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#944200 - 07/18/06 04:00 AM Losing students
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
I have a problem next term. I will be teaching extra hours during the day at a private school which I am looking forward to. My problem is that I will arrive home later in the evenings meaning that some of my private students at home will have to go. I do have a few students in mind who do not work that hard or take it seriously and I am afraid that I can't continue to teach them. It is very rare that I have had to tell people I won't teach them any more. Usually they come to the decision to quit themselves after a while. I know that one or two parents will not take the news well. I have talked with them in he past about their children taking a break from lessons and always get the same response. They tell me there is no way they will let them quit and how it's good for them to stick at something. I wondered if other teachers have any advice on how to let students go in a more gentle and subtle way? It worries me that they will twist my arm to keep teaching them and I will end up working Sundays and later in the evenings. Also, as a parent, how would you feel if your childs teacher told you they could not continue the lessons? Obviously they will be keeping on other students, but not your child. I would like to get a parents perspective on this.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944201 - 07/18/06 08:03 AM Re: Losing students
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi Chris W,

Not many piano teachers will have experienced your dilemma ... so replies are likely to be a bit thin ... but may I offer a thought or two.

You're obviously moving into a new ball game with larger numbers where you will be able to exploit a subtle competitive element to progress.

But back at the ranch ... how many student have private tuition at your home?

It is my experience (ongoing research at private homes, schools and universities) that a large proportion of students welcome the prospect of ending their piano lessons... so often merely satisfying parental ambitions ... the effort of sight-reading and endless practice is a burden they would readily like to escape.

With regard to the stick-in-the-mud Mums who are likely to take unkindly to the news of your closing up shop on the home-front ... surely you can suggest to them that you would approach the private school with the hope to negotiate the entry of outsiders (progeny of the 2 Mums). However, the conditions relating to possible success on this count might prove too arduous ... especially as the mums presently enjoy the settled routine of current piano lessons ... and are likely to hate any thoughts of change ... on no account should you agree to work after hours at home ... teaching music at a pirivate school is like to prove a draining mental challenge ... at least at the start ... you'll need to be at the top of your game when you go in to bat for the first time.

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#944202 - 07/18/06 08:13 AM Re: Losing students
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
Chris,

As a parent, I would feel crappy. My suspicion is if the students have not been practicing for some months, the students will be just fine(maybe even relieved). I am assuming you are talking about students who just don't practice or come unprepared, rather than someone progressing slowly (but working hard) A few suggestions

--stick to your story - It's about the schedule, the schedule, the schedule. Get the students you really want to keep - maybe those willing to book an hour lesson - booked in their slots early. Then you can legitimately say you are booked. The last thing you want to do is say you don't have a slot for them and then offer it to the next person....

--identify another teacher who might be appropriate for these students - perhaps someone who was low key.

I would avoid all discussions of talent, practice patterns etc. This will get you in trouble - parents talk to each other. And you will get excuses, promises etc. If it really is about the schedule (you used to do 20 hours of lessons and now you will do 15, so 10 1/2 hr slots need to go) then that's the story you should stick to.

Whatever you do, don't add another day to your work load. That will increase your frustration and exhaustion - and all your students will suffer.

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#944203 - 07/18/06 09:22 AM Re: Losing students
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I know you wanted parents perspectives, but I've thought before how I might let parents know that I can no longer teach their child. I thought about it on a couple of extreme cases where the student wasn't practicing for weeks on end and the parents of those students were calling at the last minute quite a bit to cancel or not showing up.

What I would do is to send a written notice. If this seems too impersonable put a line at the end saying something like, "call me if you have any questions." I think putting it in writing ensures that the other person has to listen without being able to have an immediate reaction directed at you. In other words, it gives them time to absorb it before actually talking to you. Also, how many times have you tried to tell someone something and they really didn't listen closely to what you were saying and interrupt or react before you had a chance to finish. It's harder to stay out of argumentive mode that way. So I think a written notice would be the best way rather than calling them up or talking to them at the lesson. Just write something like your taking on the other thing during that time, unfortunately you have no other slots open in the schedule that they might change to, and here's a couple references of other teachers in the area you might wish to check on.

