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#927565 - 11/18/08 01:42 PM How can I help my students when they don't practice???
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
Ok.... First of all, the former piano teachers wrote down all the letters for my transfer students, so they cannot read music. Secondly, those students do not practice. Argh................ How can I help them if they don't practice?? I am really lost....

I have tried all of the suggestions from you guys for making my transfer students learn better. Everything I have tried does not seem effective, because they do NOT practice............. oh I am so disappointed.... I have tried to find problems, and I have tried to see what I could do and improve the situation.....I am really lost..... When kids gave me the excuses of not knowing how the piece sounds after 2 months, I took time enter every single note on the computer. However, no one is listening to the recording...... I put my effort to help my students, even if I know that they only gave the excuses for not practicing. I am out of patience when hearing the students still cannot read even the right hand notes only, after 4 weeks of lessons, which I made sure they got them right before ending the lessons.

I need a HUGE help.....please!!!!

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#927566 - 11/18/08 02:04 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12136
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
OK...take a deep breath! All hope is not lost, though it depends on how things proceed from here on out.First of all, the recordings aren't such a great idea even if they do listen to them, because they will rely more on their ears than on their eyes, which is the problem to begin with.

My first suggestion is that you talk alone with the parents. Tell them you are concerned with the student's practice habits, and that you are not sure they are practicing enough to learn anything. Be sure your tone of voice is concerned and not accusatory. Do you have them keep a log of their practice times? If not, start that and let the parent know you will be doing this. Talk to them about when it might be best for them to practice and tell them about how much time should be spent. Ideally, time wouldn't be an issue, but sometimes it's a great way to start. You just want to get them sitting down at the piano for a certain amount of time and frequency for now. Make it clear to the parents that practice is imperative, otherwise their money is going to waste.

Secondly, talk to them about what you are trying to accomplish. Let them know that they can't read music and that is something you feel needs to be corrected. Make sure the parents are on the same page as you.

Then during lessons, spend lots of time doing note reading drills, sight reading exercises, and then doing those same things with their repertoire. Make sure the student understands and agrees to learning how to read music.

Monitor their practice and make sure they understand how many days you expect from them, and tell them no excuse will work. You'll need them to agree to cooperate or nothing will happen. If they refuse, then you need to drop them and tell them you are not the teacher for them.
_________________________
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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#927567 - 11/18/08 02:11 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
very... very... very... slowly.

At what level are these students playing? I've managed to make minimalistic progress with non-practicing beginners by just being "personal piano trainer." I hated it, but 'twas my job...

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#927568 - 11/18/08 02:31 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
Relax, relax. First, I'd begin by weeding out the students who are genuinely interested in learning, and treating them differently. Students are tricky. They understand that many teachers will bend over backwards to help them, and will take advantage of it. What you have to realize is that you can only go so far. Your student needs to meet you halfway.

Have a talk with the parents. Make them understand that you are not a miracle worker, and your students need dedicated time every single day for practice. That time needs to be uninterrupted, and the student needs to be focused. If the student cannot focus by himself, the parent will have to sit in on the lesson and then assist that student at home. This is the kind of commitment we teachers are asking for. If the demands are met, then progress takes off.

If the parents are not interested, these kids are not worth your time or your effort. Bottom line. It sounds harsh, but it's true. Do not enable these kids to continue with excuses. I've recently taken a stand against excuses, myself. I'm no longer asking about busy weeks, no longer telling parents that I think the student is tired so she is not doing well. They have a responsibility to be prepared. My responsibility is to take the work that's been done over the week, and direct it so that the next week's work will be productive.

Take a good, hard look at your students. Even if your studio is smaller, keeping the students that will ultimately learn and go forward will make you much happier than if you had a large studio of frustrating, apathetic students.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

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#927569 - 11/18/08 03:15 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Teach them how to practice at your piano lessons together. Give them positive instruction of what it takes to be able to play the piano. Maybe they think they sit there and it comes to them by osmosis.

Fill every minute of the lesson with thinking and playing - finger skills, drill, improved sound, good counting.

A thought needs to be put into action.

Absolutely nothing happens without a thought being put into action.

Blank is blank.

Plant concepts in your student's minds - be a catalyst to them. Don't think that it's evident what has to happen in music lessons - pave the way one step at a time.

Stress to them that mistakes are accepted as part of learning because we fix mistakes and show improvement lesson by lesson.

