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#933022 - 12/19/07 09:15 AM Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
In the past 3 days of teaching (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), I've lost 3 students, one per day. Two piano, one voice. One of the piano students, I expected to lose since she had canceled her last lesson and didn't show up to the group lesson or recital I had on Saturday. The other two were a big surprise. And they were all supposedly "not my fault". I'm not sure if I believe that after 3 quitting. I always try to be understanding about when people need to quit, because I know it happens, and a lot of times, it's just circumstances for that time. Sometimes, but usually not, they even come back to it later. Last night when my voice student handed me the note about quitting, I almost burst into tears. I invest so much into these students, and yes, it is initially a financial transaction (they pay me to give them lessons), but it grows into a friendship, a very unique kind of relationship. And then there comes a point when it's not worth the money to them anymore and it becomes a financial transaction again.

None of these students parents mentioned that it was monetary. They all said it was a schedule, but I'm sure that since I raised my prices, that becomes a factor into what they're considering when it comes time to quit something. I just really felt I was finally reaching these kids and we were making progress. I always tell the parents that it's alright, I understand, sad to see them go, and if things change in the future to let me know. I couldn't last night, and so I just kind of nodded and said I was sorry. I guess I can use some words of encouragement .
_________________________
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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#933023 - 12/19/07 09:53 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Morodiene, I've read a lot of your posts, and I think you are a caring, conscientious teacher. If you lived in Lexington I would certainly be inclined to ask you for lessons.

I would not take this personally. Losing three students in three days may seem like a terrible trend, but it's really just the issue of timing. Many people use the holidays to reprioritize their commitments. I suspect that if you added up your defections over the year, your retention rate is typical if not better of any music teacher.

I would take your students' comments at face value. Kids these days are WAY over-scheduled, and even though they may enjoy lessons and continue to be making progress, it's possible that other activities are more important to them and/or homework is getting in the way. I really doubt it is the money issue. What music teachers charge for lessons is a drop in the bucket compared to what most, if not all, these families are paying for other activities, or, say, the cable bill.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#933024 - 12/19/07 10:03 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
True! I never thought about bill! LOL! Thanks, Monica.
_________________________
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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#933025 - 12/19/07 10:05 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Morodiene,

That is a triple whammy, and I'm sorry you are feeling badly about it, and probably asking "Why?"

You would have a little less sudden terminations if you would use a 30 Day Termination Notice as part of your policy. I would be glad to share mine with you by attachment if you want it.

I'm all for planning the goodbye, mostly it hurts when it's very sudden, when there is no discussion about it. And, to have 3 in a row, that would be a heavy one.

You are right, they do not know how invested and involved we are in their behalf, nor how fond of them and proud of them we might be.

One of the things that made me use the 30 day notice was to avoid the abrupt ending. It would leave me upset enough that when the next student came in the door, it was hard to be "normal" and direct attention to the next student. Not impossible, just you would rather not have to give a lesson on that kind of emotional pressure.

Please rejuvenate quickly! I understand where you are coming from. Hug!

Betty

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#933026 - 12/19/07 10:16 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
John Delmore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/12/05
Posts: 373
Loc: Shreveport, LA
Awwww...big virtual hugs!!!

It truly doesn't sound like your fault. It's just the press of the hectic modern life. Going into the service end of pianos, I've given a lot of though lately to getting and keeping business (it remains, after all, a financial transaction...). You've got to be creative these days!! Maybe, if you see 'defections' during the holidays, you could adjust your fees and give "free" December lessons. If your students are generally young, I would scour the internet and make sure the parents receive every snippet about the myriad benefits of music in terms of education performance, etc. There are lots of things you can do to "brand" yourself as a premium, and highly desirable, service...not "just" the piano teacher!!

The fact that you see your students as more than 'cash cows' puts you in the "desirable" catagory already, IMO.
_________________________
John Delmore
PTG Associate Member
"You don't have a Soul. You ARE a soul. You have a body."...C.S. Lewis
Bienvenue!: http://louisianaskyline.net/forums/index.php?

