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#953478 - 02/16/05 02:15 PM What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I've been taking lessons for over five years, and I find my teacher to be inscrutable. So I'm hoping the teachers here will answer a few things I've wondered about:

1. What do adult piano students tend to do that drives you nuts? Fail to practice? Lie about failing to practice? Failing to lie about failing to practice? \:D Something else?

2. What do parents of piano students do that drives you nuts?

3. When your student is not performing at recital, what exactly is going through your mind?

4. When a student decides not to continue with you, does this bother you deep down?

5. When a student shows up and clearly hasn't practiced their assignment, does this bother you?

6. Do you ever decline to teach potential students because you just don't get a good vibe from them or their parents?

Just curious . . .
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#953479 - 02/16/05 06:45 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
princessclara2005 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/05
Posts: 429
Loc: Dallas, Texas
answer to question 1

not listening to what the teacher says but rather have their own idea on approaching a piece. Not so much about lying, I would say, but just not listening.

answer to question 2

when the student's parents try to be as the teacher

answer to question 3

I think they are happy for those who aren't quite interested in playing the piano, for those who works hard, I think they work harder so that they can be in the next one

answer to question 4

depends on what type of student he or she is, if it's someone who is lazy, and disrepectful, they it doesn't bother me at all, if it's someone that usually works hard, and is very seriou about music making, then I would question myself if I have been doing my best as a teacher

answer to question 5

definitely....

answer to question 6

yes, if a talented student doesn't have much repect about what they will be learning, then I would rather not to waste my energy try to talk her or him into what they will learn, or if the parents think they are more suited for the teaching position, then definitely a turn down.

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#953480 - 02/17/05 12:59 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
ishldbpracticing88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 103
Loc: SC
1. I guess when they just don't take it seriously. They're just doing it for fun. Which is ok, I guess . . .

2. Put tooooo much pressure on their child. If they answer a question wrong, they catch their breath and make a big deal about it.
Also if there isn't enough support and encouragement, as well as firmness, from the parents.

3. Not much.

4. Sometimes. Of course, it depends why their quitting. Sometimes it's kind of a relief.

5. It depends what their reasons are. Of course, if it's constant excuses . . . Yes, it does bother me alot!

6. Not normally. I've had a few students who I didn't get a very good first impression of, but they turned out to be good students.
_________________________
"The aim and the final reason of all music should be nothing else but the glory of God and the refreshment of the human spirit."
-Johann Sebastian Bach

P.S. Rach rocks

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#953481 - 02/17/05 10:28 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 832
1. What drives me nuts about adult students is that they think they know the program that is best for them. However they would achieve much more if they followed my program. They also spend too much time worrying about my opinion of them or how long things will take; and then they don't even practice ten minutes daily. Teaching adult beginners is a losing proposition any way I slice it.

2. What drives me nuts about parents of students is that they don't buy proper pianos for their children. They have so little faith in their children.

3. At recitals, I think that a lot of people want results without effort. They sputter and fuss a lot but fail to practice sufficiently.

4. It's rare for people to leave me for another teacher. Everybody gets what they desire/deserve.

5. Lack of practice bothers me less than it does most teachers. I just practice with them and charge them, and think, "Your parents are paying me loads of money that they wouldn't have to if you practiced."

6. I give everybody a chance. But one family arrived with both girls reading Harry Potter during the interview, and the parents more keen than the girls to learn. Needless to say, the girls didn't last.

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#953482 - 02/18/05 12:01 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3159
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Candyman:
1. What drives me nuts about adult students is that they think they know the program that is best for them. However they would achieve much more if they followed my program. They also spend too much time worrying about my opinion of them or how long things will take; and then they don't even practice ten minutes daily. Teaching adult beginners is a losing proposition any way I slice it.

[/b]
As an adult beginner and the parent of kids who take lessons from the same teacher, let me analyze your complaint just a bit.

Frustration always arises from unrealistic expectations. Or, as in this case, from failing to reconcile differing expectations. Your adult beginners do not share your goals for them. But both of you walk your separate paths not realizing you are going different directions.

Not ten minutes daily? I've never missed a day without at least ten minutes, nor have my children. That's because part of the shared goals for them is to learn good practice habits and discipline. I have to practice what I preach so I do it too.
_________________________
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#953483 - 02/19/05 12:45 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
Adult students are studying because the WANT to. Not because a parent is forcing them. I am surprised to hear that there are adult students who are not totally committed to learning, and who don't trust the judgement of their teacher. Of course not all teachers are meant to teach adults! We do not aspire to be professionals but are passionate about learning to the best of our abilities and I'm sure, practice as much as our busy ADULT schedules allow. If there are teachers out there who do not believe in the aspirations of adult students, they should stop teaching them.....
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#953484 - 02/19/05 03:06 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I think human nature is at work in children as well as adults. Some are serious and good students who apply themselves; some 'think' they want to learn and find out that it's work and takes time then eventually quit;others feel they're intellectually superior as an adult and get frustrated when it's revealed they're not as co-ordinated as they thought, their receptiveness is not that good, and they're really not cut out to play the piano.

