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#2259620 - 04/10/14 10:32 AM Teacher expectations - or lack thereof?
Cranes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/14
Posts: 4
Hello everyone,
First of all I would like to say that I have great respect for all of you who have decided to spend your time and energy educating our young generation (and some older ones too :)).

Here is my dilemma and I do hope that I will get some input from you guys.

I have 2 children taking piano. They are 10 and 7 and this is their third full year taking lessons. We have been with our current teacher for two years now. (We moved away from the first one who was a lovely, lovely lady recommended by this board)

My concern is this: It seems like my children have learned hardly anything this year. I have just gone through my older one's planner

1.he worked on two pieces for 08/13 and 09/13 (that's eight whole weeks). **(Celebration series level 2 to give you some perspective)
2.Then he finished one of those and adds on another and works on those two from 10/13 and 11/13.
3. 2 christmas songs from mid-11/13 until christmas break. Started ensemble piece for June 14 event.
4. New piece for Gold cup starts mid-Jan/14. Recycle earliest piece from step 1 above also for Gold cup (early March). Keep doing little bit for ensemble.
5. After Gold cup, spend march doing ensemble piece.
6. Getting ready for recital now. Recycle both gold cup pieces for that.
7. No work on developing a repertoire and memorizing pieces other than for recitals/competitions and such.

I will say that it is my fault because:
a. I don't make sure they practice a lot. Most weeks we manage three days of practice (plus lesson day)
b. I have not been communicating with the teacher regarding my expectations.

In my defense, the teacher fills out planner page at every lesson and notes "Outstanding" for the week's progress whether there has been any practice at all. I have never been asked to make sure they practice more.

So is it completely my fault for not making them practice? Especially if no one is really communicating with me how lack of practice is impacting their progress? Sure I should be keeping an eye on my end of things, but shouldn't the teacher be saying, "you're taking too long on this 2 page piece"?

Here is what I'm thinking. When a child goes to school, there usually is a curriculum that he/she is supposed to follow. A goal of what they are expected to accomplish that year, if you will. And if they are not working at a steady curve, the teacher will call the parents.

Is that not how things are supposed to work for piano lessons? If the teacher knows what a child is capable of, would they not tell the child, "hey buddy, you're capable of much more if you put in a little more effort?"

I have a feeling I need to have a conversation with the teacher but I don't do well with these situations. He has legions of students and is old/experienced so I'm sure he has his way of doing things.

We are almost done with the year now and I am wondering if I should just try another teacher for the next year after we give in our notice for the current year. If I do this, do I need to tell him why we are not returning?

Please give me some advise. Thank you!


Edited by Cranes (04/10/14 10:43 AM)

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#2259635 - 04/10/14 11:06 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Cranes, you should start by finding out what the goals are for your children, and before doing that you might want to inform yourself in what goals might consist of, so you can have an intelligent, informed conversation. Expectations of what should be done at home in terms of practising follow from this. Additionally, if you understand what you're aiming at, you might be a better guide to your children for practising.

When you write of goals presently, you are listing pieces and events (ensemble, Gold cup - whatever that is - recitals - competitions). Speaking personally, a goal is what goes into learning how to play music on the piano. So there are things like:
- learning how to read music (and subdivisions of what that entails)
- basic first control in playing with ease (no tension or contortions) while producing a basic good sound (not fading or banging)
- control and understanding of note values, beat and similar

and lots of other things which the teacher gradually builds in his or her students. Included in this is also how to practice in order to have these things come about. Supposing that your child is given a piece. There may be a specific thing that the teacher wants your child to aim for while working on that piece. You should know what that is so that you can guide your child in practising. If there is a goal you will also know whether it has been reached.

Three days a week is definitely not enough. If the practising is not effective practise (toward defined goals, in a mindful concentrated manner) then it is almost worse than no practise. Start there.

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#2259639 - 04/10/14 11:16 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 254
Loc: USA
Cranes, I'm not a piano teacher, just an adult learner who's a bit more advanced (maybe a year more) than your older kid.

I'll let the teachers weigh in, but your posting made me chuckle. It sounds like you don't play a musical instrument. Learning to play an instrument isn't like school. If it were, more people would do it.

I'd love to be able to get a 2-page piece in decent shape in only 8 weeks. Practicing more often helps, but to be honest after an hour of practice, my brain fries and I start to play worse. So I stop for the day. For a kid the time until frying may be shorter.

