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is there a nice way of putting it? (Read 4388 times)

Offline trus

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is there a nice way of putting it?
« on: April 21, 2014, 09:14:26 PM »
Hi people,  I was wondering if you could tell me if there is a nice way of putting the following...
I have a new student, migrated from a differenr teacher.  He failed gr 6 recently,  but his teacher reassured the parents that he is a firm gr 7 level. His parents were not so sure so asked me to assess him , in a informal way, and lrt them know what I thought.  He plsyed for 7 years .
So, he does play some pieces from gr 7 syllabus and one or two other pieces,  but he does not use pedal at all. When asked, he said that he only played 2 pieces so far using the pedal.
Sight reading is pretty much zero in  a lesson, he could not recognise a and c on ledge lines above treble clef... made tonnes of mistakes, missing notes by 2-3 down or up. Had no clue what a major was and did not know what tonic triad was either, I mean in general. 
He plays with straight fingers and drops wrists.. no experssion. He has a good feel of rhythm though,  and a can do attitude!
I only started teaching two years ago, many beginners who started with me are only now at grade 1-2 level (most can sight read up to gr 3 pieces though), and I had a few migrating from other teachers,  up to gr 5 standard. 
Anyhow, how on earth do I put all this nicely to his parents?

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #1 on: April 21, 2014, 09:52:39 PM »
You simply tell them as straightforward as you can while being very specific.  Telling them in the "nice" way often doesn't work because they'll think nothing is wrong.

Offline lazyfingers

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #2 on: April 21, 2014, 11:22:38 PM »
Anyhow, how on earth do I put all this nicely to his parents?
Professional courtesy aside, placing the blame on the previous teacher than the pupil would be better accepted by the parents. Just explain the basics that the child has not acquired.

The real question is whether the pupil has potential to learn from here, or has he simply not absorbed the lessons. If the latter, you're course of action appears to be clear.

Regards

Offline Bob

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #3 on: April 21, 2014, 11:47:58 PM »
Maybe stay general with the parents.  They don't need to know all the specifics.  "He needs some work in music theory."   Something like that.

Probably try to couch in something good.  Good-bad-good.  Or, good-improveon-good.  There must be something he does well from the old teacher -- Maybe he's playing pieces at x-level by rote memory?  "He's got some technique built up."  Voila.

"He's got some technique built up.  He played x-piece."
"He could use some work on theory though."
"He's got a lot of potential."   <-- Nice and generic.  Everyone's got potential.  Haha.


I'd focus on diving in and working on things.  It's easy to blame everything on the last teacher.  Might be the kid too, not the teacher as much.  You might run into the same stuff.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #4 on: April 22, 2014, 12:08:17 AM »
Maybe stay general with the parents.  They don't need to know all the specifics.  "He needs some work in music theory."   Something like that.

Probably try to couch in something good.  Good-bad-good.  Or, good-improveon-good.  There must be something he does well from the old teacher -- Maybe he's playing pieces at x-level by rote memory?  "He's got some technique built up."  Voila.

"He's got some technique built up.  He played x-piece."
"He could use some work on theory though."
"He's got a lot of potential."   <-- Nice and generic.  Everyone's got potential.  Haha.


I'd focus on diving in and working on things.  It's easy to blame everything on the last teacher.  Might be the kid too, not the teacher as much.  You might run into the same stuff.

This is exactly the kind of thing I'm against. In schools, teachers say it the nice way and then they wonder why the parents don't do anything about their concerns.  Then they blame the parents for not doing anything about it.  I've done it myself but realized the my error.  Research also backs up this observations.  It's far better to be straightforward about it than to say it the nice way.

Here are some examples of nice.  Is it obvious the kinds of behavior occurred?
1. Johnny needs to learn to keep his hands to himself.
2. Eliza needs to be respectful of other peoples' belongings.

Direct:
1. Johnny hits people when he gets frustrated.
2. Eliza steals things from other people.