The fear of making mistakes makes them hold their breath, be indecisive, be easily confused, and afraid to do anything to make a wrong sound and to be found out.

You've got to give them something to build on!

Find their strengths and weaknesses and bring the kids up to par for the level they are working on so that they have across the board abilities at their level. (Work to improve the least common denominator, so to speak.)

Nothing succeeds like success!

The teacher and the student both share that responsibility of getting to success. The word "failure" does not exist until one of you have totally given up. That word is to be avoided at all costs.

When you want to have your student be the world's best learned, you have to be the world's best teacher.

You have got to give each other "hope"!

Betty

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#927570 - 11/18/08 03:17 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Yoke Wong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/15/08
Posts: 43
Loc: California
I think everyone has given great support and feedback. I would only add the following:

Sometimes a student may not be motivated to practice as there are no goals nor self motivation/incentives. However, that does not mean the student will not progress later on.

If the student do not want to practice but still like to continue with the piano lessons, I sometime let them practice the pieces during the lesson. I would have them practice the same piece for 5 or 10 times in the lesson. Often I work along with them.

This may not be the ideal situation as the student will not progress as fast as we teachers like them to be, they are still making some progress.

Now, if it bothers you that the student doesn't practice, I would talk with the parents.
Make a plan with the parents to help the student - this can be a timeline stating that by the end of the month if there are no progress made on certain pieces or techniques - you will allocate the spot to students on waiting list.

This strategy works really well as the student is now faced with a deadline: If he/she doesn't practice, he/she will lose the piano lessons to someone else.

Good luck!

Yoke Wong
_________________________
Take Your Playing To The Next Level
http://www.pianomother.com

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#927571 - 11/18/08 03:32 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
pianomcl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/08
Posts: 104
Loc: Texas
Transfer students are hard! I almost always have to cut down the level of the pieces they are playing. I don't think having recordings of the pieces is a bad idea (this is an aural art after all) but if you are going to do that you will want to supplement with things such as line a day so they are forced to learn to read.

I agree with everyone here also about meeting with the parents. But also, meet with the children. Do they really enjoy music or are they being forced into lessons? (You might be able to help them enjoy it--but sometimes they just don't want to be there.) Explain to them that you think they are extremely talented and smart, and that you want to see them do well--but that you will need to be strict (not mean) with them...like a personal trainer (they won't understand what a trainer is probably but you get the idea).

The best relationship of this sort comes when there's an implicit agreement between the student and teacher that is something like "I want my teacher to be strict so that I can improve". Of course if the student truly doesn't want to improve--even after all your efforts to find interesting music and make them enthusiastic, etc.-- there's not much you can do.
_________________________
Matt McLaughlin
piano - composition - theory
Austin, TX

http://www.pianoblog.com - The Famous Piano Blog

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#927572 - 11/18/08 10:06 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
Thank you all very much for your suggestions and input. They are all good advice.

Actually, asking a parent to sit in has always been my teaching style. I want to make sure that a parent can be assisting, when the kid is practicing at home, or having something unclear. Thus, the parent can explain it to the kid, as well as knowing exactly what I expect from the kid.

I also write down notes for the student, and sometimes I require the parent taking notes too. Still, I am not sure why things would slip away as it is. The students would forget to do the workbook for 3-4 weeks. The notes i ask the students to memorize on the staff are NEVER memorized (for example, memorizing F in bass clef or G on treble clef). i emphasize over and over again how important to know some important notes on the staff, so they don't have to count from the middle c up for right hand or down for the left hand. Of course, I don't mind their taking effort to count from middle c. However, it is an easier way to recognize other notes by recognize some important notes. Still, 2-3 months later, no note is memorized. This happens even when parents are sitting in.......

I told both the students and the parents that practicing every single day is very important. However, parents say that they have too much homework already from the schools. Sometimes they finish their homework after 9pm. I don't really know what's going on. Perhaps, the students are doing something else before 8 pm, and then do their homework. Thus, there is no time for practicing piano. I am not sure, really. However, I told them that even just 5 minutes EVERYDAY helps refreshing everything and keeps things flow.

Rarely do my student seem forced to learn piano. Most of them seem enjoying playing the piano, yet there is a fine line there between playing something they WANT and learning something they are not so interested. I have seen it, so sometimes, I ask them to pick the pieces they like and want to play. OK..... I am just not sure WHY the pieces they pick be themselves are not practiced. They seemed so enthusiastic when picking them. Then, things changed.....