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#933027 - 12/19/07 10:17 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
It is certainly not your fault. If someone is going to quit it often happens at this time of year or the end of the summer term.

On a more positive note, isn't it better that they leave it rather than just keep coming to lessons when their heart is not in it?

Sounds like the 3 at once thing is just bad luck. There's not much you can do about it. I find that the new year brings many calls and enquiries about lessons. Perhaps the students you put in their place will turn out to be great.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#933028 - 12/19/07 10:22 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Oh I do have a 30 day termination policy. Two of them were giving me notice, and one just stopped altogether for health reasons (she doesn't handle stress well), so she won't be getting the rest of the lessons she paid for. But the thing is, this is their last lesson before Christmas break, and unless they have a make-up the first week in January, I won't see them until the week of Jan 7th. They will then have 3 lessons until the end of the semester, which is the week of Jan 21st.

I was actually thankful to have a student right after the one last night. She is the one I have spent the most time on because she is a voice student and I had been trying very hard to get across some basic concepts, which she was finally starting to do. Having the student after her allowed me to put that out of my mind for a bit longer and focus on her. Still doesn't make it easy. But I'll do my best to prepare them for not studying piano or voice with a teacher as best I can, and give them good memories these last few lessons.
_________________________
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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#933029 - 12/19/07 11:00 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
Morodiene, it's most unfortunate that you lost three students all at once, and well, I liked the part that your students mean a lot more to you than making a living (though, obviously, that's what you also need!). That certainly does speak for you!

I believe it's the time of year when it's more likely to take stock of one's activities and decide what to continue and which not, which would explain you have three students leaving at the same time. That would make it think it's not because of anything you have an influence on.

What also comes to mind: I do value my piano teachers very much and I am always looking forward to see them again after holidays or whatever else caused a longer break. And I do value so much what they do and the time they take (e.g. one fitting me into a tight concert/recital schedule), but for this kind of appreciation it usually takes an adult. Kids take it so much more for granted, and the parents are unlikely to develop a close relationship to the teacher because they are not the student.

Maybe the "very special" teacher/student relationships which are mutually valued are as rare as real close friendships?

Just the other day, I've read "whereever a door is closed, God will open up a better and bigger door for you". I wish that this is true for you in this experience!

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#933030 - 12/19/07 11:11 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1785
Loc: Central TX
Sorry to hear about what you are going through. Unfortunately I guess it's part of the territory (though I understand it doesn't make it any easier to deal with, esp when they come in waves).

From the opposite perspective, it's also hard on parents, esp if it's NOT the situations described above (financial, schedule, lack of commitment). In our daughters case we moved her from one teacher to another for two reasons, first, her original teacher's personality wasn't the best fit for our daughter (we as parents got along fine, and it wasn't terrible, she just didn't quite mesh with our daughter). Second, and this was the #1 reason, we had found a teacher that was highly regarded and was probably better suited to take our daughter to the "next level". So this left us in a situation where we were leaving without the "benefit" of having a nice canned excuse. It certainly was not easy on us, like I said, we personally like the teacher. But we sucked it up, told her honestly what we were doing (well sorta, we left out point #1, but did tell her point #2, she understood), brought her some flowers and thanked her profusely for getting our daughter to where she was.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't take it personally. These things happen and are a part of "the natural way of things".

