When you’re too sick for a lesson

Sometimes I have students cancel their lessons due to seemingly very minor, manageable health concerns (physical or mental). Other times students drag themselves to lessons when they are clearly miserable and contagious.

The better approach is clearly somewhere in the middle, but my newest college students are usually living away from their parents and the formal rules of high school for the first time and sometimes aren’t used to making those judgment calls on their own.

Here are some informal guidelines that I use:

  • If (a) your physical or mental health is going to prevent you from playing at your best, or (b) you are contagious, don’t come to your lesson.
  • Contact me as far in advance as you can before your lesson to let me know you won’t be able to come. If your lesson time starts and you aren’t here, you will fail that lesson unless there is some genuine, immediate emergency (such as you are in an ambulance).
  • In normal cases, canceling or rescheduling lessons due to illness shouldn’t happen very often, maybe once or twice during a semester. If it is regularly happening more than that, then (a) your health situation might be unusual, and it may affect your ability to graduate on time with the grades you want, or (b) you may not be taking adequate care of your health.

It’s easy to let your physical and/or mental health slip a little when you are on your own for the first time. Make smart choices about nutrition, sleep, exercise, sun exposure, sexual activity, social life, mind-altering substances, prescriptions, and seeking medical help and/or counseling. Develop these into habits as good as, or better than, the ones you had before college. If you’re not sure where to begin, your university likely has resources available to help you (ask your advisor or someone in the counseling or student health center).


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