Keeping hands to himself can mean anything.  It could mean Johnny likes to flap his arms about.  Respectful of others' belongings could also mean anything such as making crude comments about others' backpacks.

What's worse is that even in some teacher licensing programs, they teach future teachers the nice way of communicating to parents.  I've rarely seen teachers communicate the direct way, and some teachers say it the nice way as a way to avoid confrontation.

Offline Bob

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #5 on: April 22, 2014, 12:10:59 AM »
Can't make the kid feel bad.  Haha.  Or their parents.

I don't always buy into the previous teacher being horrible and not teaching everything.  That sounds like a cop out a bit.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline quantum

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #6 on: April 22, 2014, 12:57:27 AM »
You could explain that the student's various skills are at different levels.  For example: performing from rote memory is level 7, yet reading is a level 2, rhythm is a level... and so on.  Make it clear that a general level XYZ is not an accurate measurement of the student's skill set.  I would be cautious of assigning a general overall level even if the parents insist on it (they may think that such nutshell evaluation may help them better understand).  Explain that music study is a multifaceted discipline and that one needs to develop skills in numerous areas in order to gain competency. 

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Offline trus

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #7 on: April 22, 2014, 07:42:16 AM »
Thank you for all your answers, very useful ! I know what you mean faulty_damper, about school reports. It frustrated me as a parent too.
I want to put it so there is no other way of interpreting it apart from what I meant.
Bob, I do not want to offend the Kid too, as he is in himself convinced that he is grade 7 level? !


Offline trus

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #8 on: April 22, 2014, 07:46:13 AM »
Quantum, I think it would be more like sight-reading - level pre-1, etc. He also does not play anything from memory at all.
As some say, it could be the kid too , so..looks like I am going to have fun?!?!
Thanks again everyone x

Offline outin

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #9 on: April 22, 2014, 07:57:15 AM »
As some say, it could be the kid too , so..looks like I am going to have fun?!?!


Maybe the kid is not the most dedicated or talented student, but if he has been taking lessons that long and is at that level while being allowed to take a gr 6 exam, then it's hard to believe his former teacher was competent. Either did not know what was doing or was lazy and accepts payments from parents without taking proper charge of the teaching.

Hopefully the kid was very nervous with you and the situation is not that bad really? Anyway, either refuse the student or start the slow and painful work to get him into the right track and be honest with the parents. Or just take their money and waste your time and his, but somehow I feel you're not like that  ;)

You could do what my present teacher did with me: Ask them if they really want him to be able to play the music the way it should be played and advance further? If they say yes, then tell them it's not possible until he learns some basics that are missing and it's going to take time, work and require playing more pieces that are lower grade than what he is used to.

Offline trus

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #10 on: April 22, 2014, 08:29:26 AM »
Maybe the kid is not the most dedicated or talented student, but if he has been taking lessons that long and is at that level while being allowed to take a gr 6 exam, then it's hard to believe his former teacher was competent. Either did not know what was doing or was lazy and accepts payments from parents without taking proper charge of the teaching.

Hopefully the kid was very nervous with you and the situation is not that bad really? Anyway, either refuse the student or start the slow and painful work to get him into the right track and be honest with the parents. Or just take their money and waste your time and his, but somehow I feel you're not like that  ;)

You could do what my present teacher did with me: Ask them if they really want him to be able to play the music the way it should be played and advance further? If they say yes, then tell them it's not possible until he learns some basics that are missing and it's going to take time, work and require playing more pieces that are lower grade than what he is used to.


I have known the boys for years, and his family, so he should not have been that nervous. Also we had one meeting and one formal lesson, where most of the playing was going on.
I feel that the problem was initially down to his teacher and then him becoming uninterested or unaware what is the right way of making music. He was not keen to practice last few years , according to parents.
Feel they wanted him to continue more than he actually does. He is satisfied that he is at level 7 and that's it.
He said he hates classical music. So we did blues improvisation , the simple 12 bar scheme. After me teaching him an scale degrees and tonics .. He picked up the rhythm well and syncopation was not a problem, could repeat my suggested rhythms quite well. So I think he has the potential. I would not want to take him on to waste my time. I am so full up with students than one will not make financial difference to me anyway. I think I will do a block of lessons and then speak to parents and him to see where we are at.

