who took my training and found the same success with their own students. Join us on Facebook, take the free Five Day Studio De-stress Challenge, and subscribe to our mailing list to get new blog posts as soon as they're up.