Hopefully you’re weathering this switch to teaching online well. But if parents reject the transition to online lessons (or you’re afraid they might be thinking about it soon!), what can you do?
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 provide parents 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.
A few cautions before the list though.
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 a 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 real 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 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!
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 the control and shield 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 their own device upside down could help with mirroring issues.
Worry: The lesson won’t be consistently visible.
Comfort: There’s a workaround many teachers have used successfully. Call each other on a landline to discuss the lesson plan, then keep speakerphone on for the rest of the lesson. Separate hands for spot checks.
Worry: They won’t be able to concentrate given emotional distress with COVID concerns.
Comfort: Music is a soother and a better use of time than watching the news. Also, it’s an excellent way to change gears from other modes of work online. Further, keeping the normalcy of a familiar scheduled activity is helpful for nerves.
Worry: With too many other kids to look after at home, parents 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 the parent to help the piano student with other siblings competing for attention.
Comfort: Think of it as time off. The screen keeps the child occupied and since they already knows me, trust that our relationship and my teaching and classroom management skills will keep her on task while we do the lesson.
Online lessons has worked with other families (give examples as this suits). If it’s too noisy for the student to hear the lesson, suggest an asynchronous lesson where the learner chooses a quiet time on their own to record their response and send it back to you.
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. They can still do the work without being on a screen.
Worry: There won’t be time for the kids to use computers as parents need to work.
Comfort: Suggest Pomodoro technique (a productivity approach with thirty minutes work and four 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.
Worry: Fatigue from too much of the same thing.
Comfort: Offer asynchronous lessons with audio-only, and send books if they don’t have any.
Worry: This is real! Parents are currently bombarded with messages and meetings daily for their kids who are now homeschooling. Music lessons in their eyes becomes one more thing to potentially fail at managing.
Comfort: Acknowledge their stress. Ask how the parent is doing with all these spinning plates. And listen. Then help lower the bar for their child’s progress temporarily. Dial their lesson plan back to easily accomplished goals without stress.
Be mindful of setting up too many extra apps or assignments to check. Perhaps this student will be doing well to simply attend online and play some calming music together for this season.
Worry: Their company furloughed or fired them in response to COVID restrictions, and they can’t afford to continue.
Comfort: Some teachers are offering reduced prices for pre-made video courses. And some are also glad for the reduced workload as most students are agreeing to go online, and the reduced stress is welcome in these times.
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 and 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.
Worry: The lessons will be a waste of time as the kids won’t focus enough to learn.
Comfort / Convince: Remind parents that screens focus kids’ attention. 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 a teacher are on the screen.
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!
Worry: They won’t 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.
Worry: The frustration will never go away, and the 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 two more lessons for things to feel more relaxed and more familiar.
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 excerpt of a recording of someone else’s live lesson.
Remember, if you feel overwhelmed and don’t want to push it with parents, one of the above will work because you’re not being sales-y. This is a good thing that your students already value, and you are helping them have some music 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 times. 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 why they are saying no, and won’t give it a try at all as they are stunned by current events. Leave these ones alone.
And finally, if you’re worried about whether you’re giving real value to your students, 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 neighbours, 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.
Hopefully, you have a great majority of your students who are in a space to make a positive choice at the moment. But these 15 ideas can help bridge the gap successfully with parents who are apt to reject online lessons initially.
I’m wishing you more music, happy students, and a strong studio!
And please comment with any tactic you used that made a student change their mind and say YES to taking online lessons with you.
Ekanem Ebinne helps piano teachers who love working with kids ages 3 to 6 but feel drained by their intensity, to instead come out of each group lesson energized for home, family life, and hobbies. She has taught preschoolers and trained their parents and teachers for 15 years. Ekanem is certified in Early Childhood and Elementary General by GIML (Gordon Institute for Music Learning) and a PhD candidate in developmental music psychology at the New University of Lisbon. Visit her blog for tutorials and ideas about creating tantrum-free lesson experiences for young learners at http://preschoolpianoprogress.weebly.com or at her Facebook community, Preschool Group Piano Progress for Teachers.