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#2056068 - 03/29/13 07:45 AM Difficult students
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
I have a teenage student who I have many issues with:

- She has long nails and refuses to cut them
- She doesn't practice as much as I would like her to ... she doesn't practice much at all really
- She doesn't like to improvise
- She doesn't like theory
- She doesn't like to compose

She hates working hard for anything - she admitted to me that she's lazy. Her mum seems kind of angry at me, rightly so, I've spent the last couple of lessons talking to her, hardly doing much piano work because of one of the above reasons. When I try to do some piano work with her she tells me she doesn't want to or she didn't practice. I spoke to her mum and her mum said to me that it's who she is... and I'm not the right teacher for her because I seem to be one of those teachers who are like - it's either my way or the high way. I'm not really like that, I told her mum I've just run out of things to teach - if her daughter wants to get better then she'll have to work for it. Her mum compared me to her last teacher, her last teacher taught her all the preliminary stuff but now she is becoming more and more advanced and she'll need to work harder.

Anyway, the studio owner said to me that I should be like a personal trainer, change my approach and let her lead me. If she doesn't care about polishing pieces - don't, if she doesn't want to learn about composition or improvisation - don't, if she doesn't want to learn about technique - don't. Let hear lead - give her lots of repertoire and get her to learn it in the lesson. Piano lessons are about her enjoying herself ... I don't see the point of lessons if she is going to be learning something she can teach herself. I feel like she's gotten to the point where she's learned what she wants to learn. She made a very mature decision and said that she wants to quit. The studio teacher suggested I take on a personal trainer/motivation coach approach - get her to learn repertoire in the lesson and don't expect her to practice it. Let things slide. You're a motivational coach - she is perfectly capable of learning the repertoire on her own, but you are there to motivate her.

What would you do?
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#2056077 - 03/29/13 08:27 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 71
Loc: North Carolina, USA
Does the parent know that the student wants to quit lessons, and just won't let her? In that case, I would explain to the parent that with the amount of effort her daughter is putting in, her progress will be slow. Some parents just want their child to have the experience of learning an instrument and are okay with very slow progress. As long as the parent is okay with that, I think that letting the student take more of a role in choosing the music and leading the lesson is fine. Pick easy songs that the student can learn in the lesson, and let her help select the music you play together. Slip some theory/technique in where you can.

However, if the parent is expecting rapid progress with the minimal amount of effort her daughter is putting in, that is a different story. In that case I would probably tell the parent that I am not a good fit for her daughter and they should look for another teacher.

It also depends on what you feel comfortable with. If you don't want to be this student's "personal trainer," then don't! Let the parent know that you have expectations for the lessons that are not being met and let them go, or recommend them to the other teacher in your studio that is willing to take that role. Good luck!
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M.M., Piano performance and pedagogy
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#2056079 - 03/29/13 08:36 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: pianopaws]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
I recently read a book called "Working for you is not working for me." I wouldn't buy it, but it's worth reading if you can find it at your library maybe. It's about how to approach bosses who are hard to work for.

Don't we have two examples of this here?

You have goals for this student. But she has little interest in doing it your way.

Your employer has goals for you, too. And you have little interest in doing it his way.

It would appear this employer will not appreciate if you fire your student if she doesn't do it your way. He may be willing to fire you, if you don't do it his way. That's one of the problems with workig for someone else.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2056086 - 03/29/13 08:47 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11674
Loc: Canada
We know what the teen student doesn't want. What does she want?

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#2056087 - 03/29/13 08:48 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
The parent thinks I'm not the right teacher for her daughter. Her daughter wants to quit because she realises that she is wasting her mums money and my time. She doesn't want to take lessons from another teacher she wants to teach herself songs because she feels like she has learned enough. I do feel very guilty about talking for most of the lesson, but I felt like there was nothing more I could teach... so I tried to find things that interested her... talked to her about her goals, asked her why was she studying piano. She wants to be able to play the piano... because she wants to be good at something but she doesn't want to work for it. She's lazy and she admits to it. Mum thinks I am too serious, that my style doesn't suit her. She reckons the last teacher was much better suited to her daughter but I said the last teacher had her when she was a beginner, if this girl wants to get better from now on then she should work.

