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Thinking about dismissing a student (Read 8305 times)

Offline rgh55

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Thinking about dismissing a student
« on: August 21, 2013, 03:56:28 AM »
I have been teaching a 12yr old girl for almost one year. She had two years of piano with another teacher who never used method books and copied all of her music. When she came to me she played mainly by hand position...C and G and depended too much on finger numbers. I put her in Faber Piano Adventures level 2B and she did OK. In addition to the Faber books, I gave her sheet music by Melody Bober, Dennis Alexander, etc.   A few months ago she started level 3A.  Her practice is minimal and basically site reads her music at her lesson.  (She says she practices 1/2 hour per day??????) A few weeks ago her mother asked me outside of the house how she was doing and I told her that she needed more practice. The mother told me her daughter fights her about practice, says she hates piano and wants to quit. The mother said the daughter wants to play pieces she knows like Taylor Smith, New Direction, etc. and didn't like the assignments I gave her. I had the same conversation with the mother over 3 months ago....told her the pieces  to purchase and she never did. So....this week I find out that she had a trial piano lesson with a young inexperienced teacher (22 yr. old) that teaches jazz bass at a music store that sells guitars and drums. This teacher told her that her hand position was wrong, her  rhythm was wrong and that he hated the Piano Adventures method. He then sent her home with the Dozen a Day "preparatory" level technique book and told her to work on rhythm???? QUESTION: Do I dismiss her at the next lesson which is the last lesson of the month before tuition is due and just say it's not working out?  It's obvious that they are looking for someone else; although, her mother said she was only appeasing her daughter by trying this person since a girlfriend of the daughter goes to him.  I am very put off by their actions and can replace her right away with another student.  I teach others in the same neighborhood as well so dismissing her will be a little awkward. It's hard to teach someone who has no interest.





Offline pianoman53

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 08:12:34 AM »
So talk to her..? She is 12, she is not a baby who can't make her own decisions. Though, make sure she's aware of that you're not yelling at her, but just want to make it better.

Offline classicalnhiphop

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #2 on: August 22, 2013, 02:09:21 AM »
make her learn la campanella

Offline theholygideons

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #3 on: August 22, 2013, 02:23:43 AM »
just tell her to *** off. She's obviously a recalcitrant teenage biatch who doesn't have the patience or appreciation of the higher arts.

btw, make her learn islamey.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #4 on: August 22, 2013, 03:39:44 AM »
If "their actions" is the fact that she doesn't practice enough, then that is something to be concerned about. If "their actions" is having a trial lesson with another teacher, they have a perfect right to do that.  If they do decide to change teachers, then at that point they should give you the required notice for which you probably have a policy, and make sure to pay you what you are due.

Offline green

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #5 on: August 22, 2013, 05:40:03 PM »
In this case it might be easiest to simply make up an excuse, they want to change teachers anyways, so you have just been asked to do some accompanying at that time and unfortunately won't be available for the next 2 months. Period.

It's funny though, I always let student's choose music they want to play, when appropriate, and yes they all want to play the theme from twilight, Taylor Swift, One direction, etc, but after a while they will come back at you that you aren't strict enough and don't follow a proper methodology. Therefore you are a 'bad' teacher. So I try to do both, find a balance, but also do keep advertising, keep a full schedule, and keep these kind of students/parents out of your life and mind.

Offline pianoman53

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #6 on: August 22, 2013, 06:17:34 PM »
In this case it might be easiest to simply make up an excuse, they want to change teachers anyways, so you have just been asked to do some accompanying at that time and unfortunately won't be available for the next 2 months. Period.

It's funny though, I always let student's choose music they want to play, when appropriate, and yes they all want to play the theme from twilight, Taylor Swift, One direction, etc, but after a while they will come back at you that you aren't strict enough and don't follow a proper methodology. Therefore you are a 'bad' teacher. So I try to do both, find a balance, but also do keep advertising, keep a full schedule, and keep these kind of students/parents out of your life and mind.
That's the mature thing to do!