I have a feeling that students want to play like a super star, yet they do not want to learn step-by-step. I often feel that the students' minds are wondering around while having lessons. A lot of time, when I ask them to play a certain note on a certain line, they look at the wrong note and wrong line. When i point a note out to them, they seem to have their soul slipping out a second, and then come back in. They don't see what I am pointing or hear what i am saying. It happens a lot when i am with the students between age 11-13. Is it normal for the teenagers lose their track like that?

of course, if they don't get anything from the lessons, there is nothing they can practice at home. i don't see how they can spruce up their interest even at home on their own.

I ask parents please be available to their kids while they are practicing, but I really don't know what happens at their homes.

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#927573 - 11/18/08 10:34 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
They don't see what I am pointing or hear what i am saying. It happens a lot when i am with the students between age 11-13. Is it normal for the teenagers lose their track like that?
[/b]

Not offence, but I tended to lose my track and lose my track when the person who is explaining something to me or just talking to me is just not stimulating enough. Sometimes I'm on the phone with a person who doesn't stimulate my conversation, interest and immagination and keep answering yes/no an autopilot. Then the phone is passed to someone who wants to talk to me and, as long as this person is more stimolating, it literally wakes me up from my stupor.

The first rule to be stimulating and to make people perceive your words with passions an interest, is to be passional and interested about what you're explaining as well. Whether your teacher explain math with a monotome tone, like an automaton throwing notion by notion, or your teacher explain math with passion, a lively tone of voice, with personal enjoyment and fun using analogies and stimulating questions and critical thinking among the students, will make a crucial difference in your loving or hating math.

I know a dance teacher. We're friends as well.
What she taught to her students is that you can't dance properly unless you have fun. Having fun is needed to express passion and sensuality in an artistic manner, without it technique and knowledge matter less than zero. This doesn't mean the work is less hard or demanding. But total unconditioned fun is required. Even if the students know they will actually work harder with this teacher than with others, they love going to her lesson because there's no hint of monotony, no hint of auto-pilot work, no hint of dry notionism, but a stimulating, fun and artistic arousing environment. Those hours are hard work are actually a pleasure they would never want to miss, not even if they are sick with a flu.

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#927574 - 11/18/08 11:28 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5548
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by chueh:
I have a feeling that students want to play like a super star, yet they do not want to learn step-by-step. [/b]


I deal with transfer students all the time. I certainly feel your pain.

Take it easy. Hang in there.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#927575 - 11/18/08 11:34 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12136
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by chueh:


I have a feeling that students want to play like a super star, yet they do not want to learn step-by-step. [/b]
This is a big issue. No one knows what it's like to actually work for something anymore. We don't have to work hard and save our money, because we can have it now with credit. And lo and behold, with the Wii and other game systems, we don't even have to practice to be able to play an instrument anymore. You just hit the right colored button and it automatically plays the guitar, drums, keyboard and even vocals for you. Who needs practice anyway? It's waaaaay overrated!

OK, sarcasm aside, this is an important lesson that they have to learn. I would do whatever I could to inspire these students. Don't lecture them, because that isn't working. Instead, play a recording for them of some piano music you think they'd like, or if you can, play something yourself. Let them know that in order to learn that piece you had to be able to read very well, and that to get to the point of being able to play this piece, it took you X number of years of lessons with practice. Tell them that you don't want to hear any more excuses from them about not practicing, because it doesn't change the fact that they do not practice. They need to start thinking on the positive: When can I practice, and not why I can't practice.

If they honestly can't even find 5 minutes, then they have no business taking lessons. End of story. I have a feeling that isn't the case. Do they watch TV or play video games? Do they talk on the phone with friends, or go over to their house? Now piano shouldn't be seen as a negative thing that will take them away from other fun things, but if they make the sacrifice for those things, why not piano too? And if not, then to be honest they don't deserve the privilege of taking lessons. Give them 3 weeks, and let the parents know this as well, and if practice does not improve (and be specific as yo what you expect to count as improvement), then they will forfeit their lesson time to the next student. No matter what different tactics you try, when all is said and done you can't practice for them.
_________________________
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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#927576 - 11/19/08 02:00 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
 Quote:
Originally posted by chueh:

I also write down notes for the student, and sometimes I require the parent taking notes too. Still, I am not sure why things would slip away as it is. The students would forget to do the workbook for 3-4 weeks. The notes i ask the students to memorize on the staff are NEVER memorized (for example, memorizing F in bass clef or G on treble clef). i emphasize over and over again how important to know some important notes on the staff, so they don't have to count from the middle c up for right hand or down for the left hand. Of course, I don't mind their taking effort to count from middle c. However, it is an easier way to recognize other notes by recognize some important notes. Still, 2-3 months later, no note is memorized. This happens even when parents are sitting in.......