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#933031 - 12/19/07 11:37 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano&Violin:


Just the other day, I've read "whereever a door is closed, God will open up a better and bigger door for you". I wish that this is true for you in this experience! [/b]
You hit the nail right on the head! I woke up at 3 am this morning and was so upset I began crying and praying. Just a few minutes ago, I received a call from the principal of a nearby middle school whose music teacher referred her to me. She signed her son up for piano lessons! God does answer prayers, and I'm sure that he is using this temporary pain for good. Thanks for the reminder, and thank God for his undying loyalty.
_________________________
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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#933032 - 12/19/07 11:47 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
lalakeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/06
Posts: 286
Loc: Chicago 'burbs
Morodiene, you and I are similar in that we both teach piano and voice. And I, also, have had several students quit in the last couple of months (they all mentioned scheduling as the reason, specifically sports team conflicts). I try to be understanding and smile when I assure the parents that I will try to fit them back into my schedule if & when they are able to return--but more often than not, when they call back to start lessons again they will find their "spot" filled with someone on my waiting list. I've learned to accept a few quitters as "par for the course"; and as a parent I remember having to tell a private teacher that my son's hectic schedule just didn't allow for him to squeeze in trumpet lessons (along with the practice time commitment) anymore. So I've seen it from both sides of the issue!

A few times over the years I've run into former students who tell me that they fondly remember studying with me, and have recommended me as a teacher to friends & relatives. I want my students' families last interaction with me as their teacher to be a positive one, so I make sure to smile and tell them to continue making music a regular part of their life. Then I immediately get out my waiting list and call the next student!

\:\)
_________________________
Private piano & voice teacher for over 20 years; currently also working as a pipe organist for 3 area churches; sing in a Chicago-area acappella chamber choir

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#933033 - 12/19/07 11:55 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Well, the economy here isn't doing so well. I had very little calls for new students in the Fall, and I don't have a waiting list. That's not the main issue, but it certainly adds to it. I think my problem is that this semester, I moved my studio out of my home into a wonderful space, added monthly group lessons to the weekly private lessons, and all in all given a huge effort toward improving my teaching. It just doesn't seem to have paid off. I've always been a conscientious teacher, but I really refocused my life so that this is my first priority, and this makes me feel like a failure. I'll get over it, I always do. \:\)
_________________________
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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#933034 - 12/19/07 12:10 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Morodiene,

Please be careful what you are allowing yourself to think. This is the time to reaffirm yourself not beat yourself up.

Your priorities are fine, you are a conscientious teacher, you are not a failure. It is a situational happening.

This is the time of year, along with the time when school is out for the summer, that most of us have readjustments in the studio.

You are right,the market is down for private teachers in many places. Many potential clients are choosing store teaching where they can move from piano to guitar or drums if the student wants a variety of lessons. Also some of the group music activities run a little cheaper and friends can carpool. They sign up by semesters and they feel safe in that they can leave soon with no other explanation than to not enroll for the next semester.

If you advertise locally this is the time to do it, or take business cards to the local music store.

Think solutions. This is temporary.

Betty

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#933035 - 12/19/07 12:11 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
PianoTeacherKim Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/09/07
Posts: 255
Loc: Kailua-Kona, HI
Dear Morodiene,

Big hugs for you! Losing students is always heart-wrenching, no matter what the reason - and especially when you feel you've finally "reached" a student and are on the cusp of wonderful things. I've been surprised by cancellations, too, and once it was one of my star students: wonderful practicing habits, family support, we always had great fun and made progress, she loved playing. But other interests won out as she headed into high school. I cried as I drove home that day!

As others have said, your warmth and compassion really comes through your posts and I can tell you're a wonderful teacher. One way I've tried to work my way through tough losses is to try and be creative with the "extra" time in my schedule. Perhaps you could make/find some new games for your studio, do a bit of redecorating, or create some new fun worksheets for the new year? Or maybe just play some songs you love.

God is indeed faithful, and you can rest in that above all else!

Hugs and prayers for new students in the new year,

Kim

PS - If you're interesting in chatting about ways to get the word out about your studio, PM me! I did a lot of work to research 'out of the box' marketing when I started my studio and traditional advertising didn't work at ALL. \:\)
_________________________
Find some help for stage fright and share what helps you -- Stage Fright Tips. Let's learn from each other!

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#933036 - 12/19/07 03:15 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
Morodiene -

((Hug)). But you know whenever we change, some people (students) will want to change with us and others... will not.