It very much depends on how you see yourself. If you see it as "I'm here to earn money, I don't give a fck." or "I'm here to make them love music". You have to approach those two differently...

Offline rembetissa

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #7 on: August 23, 2013, 07:31:14 PM »
So maybe the student IS practicing but not efficiently? That's bad form for the new teacher to talk bad, if that's how he said those things. But, if they think maybe he can help the student more then let it go. Good luck to them. :)

Offline stevenarmstrong

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #8 on: September 08, 2013, 11:16:32 AM »
I'd ditch her. Going behind your back...obviously has no respect for you (the mother obviously doesn't either). I ditch students who continually forget to bring their music. Don't waste my time!

p.s. personally, I feel all modern method books are a load of crap. The great composers and pedagogues from the late 17th century through to the early 20th century have already written the method books for us. See Czerny, Kohler, Clementi, C.P.E. Bach and Berens in particular. They are actual method books too, not just School of Velocity, or Inventions etc.

:)
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Offline Bob

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #9 on: September 08, 2013, 08:57:34 PM »
One way I heard of was to suggest the student take a break for a while.  Then they contact you when they want to start up with lessons again.  They never do though.

Or suggest she take lessons from another teacher, that you're not a good match with the student, etc.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline soitainly

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 04:44:49 PM »
 It sounds like an easy question to answer. The student seems to learn better and be more motivated by another teacher. Talk with them and just say you are glad they found someone that will work well with her. The main goal of teaching kids music is to instill in them a lifelong love of music, along with the development of the brain and motor coordination. You have to be flexible if one type of teaching isn't working for everyone, that's part of being a good teacher.

Offline rgh55

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #11 on: September 14, 2013, 10:34:03 AM »
Really? She learns better after only 1 lesson with another teacher?

Offline awesom_o

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #12 on: September 15, 2013, 06:01:14 AM »
Try a fresh approach entirely. Away from the piano.

Work on ear training. If she doesn't want to do that, dismiss her.

Offline echristensen

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #13 on: November 21, 2013, 12:55:09 AM »
You of course have every right to dismiss her, but perhaps you could try telling her mother first and see if she has any solutions or is willing to put in any more effort at home. After all, it is up to the mother to enforce practice- there are very few young students I know of who willingly practice every time they are supposed to.

Offline cometear

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #14 on: December 02, 2013, 11:25:13 PM »
In my opinion, I would talk to the girl and her mother and see if you can find what they want to accomplish from you. Tell them what standards you have set for her. See if you can work out a balance of what they want and what you require. Maybe another teacher would be appropriate but I would try to work it out with them both.
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Offline dumlooking

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #15 on: February 23, 2014, 06:33:34 PM »
tripped over your post accidentally. I normally don't comment much on anything, but your level of arrogance compels me to.

you remind me of a professor and academic advisor I had a long time ago who acted as though I was wasting his and the university's time because I wanted to switch majors from music to computer science and did not YET have the math background. I told him (ala Ronald Reagan, who never liked): "It is MY money that is paying YOU here". That state funded school continued to go on to deviate from the path of helping provide access to the aspiring downhill to only wanting to teach the students who were easiest to teach. (luckily for me I didn't listen to the ass)

you probably already "ditched" her already, but you should know that if I ever found out who you were, I'd be telling everyone within earshot to keep their kids away from you.

Offline anima55

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #16 on: February 23, 2014, 08:43:26 PM »
I would suggest dismissing this student, if only because her lessons are going nowhere.  You're not enjoying teaching her and she's not enjoying her lessons.  Dismiss her and let her find another teacher who is happy to teach her Taylor Swift and who is also happy to continue lessons with or without any effort involved on her part.   Maybe this student will actually begin to enjoy practice if learning her favourite songs but I wouldn't hold my breath.  It strikes me that she should be turning her focus to some hobby she actually enjoys rather than beating the drum of something she openly expresses a dislike of.  She has told her mother she hates piano lessons - what else can she say?  Why isn't anyone listening?  Can she be any more clear than she already has been?