Tim, I wonder if I am the boss in this situation. I just think in typical roles, what normally happens in the case of a teacher is the teacher assigns material, the student does it. Working in an office, your boss gives you a set of instructions and thinks to do, you do it. Your doctor suggests that you take this medication you do it. You don't have to do it, but all of these people want the best for you - your teacher wants you to be your best, your boss wants to pay you, your doctor wants you to feel better.

I don't want to be a personal trainer... but I admit, I kind of need the income.
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#2056088 - 03/29/13 08:49 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
She just wants to learn repertoire, but she has come to the realisation that she can do it on her own without my assistance so she wants to quit.
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#2056103 - 03/29/13 09:23 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 255
Loc: USA
The girl and her mother are your customers. Why should they have to pay for improvising, composing, and theory lessons if that isn't what they want?

So in a sense I agree with the studio owner.

I'm an adult learner, and if a teacher spent more than a little time with me on improvising and composing, I'd say "No, we're not doing that. I'm not interested". Because I'm not interested in those things.

A short, periodic discussion of goals makes sense and is beneficial. But I wouldn't pay for lengthy conversations about what the teacher thinks I OUGHT to want.

I think there are two problems here:

1. The student and her mother aren't in agreement about what the student's goals are.
2. You may be trying to impose your view of what the student's goals should be.

Like it or not, they're your customers. They can go elsewhere, and the studio owner can find piano teachers who keep customers happy.

I'd approach the problem from the angle of finding ways to handle difficult customers.

You sound very well-meaning and earnest. But I would say don't invest so much in it psychologically/personally. It's not worth it in this case because you can't control other people.

Sorry if my advice seems harsh; it isn't intended to be.

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#2056112 - 03/29/13 09:36 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 71
Loc: North Carolina, USA
What repertoire does she want to learn? Classical, jazz, pop? Can you structure your lessons around what she wants to play?

For example, I am in a similar situation with a student who does not want to practice. He really loves the band Coldplay. So we have done Coldplay lead sheets, Coldplay sheet music, played a Coldplay song by ear, even improvised a song in the style of Coldplay. From there I can suggest a different song by someone else in a similar style for him to play. Sometimes he likes my suggestions and sometimes he doesn't. But it keeps him moving ahead. His parents are fine with the slower progress; they just want him to enjoy music and be able to play an instrument.

Another idea: would your student be open to a compromise, where you choose one piece for her to work on and she chooses the other? Like the other posters, I think communicating with the student and parent is key. As long as you are on the same page with your goals, I am sure you can find a way of moving forward.
_________________________
M.M., Piano performance and pedagogy
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#2056113 - 03/29/13 09:41 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: BrainCramp]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 255
Loc: USA
And Nannerl, don't spend more time preparing for this girl's lesson than you think she has spent preparing for it. That will simply make you resent her. (All types of teachers fall into this trap now and then.)

If she just wants to play repertoire, give her a piece to work on. Expect that she'll only work on it in the lesson with you, and will have done nothing at home.

Spend the lesson giving her tips on how to improve what she's doing with the piece.

She gets what she wants, and you spend no prep time.

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#2056127 - 03/29/13 10:00 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree with the studio owner in this instance because you said you need the money. Since you are not the owner of your studio, you really do not have a say in the type of student to allow to be in your program. This also means that the reputation is of the studio and not you as a teacher.

Do not teach her things she doesn't want to know. Do not have high expectations for her in practicing. Do not spend any more time talking to her (although I think it was important for you to talk with her previously - you found out some very valuable information and so you should not feel guilty about that one bit).

Let her select repertoire. Your lessons will be practice sessions and not "check-ups" on what she did during the week. Try to make sure the repertoire she selects is more of a lateral move in her abilities rather than progressively harder.

I think the parent is correct in saying you are probably not the right fit for the student, and has been good in communicating to you what kind of teacher she thinks is best for her daughter. Either you swallow your pride and become that teacher (and perhaps learn some other techniques to deal with motivating students) or continue as you are going with everyone not being happy about it.