Offline outin

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #11 on: April 22, 2014, 08:43:16 AM »

 He is satisfied that he is at level 7 and that's it.

So he doesn't really understand that he is not actually that level? I think it's time for a reality check for him as well. If he doesn't care for learning to play the piano well and does not have the motivation to work on the missing basics, then it would maybe be better for him to use his time for something else. I think it would be a sad waste of time for him as well to continue the lessons if not at all motivated to fix those problems and just keep playing around. He can do that without lessons if he wants to.

Even though I am one myself who did quit and get back some 30 years later, I am still not sure whether quitting was a good or a bad thing :) It's impossible to know whether I would have found a suitable teacher and all the motivation to work as much as needed back then.

Offline trus

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #12 on: April 22, 2014, 08:53:46 AM »
I do not want to get into that way of thinking that teacher is the one to blame , but.. I hated music theory when I was a child because of our theory teacher at the music school. She was a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, in female version. She used to make my eyes water with tears just by calling my name! Hence music theory was uninteresting to me, I was not as good at it as I could have been, simple because I learnt it , but did not understand it.  I knew the basics though, I.e. tonics, dominants, subd, etc

Offline trus

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #13 on: April 22, 2014, 08:56:07 AM »
So he doesn't really understand that he is not actually that level? I think it's time for a reality check for him as well. If he doesn't care for learning to play the piano well and does not have the motivation to work on the missing basics, then it would maybe be better for him to use his time for something else. I think it would be a sad waste of time for him as well to continue the lessons if not at all motivated to fix those problems and just keep playing around. He can do that without lessons if he wants to.

Even though I am one myself who did quit and get back some 30 years later, I am still not sure whether quitting was a good or a bad thing :) It's impossible to know whether I would have found a suitable teacher and all the motivation to work as much as needed back then.

I agree with you totally. I will tell him the truth and see how he takes it. If he wants to have fun and play around he can do it without me, but I hope that improvisation, music arrangment and so on might bring the spark back into his heart.

Offline seanrb

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #14 on: April 22, 2014, 12:20:48 PM »
Is there a reason to specifically blame the teacher? Regardless of whether it is the teaching or not, it seems unprofessional to pass that sort of judgement as fact. I do believe there are bad teachers out there, but one can't fairly make that assessment through observing a single student.

Yes, be honest about the kid's current skill sets if that is what the parents are requesting; but there is no need to blame anyone or anything. Just simply move forward. Blaming the previous teacher also puts quite a bit of pressure on you; parents may interpret that as "I can fix your son in no time!"

Offline outin

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #15 on: April 22, 2014, 03:09:11 PM »
Is there a reason to specifically blame the teacher?

For me it's the fact that the student has such a low general skill level after so many years of study and taking exams. I just find it hard to believe that a good teacher would put up with that.

Offline fleetfingers

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #16 on: April 22, 2014, 09:10:00 PM »
How did he learn the level 7 pieces that he knows? Does he play by ear, did someone show him by rote, or does he read the music himself but get through it slowly?

I agree about telling the parents where he is at with each separate skill. Explain that there are some holes, particularly with his sight reading, that he'll need to work on to become a competent level 7 pianist. I switched teachers as a kid and had to learn how to curve my fingers and lift my wrists. It was so hard for me and, I'm sure, not fun for my teacher either. I've always wondered about it, because my first teacher was not a bad teacher and he was such a good pianist. Maybe he had plans and was looking at the big picture? I don't know, but when I moved and switched teachers, I had the experience of feeling like my progress was suddenly halted. She was teaching me out of what I thought of as baby books - because I couldn't sight read. Make sure you let him continue with the harder pieces that he likes while also working on the weaknesses. Work on basics that he's missed without him feeling like he's starting all over. Apply it to current repertoire. Does he know his sight reading is bad? If he does, and if he is willing to work on it, then you can start from scratch with that and just let him know what you're doing. Then just keep it separate from the harder pieces he is working on. Good luck! It'll be a few years, but hopefully you can get him all rounded out.