If this student thinks there is a possibility that she might actually enjoy lessons with this other teacher, then let her go!  I have to wonder why she is continuing piano lessons with you if she has already said she hates her lessons or her practice?  Is it because she's trying to please her mother?  Would she continue lessons with you if she was given a completely free choice?

I think that dismissing this student will let her off the hook, allow her to find an activity that she actually enjoys and allow you to continue to enjoy teaching those students who enjoy your lessons.  It's a win/win situation all around.  

Offline nanabush

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #17 on: March 20, 2014, 07:42:44 PM »
Something I found with students around the ages of 9-14: they DO have their own musical interests.  If the teacher completely ignores anything the student wants to even talk about, then they will have an awkward barrier preventing them from completely getting along with the student.

I'm assuming you mean Taylor Swift and One Direction...
I remember when I was 8 years old I loved the band 'Aqua', and my teacher taught me how to play the opening of one of their songs.  I didn't have problems keeping up with practice, but it just gave my little 8-year old self a bit more faith in my teacher.

Even though these kids seem bitchy and stuck up, the teacher does need to shape a lesson around their learning needs.  I agree that a method book is a good way to provide progressive lessons, but every once in a while the kid just wants to do something fun.  It's the same thing as a math teacher suddenly giving a project outside the box, involving more 'arts and crafts' kind of thing, but still being based around a mathematical concept.

Maybe take a lesson and ask the kid what THEY want to learn, why they originally wanted to take piano lessons.  Sometimes it'll surprise you; maybe they heard their "idol" playing piano (even if it was cheesy and lame!!), and that inspired them.  If you dismiss it on the spot, it'll crush the kid, and they will just come off as not a friendly student.  I remember one lesson, I was working on a Christopher Norton Level 1 piece with a student, and they asked me to teach them "Baby" by Justin Bieber... So I gave them the 8 second riff to that in about a minute, and also taught them the "Morning Mood" theme from the Peer Gynt suite.  So they learned two "cool" things that ended the lesson on a positive note, and I reminded them to keep up the practice on the Christopher Norton. 

I don't know, I'd only dismiss a student if they were actually disrupting the lessons, not showing up, forgetting their materials constantly, etc.  If they are having issues practicing, the teacher should be able to pin point the issue.  If you can't get them to practice by just cramming music on them (lots of teachers just get mad and say if the student doesn't practice, then they'll suck), you have to find a different way!  The girl is 12... she's not a University student, she probably does not know what time management is, probably loves just watching TV, is probably not a musical genius, but she's still enrolled in lessons...

I wouldn't instantly assume the student is the reason they hate lessons.  The mom could be a super pushy, nosy b*tch, and that could totally put a student off.  But maybe they just aren't inspired at the lesson.
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Offline bencollisonmusic

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #18 on: March 21, 2014, 07:09:31 PM »
Hello,

I have a coule students myself, one a girl at age of 11 so I hope I can help out.

You need to think of the girls situation and what her life means to her right now. You want to tach her classical and she wants to play pop music. Why don't you try taking pop tunes she likes, and teaching classical methods through them. That way she will be highly interested in what she is studying and you are still teaching her classical values.

At her age, I would not worry about practicing 1/2 hour a day. Think about the rest of the kids her age. Most of them are off playing video games, talking about Justin Bieber or other pop artists, and not involving themselves in the beauty of classical music.

In addition to letting my 11 year old student study a pop work, I tell her she must study a classical work along with the pop work. I tell her I will not teach her a pop work if she doesn't also work on a classical work. I even let her pick which classical piece to work on from a selected list I had made for her.

I hope this helps and you are welcome to PM me if you have any more questions.

-Benjamin Collison
First Prize winner of the Crescendo International Piano Cometition 2013
Honorable Mention of the American Prodigee  International Competition (Professional Level) 2013
First place at the YAPC 2013

Offline zerozero

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #19 on: July 23, 2014, 10:57:59 AM »
I would say be very careful - you have her musical heart and future in your hand, though she and you might not realise it.
Spend the next lesson talking and listening, rather than playing. Ask her what she likes in music, what she thinks it is, ask her if she had a majic pink fairy who could grant her a wish to play anything well, what things might she play - get the dream going if you can, after that comes focus.  show her how a musician builds in steps, simple things, strip back build from basics even one note, has she heard the partials?

