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Author Topic: Student of 3 years (now 8 years old) was whining about having a lesson  (Read 400 times)
love_that_tune
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« on: October 03, 2017, 01:05:16 AM »

I said it wasn't very nice to come into the house and be greeted that way, this being the second week in a row.  Whereupon the mother eventually informed me that she didn't care if her daughter played well and I was not to "pressure" her because she might quit and she didn't care if she did.  I also teach an older sister.  I went through with the lessons.  And this same kid is laughing and enjoying it all the while. 

The mom said I "overstepped my bounds".  Did I?  I asked her at the end if that was true.  Did she not care if she quit.  She said her daughter said I get "mad" when she doesn't practice.  Trust me, I simply explain the value of practice.  I've been doing this a long time and I love these particular kids.  Generally I'm a veritable Mary Poppins with kids.

However it's hard for me to go back there.  The mom really is not invested in any progress.  I guess she just wants them "exposed to music".  Well after three years, I guess they sure are.

It is soo incredibly boring to teach a child who doesn't practice.

I must say it's a first to have a parent back the child's rudeness and make me a villain. 

Call me crazy, I like to see them actually learning.  So we left it that we would "see" how it goes.  Aaaaaagh.  Why am I doing this?
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mjames
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2017, 01:20:15 AM »

Try going for some inspiration? Like spend one lesson showing her recordings of awesome music she likes or might like depending on her tastes, take her to a concert etc. Show her the typical Chopin ballades, polonaises, or Rachmaninoff concertos and then tell her "you'll only be able to play these if you practice hard!" Or a jazz record if that's her thing...

if she ain't moved by Chopin's op. 52 then there's no hope for her.
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keypeg
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2017, 08:43:50 PM »

I wasn't able to follow the story.
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themeandvariation
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2017, 12:54:19 AM »

Lovethattune,

Yes, that is difficult… If they don't practice, you have to spoon feed practice at the lesson, and then another week goes by where the student hasn't practiced - much less, in that way you showed them.
Starting at 5 years, many are not yet ready to start  even the idea of regular 'practice' … And, as the child continues, a new method of more 'seriousness' needs to start around 6-7..and many will resist, as it doesn't comport with the 'looser' lessons they have identified w/ when you first started w them.  This is the problem.  So, you are the babysitter, and it takes painfully long to get anywhere, as the only time they practice is once a week - with you.
Of course, as teachers, we understand about spoon-feeding- and it being part of a larger continuum - the other end being their total independence - which of course are the seeds we are attempting to sow.
As to whether or not your situation will change w/ this one - it doesn't look likely..(but could..) so it just depends on how you see your job, and if you are willing to continue under these circumstances. Chances are, if you are resisting as well, (totally understandably) it won't persist much longer anyway.. How long can you tread water, and hold your patience, from saying, 'this is futile'.. Of course, you wouldn't say that aloud..
Id bite the bullet, and let the student go, (though of course, that may have an affect on the sibling. Part of it though, is respecting yourself… 'King baby' has never worked for me..
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2017, 04:18:27 AM »

Yes, I know what this is like. I haven't taught piano lessons; however, I do teach swimming lessons to preschoolers and elementary kids--which is often as frustrating, if not more so. Oftentimes a parent will drop off their kids at my lesson--and the moment they leave, the child will start crying. Sometimes only a little; and that is easy to take care of (and it makes me feel so good when it does!). But then there are the ones who will just scream their heads off, and do so the entire lesson (and multiple lessons in a row)! So I feel you.

Now, unlike you, I can't exactly drop a crying child from my class ...