I never memorize pieces; I only memorize scales. That's because I find memorizing things encourages/facilitates looking at my hands instead of at the music, and I need practice reading music at speed.

I use scales to work on technique, in my case dynamics. Or rather, my complete lack of dynamics/finger control.

I did take piano lessons as a kid, and I know I wouldn't have been willing to work on scales at that age. (My teacher didn't teach me scales. I suppose she knew it was hopeless.)

Maybe the teacher would let you sit in on your kids' lessons once in a while to see what goes on. "Outstanding" may actually mean outstanding!

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#2259651 - 04/10/14 11:35 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
Cranes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/14
Posts: 4
I'm glad I posted here first. Better to put foot in mouth in front of total strangers for sure!

Thank you, Keystring, for chiming in. That's a different perspective for sure. Yes, I guess I was too caught up in the number of pieces and not enough in the skills they are learning.

BrainCramp, you are right. I don't play an instrument but I have had lessons off and on with two teachers. Also my children have taken lessons with another teacher. I was under the impression that memorizing is a good thing and one needs to develop a repertoire and keep it in good practice. All the above teachers I mention would not let the student move to the next piece unless the first one is memorized.

Thanks once again for giving your opinions. This will definitely help me have an intelligent conversation with the teacher.

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#2259670 - 04/10/14 11:59 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11439
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Cranes

1.he worked on two pieces for 08/13 and 09/13 (that's eight whole weeks). **(Celebration series level 2 to give you some perspective)
2.Then he finished one of those and adds on another and works on those two from 10/13 and 11/13.
3. 2 christmas songs from mid-11/13 until christmas break. Started ensemble piece for June 14 event.
4. New piece for Gold cup starts mid-Jan/14. Recycle earliest piece from step 1 above also for Gold cup (early March). Keep doing little bit for ensemble.
5. After Gold cup, spend march doing ensemble piece.
6. Getting ready for recital now. Recycle both gold cup pieces for that.
7. No work on developing a repertoire and memorizing pieces other than for recitals/competitions and such.


As a student progressing, they learn harder and more complicated music, so the progress will seem to slow down. At level 2 Celebration Series, I do not see this progress as problematic. Spending a month (you say 8/13 to 9/13 as 8 weeks, but it's four) is not a problem, but even spending 2 months is average, especially if your confession below about practicing is taken into account.

Your teacher is using recitals and competitions as a means of motivating your children to practice. If your children were learning at a faster pace, I'm sure they would learn more pieces, but it would be unwise for her to give them more than they can handle.

Quote:
I will say that it is my fault because:
a. I don't make sure they practice a lot. Most weeks we manage three days of practice (plus lesson day)
b. I have not been communicating with the teacher regarding my expectations.

In my defense, the teacher fills out planner page at every lesson and notes "Outstanding" for the week's progress whether there has been any practice at all. I have never been asked to make sure they practice more.

So is it completely my fault for not making them practice? Especially if no one is really communicating with me how lack of practice is impacting their progress? Sure I should be keeping an eye on my end of things, but shouldn't the teacher be saying, "you're taking too long on this 2 page piece"?



Here's the thing: if you seem happy and the kids seem happy, then the teacher is happy. I'm sure she knows they could practice more and do more, but why fix something that doesn't appear to be broken? Your lack of telling him your expectations means she thinks you are satisfied. You are not, and you need to let her know this and also tell her that you think the kids could practice more, but be careful that it doesn't become a "chore" for them either.

In general 3 days a week is not enough for piano. I have never had a student practice this little and progress. Usually these students quit. At least 5 days a week is workable (not including lesson day), but I tell students every day, no matter what, play piano. It's easier to make a habit when you do it every day as opposed to having to figure out when you last did it and how many more days you need to do.

Quote:
Here is what I'm thinking. When a child goes to school, there usually is a curriculum that he/she is supposed to follow. A goal of what they are expected to accomplish that year, if you will. And if they are not working at a steady curve, the teacher will call the parents.

Is that not how things are supposed to work for piano lessons? If the teacher knows what a child is capable of, would they not tell the child, "hey buddy, you're capable of much more if you put in a little more effort?"
It all depends on the teacher and the student, if they feel they can push them to do more or if doing so will cause them to shut down.

Quote:
I have a feeling I need to have a conversation with the teacher but I don't do well with these situations. He has legions of students and is old/experienced so I'm sure he has his way of doing things.
No matter what his level of expertise, you do not understand what he is doing. You should ask, and he will tell you, and you will then understand and agree or have a discussion about trying something else out. Give him a chance, he's not a mind-reader.

