Starting a new student is an exciting, fun, and a little bit scary process. It’s wonderful to get to know a new student and family, and watch their joy and wonder over the beginning violin steps. Especially with young students, this time is just magical. It’s also scary! There’s a lot of pressure to get the foundation set up correctly. It’s important and difficult work.
This work is either made easier or more difficult by how and what we communicate to the parents. Positive, proactive, and clear instruction to the parent can make or break the whole process.
I’m pretty forgetful. I often suddenly remember at least one or two things I forgot to tell my students at the end of the day. In my early teaching years, I would often forget to tell prospective parents about some essential tenet of the Suzuki method, and then they were disappointed or surprised later when I asked or “reminded” them:
- To practice with their child daily
- To listen to the recording a LOT
- To attend lessons and group classes regularly
- There are no make up lessons for cancelled lessons
- To please not buy a violin shaped object off the internet
- And don’t buy one at all until after we’ve begun lessons and I tell you what size you need!!!
And I frequently forgot to have prospective students to come observe lessons before beginning, and almost never remembered to warn them about how first lessons would often be “parent” lessons.
Parents often were frustrated, confused, or even annoyed when this information was shared later on in the process. None of these things are “bad” or negative aspects about the Suzuki method. They are wonderful, sensible things to do when beginning a new student. The problem lies with the timing. If this information is given before beginning lessons, when the parent is just beginning to paint a picture of what this exciting journey will be like for them and their child, they are much more receptive. It makes sense. “Oh, this is how it works. Sounds good!”
But, if this information is shared, piecemeal, weeks, months, or worse, years on down the line, it is too different from the parent’s expectations, (or the past experiences for those who never realized they were supposed to be practicing with their six year old).
It will not be received as well as if it is given in the beginning of the process.
Ok, so a lot of information needs to be presented to parents at the start of their Suzuki journey. But how do we do that?
Over the years, I have realized that I’m probably not going to remember all this stuff when I’m on the phone with a prospective parent. I’m just not good at thinking on the fly while on the phone! I get flustered, and forget crucial information that new parents need. This means I have to have a system. A process I can use to make sure that I don’t forget anything important.
I finally decided on an email “course” where I sent an email each day highlighting one important aspect of the Suzuki method. All written ahead of time, I could just copy and paste the same text and email to each prospective student. This also saved me a ton of time on the phone. (Which is good because, as I mentioned above, I’m terrible over the phone anyway.)
Eventually, I set these emails to go out to new students automatically. Once I added a prospective parent’s email to the list, my email service automatically sends the email sequence at intervals I select. Slick as can be.
(Update: I used to use Convertkit as my email service, and was recommending that to you all. I no longer recommend Convertkit as my monthly price doubled without notice last month. I just spent probably 5 hours moving all of my email addresses and my email course back to Mailchimp. The interface is more intuitive for me, and the price is much better.)
You can totally do this for yourself too! If you have trouble keeping track of everything you need to tell new Suzuki parents about, you can create your own process or system to share the information. Lots of teachers do new parent classes or seminars. Or you can create your own email course to send.
If you’d rather not spend the time, or you’re looking for ideas, you can download my e-guide, Suzuki Parent Education Email Templates and for the month of August you can use the coupon code BACK2SCHOOL to receive 25% off.
I’d love to hear about what you do or plan to do to improve your initial communications with new students and parents. Please share in the comments!