Later, when you have your own studio, then you can make choices if you want to keep such a student or not. I have a few of these students and I would love to dismiss them (even though I enjoy their personalities and think that if only they'd work they'd have a lot of potential). But I can't afford to right now, and as long as they are enjoying themselves I feel I'm am still doing them a service. They learn at a snail's pace, and I'm constantly trying out new ways to motivate them. But I can't expect them to fit into a traditional lesson plan.
_________________________
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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#2056267 - 03/29/13 02:04 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1006
Loc: Irvine, CA
Is she your relatively new student that transfer from another teacher? I see you stated that the mother compare you to the old teacher?
If you have anything in mind such as dismiss her as a student and have another teacher in your studio to take over her, I suggest that you do it as soon as possible before anything goes sour.
On the other hand, if you like to work through the hardship and keep her as a student, your boss suggestions worth investigate and implement. As KS pointed out, you know what she do not want to do, and all you know is that she wants to learn repertoire, but repertoire has so many style, maybe you can spend some time to figure out what is the things that she really like.
In the worst case scenario, just think that you are very expansive "baby-sitter". You never know, maybe your kindness will influence her in another way, not necessary in piano education but in general.
I know it is not the best situation you want, but don't give up! heart
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Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
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#2056268 - 03/29/13 02:06 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1006
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: morodine
Let her select repertoire. Your lessons will be practice sessions and not "check-ups" on what she did during the week.

Excellent point. So, it is like a personal trainer. People pay personal trainer big money just to supervise exercise for losing weight.
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Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
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#2056463 - 03/29/13 08:01 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
In answer to some of your questions:
This student is a transfer student. The last teacher was going away to take a world trip and she was also leaving the piano teaching world - she was going to become a lawyer.

This student has eclectic music tastes, she likes mainstream classical, she also likes things in minor keys and she likes things that aren't too happy and cheery.

It's interesting to be hearing all your responses. It's funny, my piano teacher does talk to me a lot, even now, he's been a sort of mentor to me but he doesn't charge for lessons were we just spend time talking. I would do that too but I don't own the place and it works a bit differently. I know what my piano teacher would think - he would say that in correct technique sets you up for injury later in life, it is ergonomically wrong, students who just want to learn three chords may as well learn those three chords inside their own home, you are not a keyboard teacher - if they don't have a piano there is no point - he thinks it's ethically wrong to accept and continue them as students. I think I've been raised in his beliefs, I do feel like his apprentice.

My piano teacher believes that he is training students up so that if they want to pursue undergraduate studies in music, that could be an option. I believed this for a while, and a part of me still does. On top of this I think that students should be pushed so that they could be the best they could be in order for them to feel confident about their abilities. They deserve it.

Maybe I'm comparing all my other students to her. I taught 13 people, which is hardly anything I know... I know that students come in all different shapes and sizes but I've noticed this. Children are naturally more malleable - generally speaking they will respect you as the teacher and they will listen to you, this is often aided by the parent and generally speaking parents do want their kids who learn something in the lesson and to respect the teacher, then I have adults - I have only ever taught four adults - the majority of them are older than me and this has often made me feel very humbled, some of them have postgraduate degrees but all of them have respected me far more than what I could ever expect. They know that I go to a very good music school, they've seen me perform, every single thing I say is gospel to them ... If I assign something it gets practiced (unless they are busy in that week). Anything I say goes - they think I'm right about everything.

Thanks for all of your responses... It's given me a lot to think about.
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#2056517 - 03/29/13 09:31 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: ezpiano.org]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7598
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org

In the worst case scenario, just think that you are very expansive "baby-sitter".


Expansive? Or expensive? wink
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Polyphonist

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#2056555 - 03/29/13 10:37 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: Polyphonist]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1006
Loc: Irvine, CA
Sorry, typo!
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http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
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#2056587 - 03/29/13 11:35 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: ezpiano.org]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1301
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Quote:
. . . I feel like she's gotten to the point where she's learned what she wants to learn. She made a very mature decision and said that she wants to quit. The studio teacher suggested I take on a personal trainer/motivation coach approach - get her to learn repertoire in the lesson and don't expect her to practice it. . . .