I would be inclined to think at this time of the year, it is just a coincidence, but some students (or families) may not like the changes you have made. You seem like a caring, wonderful teacher.

A small suggestion - it might be nice to write a brief note to these students/families thanking them for their support over the years and leaving the door open should they want lessons in the future. These families may or may not come back but people do talk, and expressing the caring you feel may be good for your studio. It also may give you a sense of closure and peace.

When my 12 year old daughter switched teachers this summer I made her write a thank you letter to her teacher of 4 years. It was a hard letter for her to write, and harder to give, but I think it brought them both closure (he was a wonderful, inexperienced teacher - she needed more eventually but he really gave he loads of enthusiasm and a great start)

Good wishes for new students in the new year!

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#933037 - 12/19/07 03:44 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
That's a good idea. I think I will send them a note saying that I appreciated the opportunity to work with them and to let me know if things calm down and they'd like to start up lessons again. Sometimes it is easier to say things in writing than in person, because you can take the time to choose the right words. \:\)
_________________________
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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#933038 - 12/19/07 03:52 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1547
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
Morodiene--I can imagine how hard this must be for you. Like everyone else has said, it's probably not you. My own three kids absolutely love their piano teacher, never complain about taking lessons or practicing, play very nicely and get lots of compliments about it, but still would quit if I gave them any option on it at all. It has nothing to do with their teacher or the format of lessons; it's just that piano is work, and they'd rather not work if there's another option.

It's a sign of your dedication that it hurts to lose someone. It's not just instruction you're providing, and they will miss you as well.

Nancy
_________________________

Estonia 168, Yamaha UX3

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#933039 - 12/19/07 03:55 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Thanks, Nancy. I think that is a source of some grief for me as well, that the parents aren't making it a priority for the kids. It seems that for a lot of students, they're allowed to delve into so many things, but never get really good at any one thing. But I know that even with quitting, they will have something that will stay with them for a lifetime, so as an adult, they will at least have an easier time picking it back up again.
_________________________
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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#933040 - 12/20/07 12:23 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
Morodeine,
It has been very disheartening for me to loose more than one student too close together in time also. I've gotten discouraged when it seems I'm loosing more than I'm gaining. I think every student I have lost has been because of busy schedules and not because of anything I did or that the families weren't happy with. Most of these families were too busy to start with and probably too busy to have started out in lessons to begin with although some came 4 or 5 years but were still always so busy all along. I got to thinking just now, along the lines of the 30 day notice I think I've heard mentioned in the past on the forum some teacher screen at interviews and don't accept students who may fall in the catgory of "busy" - not having time to commit to lessons type families.

Maybe we should all have students sign leases like they do with apartment or house rentals - hee, hee!

I would try to be as nice and encouraging to the students and families without letting this change the way you have always been toward the student all along. Try not to let negative feelings that would hurt the student or family show. This happened to me recently on the other end where someone I do business with and I just deeply respected and adored that person and when problems came up, they let their frustration show not at me but in my presence and changed the way they acted toward me becoming more distant and aloof. They were just a different person than the person I had gotten to know and admired. It really crushed me and was tough to get over. So try to be supportive and encouraging to the student in their future endeavors and make them feel you would be there for them.

When students quit, I always write them a note similar as one would write a student graduating from high school or college and I take the opportunity to give them my "PEP talk" encouraging them to over time find the one or two things in life they love and enjoy the most and focus on those rather than try to do too many things. I encourage them to join a choir, try another instrument, etc. and to always keep music in their lives in some way. I encourage them in future endeavors and wish them luck in whatever they do. I had a student quit once out of the blue, after a break for softball in high school, there was no call that they were coming back, no call they were quitting, no explanation from parents. It was so hard on me because I felt there was no closure, no way for me to give a little gift, or a formal well wishes and it was one of my best, most diligent students ever, who had even written a paper in school about how she admired her piano teacher, also a very good aquaintance of our family. I'm thinking the family was either too busy to call to tell me they were not coming back or it was too hard for them to tell me. I think the student got busy in high school but had taken lessons for about 5 years. I went ahead for my own sense of closure and wrote my encouraging, well wishes letter. It turned out a few years later, she became our kids' babysitter and invited us to her high school graduation party and graduation, and her mom says she still plays the piano for fun.