Offline flashyfingers

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #20 on: July 23, 2014, 01:11:32 PM »
WHY didn't you just ask them directly, instead of making assumptions, whether they are looking for a new teacher or not? And tell them how you feel. That way, they will pay tuition and YOU will have a student, until they find someone new.
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Offline coda_colossale

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #21 on: July 23, 2014, 06:45:48 PM »
Why bother with a student if he/she's not able to appreciate classical music, doesn't practice and has little talent, if you have an opportunity to replace him/her?

Offline bmajazz

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Re: Thinking about dismissing a student
«Reply #22 on: September 02, 2014, 05:06:24 PM »
This is my first post on Pianostreet, but I felt compelled to register and write a reply to this forum message.

First off, I have a performance degree from Oberlin Conservatory in classical piano, and have spent the better part of my professional career both teaching and composing.  In addition I perform jazz, salsa, and pop music.  I only mention this because I have experience on "both sides of the fence".

I understand the frustrations of students who want to learn other music.  I was one of them.  When I was about 10 or 11 I was enrolled at the Peabody Preparatory division.  I got a pedantic Russian-school teacher who was unwilling to let me play anything beyond a narrow band of student-level classical pieces.  They are what I now think of as the really mediocre Sonatinas by Kuhlau etc.  We all assign them, and speaking as a composer I can say that they mostly pretty uninspired works of music, frankly.

I wanted to learn some jazz.  No, I didn't want to study improvising, I just wanted some music that sounded jazzy.  There are lots of books of jazz/pop music by educators and performers.  A series by Oscar Peterson comes to mind.  Unfortunately my teacher wouldn't budge.  I nearly walked away from the piano.  At my audition for the Peabody program I couldn't be STOPPED from playing all the little pieces I knew.  In less than 6 months, she took this 10 year old boy to the point where he wanted to walk away from music and music lessons.

Fortunately, my Mom had the foresight to get me with another teacher.  The first thing she did was to get me some old Boogie-woogie sheet music, and light pop/jazz arrangements of things like "I'm in the Mood for Love".  It was hardly Gradus ad Parnassum, but it was exactly what I needed at that moment to sustain my interest.  This was also around the time I learned some Joplin rags.  By the time I moved away from this new teacher I was practicing Brahms Rhapsodies etc.  and was getting much more serious about classical music.

I also remember a few times later on where I insisted on wanting to learn other pieces, including a Mozart Sonata.  My teacher didn't want me to, but I learned it anyway.  Never underestimate the power of personal motivation to push a student to learn.  They will likely try to learn the piece, whether or not you want to help them.  I think it's better to engage the student, and incorporate some of what interests them.

As pianists with classical backgrounds, we tend to forget that the world is filled with, mostly, POP music.  The fact that your original post misidentified Taylor Swift as "Taylor Smith" and One Direction as "New Direction" is very telling, especially since Swift is such a major figure in the pop music world, irregardless of what you might think of her musical abilities.  These artists and music are what defines these kid's musical world.  When I run across older students who want to learn this sort of stuff, which is invariably very simple structurally, I either do a quick transcription of some of the melodic material, or I look for a source for sheet music.

I run across so many adult students who were psychologically scarred by rigid pedagogy.  As a piano teacher, I feel it is my job to instill a love of music and performance.  I need to get my kids to count, have better rhythm and timing, and hopefully to use dynamics occasionally.  "Do no harm", i.e. make sure they continue enjoying music, and hopefully get at least a little appreciation for music that is performed by real people on real instruments.  In a few years, if you can keep her motivated, you may find her naturally moving towards more serious repertoire.  Ultimately, more piano students are going to lean towards Floyd Cramer or Willie Nelson, Taylor Swift or Beyonce, than they are towards Schumann and Bach.  And they're allowed to.