Quote:
We are almost done with the year now and I am wondering if I should just try another teacher for the next year after we give in our notice for the current year. If I do this, do I need to tell him why we are not returning?



What does this mean? Doesn't the year last all year and not just during school hours? If your children don't take at least some lessons over the summer, they will be spending the first 2 months or so at the beginning of the school year relearning what they forgot over the summer. It doesn't work well in the school system, and it really doesn't work well in piano.

Please consider these things and have a discussion with the teacher, outside of earshot of the kids. Perhaps if you can let him know you'd like to discuss their progress in the last 15 minutes of their lesson and have the kids wait in the waiting area or something, that would be best and it would clear this up. From what you've said, however, you have not tried everything on your end to make it work and seem to be quick to blame the teacher.
_________________________
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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#2259678 - 04/10/14 12:14 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
Cranes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/14
Posts: 4
Dear Morodiene,
Thank you very much for responding to my query. I really appreciate that you took the time to go through my post and picked it apart smile
This is exactly why I posted here, so I could see beyond my current, myopic viewpoint. You have given me much to think about. Of course, the teacher only has them once a week and I have them six days a week so I have a greater responsibility to make sure they practice.
You are right about the summer off being detrimental to progress. I think we might end up taking at least one month off (the teacher also goes away for a bit) but we won't be taking that much of a break.
Also good idea about communication (i.e. talking about it for 15 minutes out of earshot of kids). I will definitely be using that tip.
Once again. Thank you!

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#2260558 - 04/12/14 04:28 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
musicpassion Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 912
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: Cranes
When a child goes to school, there usually is a curriculum that he/she is supposed to follow. A goal of what they are expected to accomplish that year, if you will. And if they are not working at a steady curve, the teacher will call the parents.

Is that not how things are supposed to work for piano lessons?

No. It's not. You are basing your learning ideas on a classroom model. Classrooms are group education - the learning rate is designed for the group. When we are teaching one on one, we are feeding the learning as fast as the student can go. Your children aren't moving faster because they are limited by the tiny amount of work they are putting in. So why hasn't the teacher complained about this? Because your children are learning and progressing, and everyone seems happy.

By the way, often when I ask for/assign more practice time the parents complain. Only a very small percentage of students actually practice the amount of time they are assigned.

Quote:
If the teacher knows what a child is capable of, would they not tell the child, "hey buddy, you're capable of much more if you put in a little more effort?"

How you work and how hard/diligently you work is the biggest factor in what a student is capable of achieving. Lazy students are everywhere. The student that will actually work hard is so rare that... well we almost forget what that even looks like.
Quote:
We are almost done with the year now and I am wondering if I should just try another teacher for the next year after we give in our notice for the current year. If I do this, do I need to tell him why we are not returning?

You can leave if you want to, and you don't have to say why. But I think the best thing is to increase practice time.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2260596 - 04/12/14 07:55 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11439
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Cranes
Dear Morodiene,
Thank you very much for responding to my query. I really appreciate that you took the time to go through my post and picked it apart smile
This is exactly why I posted here, so I could see beyond my current, myopic viewpoint. You have given me much to think about. Of course, the teacher only has them once a week and I have them six days a week so I have a greater responsibility to make sure they practice.
You are right about the summer off being detrimental to progress. I think we might end up taking at least one month off (the teacher also goes away for a bit) but we won't be taking that much of a break.
Also good idea about communication (i.e. talking about it for 15 minutes out of earshot of kids). I will definitely be using that tip.
Once again. Thank you!


Sorry I meant to respond earlier. I'm glad you are responsive to advice. A lot of times parents come on here wanting to justify their position and not really looking for solutions that will work - especially when they hear opposite of what they've been doing.

Let us know how things go with your talk! smile
_________________________
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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#2260664 - 04/12/14 12:07 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: musicpassion]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
How you work and how hard/diligently you work is the biggest factor in what a student is capable of achieving. Lazy students are everywhere. The student that will actually work hard is so rare that... well we almost forget what that even looks like.

Don't forget about talent. I've seen students who really work hard, but they get nowhere because there's such a musical deficit upstairs. And I've seen kids with such prodigious talent, they never practice except at lessons, and they still sound really good.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2260670 - 04/12/14 12:16 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Cranes
In my defense, the teacher fills out planner page at every lesson and notes "Outstanding" for the week's progress whether there has been any practice at all.

