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#1723237 - 07/29/11 06:34 PM When parental involvement crosses the line
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
I have an 8 year old male transfer student who is extremely overscheduled, and has a mom who says she has a Fine Arts degree. Since I took over the student (I'd been a sub for him in the past when his former teacher was away), I feel like I constantly have to defend my choices (recital location - mom turned her nose up at the store location and for weeks the student said he couldn't participate if it was "outdoors."). Student asked me to print, b/c he can't read my writing. fair enough. They are ALWAYS late, and student then asks if I will make up the time, to which I respond that I cannot. Mom wants to linger after the lessons for long chats, yet declines sitting in on his lessons. Student constantly asks how much time we have, and often has focus issues. He plays mainly by ear, so I spend a lot of time working on rhythm, note reading so theory doesn't get as much attention (other than composition projects). For some reason, mom is always asking if theory is covered. He misses a lot of lessons due to vacation, and the resultant poor performances are due to "my lack of clarity instructions". Mom's last email questioned my instruction to work on a piece Hands Separate - asking me how HS improves the student, and student wanted to know why he had to do it when his prior 2 teachers didn't ask him to do it. Of course, I spent 5 minutes explaining (to an 8 Year Old), showing him Primer and explaining there is no need for HS practice, and of course, giving all the reasons why HS is needed for some of his pieces. As I write this, I think there's no question that I should drop this family. Of course I want my students to question instructions that they don't udnerstand, but more often than not, I feel like I am defending my choices and methods as a teacher. Input is greatly appreciated as to your experiences with parents like this.

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#1723272 - 07/29/11 08:38 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
If it were any one thing you listed, you could easily get their behavior changed, but you have a lot to deal with. I would definitely want to drop this student. I've never had a student/family like that though, so I can't tell you how I'd do it!
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#1723274 - 07/29/11 08:57 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 757
Loc: South Carolina
My amateur psychoanalysis: The mother has an inferiority complex.

Oh, the things that stupid people will do in the hopes that they'll come off as smart.......

Drop them.
_________________________
Piano performance and instruction (former college music professor).

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#1723304 - 07/29/11 10:08 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
I agree! Thanks, Stanny.

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#1723316 - 07/29/11 11:13 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11393
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Definitely dismiss them. And I wouldn't mince words about how you don't want to constantly have to defend yourself. YOU are the professional they hired to teach their son, and yet THEY constantly question you, and that rubs off ont he child. Tell me, if a child sees that their parent doesn't trust the teacher, will the child trust the teacher? Probably not, which means they won't do what they're told when practicing alone for the remainder of the week.
_________________________
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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#1723376 - 07/30/11 02:15 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 832
Of course I see why you could drop this student. But let me play the devil's advocate. The student has already had two other teachers and he's only eight. The complaint about the recital location I'd just brush off. Some people are so nervous about recitals, they will react like this. Particularly if they don't practice enough. You were assertive about the lateness and it paid off. Now be assertive about the lingering. Don't worry about the parental attendance. I certainly don't, as PianoDad will attest to. I don't teach children theory until they are 12, but if the mother really wants this, you need to suggest longer lessons. Some people need more reasons than others and explaining hands separate practice is a normal part of your job. I think you should stick with the boy so that:
he has continuity,
his mother learns your boundaries,
you learn to set your boundaries.
Good luck.

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#1723378 - 07/30/11 02:29 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5413
Loc: Orange County, CA
Why don't you try raising this kid's rates by 20%? 30%?

He'll see himself out.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1723381 - 07/30/11 02:43 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
pianoanne Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/02/04
Posts: 649
Loc: Pacific NW
I also think that you could give it a little more time, setting additional boundaries for the mother and see if things improve. You could suggest to the mother that you have another student directly following her son's lesson and her questions would easily be answered if she sat in on lessons once in a while. I also second the advice to suggest a longer lesson since there is not enough time to cover theory in the current lesson time.

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#1723474 - 07/30/11 11:35 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: pianoanne]
ilikepiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 108
My teacher is not a suzuki teacher but he encourages parents to sit it on every lesson. Otherwise, how would the parent know what is really going on?

My mom sits in my lessons every week and always knows exactly what my teacher wants from me. She also picks up things that I might overlook. When you write up your studio policy, I would put in that you Strongly Encourage parents to sit in for the entire lesson!