In addition to having been their teacher, the opportunity to encourage them in my notes to "follow their dreams" makes me feel good about the closure that I have contributed something positive to their lives in the words I write.

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#933041 - 12/20/07 02:15 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1492
It's par for the course, you need to toughen up. Look at it this way, some ingrates always suddenly flee like rats around Christmas time and at the beginning of summer. 98% of students are not really serious about music, they don't care about it like you do, it's just another extra curricular activity like soccer. You will never really know why they leave, so don't give it a second thought, just be glad that you were able to earn some income from them while they were figuring out that piano is more than they can handle. And NEVER get emotionally attached to students, they always eventually leave. My motto is "Out with the old and in with the new!" and "I'm glad to be rid of them, they weren't truly worthy of my time!"

The Piano Lady

_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#933042 - 12/20/07 04:01 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by rintincop:
[QB] And NEVER get emotionally attached to students, they always eventually leave.[QB]
A.E. Housman:

‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’


. . . easier said than done . . . \:\(
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#933043 - 12/20/07 04:35 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I'm not a teacher, so please take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt and for what it is. I am a student, so I can offer you some perspective from the other side of the fence, so to speak.

I'm trying to picture myself in your situation.

In terms of quality, it seems to me there is a whole spectrum of teaching, ranging from the really poor to the really excellent, with many shades in between. Coincidentally, I asked my piano teacher how many teachers he has had over his lifetime and he responded, "Eleven."

He was describing a teacher he had in college who, for the entire hour, said virtually nothing but, "Play it again for me." While he described him as a "fantastic pianist," he also described him as being a "horrible, non-communicative teacher."

I was intrigued at how many teachers he had gone through and asked him if he felt he had eventually outgrew some of the teachers (reaching a point where they had little more that could be taught). He responded, "Yes."

It would be an interesting exercise, I think, if some of you lifetime learners could look back at some of your past teachers (I'll assume you've had more than one) to compare notes, with the eventual goal of compiling a list of qualities that you admired from your past teachers. I'm sure, like my teacher, you have probably had good teachers and perhaps not so good ones. You could probably even rate them from best to worse, if you really thought about it.

I'm pretty sure if you get enough responses, you'll eventually see commonalities between great teachers, as well as poor ones. One could then compare those 'desirable' qualities, against an objective and dispassionate view of your own teaching style. Can one change as a teacher? Should one change? It would be so easy to say, "Well that's just my teaching style, take or leave it." But then, you'd also have to accept the consequences of that decision - that some will choose to leave it. I think in terms of running a successful business, one that has a high student rention rate, it just makes sense to constantly strive to improve the quality of the lesson one provides.

I also think competing with other student activities like soccer, baseball, swimming, etc. will always be an issue. Again, its very easy to blame the student loss on "Well, they just don't have time anymore to take lessons." That's one perspective.

Another perspective would be to look inwardly and ask onesself, "What can "I" do to make my students love piano more than they do baseball?" The question is much easier to ask than to answer, but I think top-notch teachers intuitively know.

If the desire is great enough, somehow you 'make' the time.

I wonder how many teachers sit down with their students and ask for feedback on their lessons they provide. Have you ever asked your students "How can I improve the quality of lessons I'm providing to you?" You give them what you give them, but is that the same as giving them what they need.

As a student, I would be happy to share my thoughts on how I think my teacher could improve, but he's never bothered to ask me. So, I never tell him. There are a number of things he could probably do that would make me happier as a student (and increase the probability of retaining me as a student), but its almost as if he's not interested, doesn't care, or is insensitive to the possiblity that the is plenty of room for improvement. Of course, if you teach only kids, this approach would not seem as effective.