Offline slane

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #17 on: April 26, 2014, 12:12:41 AM »
A bit late for me to weigh in perhaps, but here I go ...
The parents asked for an assessment, so the professional thing would be to give an accurate one which would consist of an assessment of his current skills, what grade level that corresponds to, and most importantly, a plan to get him to grade 7.
Put the emphasis on what he does well and how feasible it would be to get to grade 7 with a can-do attitude and put in a realistic time frame.
Also, if the kid is more than say, 15, you can have a really good conversation with him about what he wants to learn and how important exams are to him. Maybe he'd like to just play chopin this year and leave the rest of the syllabus be. At that age, if my teacher had shown me the syllabus and said "what would you like to play" I would have said "All beethoven, all the time!" :)
Talk to him about playing music from a wide range of difficulties, so he can still do his grade 7 pieces while working on his technique through grade 4 pieces.

I think overestimating what grade you're at because you play grade X pieces, regardless of how well, is a common problem.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #18 on: April 26, 2014, 04:27:44 AM »
Hi people,  I was wondering if you could tell me if there is a nice way of putting the following...
I have a new student, migrated from a differenr teacher.  He failed gr 6 recently,  but his teacher reassured the parents that he is a firm gr 7 level. His parents were not so sure so asked me to assess him , in a informal way, and lrt them know what I thought.  He plsyed for 7 years .
So, he does play some pieces from gr 7 syllabus and one or two other pieces,  but he does not use pedal at all. When asked, he said that he only played 2 pieces so far using the pedal.
Sight reading is pretty much zero in  a lesson, he could not recognise a and c on ledge lines above treble clef... made tonnes of mistakes, missing notes by 2-3 down or up. Had no clue what a major was and did not know what tonic triad was either, I mean in general. 
He plays with straight fingers and drops wrists.. no experssion. He has a good feel of rhythm though,  and a can do attitude!
I only started teaching two years ago, many beginners who started with me are only now at grade 1-2 level (most can sight read up to gr 3 pieces though), and I had a few migrating from other teachers,  up to gr 5 standard. 
Anyhow, how on earth do I put all this nicely to his parents?


I am not a piano teacher dealing with parent's expectations but I think you can just tell them everything you wrote here. show them you want to focus a little more on chords and sightreading.
You know why they are important. As for the level 7 stuff, the math will speak for itself. If you failed the level 6, you are not level 7.  Dont forget to tell them he has a can-do attitude. Parents really like to know there children are getting along. No need to hide anything, but dont tell them you posted this. They might think you are one of those internet googlers.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #19 on: April 26, 2014, 04:53:30 AM »
Professional courtesy aside, placing the blame on the previous teacher than the pupil would be better accepted by the parents. Just explain the basics that the child has not acquired.

The real question is whether the pupil has potential to learn from here, or has he simply not absorbed the lessons. If the latter, you're course of action appears to be clear.

Regards

But it could be the first teacher had a very challenging student who didnt know anything at all and now knows enough to play at  least play a couple of pieces. As a parent I would not accept finger-pointing, especially if I liked his previous teacher and the results. I would still tell the new teacher to fix it and move forward for the student's sake. " I want my kid at level 8 in one year or your fired " :-)

Offline barbara22

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #20 on: June 05, 2014, 10:24:57 AM »
I no longer take transfer students from parents who want exams, but whose child has deficits in performance or sight reading.  I will accept the students for teaching purposes only, with the caveat that he will not participate in exams.  There will be a contract for one year to prevent the parents from switching teachers in the middle of the year.

The downside is that I will most likely lose the business.  The upside is that I have avoided 1) conflicts that will certainly ensue from parents with unrealistic expectations, and 2) the almost-certain departure of the student for yet another teacher who promises success just to get the business.

