When Students Quit

The summer student-quitting frenzy is coming.  I can feel it.  I had a student give her notice the other day.  This happens every year, no matter how hard I work at doing things to retain my students. My highest turnover time for students is always late spring and summer.  Now that it’s started, I’m on pins and needles for who else is going to quit this summer.

How do you feel when students quit?I know that students quit. It’s normal to have some amount of turnover.

I know that summer always tends to have the highest amount of turnover.

I know that teaching year-round makes this summer attrition less than it would be otherwise.

I know that I’m having regular conversations about what it means to have music as a long term commitment.

I know that I’m holding my students accountable and that most of them are practicing what I ask at least 5 days a week.

And yet, every time a student tells me they’re leaving, I grieve.  And I panic a little about losing their monthly lesson fee.

It took me a couple years to get past the feeling of anger at having been “dumped.”  At least now, it’s more a feeling of sadness and loss than anger.

And now I have enough students and enough new classes starting that losing one student doesn’t break my finances.  Of course, that doesn’t stop me from panicking a little.

I’ve even noticed the annual patterns of when students tend to quit, so every year I think I’m prepared.  And then, when a student I adore, who has done everything I ask for years tells me she’s leaving (for extremely good and understandable reasons), I just want to cry.

I suppose some would say that it’s a mark of how much I invest emotionally in my students that it hurts so much when they leave.

I can also take comfort that they invest emotionally in me too.  With the last several students who quit (I had another bout of turnover in January), there were tears on all sides – from parents and students, and me.

But, every time a beloved student quits, no matter how depressed and sad I feel, I still have to get up the next day and teach my lessons as if nothing has happened.  I still need to be 100% present for all the rest of my students who AREN’T quitting.

Heartache is normal when students quitI started writing this post a couple weeks ago when this beloved student quit. And with a couple weeks’ hindsight, I’m realizing that this is really the healthiest kind of turnover I could have.

I wouldn’t WANT to feel indifferent when a student quits. I love my students!

If both student and I didn’t feel sad when they leave, I would wonder what was wrong with my teaching. When it hurts me and the student this much for them to quit, I am doing something right.

But at the same time, compartmentalizing is hard. It still hurts when the students we love leave.  And I don’t have any easy answers. But I hope that if you’re reading this, and you’re feeling sad about a student quitting, you know that you’re not alone.

Keep it real, friends. How do you take care of yourself emotionally when your students quit?

4 thoughts on “When Students Quit”

  1. Thanks for this! I like that you mentioned tracking data, that’s the key. We all know about summer attrition, but I’ve noticed some enrollment boosts in the past 2 Aprils. Since I package lessons in 3-month commitments, some of my “spring starters” are carried through June and into July.

  2. Excellent article, Shanta. I admit, I have a more distant relationship with students who pop in and out of the studio. I’m always happy to see them, but because they only invest in a month or two at a time (and then I don’t see them for months), I don’t invest in them emotionally. I need to start having the conversations about long-term study and its benefits.

    1. Thanks Eden. Long term students are way better for business, and the emotional investment is totally worth it in the long run. Even when those beloved students quit and you’re sad for a while, they’ll readily refer new students.

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