It sounds like you and the student see eye-to-eye:

. . . She doesn't want to put in the work to get better;

. . . You don't want to waste your time, or hers.

That's not a happy situation, but it's livable. She quits, on good terms with you, and you (eventually) find a student to replace her.

The conflict is between you and your boss, and it's about money. So I have to ask:

. . . How long will it take to find a new student?

. charles

PS -- there is another thread here, and that involves your expectations of students. But it really is another thread.

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#2056648 - 03/30/13 02:46 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
I don't see the point of lessons if she is going to be learning something she can teach herself.


In my world, I'd give her tough love and force her to learn discipline through whatever means necessary, but unfortunately our society (U.S.A.) has come to the point where parents can literally see their children develop lethargic habits and even explicitly admit to having adopted such lifestyles and respond by doing absolutely nothing. Children, by nature, subconsciously want structure, but, when given none, can only respond in these ways; they're not to blame. Don't be another "motivation coach" in their life - there is plenty of this self-esteem boosting nonsense in children's lives these days. What this child needs is your "my way or the highway" discipline, but without the parent(s) on-board (i.e. without consequences), there will be no results. Thus, your only remaining option is to rub together the sticks that are intrinsic motivation (are you absolutely certain there's nothing remaining piano-related she wishes to learn) and hope that in time, the sparks will light a fire.


edit: my apologies - I thought you were in the U.S. Perhaps the plague of lethargy is simply endemic to those with unrestricted access to technology, this being the technologically-granted generation (quite easily a double-edged sword)


Edited by Bobpickle (03/30/13 02:52 AM)

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#2056652 - 03/30/13 03:15 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5483
Loc: Orange County, CA
Just cut the cord. Dismiss the student. This sounds like a lose-lose situation.

Get in positive relationships with students. Negativity attracts more negativity.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2056725 - 03/30/13 08:25 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Thanks for the insight bobpickle, I think Americans and Australians aren't cultured that differently. My American friend who has lived in Australia for nearly a decade said that when she moved here, she never went through culture shock. I think it's sad, for somebody so young with so much potential to have so much apathy towards everything (not just piano, every aspect of school is boring, not that interesting - requiring hard work) teens have heard every lecture under the sun and I have never lectured, I have just talked and chanted the same thing and it's nice to hear that she has come to her senses, realising that she needs to work hard and put some effort into piano playing - that is how progress works. I find it hard to empathise with the daughter sometimes, she's a nice girl, a bright one, but I just wished that she knew a thing or two about work ethic ... I don't know where mine came from but when I was in school I was the total opposite of her - I was that high achiever running on a lot of a stress and anxiety, I did well and cared about every subject, even ones that I wasn't very interested in. I was speaking to one of my friends who is a teacher and has been doing it for many more years than me (she is twice my age and we go to the same university) she suggested to me that I try giving her a practice routine. I hope she quits, it would be for her own good, I mean it would mean less income for me, but that's ok ... she's one student and I have four new students so it's not that much of a loss.

AZN you seem to have encapsulated what I was thinking. I spoke with the teen - her mum intends to find her a new piano teacher who would cater to her daughter. I spoke with her daughter and her daughter said that she wants to quit because she knows she's lazy and she intends to learn up songs on her own. She also said she doesn't want another teacher. I think the teenager is the mature one. I do understand the side of the mother - paying for somebody to talk to the daughter is kind of pointless and expensive, but for me pretending to teach is even more pointless - nothing to teach, the problem is in her attitude and work ethic. So I talked to her a lot ... about school (about how she reacts after an exam, about if anything in school interests her - nothing, she's lazy and she doesn't care.)