...

of course, if they don't get anything from the lessons, there is nothing they can practice at home. i don't see how they can spruce up their interest even at home on their own.
[/b]
First, I agree that you should definitely threaten to drop them if this keeps up (and follow through.)

If that is not an option, I recommend just resigning yourself to your students' fates--they're probably not going to start practicing out of the blue even if you talk yourself blue. Make every week a practice session and stop investing so much of yourself in THEIR practice sessions--it's what they're paying for, right? (and the parents know that if their kids don't practice, they're not going to learn much.) Maybe they'll get bored, like you, of doing the same things week after week and start practicing. DO give them practice recommendations to see if they step up--start small. I know, this sounds very not-good-teacherly, but maintain some sanity, for yourself and your other students.

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#927577 - 11/19/08 02:09 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Yoke Wong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/15/08
Posts: 43
Loc: California
 Quote:
They don't see what I am pointing or hear what i am saying. It happens a lot when i am with the students between age 11-13. Is it normal for the teenagers lose their track like that?
I do notice students between age 11-13 tends to drop out of piano lessons a lot. I think at pre-teen age, they have a lot more activities and homework at school, many will need to make a choice whether they will stick with the lessons.

Another thing I forgot to mention: If you can get them play songs they are interested in, it would help the practice. I had some students (aged 11-13) who picked "Pirates Of The Carribean" theme music or other popular disney theme music to work on. They enjoy the music so much that they are willing to put in efforts and time into it.

Yoke Wong
_________________________
Take Your Playing To The Next Level
http://www.pianomother.com

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#927578 - 11/19/08 02:21 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
The only reason I would drop someone would be for behavior problems that are contrary to a productive lesson.

I really believe it's my job to bring lots of suggestions, instruction, information, challenge to young lives, I don't think they are born knowing, and they certainly don't get enough experience in being self motivating and self disciplined. I think that's part of my job - to suggest it, to expect it, and to instill it.

You have to give them hope and acceptance as they are, warts and barnacles, and clueless as they sometimes can be. The bright, fast starters need the same kind of support, because it's possible that they don't know much about the characteristic of being a good piano student either.

I think this is part of acquiring their skills, some of which is musical, and some of which is developmental as a student doing a project that is both mental and physical activity and an art form.

There is a real satisfaction when you know that your influence has helped a kid buckle down and learn about the processes in himself that he has to go through in order to conquer his goals and overcoming difficulties in being a young musician.

If he were riding a horse, he'd want to get back up on the back of the horse after a spill wouldn't he?

He can either feel like a quitter or like a winner! I believe we as teachers can help make a difference.

Betty

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#927579 - 11/19/08 02:30 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
The difference between optimism and pessimism...

(Good to have that other side around, Betty)

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#927580 - 11/19/08 08:39 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3238
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
The only reason I would drop someone would be for behavior problems that are contrary to a productive lesson.


Betty [/b]
Wonderful post. I'd send my kids to you!

Being realistic. Those who don't practice will never become concert pianists. Those who do practice, well, .0001% might become concert pianists.

However, two things may happen anyway. You plant some seeds for a future appreciation of music that may enrich their lives later. And you teach some musical language concepts that apparently can't be learned later (judging from some mature would be singers I know that never improve. And never, never quit! hee, hee)

I'm not sure these can be done with zero practice, but I suspect they can be accomplished with far less practice than that necessary to develop playing skill. Your attitude and encouragement probably have more to do with it than how much they practice.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#927581 - 11/19/08 11:17 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7406
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
 Quote:
Not offense, but I tended to lose my track and lose my track when the person who is explaining something to me or just talking to me is just not stimulating enough.[/b]
This is an interesting comment. It implies that it's the teacher's responsibility to be "interesting" not the student's responsibility to be "interested." Could this be a case of the cart before the horse?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#927582 - 11/19/08 11:41 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
John asked: "This is an interesting comment. It implies that it's the teacher's responsibility to be "interesting" not the student's responsibility to be "interested." Could this be a case of the cart before the horse?"

