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Unprofessional Teacher? (Read 2857 times)

Offline ameliatan

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Unprofessional Teacher?
« on: January 20, 2017, 08:56:00 AM »
Dear Teachers –. What would you say to a parent who says you are unprofessional to be upset and ‘give up’ on a student who doesn’t practice at all for exam, especially when the mother knows he doesn’t practice?

I have a nice boy, I enjoyed teaching but he simply doesn't practice. We wasted 1 year, and I extended his preparation to 2 years due to not practice. Every lesson, I ask why, he says too busy. The mum even asked me to be more firm. I even sms him nicely, but no answer. Lately, she has been having huge arguments with him, nagging him to practice.

It is already 2 weeks to his exam, and he played horrendously. I was just so upset, and I felt the mother also wanted me to be more firm. So, I simply said, ‘ if you play like that, you will fail, please don’t waste your time, my time and your parents $$. Its ok, just use my lesson to practice'  He complained to his mum about my behavior and what I said. This lady has exploded and sent me a very long sms, blaming me for ‘destroying’ his love for music. According to her, he is very upset that I have ‘given’ up on him. The thing that hurts me is I believe (before) I have been very loving and patient to him in the past, but this is exam!

She asked to stop lessons and I even apologized nicely, that I was not successful with him. She also mentioned I am not teaching him correctly. I feel like telling her, if I didn’t teach correctly, er.. why on earth did he get good marks for grade 1 exam with me?

The problem is she lives in my block with many parents who may be my potential clients. I don't think she will, but she may 'bad mouth' me to them. She is actually a nice lady, I think she is very stressed now, and her son fighting with her so she is taking it out on ME. (She also complained her newborn is sick etc.) I am happy to let this student go, but deep down, I feel I need to defend myself – should I? Its like, I can’t get away with you thinking I am a bad teacher :( Its just not fair to blame me for 'killing' his passion!

Offline vaniii

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Re: Unprofessional Teacher?
«Reply #1 on: January 20, 2017, 01:19:57 PM »
First, a disclaimer, I do not know you, your temperament, or the facilities you have or hope to make available to your students. I also know not of your academic training, or professional experience in the field and so cannot comment on those; I can only make comment or suggestions on what you have chosen to offer up on this forum.

Thank you for having the courage to do so.

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Dear Teachers –. What would you say to a parent who says you are unprofessional to be upset and ‘give up’ on a student who doesn’t practice at all for exam, especially when the mother knows he doesn’t practice?

Immediately, my response is the age-old adage: “you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”.  From this statement, I can already see the motivation is not with the student; clearly, the parents are the driving force in this relationship.  Owing to this, in my practice, these relationships have an expiry date.  The instigator is irrelevant; the time this happens in usually when the child discovers independence, exploring opportunities on their own.  Now, after years of battling with students like this, I made a decision not to enrol them, as the relationship, and time spent drains your energy, taking it away from students who’s motivation is internal.

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I have a nice boy, I enjoyed teaching but he simply doesn't practice. We wasted 1 year, and I extended his preparation to 2 years due to not practice. Every lesson, I ask why, he says too busy. The mum even asked me to be more firm. I even sms him nicely, but no answer. Lately, she has been having huge arguments with him, nagging him to practice.

Again, from what the parent relayed to you, and what you have then relayed to us is that the parent is asking you to go beyond your role as piano teacher.  That is, “be more firm”; technically speaking, before a child leaves the first social encounters, they learn their baseline social skills from the home environment.  If the mother is asking you to “be more firm”, that means this is something they neglected to teach the child in their infancy.

 Another example of this is when you see a child miss-behaving in a supermarket, restaurant or other public setting; this is a symptom that they were never shown how to show restraint or discipline in the home.  The arguments they are having at home now, in fact, are now the resistance of change; the child now has to adopt a new ideology and routine.  How can you change what is perhaps 8-9 years of habit, in mere months (or in this case perhaps weeks).

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It is already 2 weeks to his exam, and he played horrendously. I was just so upset, and I felt the mother also wanted me to be more firm. So, I simply said, ‘ if you play like that, you will fail, please don’t waste your time, my time and your parents $$. Its ok, just use my lesson to practice'  He complained to his mum about my behavior and what I said. This lady has exploded and sent me a very long sms, blaming me for ‘destroying’ his love for music. According to her, he is very upset that I have ‘given’ up on him. The thing that hurts me is I believe (before) I have been very loving and patient to him in the past, but this is exam!