The mum I can tell is angry at me, not very pleased with my performance, when I told her the truth about the daughter she didn't seem phased by it.
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#2056729 - 03/30/13 08:34 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
It's a shame because obviously the parents are to blame for the daughter's behavior, but they'd rather excuse it and find someone who will deal with it and/or work miracles in spite of it. I still think you can do some things (listed in my previous post) in the meantime until she leaves - which I think may be inevitable. I think it would be valuable for you as a teacher to explore alternatives, because this student unfortunately, will not be the last of her kind you encounter. This lack of work ethic is running rampant these days and you can either dismiss each student who is like this, or perhaps find a way to teach them, gradually.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
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#2056743 - 03/30/13 09:10 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Morodiene]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 255
Loc: USA
I think it's a mistake to condemn someone who doesn't want to buy what you're selling.

She's not interested in piano lessons, especially your style of lesson. That doesn't mean she has a poor work ethic, is a lazy person, is a lousy human being, or will be a failure as an adult.

When I was a kid I never practiced for my piano lessons. I WASN'T INTERESTED.

As a teenager I did the minimum of work in school. I WASN'T INTERESTED.

Fortunately I was smarter than average and did well without trying.

As an adult I'm focused, hard-working, and accomplished. I've got a master's degree and a career.

Come on teachers, get over yourselves!

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#2056758 - 03/30/13 09:49 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Brian you might be the exception to the rule. Congratulations for having a masters degree and a successful life, who knows what would happen with her, maybe she'll wake up one day and see that she should do something about whatever field she wants to get into ... maybe she wont, maybe she'll do a boring menial job that pays the bills, maybe she will be brilliant - perhaps a closet nerd or a genius in disguise. We need people to do boring menial jobs, nothing wrong with that. We make mistakes in our young years, some of us loved school and did well, some of us hated it and dropped out, it's never a reflection of the future - things are very unpredictable, people change.

Thing is, she is failing in school - in most subjects she doesn't do that well. She owned up to the lazy label... not me - I never imposed it onto her, she gave herself that label.
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#2056788 - 03/30/13 11:03 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
Often, there is nothing a piano teacher can do to motivate young people who are in their teenage years.

These students are transitioning from children to adults, are going through major changes in many aspects of their life, and have a lot on their plate to deal with.

I think it is unrealistic to assume that if a piano teacher just would do the right thing, whatever that could possibly be, such teens will become re-interested in piano and start practicing with vigor.

This is my humble opinion, arrived at after years of teaching and trying many things to get such students back on track. And from talking to many other music teachers (not just piano, but guitar, drums, wind) all who voice essentially the same thing.
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Music teacher and piano player.

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#2056791 - 03/30/13 11:05 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Brian you have made me think a lot. I suppose you are addressing it from a consumer/customer entitlement standpoint. I want to make a few things clear: I am a teacher... and when I hear students play, the first thing I hear is potential. An uneven tone, lack of phrasing, lack of tempo leads me to think - wow that would sound amazing if we fixed x,y and z. I then think about ways to make it happen, my approach is multifaceted - if a five year old has issues with keeping a beat - we play some Kodaly pass the beat games, we conduct, we stomp to music, we sing songs and tap the beat. It's different if the student is older - we use the metronome, we tap whilst playing, we sing the melody whilst tapping or clapping. We switch places - I play the melody whilst the student taps. Whatever works... I care about the music. Besides this I don't think I'm making concert artists and I don't think I'm looking for students who win competitions, I just want to push students so they can realise their potential, so they can take away something truly valuable from piano lessons.

Frankly I have students who put the work into things and struggle with learning disabilities, I love these students - they might not progress at the same rate as some of their peers but they try and I enjoy teaching them. An apathetic teenager who admits to being lazy and not wanting to try anything new... I've hit a dead end, as a teacher I've run out of things to say and teach.

Here are some of the things I've taught: improvisation - she doesn't like this, technique, harmony/theory (basic chordal analysis), composition, giving her new repertoire (I have given her a few new pieces and she doesn't end up working on them, maybe just on one or two), I let her choose them. I've suggested other things and she has flatly refused them.