John, from my perspective this is the ideal relationship, that both would be interested in carrying their weight for the responsibility of having a good lesson. Having a good lesson prepared from the student, and giving a good lesson by the teacher.

Does 100% and 100% = 200%? I didn't think so, but it's a great thought!

Let's try looking at our energy levels - ours alone, and ours when a student is present.

Then let's consider what lights the student up so that he has hope and can see and hear himself as a successful piano student. Some of these kids have self esteem issues and little confidence.

Like the light that attracts the moth, these kids need something to be excited about and to gravitate to spelled out for them, then they notice the light and it beckons them.

If we want a great learning environment with thriving young musicians, don't we have to provide the makings of it.

I'd like to think when a student sits on my piano bench for a lesson that something electrical happens in their brain and the circuits are ready for learning.

If the kids walk in the door and their readiness is not evident, I think we can be the catalyst that welcomes them to the bench and shows them how to tear into their music and get something done with it.

I'd want to promote in this student the kind of energy duplicated by a dog chewing a bone. The bone "needs" a workover and the dog is the one to give it. N

No sleeping through lessons! Not the teacher, not the student!

Betty

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#927583 - 11/19/08 11:51 AM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12136
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Teaching is a two-way street. The student must be willing to learn in order for there to be progress. In this particular scenario, the OP is certainly trying many tactics to engage the students, but if they are not interested in learning, it will not happen no matter how energetic the teacher is. It's simply up to the teacher to decide how much of this they will tolerate in their studio. With tough economic times, perhaps is it good to treat each lesson with these students as a "music appreciation" lesson/practice session and have absolutely no expectations of practice. I have found for myself, however, that no expectation = no results. That's something that I really can't live with, but to be honest, it is usually the student who gives up first and not me.
_________________________
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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#927584 - 11/19/08 12:26 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7406
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Betty, back in the dark ages, when I was in high school and college, the onus was on the student to learn the material, not on the teacher to be entertaining. I remember some profs who were very entertaining, but I'm not certain I learned one whit more from them than those I had to struggle with to grasp and master the material. In reality, I may have learned and retained more from those teachers whom I constantly groused about.

My question, which is really only a hypothetical, thrown out for discussion, is when does the teacher's responsibility for learning end and the student's begin?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#927585 - 11/19/08 12:31 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
 Quote:
Not offense, but I tended to lose my track and lose my track when the person who is explaining something to me or just talking to me is just not stimulating enough.[/b]
This is an interesting comment. It implies that it's the teacher's responsibility to be "interesting" not the student's responsibility to be "interested." Could this be a case of the cart before the horse? [/b]
Both are needed.
It is the responsability of the teacher to be interesting and the responsability of the student to be interested. But being interested is hard when you deal with non interesting (or stimulating) people, methods and environment. I've always been someone very motivated to learn for my own personal enjoyiment and enrichment, but I find very hard to maintain interest when dealing with monotony of certain people or instructions.

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#927586 - 11/19/08 12:41 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Highlander One Offline
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Registered: 02/05/08
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Loc: Texas
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#927587 - 11/19/08 01:05 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
John, you've asked a good question!

"My question, which is really only a hypothetical, thrown out for discussion, is when does the teacher's responsibility for learning end and the student's begin?"

Because of our musical careers as a teacher we have the responsibility from our choice of work that we do in grooming musicians. I choose this responsbility and we know more about this than any of our students about what it takes to become a capable musician. We know each step of the way having traveled it ourselves, and having led others along this path in the years we have been teaching. We actually have become experts in this....if not experts, then our qualified opinions will have to count as contributing factors to what we think responsibility is: theirs, and ours.

Look at the person coming to lessons and try to key into their sense of responsibility. You will see it through their behavior and how they follow through. If you are counting on their having a sense of how to behave musically responsible, you are leaving out a major contributing factor to their success.

They may lack completely in the ability to motivate, discipline, be responsible for their role in being a ,usic student, as we know a music student to be.

Students don't start by already having the attributes, they have to be put into place if they are missing.

So where would their growth and development come from if they had none, and did not know they had none?

What if they began to feel something was missing in their background but they didn't know what it was?

Why would we want to withhold from them the tools that they need to be successful on their musical path.

They may be lacking the "glue", John. And, I think teachers have and share some of it with their beginning students or transfer students.