But don't give up yet. I don't exactly have the golden touch when it comes to crying kids, but I have seen kids who wouldn't do a thing the first day, and by the end of eight lessons are really making good progress in their skills. I recommend just sticking with it, for now. Your student will either come around at some point ... or her mom will pull her out of lessons. And perhaps all that is needed is a different teacher. Don't take it personally--often I see kids who did not do well in my class do well with another teacher, and visa versa. I know the first and second teachers I had were not right for me--and I was 8 for the first one, and 11 for the second. Neither got me very far with music, even though they themselves were excellent musicians. My current teacher, on the other hand, inspired me just enough that a burning passion for music lit up inside of me. Don't give up just yet!
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Auditioning to U of O school of music:
Bach WTC Bk 1 No. 10
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Liszt Wilde Jagd, Dante, HR 6
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2017, 01:07:29 PM »

It is so great to read your rational responses.  What bugs me is how much this affected me.  The Boston suburban reality is that most of my students are enrolled in so many things that they just want to stop doing anything at some point in the day. The typical family is booked solid every day, every holiday.  There is almost no down time.  I get that I set myself up for this.  I agree.  This won't last much longer.  So I'll go along for a bit.  I really don't want this child to feel I quit her because she was so "bad", because that's not the case.  My bread and butter has been going to people's homes and teaching siblings.  Saving parent's time has kept my calendar as full as I want or need.  I already had dropped a third sister in this family.  She really was miserable during the lesson.

Parents who have had no personal exposure to the arts of any kind sometimes think that signing their kids up for lessons "gives" them the opportunity.  Of course that's not enough, and I often have great joy when I can pull that off.

I'm also trying to be a big girl about feeling insulted when a mom gets pissed.

Thanks for responding.  For a moment, it makes me feel a little more normal.
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klavieronin
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« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2017, 01:55:21 PM »

That's tough. I know the experience. When it has happened to me in the past I stopped caring about 'progress' and started treating the lessons as a series of interactive musical games. Games with points always go down well. One game I play that seems to be popular is a race to middle C. You start with a marker at each end of they keyboard, take letters out of a hat and move your marker to the next key of that letter. The first to middle C wins. At little basic for someone learning for 3 years but it's just an example. Another one is finding a key blindfolded. You can do it either by name or by sound. Just get creative. You're lucky the mother doesn't care about progress because that takes the pressure of you. I've had students in the past who this approached worked really well with and they soon began looking forward to the lessons. My advice for dealing with this type of student; forget about teaching and try to become their friend. They might not get better at playing but at least they won't learn to hate the very idea of learning piano. Perhaps then, later down the road, they might come around.
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2017, 02:55:44 PM »

You bet. I realize stuffing my own desires for actual musical progress kind of came to head.   I had, in hand, a little song we "wrote" and I had printed a panda drawing on it and was having her playing I, IV and V chords along with it.  So having her pull a "I don't want the lesson now"moment in my face walking in the door was a topper.  I actually put a blindfold on a 7 year old for half his lesson yesterday.  He loved it.  I taught him to find the notes this way.

This is all in contrast to other students I have who are playing the piano in ways that thrill my heart.  I've had more than a few go on to major in music in college and some become performers. 

Tis the way of things.  One parent once told me that when they had talent day at a school, she could tell which ones were my students.


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tnan123
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2017, 04:35:22 PM »

There are some great suggestions here. Here a few others if you still want to encourage the student to practice. Consider having a "recital" soon. Having to play a piece in front of an audience is a great motivator for some. Most people are musicians not because they love music. Anyone can love music and not be a musician. You're a musician because you want to be able to express yourselves through music so encourage performance opportunities!

Another great motivator is bribery.. Yes it works.

Some other tips: Consider doing more general music education, since that seems to be the goal of the parents. Maybe do some music history, or assign some short pieces for them to listen to during the week.

Consider having your student do a practice journal. Review it with them at the beginning of the lesson. This can help you figure out what obstacles are in the way so you can then work with them to identify where they might be able to fit practice in better into their week. If no practice occurred, definitely simulate a practice session during the lesson.

However, if you aren't enjoying the lesson with the student, they probably aren't either. Make an ultimatum, be honest about your expectations and don't continue a poor teacher-student relationship. Often a good way is to have the student be part of the decision. "If I don't see that you are interested in lessons in the next 2 weeks, I won't be teaching you anymore" If the student is truly not interested, you'll see it and they will let you know by how the lesson goes even if they don't say it explicitly.
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bernadette60614
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« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 11:43:26 PM »

First, I"m not a teacher, but I was going to post about another matter here and your posting caught my eye.