If a student flatly refuses to do anything that I suggest and does not practice and who frankly admits to being lazy - what the heck do I do for an hour? Maybe the time and money would be better spent elsewhere - go to the shop and buy a music book and teach yourself the repertoire in the time the lesson should be. If you want a motivational coach I frankly think that's a bit redundant - why pay for it, really, go do it at home. She's come to the realisation that she doesn't want piano lessons anymore because she knows in order to get better she needs to change a few things. She doesn't want to change those things, she's content in her progress and wishes to learn songs on her own. Good for her. I hope some of what I have taught has some value to her, and I hope the insights and reflections I have on hear are of some value.

It's hard to deal with a mother who isn't happy with the way I teach... and it's funny, the mother seems to have a very different understanding of what her teenage daughter wants. Her teenage daughter actually texted me and then talked to me afterwards and told me that her wanting to quit has nothing to do with me as a teacher. She knows that she is lazy.
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#2056805 - 03/30/13 11:16 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Rocket, I have no idea with this teenager, she started as a teenager. For me, I had a serious start in my teens, I really wanted to be there and if I had no practice weeks, I had a damn good excuse for it every time. I wanted to be a music major ever since I was that age and I couldn't see myself doing anything else so I emailed the head of the department - asking questions on entrance. I know that most students are not like me. I'm not expecting them to, but they generally seem to care about things - I have an adult student who knows his theory damn well - he hopped onto the internet and learned all his key signatures, note durations and their names, time signatures and basic harmonic progressions. I was so impressed. I'm not saying all students should be like him but most of my students are easy to teach. I get along with this girl, she just doesn't want to work for anything.
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#2056811 - 03/30/13 11:25 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 71
Loc: North Carolina, USA
It sounds like you have already made your decision on what to do with this student. Now you are just in a tough situation because of the studio owner's advice and not wanting to lose the income.

Is there another teacher at your studio that you could refer this student to? Maybe someone who would be comfortable with the "personal trainer" role? That way the studio would retain the income and the student could have a fresh start with someone else. You may have a loss of income until that student's time slot is filled, but it might be worth the loss of aggravation from dealing with this student.
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#2056814 - 03/30/13 11:28 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Bobpickle]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle

In my world, I'd give her tough love and force her to learn discipline through whatever means necessary,


Bob,
That's one possible approach. But wouldn't it apply just as well to the teacher?

After all, her employer has made it perfectly clear what is required of her, and she's not doing it.

Time to cut the losses and fire her.

(of course I'm not really advocating that - just pointing out some of the complexity here.)
_________________________
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#2056817 - 03/30/13 11:31 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
It's a shame because obviously the parents are to blame for the daughter's behavior,


I'm sorry, but I'm going to sharply disagree. You have no actual basis for making that judgement.

Even further, all the comments about how obviously lazy the girl is are wrong. Yes, she "admits" she's lazy. Of course she does. She's been told she's lazy for so long she's come to believe it herself. And it is very possibly completely false.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2056832 - 03/30/13 12:12 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: BrainCramp]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5483
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
When I was a kid I never practiced for my piano lessons. I WASN'T INTERESTED.

As a teenager I did the minimum of work in school. I WASN'T INTERESTED.

How do you think your parents and teachers felt about that?

Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
Come on teachers, get over yourselves!

cursing
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#2056854 - 03/30/13 01:09 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: AZNpiano]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 620
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
When I was a kid I never practiced for my piano lessons. I WASN'T INTERESTED.

As a teenager I did the minimum of work in school. I WASN'T INTERESTED.

How do you think your parents and teachers felt about that?

Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
Come on teachers, get over yourselves!

cursing


If I may butt in here for a second ...

I am neither a piano teacher, nor a practicing teacher of any other kind (though I *did* receive all of the training and certification necessary to become a secondary school teacher). But I think I get where both sides are coming from, here.

I consider it perfectly normal for both parents and teachers to want their children and/or students to realize a maximum of their potential. To some extent, after all, we tend to define 'good parenting' (and good teaching) as the ability on the part of the parent or teacher to awaken, develop and cultivate a child's potential as much as possible.

The trick to truly great parenting or teaching, then, is to do this while avoiding the development of fear, aversion or indifference on the part of the child or the student. And it is that last part that, yes, sometimes requires teachers (and to a lesser extent, parents) to "get over themselves".

