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#1298632 - 11/03/09 01:08 AM How would you respond if this were happening in your studio?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I would appreciate any comments anyone would like to make about the following email I received this evening. The student in mind was 6 in the summer, an only child, a child with vivid imagination and fantasy, resistant to following listening to instruction and following directions. She does not like to play a song again to play it better and it has been only recently that a steady beat, good counting and a musical sound have been achieved. She refused one book because it was "too hard" after 3 pages it had 11 songs in it that other students love to do. I supplied a much easier one which has very short pieces and is not very musically rewarding. The mother often rolls her eyes at lessons when I would glance at her usually because of something the child has said or done outside of playing a piece. I want the child to have an open door to music in her future and I feel a little uncomfortable with having her leave without there being closure to what we have been doing together since April. I don't know what to think about the "don't tell her" message. I don't really want to discuss their decision with them, I want to try to understand the dynamics better and perhaps offer a suggestion that would work better for the family in the future in the area of parent and child relationships.

How would you respond if this were happening in your studio?


"Hi Betty,

My husband and I have decided to make November our daughter's last month for piano. I think we have gotten over the hump regarding her resistance to playing, but we’d like to give the lessons a break, so she doesn’t feel forced.

We don’t really want to tell her we are quitting, so please don’t mention it. We want her to continue practicing with a continued expectation from us to play even if we don’t do formal lessons.

If we return to lessons after Christmas, we want to focus more on basic music principles.

Thanks for working with her. We will see you next lesson."

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#1298633 - 11/03/09 01:20 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: Betty Patnude]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
What wise parents .

"Be as little children".

Bow out with good grace Betty ... your time will come in good time.

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#1298648 - 11/03/09 03:00 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: btb]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
It seems that the parent has thought about it. 6 is an early age to start. The awkwardness and discomfort you mentioned seems to verify that the parent has made the right choice and thought it through. Her parents obviously spend more time with her to know the dynamics, who knows they might even find that she is not suited to piano, she is better with another instrument. They mentioned resistance and her non complying attitude so they seem like they made the right choice.

What else is there to do? Speculating and probing more would result in the same thing would it not? I am not a teacher so I am probably not suited to answering your question directly but I had a lot of miscommunication with my parents as a young child when I had piano lessons.
_________________________
http://colouredsilence.wordpress.com/


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#1298669 - 11/03/09 05:00 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your studio? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
Quote:
she is... resistant to following listening to instruction and following directions. She does not like to play a song again to play it better

The above, and also: refusing to do things that feel too hard. This seems pretty normal coming from someone so young - yes? Some of the time you have been teaching her she was still 5 years old. This feels early for the idea "lets play it again so you can do it better". I've found them to be like a slippery piece of fettucine that you are trying to catch with a fork to see if it's done, impossibly slippery. Maybe she knows when hasn't done well at a piano task, and is not ready to be watched and evaluated. Somehow they just know! "lets do it again" works "You were great! Here's a sticker" works, but I've not had good luck with "you can do better, try it again".

It could be that the parents know that their child needs time to mess around at the piano, that she might be on the verge of rebelling and refusing to learn music at all. What seems like an unnecessary break could be the space that secures her musical development.

I have a 6 year old who I "suspended" for a term from piano because I could feel that the fun had diminished a bit, he was a bit naughty and unsettled. I thought that if he had a break, returned excited and newly promoted "now that you're a big boy we will learn...etc..", I could avoid losing his interest in music. It worked, he's fine now.

Probably "don't tell the child we are takinga break" makes sense as she might lose any focus if she knows, like last week of school unruly behaviour. If you like you could play more musical games for the last month, or anything else that smells like fun to her (while secretly teaching useful musical stuff!)

It can be a bit of a jolt to be told, No - you're not doing what we wanted - Bye. Errrgh... But I rather admire the straightforward honesty of the letter. There may be undercurrents to the story I cant see from here.
"If we return to lessons after Christmas, we want to focus more on basic music principles." is stating directly what they are hoping for in lessons. You could have a conversation where you describe and discuss an alternative program for this child, and then offer it to the parents, or you may say that a change is the best remedy for the "wrong energy/behaviour" of these lessons.

I sincerely hope some of this is helpful, and if it isn't please ignore it smile
_________________________

Composers manufacture a product that is universally deemed superfluous—at least until their music enters public consciousness, at which point people begin to say that they could not live without it.
Alex Ross.

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#1298719 - 11/03/09 08:33 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your studio? [Re: Canonie]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
I would probably do exactly as the parent asks, and not spend too much time on introspection. My answer to the email would probably be along the lines of, "I'm sorry to hear it but thanks for letting me know." And leave it at that.

I'm pretty upfront about what I offer, and if it isn't what a parent wants, then so be it. I do not try to be all things to all people. There are many, many piano teachers in our area, and parents who express doubts about what I do are encouraged to look elsewhere for a better match.

You don't mention how long you've been teaching her, so I don't know how long it took to get her to the point she's at. If you've poured quite a bit of yourself into her lessons, then it can hurt to be told it didn't work, for whatever reason. As far as not talking about it, I agree that the parents are probably hoping to avoid any awkwardness on the child's part. I don't think I'd change anything about the lessons - do what you always do. Hopefully at the last lesson, the parents will have told the child ahead of time that this is good-bye. That is the lesson to have fun, play a game or two, and leave some nuggets for the child to work on independently.