Do not feel ashamed for your honesty; from the very beginning of interaction with my students, I tell them the truth.  If they play horrendously, I tell them so; it is the only way they know that what they’re doing is not good enough.  This child most likely has never been told the truth about anything, and so will try to find comfort from their enabler.  Do not worry about the long letter; there was never any love for music, or rather, the reality of what being a musician is.  This person simply went through the motions, and now has to face the reality that they are not any good.

This is a common occurrence; parents often express to me that they do not want their child to fail as it may knock their confidence and make them give up entirely, to which I reply “… and if they quit at the first hurdle, then they never really loved it.”  To all people here, think about how many times you have failed, no matter how small; directly to the professionals, think about how many times you were unsuccessful before you reached the point that you are at now.  Also, think about all those competitions, there is only ever one winner; sometimes they come back year in, year out, and still don’t make it past round one; the ones who quit are the ones who don’t deserve to win.

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She asked to stop lessons and I even apologized nicely, that I was not successful with him. She also mentioned I am not teaching him correctly. I feel like telling her, if I didn’t teach correctly, er.. why on earth did he get good marks for grade 1 exam with me?

Cut your losses, and chalk this up to experience.  They will likely leave and find another teacher who will tell him the same things you have; they will likely leave them too.  Don’t take it personally, it comes with the territory.  Under no circumstances do you reply in text format of any kind in an emotional state; it will become ammunition to tarnish your reputation.

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The problem is she lives in my block with many parents who may be my potential clients. I don't think she will, but she may 'bad mouth' me to them. She is actually a nice lady, I think she is very stressed now, and her son fighting with her so she is taking it out on ME. (She also complained her newborn is sick etc.) I am happy to let this student go, but deep down, I feel I need to defend myself – should I? Its like, I can’t get away with you thinking I am a bad teacher Sad Its just not fair to blame me for 'killing' his passion!

When you feel the need to defend yourself, it is because subconsciously, you feel like you have been attacked.  This will be hard, but … let it go.  There will be other students, and people who matter are good at making up their own mind.  People who listen to rumer, slander and gossip are generally small minded and not of the mind-set for something as large as music lessons; the focus for these type, “look at what I am doing”, music being a secondary concern.

Please do not let this minor set back consume your thoughts; this is but one stage in your journey.  In years you will look back and remember this person, and fail to find their name.  They will be one face in hundreds; I say that from my own experiences.

Deep down, you know the students who appreciate you; do it for them.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Unprofessional Teacher?
«Reply #2 on: January 20, 2017, 02:14:14 PM »
What would you say to a parent who says you are unprofessional to be upset and ‘give up’ on a student who doesn’t practice at all for exam, especially when the mother knows he doesn’t practice?
I haven't ever done this, probably because I am a lot more stubborn than students that don't practice. Don't get me wrong I've wanted to dump some tough cases but instead I simply hound them to practice, make the lessons really tough if they don't practice (i.e do a lot of repetition and make them tire out), ensure they know how to practice during the lesson and demonstrate it to me without my help during the lesson etc etc. For some students it is all about getting them to practice rather than learning about music. Discipline can be very tough to teach because it can require long term improvement especially with lazy people but if you choose to be a teacher this is something you are going to have a lot of patience for and that is whether the student chooses to do it in the end or not. I like to pretend that all my students become disciplined beasts but it is just not the case instead I just make sure they know how to be honest with themselves, this hopefully can cause change. The truth really sets us free.

Check this thread about honesty: http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=62887.0
Something that I tend to do a lot with students that pretend to practice or are dishonest about their lack of time to practice!!

I have a nice boy, I enjoyed teaching but he simply doesn't practice. We wasted 1 year, and I extended his preparation to 2 years due to not practice. Every lesson, I ask why, he says too busy.
This is where you start writing a timetable down on paper so you can map out their entire week. This way they can't lie to you as easily, you can see how much time they really have. If this takes one entire lesson to create so be it, organizing their time and forcing piano practice into their timetable is essential. Students need to work by a timetable it after all is embedded within all schooling system. If after making a timetable there still is no time to practice (which I think is crazy why would they be doing piano!??) I would then ask the parents that there needs to be time allocated to practice otherwise progress will be at a snails pace.