Of course, if a child is truly determined to 'not be interested', there may not be much that a teacher can do. But I think we've all known our share of students who were well and truly disinterested in most of what was offered to them in school, and yet they worked like crazy on one particular aspect of their education -- because the person who happened to be teaching that aspect had managed to inspire them, somehow.

The very best teachers (especially those who teach individuals instead of groups) develop their students' potential by adapting their methods, materials and routines (and sometimes their expectations) to the goals and interests of whoever it is that they happen have in front of them. There are, of course, boundaries to everyone's ability to teach (for example, it seems unlikely that a piano teacher who was exclusively classically trained will be in a position to turn even a very talented six-year-old into the next Ray Charles entirely on their own). But even so, a fairly high degree of adaptability should still be possible.

In the case of the OP, the most optimal solution may indeed be to let the student go, since that seems to be what both student and teacher really want. But if the parent and/or the studio owner won't go along with the 'letting go' option, well, then it behooves the teacher to do one of two things:

1) Find a way to inspire the student into going along with what the teacher wants (which, given the description of the current situation with this student, might be tricky if not impossible).

2) Adapt expectations, teaching methods, and goals for this student until she *is* interested in being taken along whatever the new path will be. In other words, "get over yourself" and, ideally, let the student point the way, but then meet somewhere in the middle between what you want, and what she wants (while keeping her motivated to stay on that middle ground, instead of just going back to where she is now, which is doing neither of you any good).
_________________________
Beginner with some priors since 9/2012

Currently Playable
Bach 846, 926, 930
Beethoven 27/2 mvt. 1
Burgmüller 100/3, 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25
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Burgmüller 109
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#2056880 - 03/30/13 01:54 PM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
No way should such a student get an hour's lesson.
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


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

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#2057184 - 03/31/13 03:56 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: TimR]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
It's a shame because obviously the parents are to blame for the daughter's behavior,


I'm sorry, but I'm going to sharply disagree. You have no actual basis for making that judgement.

Even further, all the comments about how obviously lazy the girl is are wrong. Yes, she "admits" she's lazy. Of course she does. She's been told she's lazy for so long she's come to believe it herself. And it is very possibly completely false.


Perhaps she's playing the odds; don't you notice the rising lack of accountability in our society? One of the prime reasons for U.S.A.'s failing educational system is the fact that teachers are being held accountable beyond the role of simply being good at teaching. If it's not the teacher's role for providing a work ethic (which it shouldn't be), and - according to your insinuation - it's not the parents' role, then whose role is it?

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#2057286 - 03/31/13 09:46 AM Re: Difficult students [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Bobpickle you make a good point. I've been thinking a lot over the last couple of days. People seem to have different reactions to the teenager's mum, I just want to make a few things clear, mind you this is completely from my perspective: the teenager raised up wanting to quit and it seems that the teenager's mum took it the wrong way. The teenager told mum that I spend the lesson talking ... which I have been more recently but that's because well, I've run out of things to teach (the contents of my conversation often revolve around asking her questions on her work ethic, her interests, the way she works, how things work in school for her, etc... I go through the repertoire she worked on in the week - and normally the answer to that is - I didn't do much this week, or I don't like this so I didn't work on it. I ask her - did you work on improvisation or newly assigned things on technical work - no she didn't, she's not interested. OK so lets have a look at this new piece, you interested in that? Yes, great learn it up in the week and I would love to have a look at it.

I think mum just thinks I talk in the lesson and paying for somebody to just talk is expensive. I told mum my reasons whilst telling her I understand completely where she is coming from but here is what I am working with and I've honestly run out of things to teach. Mum says she's going to find another teacher for her daughter. She compared her former teacher to me. Understandable. However, I said I don't think it's a getting along/personality thing - In essence I think she's gotten to a stage where she can do things on her own and if she wants to get better she'll need to practice and make changes. Mum denies this and says that the girl wants to try new things - I said I give her something new after attempting it twice she'll refuse.

I'll write more later
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