Adding a student to your roster, especially when you're new to teaching, is intimidating. Once you get into the groove with someone, it's easy, but laying the foundation can be tricky. Here are some things I've learned over the years about starting off with a new student:
Be clear about your expectations.
I like to sit down with each new student and their parents during the first lesson and go over the rules for payment, attendance, practicing, and required materials. I also make sure to ask them if they have any questions about me, my studio, or anything else. This first-lesson interview helps new students decide if the level of commitment I require is one they can match. Clear communication saves you time and trouble down the road; a good deal of teacher-parent conflict arises from expectations on either end not being laid out openly at the start. I have never had an issue with attendance or payments with any of my students, and I firmly believe it's because I state my requirements clearly.
Be firm with your studio policies.
This is always important, but especially so in the first couple months of working with a student. If they show up late, don't submit payments on time, or forget to bring required materials, make sure you address it. You don't have to be mean about it, but you do have to make sure they know they need to do better. You teach your students, and also the parents of your students, how to treat you.
Know that it takes a while to establish a routine.
By and large, people mean well. If a parent forgets to send a check along with their child one week or they show up a few minutes late due to traffic, don't write that student off. Give your student a chance to adjust to the new demands on their time; they have a lesson once a week, a commute to and from that lesson, as well as daily practicing to fit into their schedule. Most of the time, students want to do well, but it will take a little while for them to get into the swing of things, especially if they are just starting out on their instrument. As mentioned above, let them know if they need to step it up, but then give them a chance to do so.
How you handle adding a new student to your studio roster is part of your personal teaching style. With each new addition to your studio, you learn more about your own expectations for your students and for yourself as a teacher.
What has your experience been in starting new students? Share in the comments below!