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#953485 - 02/20/05 06:28 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Candyman,

Failing to practice even 10 minutes a day?

Guilty as charged.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think Candyman has a point. I would go weeks at a time practicing 30 minutes before my lesson and at no other time, sometimes cancelling at the last minute because I was too embarrassed to show my face. I am obsessed with how long things will take, and I would love to give my teacher some truth serum and find out what she really thinks of me. ;\)

But I have kicked it into gear recently, as it becomes easier to practice once your practice is actually the making of music. More practice means more progress, which makes it easier to practice still.

I sometimes wonder if teachers really, really, really understand how demoralizing it is to be so very awful at the piano in the beginning. Many people make it look effortless. It looks like typing. And then you find you can't even fire of the simplest children's song.

Anyway, thanks, Teachers, for weighing in on this!
_________________________
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#953486 - 02/21/05 08:03 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
seebechstein Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/04
Posts: 1085
Loc: houston
I haven't had a piano lesson since I was a senior in high school. I have given some thought to either asking my son's teacher to listen to me or finding my own teacher, but my biggest reluctance is that I want to practice pieces of my choosing on my own time schedule. Most evenings after work I am too exhausted to practice. I would say the same must be true for most adults.

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#953487 - 02/21/05 09:50 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 832
I think I should clarify my last sentence that teaching adult beginners is a losing proposition.

It needn't be so, but adult beginners have a way of making it so.

It's they who quit. I would keep teaching them until they're 80, but they have trouble accepting that playing a simple phrase of music is an accomplishment. They're looking for complexity. But the essence of playing music is playing a simple line of music.

One adult student of mine said she wanted to learn to play piano first and once she accomplished that she would take guitar lessons. Well, she "accomplished piano" sooner than either of us could have guessed: a mere seven weeks!

Another wanted to teach piano some day and most certainly could have achieved her goal within about five years at her pace. But she wanted to learn things her way. It's a good thing we have established routes for people to become doctors and they don't set their own course. Why should learning piano be any different?

Perhaps it is frustration on my part. Why does everybody want things so fast? I've studied piano for 30 years. Why can't adults become the humble students that they should be? Don't worry about your self-esteem and just play the piano. Then keep playing the piano. That's my advice.

Good luck to any adult students out there. Make a pact with me that you'll play piano for five years, and I'll be very grateful. Any takers?

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#953488 - 02/21/05 10:08 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
cindy, great questions. every thought of becoming a journalist? ;\)

candyman, it's funny, but i just had dinner with my piano teacher a few days ago and i asked her what bugged her most about me as a student when i first came to her, and she had the same complaints you do. she said that i, and a number of her other adult students, come to the piano believing they know something about it and music, and so don't readily take her direction.

to her credit as a teacher, any of the many adults who have continued with her soon give up these illusions and end up surrendering to her methods.

with me, it was a matter of her repeating certain instructions to me (which i was ignoring without realizing it) like a broken record, until i finally got curious and asked her why she kept repeating these instructions. that was a huge turning point in our relationship.

with another of her adults, it was the day the student insisted on doing something her own way, and when our teacher told her that perhaps she needed a different method, the student said: "well, haven't you heard of the suzuki method?"

our teacher said, "yes, as a matter of fact i have, and i know of a great suzuki teacher here in town and i can give you her number."

that shut up the adult student, who ever after humbly did whatever she was told.

i think our teacher has such devoted and hard working adult students because she lavishes us with praise for any little accomplishment. and she really drives hoome the point that learning is a journey, not a destination. the fact that she celebrates even our smallest achievements makes a huge difference in our motivation, and in making it possible for us to gain enough confidence in her methods to give up control over how we learn to her.
_________________________
piqué

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#953489 - 02/22/05 05:49 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3415
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Candyman, your comments left me saddened, both as an adult-learner of piano (in my 6th year BTW) and also as a teacher of English as a second language. Here in Japan, about two-thirds of my teaching time is devoted to children in public schools, and the rest of my teaching time is spent with adult learners.

Adult learners are slower then children at just about everything, they have terrible trouble with pronunciation that children do not have, they tend not to do their homework, they persist in speaking in Japanese during class, often because they think they have something to "teach" the other students... I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

The flip side of that however is that, adult learners are in class because they choose to be, simply because they're interested in learning English and learning about English-speaking cultures. They love to compare holidays and customs and learn about cultural traditions. They don't whisper to each other during class or throw things at each other, they cover their mouths when they sneeze.. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea!