Congratulations on the teaching job at the private school!

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#944204 - 07/19/06 01:47 AM Re: Losing students
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I think Sarabande's idea of sending a written notice is a good one.
It is just the way it is and you shouldn't feel guilty because of it. Life changes for all of us. In the long run, it will probably be the best for your students that you find frustrating and for them too; either they will not have to take lessons anymore or they may find a teacher that might be a better match.
What is most important is that you have to do what you have to do. Your students and parents will fair up alright.
If you belong to a music organization which has a refferal chair, you may want to put down his/her number in your letter to your parents. I would not refer a crummy student to a teacher personally.
We know how all of us feel about transfer students!!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#944205 - 07/19/06 05:09 AM Re: Losing students
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
Chris,

Obviously your schedule gives you no choice but to end lessons for some of your students which may be an unfortunate thing for them, but maybe turn out to be the opposite.

I think it would be fair to the students - and the parents - to tell them the information as it is, that you have new responsibilities and have to reduce students AND that your decision to end teaching this student was influenced by the lack of practice etc.

How about other teachers in your area? Would there be some who don't have so many students yet and would be more than happy if you'd give their names and phone numbers to the parents if they wish to continue lessons - and which would offer a chance to the students in either the parents deciding it's really a good time to end lessons or their kids getting something like a "fresh start" with someone else?

You could present it to the parents in a way that it includes a positive solution either way they decide. Even if parents don't react favourably at the beginning, from what I recall you writing before, to simply continue the lessons as before wouldn't be beneficial for them anyways.

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#944206 - 07/19/06 08:05 AM Re: Losing students
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
Thanks for some pretty good advice there everyone.

btb - You could be right about some of them being glad of the chance to give up. I thought about this when I read Frank's "enough is enough" thread where he dreads telling his teacher he want's to stop lessons. Perhaps I could offer a lessons amnesty where they just email me telling me they quit with no repercussions. Only joking. \:D

Dorrie - Your comments were along the lines of what I was thinking of doing. At the moment I am scheduling the students who I will definately keep and will see what spaces I have left. The chances are that the time slots I have left will not be suitable anyway. The students I will lose are the ones who often can only spare a particular time of the week due to their busy lives. This is why they can not practice. I don't like confrontation face to face or on the phone so I don't think I would mention practice and progress directly. It really is a schedule thing. Of course they are all aware that I will still be teaching others so they may question why I have chosen their child to lose. If people push it then I will have to tell them why I chose their child even if they don't like what they hear.

I thought about writing to the students I will lose and at first was very tempted. However, I do think this might appear a bit spineless and impersonal. After all I have had some of these students for quite a while. I think it is a job that needs to be done in person or at least on the phone. I have sent a letter this week to all my students telling them that their times are all subject to change in September and that I will be in touch to discuss it. This way they will be a bit prepared and might even decide for themselves to stop lessons.

There are many other teachers in the area. I don't like to recommend other teachers unless I can vouch for their competence. Also I would not send a student who doesn't practice to a teacher that I know well. I will go to my local music store and get their list of local teachers. I can send this out to the ones I can't keep on.

Thanks for the help.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944207 - 07/19/06 08:11 AM Re: Losing students
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
My wife suggested that I run an ad in the local paper announcing my own death. Bless her!
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944208 - 07/19/06 09:53 AM Re: Losing students
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
That was a good idea just writing to them all in advance to expect a change in the fall.

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#944209 - 07/19/06 10:07 AM Re: Losing students
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
My wife suggested that I run an ad in the local paper announcing my own death. Bless her! [/b]
:D \:D LOL!!

You asked for a parent's perspective... although I understand fully your reluctance to refer subpar students to another teacher you like and respect, as a parent, what would make ME feel better about my kid getting dumped (er, discontinued) is having a good referral. I have recently gone through the process of trying to find a flute teacher for my daughter, and it was frustrating and anxiety-provoking trying to find somebody who is both technically competent and encouraging and who would nurture a love of music in my daughter. Fortunately I found somebody we are crazy about. If circumstances were such that she had to drop my daughter, I'd really dread having to go through the ordeal of looking for somebody else and cold-calling teachers out of the blue, and I would appreciate greatly being given a couple of names of teachers who could be personally vouched for. In short, albeit for good reasons, you're requiring the family to go through a transition they didn't ask for and apparently didn't want, so anything you could do to minimize the inconvenience of the transition would no doubt be highly welcomed by the family.