I'm an adult student and I'm part of a community of adult students all taking lessons from the same teacher individually.  Not all of us practice.  One of our community is a prominent scientist, so he travels globally, several of us have careers/family commitments.  What she has told us is to come to our lessons..and if we haven't practiced she will practice with us.  The objective being to make some progress, no matter how small, week to week.

This child may not be a good independent learner...lots of kids aren't. And, if she isn't interested, she isn't motivated. But, she can be taught..but perhaps taking a "okay, we'll practice together" approach would work for her and make it less of an ordeal for you.
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2017, 04:01:27 AM »

... she didn't care if her daughter played well and I was not to "pressure" her because she might quit and she didn't care if she did. 
I feel this is evidence that the parent doesn't really care about the education you are providing this child. I meet parents who are like this, they do not want to push their kids into anything, they want their children to be as "free" as possible and never discipline or "force" them into anything. These kids generally grow up as brats as they get everything served on a silver platter and get their way all the time.

The mom said I "overstepped my bounds".  Did I?  I asked her at the end if that was true.  Did she not care if she quit.  She said her daughter said I get "mad" when she doesn't practice.  Trust me, I simply explain the value of practice.  I've been doing this a long time and I love these particular kids.
You really can't teach the parent how to raise their child appropriately, they really should know that if you call their child up on an issue which you think they are falling behind in that is not over stepping boundaries. Work ethic is an important part of education and anything you set out to achieve, if that is failing then there really what you achieve is merely a shadow of your potential. Sure the saying "Sugar catches more flies than vinegar" is an important point to consider especially with the education of children who are slow to develop work ethic skills and self motivational tools but you do need some kind of pressure to apply, I feel being too "soft" is a little ineffective we do have to call up our students on issues now and then and help them improve.

However it's hard for me to go back there.  The mom really is not invested in any progress.  I guess she just wants them "exposed to music".  Well after three years, I guess they sure are.
3 years is already a good length of time with a student, often these situations you describe in your post make clear the end of the life of your lessons with these students is near. If you are not desperate to keep them as your client then you should just drop them and move on to another more willing student (it is also makes more use of your teaching skills dealing with receptive students), of course if you need the students or really are interested in "saving" this case from themselves then power on for as long as possible, there really is no correct way to handle it.


It is soo incredibly boring to teach a child who doesn't practice.
I agree, teaching motivational skills and discipline can be boring if the student is unresponsive to it all. Over the decades I've taught only a very small handful have actually improved after a period of resistance but the great majority never change. I guess it is a reason why I never really give up on students who are stubborn to change, I am more stubborn to help them change even though the odds of success are quite stacked against me, I do take it as a challenge. We are afterall only a music teacher than sees the student pretty much once per week on average, there really is only a limited amount you can actually do with that time. Thinking back on all my students I don't think I have ever helped a student who is lazy AND has a parent who does not support me in their education, the involvement of the parents/guardians is very important when dealing with a student who resists improving.

I must say it's a first to have a parent back the child's rudeness and make me a villain. 
It happens in many ways, there are parents who back up their childrens laziness or unwillingness to achieve more than you realise. Just observe how the child speaks to their parents or how the parents deal with their children, a child who displays little respect really get away with murder with those parents and a softly spoken parent who is always nice to their children with little authority often raises a child with no boundaries or rules.  In these situations any of your teachings which are resisted in lessons are certainly totally ignored during the week when they are on their own.  One wonders why have a teacher if you are not going to support them at all let alone complain about it!!

Call me crazy, I like to see them actually learning.  So we left it that we would "see" how it goes.  Aaaaaagh.  Why am I doing this?
As a caring teacher you want students to improve and better themselves, it is of course not about you but about the student. You do want to see good things for them but we must learn that not everyone can be helped, you can bang your head against the wall for a long period only to lose in the end. If you enjoy the battle then don't get yourself down so, of course though it is much more rewarding working with students that want to learn from you and do not resist your teachings, it certainly makes the work a lot easier. In saying that however you can get through to some tough nuts sometimes and that in itself is a victory that tastes very sweet, it's not that common however and I am yet to see it when a parent works against me.
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