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#1723510 - 07/30/11 12:53 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
My solutions for this problem tend to run to Class A felonies. Perhaps I had better not share...
_________________________
Clef


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#1723575 - 07/30/11 02:59 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: Jeff Clef]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10347
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
My solutions for this problem tend to run to Class A felonies. Perhaps I had better not share...


grin
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#1723591 - 07/30/11 03:49 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: Jeff Clef]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4738
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
My solutions for this problem tend to run to Class A felonies. Perhaps I had better not share...

DITTO!!! LOL smile
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1723719 - 07/30/11 08:28 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
Ditto, Jeff, Gary, and Pianodad. smile

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#1723723 - 07/30/11 08:30 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
Thanks to all for your valued input. I work in a store, so dismissing a student is something they vehemently discourage (even though my contract states I have the sole right to dismiss or refuse a student). I think it's a great idea to suggest a longer lesson, why didn't I think of that? duh. Maybe I've grown to dread these lessons, b/c I have quite a few beginners who take 45 mins.

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#1723802 - 07/30/11 10:57 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: Candywoman]
scherzetto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/09
Posts: 40
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Candywoman
Of course I see why you could drop this student. But let me play the devil's advocate. The student has already had two other teachers and he's only eight. The complaint about the recital location I'd just brush off. Some people are so nervous about recitals, they will react like this. Particularly if they don't practice enough. You were assertive about the lateness and it paid off. Now be assertive about the lingering. Don't worry about the parental attendance. I certainly don't, as PianoDad will attest to. I don't teach children theory until they are 12, but if the mother really wants this, you need to suggest longer lessons. Some people need more reasons than others and explaining hands separate practice is a normal part of your job. I think you should stick with the boy so that:
he has continuity,
his mother learns your boundaries,
you learn to set your boundaries.
Good luck.



Hm, I have to say that so far, I'm with Candywoman on this one. Maybe it's just because of the limited amount of info we have (and I reread your initial post at least twice to make sure I wasn't missing anything), but these "offenses" don't sound to me like they warrant a dismissal. Sure, in some ways the mother seems to be going a bit too far, but I get the feeling that she just wants to make sure her child is learning what should(and, of course, with her limited knowledge, she's ended up asking some questions that sound silly to one more knowledgeable). From what I've seen of many piano teachers in the past, she has good reason to be concerned about the quality of his lessons, but you sound like a competent teacher, so you have nothing to fear from her digging anyway. Unless she makes things even more difficult, I would try to work with this family (the son's behavior simply sounds like a result of his mother's). At his age, limited attention and restlessness are very typical, often for boys especially. And, I honestly apologize if I've misunderstood you, but you seem to be inordinately offended by their "why" questions. You have every right not to have your authority as a piano teacher questioned, but why is it so offensive to you to explain, whether the questioner is five or an adult, how a certain technique can help one learn better? Balking at something like this makes you sound condescending and impatient--but again, all that is from judging a very limited amount of info. Feel free to correct any assumptions or misunderstandings.
_________________________
"Where words fail, music speaks." --Hans Christian Andersen

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#1723979 - 07/31/11 11:34 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
susanmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 113
"Dear Mom of Student

In response to your e-mail re hands separate practice, may I suggest that Jonny can feel free to play hands together whenever he is ready. But hands separate practice is always an option for the more challenging pieces he will be encountering at his current level.

I am wondering, however, if your question reflects an underlying lack of confidence in my ability to teach him. If that's the case, please be assured that I will not be offended if you would like to look for another teacher at this time. There are many fine teachers in the area/store and one of them may be a better fit for Jonny."
_________________________
Teacher. 1926 Steinway M. Kawai CE200. Casio PX3. Yamaha P-60. Yamaha NP-30. Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord. Roland Integra 7.

