It’s Monday and today started with a break-up text from one of my studio families. 

The text: Hi Jennifer! We’ve decided to take a break from piano for a bit. It’s not working with our schedule anymore. Thank you so much for your time and energy though, they really enjoyed it and you were an awesome teacher!

And just like that- the wind has been knocked out of my sails going into the week. I had to think about my response. Should I try to convince them to stay? Offer them an alternate time? Call her to chat, really listen to her story, her reasons?

In the past, parents had to call or email me to end lessons. Dialogue was easier. In the last two years parents have ended lessons in a text. The first time it happened I was really put off. Wow, they didn’t even bother to call me!

It’s been two years since that first break-up text in my studio.  I have now grown accustomed to lessons being ended in texts. Parents are doing it more and more now. And  who can blame them? Texting gives them a safe space. They maintain the right to leave, without  me trying to convince them to stay. From the text it’s obvious. They are done. She has already stated everything in the past tense that it is over, “they really enjoyed it and you were an awesome teacher!”

I feel like the compliments were put in there to make me feel better, to soften the situation as they were definitely  leaving. She is a kind-hearted person. She wanted me to know that I was appreciated. She wanted me to know that it wasn’t about me. It was their family decision. It wasn’t working with their schedule anymore.

Learning an instrument isn’t just about making it to class. “Working with our schedule” also means all the time and energy that is required to keep the practicing going at home. It is a long-term family decision. Learning an instrument takes years of dedication. It’s a life style.

They had missed some classes. Not consecutively but off and on over the last and current session. I would text them the lesson assignment, and each time they returned to class  with  smiles and  preparation.

The mom had done her part. She was a great piano mom. However,  recently, we had made a big transition in the lessons. We had switched  from prereading primer stuff to learning to read notes on the staff. I have found that this is often a critical time for family retention. Not only are the kids finding piano harder, but also many of  the parents,  find it more difficult to help the child. This can foster anxiety.

In the past I saw this shift coming, and I would often talk it through with the parents. I would reassure them that they would know it was just a hurdle to jump. Once we made it past the hurdle, we would be off and running again.

I forgot to do that this time. This family had missed class again and returned less prepared and more hesitant than before. One child seemed to be struggling a little bit. I gave him some extra assistance in the class. I wasn’t worried about it. They had a prior success rate of catching up after missed lessons. But,  they missed class again last week. In spite of texting them the missed assignment, this time they were through.

Truthfully, I was tired. I just didn’t have the energy to try to convince them to stay. Recognizing my own fatigue, and choosing my own health and stamina over stress.  I chose to bless them and let them go. I returned the text immediately. I told them  how great I thought they were. I hoped that they would consider lessons again in the future. I let her know that she was a great piano mom.

It did make me sad. I did wonder what I could have done differently. The deeper part of me, the non-business part of me aches a little inside inside.  I grew to love them, and I will miss them. (Just like all the others, that have left my studio for various reasons in all the years of teaching.) Discontinuing lessons seems harder on me then them.

You know dear teachers, we pour ourselves into our students. It is painful to lose them.  Additionally, we take a financial hit and  that  truth is there to deal with like a lurking enemy. The financial loss is just what makes it worse. You already feel bad for losing a piece of your heart. Now you have to remind yourself that you also do this to make a living. You just lost two students in one text. So, there you have it. It’s a real bummer.

So what can I do next time- remember to let the parents know that going on the staff  from pre-reading phase is a big transition and to buckle up for the ride? Start talking to all my parents now about this? I have so many questions and other strategies brewing in my brain, to maybe prevent this. But perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It seems they didn’t really want piano  enough. 🙁

What about you? How do you handle break-up texts? When do you try harder to keep families that want to leave? What about major learning hurdles that can upset the apple cart? What are your thoughts?

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
         And why have you become disturbed within me?
         Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
         For the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5