Betty ;\)

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#927588 - 11/19/08 01:33 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Danny Niklas Offline
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Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Betty, back in the dark ages, when I was in high school and college, the onus was on the student to learn the material, not on the teacher to be entertaining.
[/b]

A teacher responsability is also to explain concepts. If the student just have to "learn" the material, than he/she could simply stay at home and learn books by heart. But it's the responsability of the teacher to explain concepts in a way that they can be understood. It's very possible for a concept to be so badly explained to be impossible to understand. If what you say were true, then everyone could be a teacher, because everyone can be a provider of notions memorized from books. But being a teacher is clearly more than that and entails the ability to explain and make things clear, to make complex concepts immediate to grasp and apply.

I know a literature university teacher who always tell me the first thing he questions, when his students don't seem to understand, is himself and his method; not the students; which might as well suffer from the impossibility to learn because of the way he present concepts to them.

If a teacher repeats concepts exactly as they're written in the books, making them hard to grasp, always having a monotone way to explain things and expecting students to simply learn by memorization (rather than thinking) then he is practically useless, because he's providing nothing more than the books already do. If teachers still exist (even if we have textbooks and methods available) is because they're supposed to provide facilitation and enlightening explanations, of the concepts contained in those books.

Besides such a teacher would also sabotage the learning of the students, because they would be compelled to learn conceps explained in a uncomprehensible manner, while at the same time ignoring the possibility to find their own explanation, by using their own creative and critical thinking.

At least when I find out a book is so badly written to be useless for my learning, I can simply look for another book till I find a good one.

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#927589 - 11/19/08 01:39 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Morodiene Offline
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Again, Danny, I don't think it's a question of the teacher not teaching, especially in the OP. More it is a sense that as the teacher keeps trying everything under the sun and the student still hasn't done their part by being teachable. Both need to keep striving, and the teacher I think will often have to instigate the learning process by being inspiring and encouraging. But when the student doesn't ever come along, what then? Is the teacher just not being entertaining enough? At what point is it up to the student to learn?
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#927590 - 11/19/08 01:53 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Danny, it appears we're talking past each other.

The question posed was: How can I help my students when they don't practice???[/b]

Before she skewers herself, or flagellates herself unduly, we need to ask when and where teachers' responsibilities for learning end, and by extension, where does the student's responsibility begin (and the parents' as well)

Although I wouldn't throw in the towel at this stage, it does sound very much like the learning problem is not the teaching of the subject so much, but the lack of daily preparation by the students, coming to lessons completely unprepared.

What do you recommend she do now? Go to the student's home every day and monitor their practice? Have them tape their daily practice?

Just as an aside (Fingle's Cave is on the radio, and is whipping me up) I'll mention that no student leaves my studio unable to play newly assigned material. If they return the following week showing little or no improvement, then our first item of discussion is on their lack of practice, their goals, their time management. The discussion is not on my teaching, because that's not the issue.
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#927591 - 11/19/08 01:53 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Danny Niklas Offline
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Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Again, Danny, I don't think it's a question of the teacher not teaching, especially in the OP. More it is a sense that as the teacher keeps trying everything under the sun and the student still hasn't done their part by being teachable.
Both need to keep striving
[/b]

 Quote:
At what point is it up to the student to learn? [/b]
And at what point is it up to the teacher to be more stimulating and trigger interest?

There are questions without fixed answered. It depends on each case.

But I want to point out that even the most brilliant mind, might appear dull and stupid, when casticaged in a non-stimulating environment, forced to learn things in a monotone way without thinking and having to learn banal concepts which don't challenge his/her mind. In fact, the more brilliant a mind is, the more it will seem to lack interest or resist the teaching process when it seems to involve banal and poorly explained concepts. There are even researches that show that many school students who can't stand still, who resist doing their homework and can't pay attention in the classroom, far from being lazy and stupid, are actually in need of using "higher thinking processes" and having more meainingfull and in-context information.

There's no doubt both the student and the teacher must be willing to put passion and interest in the whole process; but the role of the student has been discussed millions of times. The role of the teacher, in preventing the student mind to consciously shut down (the brain is marvellous, it consciously doesn't learn things when they seem to make no sense or serve no purpose, it resists garbage brilliantly) seems to me like a different interesting perspective, which can't be dismissed as irrelevant by claiming "it all depends on the student".

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#927592 - 11/19/08 02:10 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Danny, it appears we're talking past each other.