Just to give you a few examples of things that bug me. Not enough to fire him as a teacher, but it related to the quality of the lesson I received.

- I'm the first lesson of the day. He shares a studio with other piano teachers. My lesson is at 1:00 p.m. I always get there a few minutes early, but the door is locked. He is never there when I get there, often times a few minutes late (which I think is disrespectful to me as student, since I'm never late). The bottom line is that I'm waiting for him (in my car, on the street [and right now, its pretty cold outside]), rather than him waiting for me or providing a nice warm lobby for me to wait it.

- During the summer, the room was hot. Air conditioning doesn't work well. Fan in the room was broken. Is it so hard to go to Target and buy a $15 fan?

- His metronome doesn't work well (on the brink of breaking). Is it so hard to go to the music store 30 feet away and spend $30 on a new one?

- His CD player doesn't work well. Again, a $20 fix.

- His studio is less than tidy. I'm not a neat freak, but would it hurt to straighten up a bit.

- Some of his keys stick. If you're going to be in the piano teaching business, why do you burden your students with sticking keys? That's the last thing they want do deal with. Get a technician in there to work on it for Pete's sake.

All of these things are relatively minor points, but all things that are easily corrected and speak about the quality of lessons.

I hope some of these thoughts will give you something to consider and, perhaps implement. Hopefully, they'll help to improve your student retention rate. \:\)

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#933044 - 12/20/07 05:19 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
I've lost many students over the years, but there are a few that I could never "get over." There are also a few students in my studio right now--they've told me they love piano and they really like me as their teacher. I don't know what I'll do if they ever quit.

But Akira brings up a good point. It's not enough to simply make a kid love piano. We as teachers must find ways to improve our own teaching. Even if kids love our piano lessons, we must still find ways to make it an even more enjoyable and meaningful experience.

Just recently, I started to talk more to my students during the lessons on stuff not necessarily related to piano. For example, today I told a student to show more self-initiative at home--don't wait until Mom tells you to go practice; go practice the piano on your own the first thing you get back from school, or first thing when you wake up in the morning.

The next thing I'll tell this kid is to go tell his mom "Thank you for letting me have piano lessons." It's easy nowadays for kids to take everything for granted. I want my students to be better piano players, but I also want them to be better people.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#933045 - 12/20/07 09:15 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Akira,
I appreciate your honesty. I do a lot of self-reflection, and I was recently in a situation where I had to discontinue lessons with my own voice teacher. The only reason was I was not improving and she didn't know how to help me. I "outgrew" her. The problem is, she is also a colleague as we teach at the same school, and I didn't want to lie to her about why I was quitting. It was really a tough thing. So I started lessons with a teacher in NY, and I let her know how different it was, etc. I didn't sign up for lessons again, and she eventually got the hint, but I didn't want to shut the door on our friendship. I do not think in any of these cases the kids outgrew me, because they were continuing to improve.

But I do like your suggestion about asking students to evaluate you. I wonder if I sent home a survey that could be mailed back, even anonymously if they wanted to, to help me improve. I know I'd probably get some things that I would disregard, but it might be useful and at the very least, it would let students know that I'm interested in what they have to say. Don't think I'm quite ready for the barrage of negative comments at the moment, but maybe in a bit \:\) .
_________________________
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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#933046 - 12/20/07 10:06 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I think the anonomous evaluation is an excellent idea, Morodiene. It sends an important message of "I care deeply about the quality of lessons I give and work passionately toward providing you the best quality lessons I can." The anononimity factor, I think, will provide an honesty factor, that a face-to-face meeting will not.