All of the above could be changed to apply to children and adult piano students.

IMO the role of any teacher is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of student, their motivations, and their feelings about what they're learning. This understanding then becomes the basis for how the teacher interacts with each student and how the teaching methods are adapted (as much as possible) to best fit each student.

It seems to me from your comments that you have not bothered to try to understand adult students and that you haven't tried to understand the causes of the things that you find frustrating.

Why is an adult student not satisfied with a simple line of music? Because we have music in our heads and in our hearts that we desperately want to play, and we know just how far away from that music we are. Most adults come to piano because of a love of music and with specific pieces in mind to play. However many adults (esp those without prior musical experience) don't understand the steps that need to be followed, and aren't able to make the connection between a simple exercise or etude and that Beethoven sonata. This is where the teacher can play an important role, to explain the process, to help the student find joy in the simplest music, and to give the student enough to praise so that they understand they are making progress.

Candyman, you ask why everyone wants things so fast, and you mention that you've played for 30 years. Well, for an adult, it is a little more complicated than simply saying "ok, I will assume it's going to take 30 years." First of all, in 30 years I will be 66, so time is important to me. If I think there's a more time-efficient way to study piano and make progress, I want to pursue it.

Adults are not used to being beginners, we know how to drive, we may have other pasttimes that we are very accomplished at, we are likely finished with school and have been working for a number of years. We expected to be as quick and efficient at piano as we are at other things in our lives.

Another difficult factor is that most of us have to justify our piano playing in balance with all the other demands on our time and money. Does the adult have children? Can they justify money for their own piano lessons and that expensive acoustic piano if they aren't able to play at least a respectable tune at the next family gathering? And things needs to move at a fairly good clip for someone who works full time or more, and has a family to look after etc etc.

So adults are inevitably worried about how long pianistic progress take. I am sure this is frustrating for the teacher (it is as an ESL teacher) but it's important to understand what that's about and help the student to 1) accept that it takes time and 2) enjoy the process in the meantime.

Also, adult students are... well, adults. We have a lot of knowledge. And even worse, some of us have a lot of knowledge about music. I read lots of music theory books on my own, have completed many music theory workbooks, read about music history and the history of the piano, and I have in the past learned other instruments. And to make it worse, I am older than my teacher and have more work-experience as a teacher than she does (this doesn't matter since I have zero piano-teaching experience of course!) I am sure I drive her crazy when I inevitably slip into thinking I know something about the piano. Fortunately she's patient and I try to catch myself.

You also casually suggest that adults should not worry about our self-esteem and just play. I am sure you are right, but it's never that easy (I wish it was!) Adults like idiots when we can't play Mary Had a Little Lamb and some 10 year old is playing circles around us. This is just natural. Self-esteem shouldn't matter, but it does, and being aware of that, and then trying to help the student get over it, is another important role a teacher can play.

As an ESL teacher, teaching adults was very difficult at first, but it has become an extremely rewarding activity for me. I have no doubt that my experience as a piano student has changed how I approach my ESL students, and I think it has made me a lot more patient and understanding. If nothing else, I give less homework these days!

I'm sorry this has gotten so long, but obviously something about the way you said what you said really struck me. I imagine that I do many of the things that frustrate you about adult students, but somehow I managed to stick with piano practice, and I am sure that the understanding from my teacher and the approach she took to my lessons was invaluable in the early stages. Now I cannot imagine my life without piano, and even though I still can't play a lot of my "dream" pieces, there are lots of other pieces that I get great joy out of playing.

I think a lot of adult students can get to this point if they have the right kind of guidance, so with greatest respect, I hope you'll take a minute to reconsider things before you write us all off.

Cindy, sorry I hijacked your thread!
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#953490 - 02/23/05 01:21 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
princessclara2005 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/05
Posts: 429
Loc: Dallas, Texas
ShiroKuro, playing is a complicated skill, and it does take time to master it, want to be accompalished as soon as you can is simply not practical, the result for try to catch on is simply going no where, that's why most adults quit after a while once they realized how much work it is involved. The truth is that once you got older, you do learn things slower, that means in order to be good, you have to work harder, and if an adult student can't commite to that, then it's simply impossible for a teacher to make that happen. In addition, most adult students don't listen very well, they seem to have a habit of making their own plan in learning....which can be a very bad thing for them to improve.

I had several adult students in my 4 years of teaching, most of them quit, the ones that are left either doesn't listen very well, or sometimes set their goal too high....I have a mixed feeling with adult students, I appreciate their passion for music, but I also find teaching them as an un-rewarding experience.

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#953491 - 02/23/05 04:42 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
cranky woman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Quote:
1. What do adult piano students tend to do that drives you nuts? Fail to practice? Lie about failing to practice? Failing to lie about failing to practice? Something else?[/b]

Mostly failing to practice. My adult students never lie about practicing, it's futile...I can always tell when praciticing isn't up to par.