Offline cometear

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #21 on: June 11, 2014, 11:32:31 AM »
I no longer take transfer students from parents who want exams, but whose child has deficits in performance or sight reading.  I will accept the students for teaching purposes only, with the caveat that he will not participate in exams.  There will be a contract for one year to prevent the parents from switching teachers in the middle of the year.

The downside is that I will most likely lose the business.  The upside is that I have avoided 1) conflicts that will certainly ensue from parents with unrealistic expectations, and 2) the almost-certain departure of the student for yet another teacher who promises success just to get the business.

How can you make a legal contract binding them for a year? Would you sue if they tried to leave? Just wondering.
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Offline jadmin

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #22 on: June 12, 2014, 06:16:21 AM »
I think you are supposed to notify his parents straightforward, i am not saying go too rude or too nice. But just simply inform them, it would be enough i believe they know about their child.


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Offline bernadette60614

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #23 on: June 17, 2014, 04:14:05 PM »
As a parent of a child who has a learning disability (and I'm not saying that this kid has one by any means), it doesn't help me or our son to hear about what he cannot do.  It helps us to have his teacher give us a constructive way for him to acquire the skills he needs.

Your son can't read at the 3rd grade level and he's 10 gives me no plan of action or process to encourage.

I'm going to suggest a list of books your son can read over the summer. I know he'll enjoy them and it will support his developing reading skills...that helps.

So, my advice:  You can simply give his parents your strategy.  We'll be working on the following...I know that this will help him to develop further as a pianist.

Again, not a piano teacher, just a parent.

Offline fleetfingers

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #24 on: June 19, 2014, 07:27:46 AM »
But wouldn't you want to know directly that your child reads 2 levels below his grade? True, simply stating the fact doesn't help anything, but how do you work on something if you don't know there is a problem? In general, I would take a list of suggested books to read over the summer lightly. To make it a priority, I'd have to more fully appreciate what it means and why I'm being given that list. I don't mean that in a stubborn way, just stating the reality of what would actually take place. We have our own summer plans, and those books may or may not enter my home. But if I knew it was to help him catch up or fill in holes . . . or if the learning disability would require that I help him in some way on a regular basis from this time forward . . . I would appreciate those things to be spelled out clearly, so I can prioritize that list.

Having said that, I think I understand where you're coming from. I'm a parent and have had teachers who do it the right way and teachers who do it the wrong way. Perhaps the key lies in their attitude when approaching the conversation with the parents . . . whether it is encouraging or critical and disapproving.

Offline keypeg

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #25 on: June 21, 2014, 06:51:46 PM »
But wouldn't you want to know directly that your child reads 2 levels below his grade?
I agree with Bernadette.  And no - as someone who taught reading skills, the information about "reading 2 levels below a grade" is not useful.  As a teacher, it is my job to find out what particular problems are causing the reading problems, and then determine what needs to be done to address these problems.  Next, what kind of teaching I need to do, then what activities the child needs to do, and also what things the parent needs to do to help.  (Like Bernadette says).

How is it useful to know that a child reads "2 levels below grade level"?

Offline stevenarmstrong

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #26 on: June 24, 2014, 03:59:00 AM »
better question is: how the hell did he learn pieces? Pretty sure seventh grade music goes above A and C above the staff!!

I don't "blame" the last teacher - it's unpofressional. I've said this in the past: "different teachers have different emphases and different educational backgrounds, so we're going to fill some of the gaps with what I like to emphasise and where I think we need to improve"

I find saying "we" and instead of "you" softens it, makes the student feel like you're on a journey together.

Side note:

what's with all the talk about sight reading? who cares! Make some music! They'll develop it by playing more and more over time. Chords?? They're in music...play the music! We need to move away from the "old lady" system of:let's start with scales - mindlessly play your routine as prescibed in the syllabus; now play your pieces A, B, C and D. Now 5 mins of sight reading. Now 5 mins of some interval recognition...URGH. Way to kill music. Lessons shouldn't be designed around ticking off a to-do. And seriously, there is no other measure of musical ability than MUSICAL ABILITY i.e. understanding THE MUSIC and showing that it is understood. There's great articles by Doreen Bridges about the private music education system.
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Offline fleetfingers

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #27 on: June 24, 2014, 08:23:22 AM »
How is it useful to know that a child reads "2 levels below grade level"?