I think open and honest communication is key to maintaining healthy relationships, even though it may not always be pleasant to hear. It is difficult to fix problems if one does not know what they are. Keep your chin up. \:\)

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#933047 - 12/20/07 11:13 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I enjoyed reading Akira's viewpoint, and he is so right about the environment being a considerate place. Our local music store has a teaching room that is ugly, dispicable, like a shoe box, and still students study in there on many instruments. One of their teachers has taught there 8 years on trumpet, I think. They have been in this location for over 25 years, the music from the lesson is heard throughout the store and I can't shop there when it's blaring and unmusical.

AZNPiano said: "I want my students to be better piano players, but I also want them to be better people."

Yes, definitely. That means to me helping them be able to talk about their viewpoints and issues they are experiencing, stage fright, thinking of leaving study, etc. They need to have a voice in this and to represent themselves, they are not at the mercy of their teacher and parents. No one should slink away from ending a relationship - it should come to conclusion. Endings need to represent the highest good of all participants, I think. It doesn't always happen that way.

Saying goodbye is never easy when you think about all the time you have spent with a student. Even when prepared for an ending, it's still difficult. The one's that are abrupt or about emotional things the student is coping with or a situation that needs modifying by collaboration with the family and the student - trying to get on the same page, so to speak. Sometimes we don't have that opportunity.

Try to learn from each situation. Be sincere. Think not only of yourself, but of the student.
Keep the good memories.

Have an exit routine, if you can. If you are concerned about a student who seems to be on the way out, send out those questionaires that work to represent the family and students side. It may be an opportunity for them to exam why this is happening, and rethink.

I believe I shared my questionnaires with you once upon a time Morodiene. I need to get mine in use again, just to verify where everyone is (from their point of view) on the music path.

I generally don't worry about it if they are coming enthusiastically to lessons and smile during the lesson, and making progress. It's when you see other indications that you need to address it.

"How DO you prevent a dropout?"

Betty

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#933048 - 12/23/07 08:43 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10766
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Well, in spite of things, I've decided not to do the survey. I guess it's becaus eI know that I will never ever be able to please everyone. It' snot out of a lack of caring, but simply put, sometimes when you ask, people will then think of things to say. Perhaps things they hadn't thought of before, or put into words. But is forces people to dwell on the negatives and not the positives. Students already have to power to say "I don't like lessons (enough)for this reason" by quitting, therefore there is no need to give them the opportunity to dwell on it. If they don't like lessons, they will quit eventually. And really, everyone will quit eventually, as Betty has said.

I have a master's in piano and have been teaching for 9 years now. I continue to learn about better methods, and the challenge of reaching each and every student that walks in my door is always thrilling to me. But I may not be what some are looking for, and I can't, nor would I, change myself for one person. I think I will still send out letters to those students who have given me notice and encourage them to continue playing or singing throughout their lives.
_________________________
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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#933049 - 12/23/07 11:33 AM Re: Losing students gracefully
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
Morodiene:

My experience with teaching is private guitar lessons and one class for a summer. Teaching is not my main job, and I have done it on and off over the years. Currently, I seem to be helping friends and co-workers on an informal basis to get them started in the right direction on guitar, more as a social thing than anything else. Also, I am not a parent, but hear a lot from co-workers about their kids.

From what I hear (and have seen), it seems that kids are into a lot more stuff these days than when I was a kid. Back then, most kids seemed to be into one or two outside activities at most. Now, it seems that parents are always rushing their kids from one activity to another. Co-workers have commented that they sometimes feel as if they are a "wallet and taxi service" for their kids. I don't know how things got that way, but there it is.

So, now we apparently have kids and adults in similar situations - both groups having little time for whatever activities they wish to pursue. I have taught guitar to kids and adults. What I find is that, for most students, once they discover that the guitar really is a "bona fide" instrument that takes more than a week or two of fooling around to master, they decide that maybe the guitar wasn't the priority they originally thought it was.

From my perspective, discovering their real priorities and interests is a good thing, because once they find their true interest(s), they will pursue those with a fervor that outside forces couldn't muster for them (i.e. a parent forcing them to practice).