The teacher doesn't know how to use positive reinforcement. And that is a rampant problem in public schools and in society. "Everybody is a winner."

Astute students will pick up on that and know when the adult is lying.

Unfortunately, most kids are just content accepting false praise. These are the same kids who will end up changing majors after their first semester in college because they can't handle getting a D in a class.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2260737 - 04/12/14 04:22 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: AZNpiano]
musicpassion Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 912
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
How you work and how hard/diligently you work is the biggest factor in what a student is capable of achieving. Lazy students are everywhere. The student that will actually work hard is so rare that... well we almost forget what that even looks like.

Don't forget about talent. I've seen students who really work hard, but they get nowhere because there's such a musical deficit upstairs. And I've seen kids with such prodigious talent, they never practice except at lessons, and they still sound really good.

Well yes, there is talent. But there are countless examples of wasted talent. As a teacher I don't fixate on talent too much, because it's something I can't - and the student can't - change. A student can fix laziness.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2260823 - 04/12/14 07:43 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: musicpassion]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
A student can fix laziness.

Not so sure about that. For some kids, it's in their DNA.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2261066 - 04/13/14 02:05 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: musicpassion]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Musicpassion, I'd like emphasize a different word, if you don't mind.
Originally Posted By: musicpassion

How you work and how hard/diligently you work is the biggest] factor in what a student is capable of achieving. Lazy students are everywhere.


This "how" is an important factor. In fact, extensive diligent wrong practise does more harm than good.

Is the teacher telling the students what specifically they should be working on (not a piece, or measure numbers, but actually the element within the piece)? If so, has the teacher shown how they should be doing it at home? Do the students know how to practice? If you know what to focus on, how to focus on it, and do so, then you get somewhere. When you get somewhere, success breeds motivation and confidence. Vaguely muddling through does not do that, even if there is an "excellent" on every page.

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#2261236 - 04/13/14 08:46 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: keystring]
musicpassion Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 912
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Musicpassion, I'd like emphasize a different word, if you don't mind.
Originally Posted By: musicpassion

How you work and how hard/diligently you work is the biggest] factor in what a student is capable of achieving. Lazy students are everywhere.

This "how" is an important factor. In fact, extensive diligent wrong practise does more harm than good.

Yes, I certainly agree. I have yet to see a student diligently apply really good practice (properly designed, well structured, etc.) and not get results. Yes the results can vary some. But in my experience so far, the bigger difference (for two people putting in the same amount of work) is how they work.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2261313 - 04/13/14 11:51 PM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
Cranes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/14
Posts: 4
Thank you everyone for all the input. It seems like I've been in a daze this year because suddenly it's time for ensemble and the recital and we're nowhere near ready and it's all my fault frown But the kids are willing to work hard and try their best.

Here is a strategy that I'm trying with them (and it's been successful with me personally as well). I got them started crossing out dates on a calendar for everyday they practice 30 minutes (which I got from this website: http://karenkavett.com/blog/2037/dont-break-the-chain-calendar-2014.php )
I have promised them a prize if they can keep the chain going for 30 days, a bigger prize for longer streaks. My older son says "what if I've only practiced 15 minutes and the house catches on fire and we have to evacauate?". Lol the kids these days. (I said 15 minutes is OK but only if the house is on fire smile )

I am sure the teacher tells them good techniques as well but I have used practice tips that I got from "Battle hymn of tiger mother" like going hands apart, going measure by measure, practicing just transitions instead of the whole piece over and over etc. I also downloaded the fundamentals of practice but it's a hard read.

Anyway... I haven't really talked to the teacher yet but will do so later this week and will update.

Thanks!

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#2261330 - 04/14/14 12:47 AM Re: Teacher expectations - or lack thereof? [Re: Cranes]
musicpassion Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 912
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: Cranes
Here is a strategy that I'm trying with them (and it's been successful with me personally as well). I got them started crossing out dates on a calendar for everyday they practice 30 minutes (which I got from this website: http://karenkavett.com/blog/2037/dont-break-the-chain-calendar-2014.php )
I have promised them a prize if they can keep the chain going for 30 days, a bigger prize for longer streaks. My older son says "what if I've only practiced 15 minutes and the house catches on fire and we have to evacauate?". Lol the kids these days. (I said 15 minutes is OK but only if the house is on fire smile )

Glad to hear you're putting a lot of thought into practice! As far as what strategy works, well of course it varies by person and you know your kids better than anyone. Best wishes!
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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