Perspective. Point of reference. "Levels" do not constitute the whole picture, but they are set up so that we can gauge progress; to communicate with and to understand one another when addressing the needs of a student. To each his own, but I personally find it very useful. To a professional teacher, it may seem like nothing but a superficial number, but it can give a lot of perspective to a parent who otherwise doesn't really know how well their child is doing.

You mention "determining what things the parent needs to do to help". How were you able to enlist the parents' help without clueing them in that their child was behind?

Offline keypeg

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #28 on: July 10, 2014, 03:00:26 AM »
(keypeg: ow is it useful to know that a child reads "2 levels below grade level"?)
Perspective. Point of reference. "Levels" do not constitute the whole picture, but they are set up so that we can gauge progress; to communicate with and to understand one another when addressing the needs of a student.
But this gives no information. What does "progress" mean?  I would find it useless as a parent, I would not give it as a teacher. 
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To a professional teacher, it may seem like nothing but a superficial number, but it can give a lot of perspective to a parent who otherwise doesn't really know how well their child is doing.
But it doesn't give information on how well the child is doing.  It just gives a number.
Quote
You mention "determining what things the parent needs to do to help". How were you able to enlist the parents' help without clueing them in that their child was behind?
By telling the parent what the child is behind IN, and what the child needs to DO to recitify it.  Specifically.  A number gives no information whatsoever.

Offline keypeg

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #29 on: July 10, 2014, 03:12:20 AM »
better question is: how the hell did he learn pieces? Pretty sure seventh grade music goes above A and C above the staff!!
First answer - we don't know.   Second answer - a piece can be learned by spending a very long time on it, by being choreographed note for not, by memorizing over a long period of time.  Another thing we don't know is how these pieces are being played.  If the student does not know how to use pedal, then what does this music sound like?
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what's with all the talk about sight reading? who cares! Make some music! They'll develop it by playing more and more over time. Chords?? They're in music...play the music! We need to move away from the "old lady" system of:let's start with scales - mindlessly play your routine as prescibed in the syllabus; now play your pieces A, B, C and D. Now 5 mins of sight reading. Now 5 mins of some interval recognition...URGH. Way to kill music.
There is NO REASON why giving students skills should equate with "old lady systems".  I'm also not convinced that those systems are skill-giving - they are routine-producing, and can be prescribed without thought or purpose.

Yes, we may pick up some things over time simply by playing more and more music.  But how we practice, what we focus on, will give us the things we need.  They do not happen automatically, passively.

Not learn how to read music?  That means that a student will never be able to pick out a score and learn new material on his own.

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Lessons shouldn't be designed around ticking off a to-do. And seriously, there is no other measure of musical ability than MUSICAL ABILITY i.e. understanding THE MUSIC and showing that it is understood.
First - you don't want it measured - you want it learned - developed.  Understand the music?  How do you get there?

I'm writing this time as a former student where this magical thinking was too prevalent.  I finally discovered the existence of specific skills, and began seeking them, and that makes a major difference to my music making.  It doesn't just passively come to you.  Btw, on that instrument my last grade was grade 7.  I'm relearning from scratch, and chasing those things that you write are unimportant.

Offline keyofc

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #30 on: August 26, 2014, 04:45:17 PM »
Old ladies have a wealth of knowledge!

Offline bmajazz

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #31 on: September 02, 2014, 05:25:46 PM »
Amen to this!  Sight reading is a means to an end.  It's just the ability to quickly process the notes on the page.  I was always a terrible sight reader, so maybe I'm more sympathetic.  I tended to play by ear, had perfect pitch, etc., and so struggled with note-reading.  I see it in my more "talented" students all the time.  I push note-reading on them, but in an empathetic way.  Get the kid to play in time, musically, and well.  As you said, if they really get into it, the reading will come.