From reading the discussion in this group, I get the impression that the relationship between piano teacher and child student runs far deeper than does the typical guitar student who sticks around for a few months, learns what s/he wanted, and then moves on. A piano student can apparently "stick around" for years.

I can definitely see how a relationship more along the lines of a friendship can form in the environment of piano teacher and school-age child. It would be painful for a student to suddenly leave that situation. If teaching piano is your livelihood, that would make it all the more difficult. I can't imagine the pressures kids today must be functioning under with all the activities they seem to be juggling, so I have to wonder if a child leaving a piano teacher might be more a product of too many activities to juggle, than that there is a problem between you and the child.

I know that, as an adult with a full time job, it would be difficult for me to commit to regularly scheduled lessons, though I do have the time to practice every day. In other words, I could not say with certainty ahead of time that I could be at a specific location at a specific time every week on a weekday evening, because that is the nature of my schedule during the week. I can, however, commit to practicing everyday for at least 2 or 3 half hour sittings. Because of this, I opted for "canned" lessons via DVD and CD, rather than a live teacher, though I believe that a live teacher is the best way to go.

The irony is that, back when I was a kid, all the predictions were that technological advances would provide us with so much free time, the big problem to solve would be what to do with all those people with all that free time. We seem to be busier than ever today, rather than wondering what to do with our free time. Also, we seem to have less "disposable income" now than we did overall even 10 years ago for a variety of reasons, even though the dollar amount showing up on our paychecks may be larger. All of these trends seem to make traditional ways of doing things more difficult.

Lots of good comments and suggestions have been made here, and I am constantly pleased with how friendly these forums are. I am not sure where my post is going, other than some general observations and my best wishes to you as you move forward.

Tony
_________________________
my blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#933050 - 12/23/07 12:14 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
To Every One,

I have a series of Questionnaires, some that are for the student, for parents perspective, some are fun, some are for serious information.

I used them more when I had a bigger studio, but I do use them when there is something undiscilosed that I would like to know what is going on with the student. And, I give a questionnaire if I feel there is something the student will learn or think about from having written in answers to the questions.

Morodiene, you are right in that if you would change the way you do things as far as overall teaching of piano and business operations, it's your decision as everything comes from what you have to teach as a musician, and how you wish to run your business.

Questionnaires have never produced a drop out - the purpose of them is to get more information about the students and parent's perspective.

I don't think of the questionnaire as opening the door to problems, but of producing information that helps you teach this child/adult by identifying what is happening in his world.

Not every questionnaire will be valuable to you, and you don't have to use every question on them, you could select a few and make up your own "test". Or, you could ask everyone the same (one) question once a month, or every lesson by pasting it in the assignment page. Advise the parents of what you are doing, and ask them to participate too.

If a piano teacher wants my collection by e-mail - PM - me giving me your home e-mail address, I will send them as attachments to you at home/office. With the holidays very close, it may take a little more time for me to respond.

So, to use questionnaire or not to use questionnaires, that is the question!

I glad you were able to come to a decision, Morodiene!

Regards for very happy teaching in 2008!

Betty

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#933051 - 12/23/07 02:40 PM Re: Losing students gracefully
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Morodiene,

It happens to us all. You are not alone and it is part of the territory when it comes to teaching.

When I first started teaching, when someone quit, it was so hard on me. You will begin to grow a thicker skin with time. Although, it still is hard.

I agree with you mostly about the parents not taking piano as seriously as you would like. This is the most frustrating thing for me.

I had one student last year that quit at the end of the year, She had been with me for about 7 years and could play so well, if only her parents thought it important. But I had to just let go, she is not my child, and hopefully I instilled a love of music and an ability that she will have throughout her life.

So don't give up. Advertise. It can be rough and I know it feels like you been socked in the stomache. But as another poster said, "How many times have you quit a class or teacher, etc... Somethings are just out of our control.

Big hug and Happy Holidays... Things will get better.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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