Respect Between Teacher and Student

In order not to compound negative feelings, I’m going to be short and breezy with this, but it’s a serious topic.

I recently had a new student come for a few lessons. She had one of these email signatures that goes something like this; “born to dare to live my dream”. Those are frankly red flags. Isn’t that some little degree of histrionic disorder to inform every email recipient that you are chasing that gosh darn dream? To imply that we all need to know this? That telling everyone that you are daring and creative will somehow benefit you or humankind?

Anyway, being a human being who needs to earn money, I took her on, and around the third or fourth lesson she didn’t show up. She realized that she forgot and called to reschedule. Strike one. Then on the day of the next lesson she called around noon to say that she was out til 6am at after parties after a gig and wouldn’t be able to come in that afternoon. Strike two. So I rescheduled her for the next day, a Sunday at 6:00 p.m. I had a rehearsal 30 miles away that afternoon, but could get back by 6:00. So, after the rehearsal, a colleague whose company I enjoy asked if I was doing anything after the rehearsal, as in , “let’s get a bite to eat together”. I replied “Sorry, but I have to get home to teach a lesson”. You know the rest. I got home and she never showed up. Strike three.

What ensued was an email chain in which I said that she could return if she paid for the last missed lesson, to which she replied that she would “not pay for a lesson that never took place”. I assured her that the hours of my time that she reserved did indeed take place, whether she came for a lesson or not, and that it affected other parts of my schedule to have her not show and not pay.

Now, really, how presumptuous and inconsiderate can a person be?

This experience and others like it make one wary of potential students, because clear trends emerge between the way a student expresses and conducts themselves and how reliable a business partner they will be. It goes across racial and age lines, by the way. You might be surprised at the consistency with which certain markers are associated with unreliable students, and they probably aren’t what you expect. If you think I’m going to put them in writing though, you are wrong! But it’s something that I discuss with voice teachers that I’m close to, as we try to minimize our losses from dealing with disorganized, inconsiderate people. Teaching voice is a passion and it’s also a business. Young teachers, take note!

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