Even now, more than half of my own sight-reading is based on harmonic and motivic anticipation.  I "guess" what is coming next, especially after page turns.  This is more straightforward for non-classical music and for mediocre classical music.  I also memorize quickly, as I did when I was 7.

I think sight-reading is emphasized too much because it is easily quantifiable.  It's right/wrong, on/off.  It's easy to incorporate into an overly pedantic philosophy, because it's not really subject to interpretation.  It's easy to blend into mediocre teaching styles.


Side note:

what's with all the talk about sight reading? who cares! Make some music! They'll develop it by playing more and more over time. Chords?? They're in music...play the music! We need to move away from the "old lady" system of:let's start with scales - mindlessly play your routine as prescibed in the syllabus; now play your pieces A, B, C and D. Now 5 mins of sight reading. Now 5 mins of some interval recognition...URGH. Way to kill music. Lessons shouldn't be designed around ticking off a to-do. And seriously, there is no other measure of musical ability than MUSICAL ABILITY i.e. understanding THE MUSIC and showing that it is understood. There's great articles by Doreen Bridges about the private music education system.


Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #32 on: September 13, 2014, 12:50:47 AM »
The problem with music exams is that it doesn't examine everything there is that it means to be a musician. They simply examine prepared work that could take x amount of time.

Sight reading is certainly important as it is often a part of musical examinations. Though the marks received for the sight reading is not as much as the technical work (eg: scales) and pieces you play and why often sight reading is not a focus in lessons. I think it is bad to a students progress if reading is not studied separate from the pieces/technical work prepare for exam, they will be a less complete musician.


In terms of what you should say to the parents a teacher doesn't need to reveal every single issue in a detailed manner unless the parents ask for it. Most trust the teacher to do what is right and don't want to know what you do. It is important to however highlight your approach to musical learning as it is different with each teacher. You don't need to say what is wrong with the playing but highlight issues that you consider important when playing the piano and learning the piano.

You need to assess whether it is good to continue with the examinations and improve upon the students ability through the new works or if it would be better to go back and relearn pieces they have done before as well as study easier pieces that you think would encourage better technique and reading skills. You could certainly do both at the same time as examinations generally do not have a time limit to prepare.

Good luck.

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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #33 on: September 13, 2014, 12:55:33 AM »
Old ladies have a wealth of knowledge!
You  mean "older" ladies, that would be more wise :)
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #34 on: September 13, 2014, 01:30:56 AM »
If the student does not know how to use pedal, then what does this music sound like?
I'm sure you are even asking this question in an astounded tone as I would be! Though the student in this example does know how to use the pedal somewhat (2 pieces?). The use of the pedal has a huge effect on the way in which we play the piano. When studying the pedal there are a number of issues it deals with which should be examined including:

-How the Damper or Sustaining Pedal of the piano acts
-General ill effects of the Wrong use of the Pedal
-General Valuable Effects of the Pedal
-General Qualifications essential for the right use of pedal
-Necessity for Careful listening
-How to depress the pedal
-Importance of the pedal in piano playing
-Neglect of the pedal by musicians, reasons for this neglect
-How to use the pedal for connecting tones
-Exercises for connecting tones by the use of the syncopated pedal What to observe and guard against.
-Exercises on sustaining bass notes with intermediate chords
-Value of the pedal for freeing the hands so as to produce the appropriate tone
-How to use the pedal in melody playing, Important rules for melody playing
-How to use the pedal for adding Brilliancy to Brilliant passages.
-When to use the pedal, unreliability of the usual printed pedal indications

There is NO REASON why giving students skills should equate with "old lady systems".  I'm also not convinced that those systems are skill-giving - they are routine-producing, and can be prescribed without thought or purpose.
I think a solid basis in scales helps us understand fingering positions at the piano which can in turn help us learn our pieces more confidently. One can also observer groups of notes as being a part of a scale,chord or arpeggio system they have studied in isolation while obeying the "older lady" principles ;) Strong technical pattern understanding equates to better sight reading skills as the groups of notes can be fingered confidently and much less need to be analyzed step by step. Playing amazing scales with perfect fingerings wont make you a express a piece better but it does make the path getting there easier.