The question posed was: How can I help my students when they don't practice???[/b]

Before she skewers herself, or flagellates herself unduly, we need to ask when and where teachers' responsibilities for learning end, and by extension, where does the student's responsibility begin (and the parents' as well)
[/b]

I think there's no universal answer for this question. It is to answered on a case by case basis.

 Quote:
What do you recommend she do now? Go to the student's home every day and monitor their practice? Have them tape their daily practice?
[/b]

Personally I think that often a lack of motivation to practice is due to the inability to practice properly. If you make your practice a boring autopilot, of course it will seem like a torture. I wouldn't go through such torture myself because I don't believe you can learn to express yourself artistically by suffering through the whole process. Being able to express ourselves musically, rather than robotically translating notes from the sheet to the keyboard, in my opinion comes also from having a musically stimulating learning experience. In other words I believe the path to reach a goal, might matter even more than the goal itself.

A practice on the other hand must be seen like a challenge with ourselves. A moment to use our mind to analyze the problems in our pieces in order to feel the thrill of being able to play what you weren't able to play.

Practicing piano shouldn't be different than practicing with your skateboard. But why many would consider practicing with skateboard far more enjoyable? Why they can spend hours doing it without realizing so much time has passed?

The reason is that they experience their skateboard practicing as a challenge, a mental as well as physical training in order to improve. Piano practicing is seen as mindless repetition.

If piano practicing were mindless repetition I would have abandoned piano playing many years ago. Fortunately piano practicing is exactly like practicing for sports. It is equally beautifully stimulating and challenging and the results, and the thrill that come from them, are tangible.

So I think a first problem to investigate is whether students know how to practice, whether students have learned to make their piano practicing a mindfull and pleasant experience.
If they don't, not even forcing them to practice everyday would make a difference, as I believe mindless practice does more harm than good.

So if a student comes to lessons without having practiced, I would make that lessons a practice lesson. I would show the student how to practice, so that it is a mindfull experience you look forward too, rather than a mindless torture you try to eschiew. Then I would ask the student to practice at home what he/she has learned at lesson. I would explain to the student that repetition makes sense only as long as you repeat the right notes and the right motions and the right coordination, otherwise it is counteproductive.

I would also ask the student why he/she hasn't practice. The answer might reveal the real problem. The student might claim that it is boring. Then I would show him/her it is not supposed to be boring. The student might claim that he/she had not enough time. Then I would suggest time-saving strategies and explain you don't even have to practice everyday and that quality is always more important than quantity. Some student just wrongly believe that if they don't have X hours at X time to dedicate to piano practicing, they might as well skip it altogether. I would explain to them that even 10 minutes of mindfull practice while waiting for dinner would count. They might as well as good reasons for not having practiced and I would explain to them that it's normal sometimes to be unable to do something. If students are scolded even when they have good reasons to miss their practicing, then they will develop a rebellious attitude against practicing. On the other hand when they see the teacher is comprehensive, there's a motivation to practice even more. They might explain to me that they fell awkward when practicing and that they don't know where to begin. Again I would explain them how to approach the first moments of practicing. I would explain to them that for many people of whatever age, the hard part is starting to do something. Once you have started you realize you're actually enjoying what you're doing, so the trick is resisting the early usually umotivated procrastination.
The might explain to me that they don't really enjoy piano to begin with or don't enjoy it anymore. Then I would suggest the option of quitting and finding their real passion in life.

 Quote:
The discussion is not on my teaching, because that's not the issue. [/b]
Eventually I might as well consider the chance that the my teaching method, my explanations, my elaborations might prevent the student from feeling motivated to practice. I might as well consider the chance that I don't even know what's the best way to practice. In other words, I will never rule out self-criticism and question my own responsabilities and methods. I believe in changing what doesn't work, including changing my mind when more convincing evidences come up. Always questioning ourselves is not only positive for the student, but for our intellectual richness as well. Why missing a chance to improve, when improving is such a good experience?

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#927593 - 11/19/08 02:22 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
Remember, Danny lives in Fantasy Land where all students love to practice piano every day.

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#927594 - 11/19/08 02:41 PM Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Sal_:
Remember, Danny lives in Fantasy Land where all students love to practice piano every day. [/b]
No. I live in a world where students can learn to enjoy practice by better understanding how to take the most of it and make it a mindfull pleasant experience rather than dull mindless repetition and understanding that practicing everyday is not even necessary and that quality matters more than quantity. Guess what, it's the same world you live in.

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