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Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave (Read 279 times)

Offline alexhayes

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Hey everyone,
I've been teaching for over over 5 years, and in general I've had very few students leave other than those who clearly had not been practicing.
Recently I've been teaching an adult student who had been a professional musician for years, and mainly wanted to brush up on theory rather than piano. We did around 5 lessons, however she's decided she wants to stop weekly lessons and has asked if she could just get in contact for another lesson when she needs specific help with something. I told her that her usual time slot will get taken by someone else, but if we can find a free slot she is welcome to do more irregular lessons.
I can't help but be a bit offended and feel that maybe she has just found a new teacher but doesn't want to say. She basically said that lessons were distracting her from what she's been studying herself, however I find this quite offensive in hindsight. I had given her some fairly basic exercise that she'd made some pretty big mistakes on, which I had then helped her to fix.
She was trying to tackle things like melody writing and transposition, when she didn't have a proper understanding of key signatures and intervals. In a way, I really hope she has found a different teacher as I think she's going to get lost working through everything herself.
I found it hard to structure lessons, as each time we would come to a new topic, I would need to explain loads of background information before it made proper sense to her. She has a very important exam coming up in the next few months, and at this rate she still has a lot of work to do for it.
I can't help but feel like a bad teacher in situations like this, even though I really did try to make the lessons worthwhile for her. The only thing I can think of that would have worked better, is if I'd structured the lessons more like I would for a child. I did give her specific exercises to do each week, but maybe she wanted a more structured lesson plan or something. Anyway, I think I'm just overthinking it all and need to remind myself that not everyone is going to like your style of teaching- sometimes no matter what you do. I'm wondering if anyone out there has any advice in dealing with situations like this? And with adult students quitting in general?
Thanks.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #1 on: February 28, 2021, 07:24:21 PM »
I think that children tend to stick with teachers because of their parents. Adults pay for their own lessons, and tend to fall into two camps -- those who are doing it as an enrichment activity, and those who are very serious about it, with no in between. Those who are very serious may leave if they feel the teacher isn't offering them enough or that they could do it on their own. The others may leave once they realize they don't want to put in the commitment, or get busy with their job or other things. Adults tend to be more critical than children.

You say she is a professional musician already. In that case, she can probably work on melody writing and transposition just fine simply relying on her ear rather than working through theory. Maybe she realized that theory wasn't doing her the good she expected?

Offline emmasommerv

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #2 on: February 28, 2021, 08:15:20 PM »
Yeah I've noticed that pattern with adult students. Most of the time it's a case of them not finding time to practice and eventually quitting because of that. Also the fact that they're much more capable of learning by themselves is a huge factor- and definitely the deciding factor in this particular student deciding to stop regular lessons.

Offline alexhayes

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #3 on: March 01, 2021, 01:02:25 AM »
The main reason she came for lessons was because she didn't want to rely on her ear anymore as in the exam she has to be really clear on music theory and won't be able to play on an instrument. I've gone to theory classes/music lessons most of my life and I'm so used to how tedious and boring the process can be at times. I think it's come as a bit of a surprise for her to be honest. I do think music theory is different to instrumental lessons in that it's easier to get through material yourself, so in that respect it makes sense that she wants to go through it herself. I guess the main reason I feel a bit offended by her quitting is that I felt like things were going well and that there was a lot more I could help her with- whereas in most other situations where someone is quitting it feels like a sort of brick wall has been met in the lessons where either they're not doing the work or they're just not interested.

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #4 on: March 01, 2021, 03:01:48 AM »
If you honestly feel you are doing the best job you can, you care about your students and you take pride in the work with them, there is nothing else for you to worry about.

I found some students simply do not understand or care about the quality of teaching you provide. A few years ago I had one student leave lessons with me to go over lessons provided by the school they attended with teachers who simply taught the piano out of a generic course book. It was simply more convenient for them to have their lessons this way and the quality of teaching didn't really matter to them. I've had others who simply find many other activities become more important than piano, as a musician we find that hard to understand but it's a reality for the vast majority of people!