It is important though to be mindful in how you study your technical patterns, you should certainly investigate different starting positions of scales and learn to improvise (random playing or single note patterns and ornaments connected to chords and arpeggio patterns is fine for those who can't improvise with some kind of style) on those scales so your hands can be certain of the contour of the piano that the various scales produce. This is something that exams don't investigate which is a shame since they only want a prescribed pattern of sameness for each and every student which makes the technical work somewhat mindless as you are forced to obey set procedures.

Yes, we may pick up some things over time simply by playing more and more music.  But how we practice, what we focus on, will give us the things we need.  They do not happen automatically, passively.
All of us get better at practicing the more we practice however not everything in our practice method can naturally improve especially issues that "we don't know that we don't know". It is different to know that you are missing an ability because you can work towards understanding it, but to not know that you are missing an ability is much worse and what stunts progress.

We discover the existence of many thing we didn't know about through example though there are things that we can easily miss or things which could have been found earlier and made your musical journey more efficient. I feel when it comes to playing the piano there are more things you can miss than with other instruments since the subtle difference between right and wrong in piano playing are more numerous. If you simply hold a violin wrong you will sound bad, but you can approach the piano incorrectly and still produce a good sound. The piano sets you up for issues which you can be oblivious to and which require direct focus and critical thinking to uncover and understand, something which is best with a teacher.

I'm writing this time as a former student where this magical thinking was too prevalent.  I finally discovered the existence of specific skills, and began seeking them, and that makes a major difference to my music making.  It doesn't just passively come to you.  Btw, on that instrument my last grade was grade 7.  I'm relearning from scratch, and chasing those things that you write are unimportant.
It is amazing when we fill "the gaps" which have evaded us and not come naturally. It is such a rewarding experience isn't it!
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Offline keypeg

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #35 on: September 13, 2014, 01:44:45 PM »
It was a while back when I wrote that post.  I think my main point is that a student can be brought through a series of pieces that are graded higher and higher, without being given the tools, so that he is learning pieces, but not learning theory, technique, approach, and so on.  For example, if a student is choreographed all the way, taught by rote, has finger numbers written in, and maybe learns only one or two pieces per year, then he can end up playing that grade 7 piece wonderfully, and yet still not have the skills you'd expect a student "at grade 7 level" to have.

Offline trus

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Re: is there a nice way of putting it?
«Reply #36 on: September 19, 2014, 09:33:08 PM »
Wow! What a discussion ....since I have been off the forum!
Thanj you all for all the answers. 
FYI .... the boy is out of piano playing just now. I suggested that we would do a block of lessons and see how it goes.
The resukt was... he never practiced for my lessons. He signed and yawned and looked at around the room for most of the lessons, as soon as I spoke to him or demonstrated something (I am not a boring teacher!!!) ?..
 He basically showed me that he was not interested in many ways.  I asked him to find music he wants to play. He did towards thr last lesson but could not be bothered working on it. He actually usdd to answer to my "open and involving" questions "Am not bothered".
So. I guess he is lazy.  He said he wanted to play lovely but could not be bothered making an effort. He also was absolutely sure that he is grade 7 standard and when I played him a gr 7 piece he thought it was very easy.
So I asked him if he wanted to do all thjs and he told me he did not like piano as much, he preffered accordion and drums. So I tortured himself and myself for 5 lessons and ended up kicking him out, spoke to him and his parents about his "unmotivated" piano studying and said that he would be better doing instruments he likes - over to other music teachers!!!! Yessss! Never again, I thought I was going to go crazy dealing with a pupil like that. Spoke to his father the other day, apparently the boy is not practicing any of the instruments.