The mum even asked me to be more firm.
I work the student as hard as necessary during lessons and all my students know exactly what to practice and how to go about doing it when they are left on their own, it is all in their journal and their parents can read it and know what needs to be done. If the parents know what needs to be done this is more empowering for them during the week to monitor and control the practice. If the parents don't understand what is required you will have students practicing lazily, faking their way through practice, just tinkering about, telling their parents that they have done the work but really they haven't etc! Kids will fake their way through things all the time, if the parents know what they should be practicing and how they should be going about doing it then they can enforce that during the week.

It is a problem if a parent thinks you can magically make a student want to practice when you are not there. That is impossible. The student needs to want to do that themselves and actually it is the parents responsibility to push them to practice. The teacher can motivate the student during the lesson to do it and make them feel confident to practice alone for that week, but the student must have the self discipline to carry out the practice on their own.

It is already 2 weeks to his exam, and he played horrendously. I was just so upset, and I felt the mother also wanted me to be more firm.
With my beginner students I refuse to allow them to apply for examinations unless I feel they are ready. This can annoy some parents because the kids don't make the cut off times for the year but that is not my fault. If the student doesn't give respect to the exam then they have no right to even apply for it imho. Applying for exam before being ready for beginners is backwards imho. Some students if they have a deadline will however work hard to be ready, this is a totally different issue and mostly found with more serious students. When dealing with students who have good sense of discipline towards their work then it is ok to apply for examinations before they are ready. They know how to work on a deadline, what hope can we get out of an undisciplined student who has a deadline but doesn't even care about it!? It just sets up failure and pressure on you as a teacher, you need to hold the student ransom not the other way around.



Take your experience with this student as a good lesson. It can be very demoralizing having a student who doesn't practice week after week after week. What are you going to do about it in the future? It is certainly a problem you need to consider carefully and work out how you tackle it. Some teachers reaction is simply to get rid of students who don't practice and I guess that is fine if you have students lined up waiting for lessons. I still won't get rid of students who don't practice because I will change our lessons to target their discipline, if there is absolutely no progress there then it is a no hope case but I am still yet to meet one I have had to get rid of :) They always quit.
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Offline vaniii

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Re: Unprofessional Teacher?
«Reply #3 on: January 20, 2017, 03:32:38 PM »
With my beginner students I refuse to allow them to apply for examinations unless I feel they are ready. This can annoy some parents because the kids don't make the cut off times for the year but that is not my fault. If the student doesn't give respect to the exam then they have no right to even apply for it imho. Applying for exam before being ready for beginners is backwards imho.

A very important point to make.

If you enter for an exam, the exam and the confines of the system should be respected.

Offline dcstudio

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Re: Unprofessional Teacher?
«Reply #4 on: January 20, 2017, 03:59:30 PM »
I will say it is unprofessional to show visible signs of anger or to be outwardly "upset" with a student or a parent. Trust me when I tell you I have been guilty of this once or twice.

That being said...if the student misses lessons or doesn't pay on time that is a reason to give up. Otherwise, remember that you are running a business and in this business your reputation will precede you.  If they are willing to pay then you should be willing to try. Parents like this one tend to talk.  You can spin this whole thing in your favor by motivating this student to simply spend time at the piano. Forget the contests for the time being
.after this pne.  Don't call it "practicing" anymore...teach him something he wants to play.  When mom sees him at the piano she will call it practicing and think that you are amazing.  Then she will tell her friends and Bingo! Five more students will sign up.

Offline love_that_tune

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Re: Unprofessional Teacher?
«Reply #5 on: January 21, 2017, 04:52:53 AM »
You have gone above board with this student.  I always tell the parents that music cannot be forced.  this child is "playing" everybody.  I had this happen to me.  I told the parents that I needed them to ask this child if they wanted to learn to play piano or not.  It is absolutely horrid to sit through a lesson with the same material over and over.  When I called my student on it, they had a pow wow with the dad and said yes they did want to play.  So we still are studying together.  Motivation is hard for her.  When the parents said I had upset her, I didn't buy it.  Now when her energy dips i just remember her what to focus on.  I have so many students who are delighted to learn piano.  There's only so much indifference an artist can tolerate.  It is hugely draining.

As far as the other parent's opinion, trust me, they have this family's number.