Wandering off topic for a moment: We recently sold an old minivan at CarMax. The car had problems, and we were happy not to have to pay someone to take it! But the book price, if everything were working, was about $1200. The CarMax folks were happy, cheerful, complimentary. They checked everything off on their list as being "good." We sat there thinking how we were successfully pulling something over on them. Then they offered us $500 and we grabbed it. I think $500 was a very fair price. But afterwards, I realized that if they'd been negative, and critical, we probably would have seen the $500 offer as an insult. It has changed me a bit on how I approach my students!

When they play a piece that obviously needs more work, I find good things to say. I point out the places where they played the right notes, or the right rhythm, or had the beautiful hand position. As they are beaming with success, I tell them how I am looking forward to having the whole piece sound like that. It feels much less like a fail to them. In the past, I think I emphasized the bad parts to justify my request to repeat the piece for another week.

The only reason I'm sharing this story is your comments about the mom's reactions during lessons. Parents love to hear their children praised, and like to see signs of progress. It gives them something to repeat at home during practice sessions. I suspect you are already the kind of teacher who praises and encourages, but for this last month, I think you should step it up a bit. Leave the child with lots of positive feelings about music.
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1298736 - 11/03/09 08:58 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: Lollipop]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4441
Loc: San Jose, CA
"Parents love to hear their children praised, and like to see signs of progress. It gives them something to repeat at home during practice sessions. I suspect you are already the kind of teacher who praises and encourages, but for this last month, I think you should step it up a bit. Leave the child with lots of positive feelings about music."

Good thought, Lollipop.

That, and maybe the parents want to spare themselves a tantrum by taking advantage of the young artiste's short attention span, rather than "taking away" her lessons.

You could suggest that the parents play her recordings, or maybe take her to a kids' program at the local symphony. Take up lessons again when she's a little more ready... if that time ever comes. Maybe group music lessons that are more like a kids' birthday party would be more her speed, to start out.


Edited by Jeff Clef (11/03/09 08:59 AM)
_________________________
Clef


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#1298752 - 11/03/09 09:28 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: Jeff Clef]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12205
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I don't know, it sounds to me as though you feel exhausted working with this child, perhaps as exhausted this child is of lessons. Everyone matures at a different rate, and it sounds as though this child is perhaps a bit younger than others her age. This sitting for lessons thing and learning songs hasn't quite sunk in. I know for me, it took a while as well. I recall early on I took a break for a few months, maybe even 6 months, and when I came back to it I had really wanted it then, and stuck with that teacher for 10 years.

I think it is not a case of the parents questioning your ability, it seems they know their daughter and they can tell she's not ready for lessons. I would take their advice about not talking about the lessons being over, as I'm sure they understand her response may not make teaching very easy on you.

As far as what you do, I would still treat this as though they are your last lessons with her, so give her something to take with her. Get her off the bench as much as possible, but always doing musical things. Dance to music (give her a scarf to dance with), do musical games, etc., improvise songs on the piano, and then send her on her way.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1298801 - 11/03/09 10:47 AM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: Morodiene]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13817
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think the key line is: "we want to focus more on basic music principles."

Either they don't think you've been focusing on basic music principles, or you haven't successfully educated them about the principles that you have been teaching.

I'd write up an evaluation including repertoire and musical concepts covered, with a short explanation of the underlying pedagogy you use. I'd give it to the parents and say "here's a description of the methods I've used and the progress we've made. You might find it useful at home, and should she return to lessons with someone else, they may find the information very valuable."
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1298885 - 11/03/09 12:48 PM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: Kreisler]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
I think the parents are being very polite and considerate. Perhaps a short break will be good for the child. Many kids don't start piano until later, anyway. You might want to encourage the child to explore different kinds of music, attend concerts, or watch Youtube performances.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1298919 - 11/03/09 01:45 PM Re: How would you respond if this were happening in your stu [Re: AZNpiano]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Thank you for your excellent replies! It is quite helpful to me.

The child had some KinderMusic experiences and came with several instruments that she had not really learned to play and didn't seem very interested in. Her demonstration of them was to simply hold them up to show me. I think she enjoyed the "party" atmosphere that was mentioned above in a posting - who wouldn't - the group acts as in synergy together and everyone shares it together - a musical socialization.

That is not what happens on the piano bench usually - it's a solo act of one on one - with thinking and action producing sound. Applied piano study doesn't meet the needs of a small child who is not finished developing. I notice teachers talking about playing, dancing with scarves, puppetry, as ways that reach and teach the younger ones. With the raising of my own children, we did a lot of that in their nursery school years through kindergarten, my 5 kids were a class unto themselves.

So, I will rely on this topic to make good use of the last few weeks of lessons with this family. In hopes of leaving an open door for her future lessons when and where she returns to music.

There was such a variety of suggestions and comments that I feel rewarded for having posted about the challenge in the first place. There is a lot of "food for thought" posted in this topic.

Again, thank you all!

Betty

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