I know that's not what you wanted to hear, sorry. ;\)
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#944210 - 07/19/06 10:26 AM Re: Losing students
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
Monica/Chris,

I understand it's not the "preferred" students who'd have to go and students who a teacher would be careful to refer to another teacher.

But what about speaking to a teacher before recommending him to parents - maybe there are teachers who'd love to give one of these students a try (need of money, or need of a challenge, or completely different approach - probably not a better one, just different). In that instance you wouldn't be feeling like burdening a collegue with a student you are not unhappy to get rid off.

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#944211 - 07/19/06 02:45 PM Re: Losing students
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
The problem is that another teacher who I think is good might not be the right teacher for that particular student. In some ways they may benefit from someone who is a bit more relaxed about practice and progress and is happy for them to just play what they want, when they want. I don't want to dredge up the old thread about bad students being ones who don't practice but given the choice whether to lose an advanced student who works hard or one who puts little effort into it there can be no contest. Some may say the reason they don't practice is because I am not doing the right things. They could be right. But that means teachers who I would recommend are likely to have the same approach as me and it probably wouldn't work. They could go to a teacher I don't think much of and get along fine.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944212 - 07/19/06 03:04 PM Re: Losing students
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
The problem is that another teacher who I think is good might not be the right teacher for that particular student. In some ways they may benefit from someone who is a bit more relaxed about practice and progress and is happy for them to just play what they want, when they want. [/b]
That's a great point, and maybe the way out of your dilemma is to come up with the names of a couple of these more "relaxed" teachers to give to the parents, even if they are not normally the ones you would recommend on a technical or pedagogical competence basis. But at least it doesn't leave the parents high and dry.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#944213 - 07/19/06 03:51 PM Re: Losing students
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I would think a copy of the list you mentioned the music store has of local teachers would be adequate.

You mentioned that some students were ones who were so busy that "they had only one time" in their schedule that would work for lessons. Chances are the other teachers you would rather not refer them to wouldn't have the time they would want anyway. I started with a really highly qualified teacher recently and she said, "1:30 on Thurs. is the only time I have". So I had to take it or leave it. I had planned to say "here are the days that would work best for me" but that went out the window and I just said "o.k. that would be fine". It wasn't a great time for me or one of my top choices. I really wanted a morning time but I could live with it. Just out of pure curiousity not necessarily related to the thread, those students who only had one available time for lessons, are they coming at a time that you would have preferred not to be teaching? I was asking because that's happened to me - working students in at an inconvenient time for me and then wishing I hadn't. And the few students I've had that had only one time available also didn't practice at all because they literally were never home. These students I've had in that kind of case quit because of busy schedules, something had to give eventually.

I see one common thing running through several threads is that in a teacher/student or teacher/parent of student relationship a student, parent, or teacher having to confront the other on discontinuing lessons, collecting fees, raising rates. It sounds like we teachers and students and parents of students dread having to confront each other in these areas. I think one thing I'm afraid of in having to confront a parent on dismissing their child from lessons, raising rates, asking for the fees, or enforcing other policies is getting into an argumentive mode with someone. I am always worried when confronting others, they may try to argue it with me. Then I think we are worried about upsetting the other person. I guess we all need some tips on being able to confront others without dreading it and how to handle it especially how to handle if someone does get upset on us.

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#944214 - 07/19/06 04:54 PM Re: Losing students
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

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

A way to be both honest and kind to a parent pressing you for a referral for a child who is not a dedicated student would be to say

- "you know, while I unfortunately I don't have a time slot that will work for Suzie and will certainly miss her wonderful sense of humor. Since you've asked about her next teacher, I think in all honesty Suzie might do best with a teacher with a different style..someone less structured/into exam performance/whatever. When you call the teachers on this list, you might inquire about their style and suggest an interview with Suzie and the teacher"

The problem, and where you will get into real confrontations, is if you are not clear (in your head) that you are doing this because of your schedule. If you are clear about what you are doing and why, you really can just keep reiterating your position. You can end this teaching and business relationship pleasantly by finding something nice to say about the child/relationship and keep the problem as "the schedule".