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#1724079 - 07/31/11 04:04 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
scherzo, thanks, and I truly appreciate your tasteful and non=offensive response. I think you'd have to meet the parent to understand. It is a constant barrage of what I consider to be nicely asked rude questions. They routinely arrive late, and he immediately asks if I will make up the time. When I end the lesson, he asks what time it is, and then asks me if I have another lesson waiting! Can you imagine this from an 8 year old. The impertinence is intolerable. Normally I would laugh it off, but it's built up to the explosive stage now. She takes tons of vacations, and expects make ups or credits. She thought my decision to have our spring recital at hte store was tacky, even though i excplained in great detail why I selected the stroe (waiting for a better location meant 6 students would not be availabel to play, it fell on a holiday, and too many of my tiny young students would not be able to eprform adquately on a Steinway grand as 99% of my students have keyboards) She always wants a private session after his lesson, and I feel "cornered" if I don't have a lesson immediately following. She doesn't chat for a minute or two, but for 20 minutes about herself and her son. They are always "unclear" about my instructions, I never "cover enough" in the 30 minute lesson, I don't write clearly enough. It's endless, yet she continues to sign up every month with me. I have run out of energy with her, and am convinced that she is not confident in me and don't care enough (and don't want to keep them, honestly) to prove to her that I am capable.

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#1724087 - 07/31/11 04:14 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: susanmusic]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
susan, thanks! She emailed me asking for a report on her son's lesson. I immediately emailed her and explained the issue with note reading and that a good portion of the lesson was devoted to one particular piece. I explained how our composition work would help the note reading and added that he should practice HANDS SEPARATELY until he was confident with the fingering, rhythm and note reading before putting hands together. I told her that I have my students practice HS once they start learning pieces where both left and right hands are involved. (I'd written it in his assignment book and talked about with him since May) She emailed again, 6 days later, the day before his next lesson, asking for more clarity on HS practice and how it helps to improve the student, as well as again asking for more theory in the lesson. At the next lesson, I spent 5 minutes explaining to the student why we now had to practice HS (moving from Primer to Level lA), and why it wasn't needed in Primer. At this point, I emailed her back and said that I didn't think she was happy with any of my choices or teaching methods and I would perfectly understand if she found another teacher, that it may be a beter fit, etc. She then went to the store manager and complained, questioning again about the HS practice method. Yet she signed up for August with me.

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#1724088 - 07/31/11 04:16 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
scherzetto, geez, I should have spell checked that post, could you tell I was emotional when typing? And I was a Spelling Bee champ, so this is very embarrassing.

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#1724093 - 07/31/11 04:23 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
pianoeagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 218
Loc: Texas
Do you have a studio policy that has been provided to this student's mom? It seems like the issues regarding the lesson tardiness, expectation of lesson credits and make-ups, parent-teacher briefings, and studio recitals could have been handled through a policy. How the parent chooses to utilize that time is up to them - if they have 30 minutes of questions, that's fine, but that takes away from their child's lesson.

My policy says that parent-teacher briefings are part of the lesson time, and 5 minutes can be allocated at the end of a lesson, if needed. Also, studio recitals are held in a central, cost-efficient location, as I include the cost of the recital hall rental in the tuition.

I understand that the mom may be a handful, but I think a written policy may help address some of your issues.
_________________________
Children's piano instructor
Member NGPT, MTNA/TMTA/PMTA, NFMC/SJFMC

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#1724101 - 07/31/11 04:41 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
Yes I did provide my studio policy regarding make ups, no shows, etc., yet certain families do continue to ask for and expect make ups, and in certain instances, I do make exceptions. But I do not have language about recitals, discussions with parents, and will incorporate that into a revised policy in the near future. Thanks for the suggestions.

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#1724142 - 07/31/11 06:35 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Chasingrainbows, sounds like you're chasing rainbows!

From your description it sounds almost like the game is to manipulate you, keep you busy, by asking seemingly reasonable questions, to which answers have already been given. To what end, I don't know. Maybe they do it all the time, with everyone. Spending 20 minutes talking about yourself, well, I know a few people who like to do that. Looking intelligent, perhaps, by asking lots of questions? Feeling in control?

It sounds like they're tapping lots of your energy. If you really can't/don't want to fire them, then how about a different strategy:

- Can you clarify the need for HS practice?
- I have already clarified why your son needs to practice HS. What exactly did you not understand in what I said earlier? or: I can only repeat myself. If you didn't get it then, you won't get it now. or: I don't think explaining this to you again is an effective use of teaching time. My advice is: HS.
And: ask them to leave on time.

You will need to keep time strictly, asking them to leave whether you have another student or not. You owe them nothing. You are a nice person. You give them an inch and they take a mile. Then everyone gets used to it. You will need to be very consistent and firm.
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#1724417 - 08/01/11 09:22 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: ten left thumbs]
susanmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 113
Yep, I think ten thumbs has nailed the game.