You can certainly feel invested in a students musical education and when they leave you can feel a personal loss and a lot of unfinished business. I certainly miss a few students of mine who I no longer teach but there is always new students coming in who bring a lot of new challenges and joy. If I only had the same 50 students for decades on end my experience as a teacher would be much less, the fact that I have taught hundreds of different students over the years has given me valuable insight into piano education. So although it is tough to lose a student it is essential that we do so that we continue to develop as a teacher.

You can always gain valuable information when students leave you. When I was beginner teacher I noticed that a number of students of mine who were focused on examinations were quitting their studies once they hit a certain grade which became challenging. This made me reassess my approach and advice to future exam students I thought might also struggle in the same way these quitting students did. I would suggest stopping exams for a moment and building skills up more before continuing on. This helped a great deal and I saw a large reduction in quitting. As a beginner teacher I thought exam students should simply continue on with exams back to back, but eventually I saw that it was more beneficial to sometimes stand away from examinations, develop some skills, have some fun, then go back to it. I found if you forced students from one grade to the next and told them they had to increase their practice time, if they couldn't allocate more time they often felt the need to give up piano and do something else, it all became too stressful for them.

When you teach highschool students who are coming to final years of their schooling many will quit because they have no time to allocate to piano. Other students might start a family and have no time for piano studies because the new baby takes up all their time. Life really does get busy for people there are so many issues that we may know or not know about which influence their choice to keep studying the piano. I feel that we are given always the right amount of time with each person and we should take away something valuable from each student we have taught. That should suffice and you shouldn't feel abandoned and bad when a student leaves, it is all part of the teaching process.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #5 on: March 01, 2021, 02:16:18 PM »
I can't help but be a bit offended and feel that maybe she has just found a new teacher but doesn't want to say. She basically said that lessons were distracting her from what she's been studying herself, however I find this quite offensive in hindsight.

I wouldn't even ask why.  It is rare for someone to be honest if they don't want to hurt your feelings or they avoid confrontation.  (It is common for someone to not even know what they don't like.)  If it's time to move on, just accept it gracefully.  Her comment that she would reach back to you if she needed to was just trying to save your feelings.  I suspect there is no chance that would ever happen.  If you tell her that would be fine, you are respecting her feelings and making the parting amicable. 

Teaching an adult student theory has to be a difficult task.  It might be that you could develop your skill so as to do it better, but realistically isn't it a pretty rare request?  How did she end up coming to you for that? 

Just a thought.  Did she really mean transposition, or transcription?  From your description I would have guessed the latter. 
Tim

Online brogers70

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #6 on: March 01, 2021, 03:46:29 PM »
I would not take it personally. I myself would not have wanted to pay a teacher to teach me theory, as opposed to actual piano playing. There are lots of books and online resources that work well for learning theory. She may not have understood that at the time she signed on with you and then later realized she could manage without a teacher. In any case, some pairings of student and teacher don't work and that does not mean there's necessarily anything wrong with either the teacher or the student, just a poor fit.

Offline alexhayes

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #7 on: March 01, 2021, 06:12:00 PM »
Hey thanks for all your comments. In response to timothy42b, yes I did mean transposition as opposed to transcription. She came to me for lessons as she's looking to get into a music conservatory course in a few months time. I can't imagine how frustrating it is to try and learn all these music theory rules after years of being creative and playing by ear. I guess one thing I need to keep in mind is that even if I am in fact a poor theory teacher to adults, this is the 1 out of 100 students I've ever taught who has wanted such lessons. My main job is teaching piano, and mostly teaching children. I don't really know what she expected from lessons, but I can be sure of the fact that I went out of my way to help her as best as I possibly could.
Lostinidlewonder, thanks for your comment. I guess it is good to remind myself that students coming and going is just the natural flow of things. I myself once left a very good piano teacher as I felt that she really didn't believe in me and was holding me back. I switched to a new teacher after a break, and though the new teacher was not necessarily 'better' than the other teacher, we had a certain understanding I'd never had with the other teacher. She turned out to be my favourite and most influential music teacher I ever had. It's a reminder that not all personalities work together despite the teacher still being a 'good' teacher.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Not getting personally offended when a student decides to leave
«Reply #8 on: March 02, 2021, 02:37:08 PM »
You could have told her that transcription would help with transposition, which is true, and with theory in general. 
Tim