I don't see that you need to spend hours finding a new teacher for a student, but if someone has been a student for several years, it seems good business practice to make the transition pleasant and easy.

I bet though that this just doesn't come up. I'd bet a beer that 1/2 the students will just drop music lessons altogether for a while (and we'll find them a decade from now as returnees on the ABF) and the other half will move on to a new teacher or a new instrument.

Chris - I'll bet you've given these kids a fine foundation and they'll all move on and be fine.

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#944215 - 07/20/06 04:18 AM Re: Losing students
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
- "you know, while I unfortunately I don't have a time slot that will work for Suzie and will certainly miss her wonderful sense of humor. Since you've asked about her next teacher, I think in all honesty Suzie might do best with a teacher with a different style..someone less structured/into exam performance/whatever. When you call the teachers on this list, you might inquire about their style and suggest an interview with Suzie and the teacher"


I am going to print this off and keep it by the phone. \:D

Great advice as ever. I will be as positive as possible and stick to my story. I will give them a couple of numbers to call so at least they have somewhere to go from here.

Monica, your post was exactly what I wanted to hear. It has given me a parents perspective and lets me know what I can expect their reaction to be.

Sarabande, to answer your question, I have scheduled these students with limited time in my regular hours. There is no way I would teach outside normal hours unless it was a one off for a exceptional student.

I worked out that I only need to lose 4 or 5 students and I will be able to offer time slots to others even if they are not able to accept them. If someone can't come for their lesson in the time I have available then I won't feel too bad about that. I'm sure that the few I plan to discontinue will be quite happy to stop coming as they really don't seem to enjoy it anyway.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944216 - 07/20/06 06:22 AM Re: Losing students
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi Chris,
I'm shooting from the hip having discovered that Tamworth is almost a suburb of Manchester and that replacement piano teachers are likely to be in profusion.

This being the case ... don't you think you are being a little too caring in labouring your association with former students ... when nothing could be more helpful to individual progress than to face the exciting challenge of making a change ... today's survival requirement.

You have taken them just so far ... don't fall into the maudlin trap of becoming "indispensable".

Making a fresh start can't be underlined enough.

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#944217 - 07/20/06 01:53 PM Re: Losing students
Seneca Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 277
Loc: Portland, OR
More of the parental perspective.

My qualification is principally as the father of a son who, to no avail, took piano, violin and saxaphone lessons, and participated in a boys' choir. So I've had some experience with the termination of the teacher/student relationship(Fortunately, he just graduated from university, so at least he stuck with that, and I can regard the other with some equanimity.)
When you discontinue teaching a child student, you give the parent two problems. The easier problem is do I replace you and how?' Simply by providing the list of available teachers from the music store you've met your duty on that score.
The second, and trickier problem is 'why my child?' Here I'd strongly recommend sticking with the 'new professional responsibilities have made it necessary to reduce my student roster' and steering clear of the 'lack of practice' or (even worse) 'lack of promise' arguments, since parents will defend their children, even when they are thoroughly exasperated with the little darlings refusal to put in bench time or can't wait for the caterwaling to end (more a violin issue, as I recall).
If anyone is pushy enough to ask how you chose which students to stop teaching, remember that you don't have to give a responsive answer to that question, and shouldn't if it leads to into the morass of "I culled the lazy and the lousy". Just say it was really difficult, you did your best, and that if they would like, you'll put their child on a waiting list, provided that the child continues to take lessons from another teacher and make good progress while you are unavailable. The old waiting list gambit--beats publishing your own death notice every time--and it's much less awkward when you bump into them in a public setting.
_________________________
Seneca
http://apachecadillac.blogspot.com/

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#944218 - 07/20/06 07:24 PM Re: Losing students
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 823
You don't need to give them more names, although you could ask them if they want you to send the Music Teacher's List.

If they're angry, they may not choose the person you recommend anyways.

There will always be pain at the end no matter how you slice it.

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