May I ask how much of this saga you have shared with the store manager? I suspect that in this case s/he would be accepting of a decision to dismiss this student.
_________________________
Teacher. 1926 Steinway M. Kawai CE200. Casio PX3. Yamaha P-60. Yamaha NP-30. Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord. Roland Integra 7.

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#1724451 - 08/01/11 10:38 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1019
Loc: NJ
susan, I've shared all of it, but store mgr is typical - overwhelmed, and only gets half of what you tell her and is totally customer oriented.

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#1724462 - 08/01/11 10:54 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10347
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I would not expect him to be anything but totally customer oriented, unless he has difficulty finding teachers.

You are encountering one of the standard difficulties of being an employee.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#1724465 - 08/01/11 11:03 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
bmbutler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/10
Posts: 226
Loc: North Carolina
Kick this student and his Mother to the curb. If the store gives you a hard time, ask them to assign the family to another teacher (poor thing!). They are NEVER going to be happy!
_________________________
Bachelor of Music (church music)
Master of Church Music (organ, music education)
Piano Teacher since 1992
Church Musician since 1983

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#1724484 - 08/01/11 11:56 AM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"They are NEVER going to be happy!"

True, to a point. People like this are 'happy' when they have a good chance to whine, complain, and make their problems someone else's fault (for example, having a child that is stupid).

But, hey, everyone is capable of growth, even your student and her mother. "Never" is a long time, even for them.

Strictly for your own mental health and not for anyone else's, you could start translating everything the mother says so that you hear the opposite. In fact, it could be interesting if you would write us a letter with one of these 'conversations' translated. I predict your problems will vanish, one way or another.

I figured this out when I lived in San Francisco, which has an unusually high proportion of lowlifes on the street, per capita--- three or four per block, on the average. Instead of hearing them say, "Spare a little change, spare a little change," I translated this and started hearing them say, "Have a nice day, have a nice day."

This is not an endorsement of outright neurosis, nor of being mean-spirited and ungenerous. Rather, that we are better off investing in things we would like to see more of, rather than less of.

I realize that the distinction can be subtle.
_________________________
Clef


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#1724533 - 08/01/11 01:21 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
susanmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 113
OK, I suggested to this complaining, critical parent that she find another teacher with whom she would be happier. She chose to continue with me. Now I am free to . . . . .

Have fun completing the sentence with many ideas, serious or not.
_________________________
Teacher. 1926 Steinway M. Kawai CE200. Casio PX3. Yamaha P-60. Yamaha NP-30. Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord. Roland Integra 7.

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#1724561 - 08/01/11 02:08 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: Piano*Dad]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11548
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
I would not expect him to be anything but totally customer oriented, unless he has difficulty finding teachers.

You are encountering one of the standard difficulties of being an employee.

A teacher is not so much an employee as a freelance professional.
A customer dealing with a professional does have a role, but lay people may not know what that is. Even if you hire an accountant, you must provide the proper documents and be available for questions. A customer may think that he is the "boss". What you really need to do is request a service, and then let the professional provide the service according to that person's expertise, and cooperate.

The parent should make clear what her wishes are: competence at the piano, understanding music, for example. The teacher decides how that is brought about - a parent doesn't have a role in how it's done (HT, HS, etc.). This is where it's going wrong. I think even a piano teacher entrusting her child to another piano teacher has to respect that teacher's approach. If you are uneasy about the results of your child's lessons, then you can ask about that and discuss your goals (are they reasonable?), and how you can help. But you don't meddle in how the teacher is teaching.

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#1724629 - 08/01/11 03:44 PM Re: When parental involvement crosses the line [Re: chasingrainbows]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10347
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Originally Posted By: keystring
A teacher is not so much an employee as a freelance professional.
A customer dealing with a professional does have a role, but lay people may not know what that is.

I don't know what you are talking about.

Chasingrainbows works out of a store owned by someone else.

Originally Posted By: Chasingrainbows
I work in a store, so dismissing a student is something they vehemently discourage (even though my contract states I have the sole right to dismiss or refuse a student).


She is experiencing the travails of the employee whose interests don't always fully align with the those of the person she works for. If she was a private teacher with her own studio (in her home) she could behave as a truly independent professional.

As it stands, for her "boss" the store owner, the customer (this insecure and/or ill-mannered mom) is king.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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