2. What do parents of piano students do that drives you nuts?[/b]

Cancelling lessons and expecting refunds or make up lessons. I don't mind the occasional make up lesson, and I have a rock solid policy letter regarding this, I just get tired of enforcing it.

3. When your student is not performing at recital, what exactly is going through your mind?[/b]

I have 4-5 recital opportunities each year. If a student is unable to attend, they'll be at the next recital. I do require at least 3 performances each year.

4. When a student decides not to continue with you, does this bother you deep down?[/b]

It depends on the situation. Usually not. Most times when a break is made, it is mutual.

5. When a student shows up and clearly hasn't practiced their assignment, does this bother you? [/b]

Again, it depends on the situation. If it happens on a consistent basis, then I replace the student. If it is an occasional bad practice week, we do ear-training or sight-reading. There are always plenty of things to do during lesson time.

6. Do you ever decline to teach potential students because you just don't get a good vibe from them or their parents?[/b]

ABSOLUTELY!!!! I'd rather have decent parents with average students, than exceptionally talented students with overbearing parents. I have turned away a few students because the parents were difficult to work with.
By the way, Cindy, GREAT questions!

Charlene
_________________________
www.tcwresources.com

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#953492 - 02/24/05 03:16 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3415
Loc: not in Japan anymore
My main point was not to defend adult learners, I acknowledge that we have lots of bad habits and problems that children don't have, my only point was that if adult learners are approached with understanding, and kindness, there is a lot of progress we can make. But ultimately, if someone doesn't enjoy teaching adults, then they should simply make it a policy not to accept adult students.

Getting back to Cindy's orignal post (sorry again!!) I'd like to add a question (actually I wondered if this was what you orignally meant to ask)

7. What do you think when your students are not doing well in a recital? What do you tell them afterwards? (for example do you try to find some area to compliment them? do you give it tnem straight, do you address things they could have or should have done, do you let it go and wait for next time etc)
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#953493 - 02/24/05 05:49 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
cranky woman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Quote:
7. What do you think when your students are not doing well in a recital? What do you tell them afterwards? (for example do you try to find some area to compliment them? do you give it tnem straight, do you address things they could have or should have done, do you let it go and wait for next time etc)[/b]
AAAHHH, well that's a different question entirely!

There are so many variables with performances. If someone is not playing well, I try to determine if it's performance anxiety or lack of preparation. It's usually quite easy to tell, actually.

I always discuss the performance with the student and begin with the positive aspects first. I then ask the student what they thought of their performance and what they could have done differently. Then..........they get it from me straight (always kindly, but not watered down). The student won't get better if the teacher tells them how wonderful they were when both know differently. Tactful honesty is always best IMHO.

Charlene
_________________________
www.tcwresources.com

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#953494 - 02/25/05 12:23 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3415
Loc: not in Japan anymore
I hope this doesn't sound hopelessly naive... How can you tell when the problem is by anxiety versus lack of preparation? Just curious! I know I personally have suffered from both at various recitals, but I always wonder which is it with other folks when they are having a difficult performance.
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#953495 - 02/25/05 04:48 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
cranky woman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
By the time a student is performing on a recital, I have heard the piece several times at lessons. If the student performs for me memorized at a lesson a week or two before the performance without serious flaws, they're probably ready to perform. If during the performance there are huge problems that have never come up in the lesson, I usually chalk it up to anxiety.

Does that make sense?
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#953496 - 02/25/05 12:35 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Candyman:

 Quote:
they have trouble accepting that playing a simple phrase of music is an accomplishment. They're looking for complexity.
Have you, uh, been spying on me or something? ;\)

Yeah, this is a real problem for the adult. The child who plays some easy piece at a recital is "adorable." The adult who plays some easy piece is . . . I don't know what. The audience is expecting an adult who sits down at a grand piano to play something great.

 Quote:
It's a good thing we have established routes for people to become doctors and they don't set their own course. Why should learning piano be any different?
You know, I never thought of it this way before.

You sure can't show up at law school and declare you won't be studying criminal law. Even with hobbies, you can't show up and claim you want to learn tennis but refuse to learn how to serve. But there I was, week after week, shirking my scales because they are so very unrewarding.

 Quote:
Why does everybody want things so fast?
Because adult beginners feel like they are making up for lost time.

Piano is unusual in that most adults who play well had training as children. This is not so for being a doctor or lawyer. It is not so for learning golf, even.

For me, I envied people who played piano for decades before I got serious about learning myself. So yeah, I want to play well *right now.*

The other thing adults face is that we're footing the bill. It feels a little self-indulgent to have someone give me weekly private lessons. I want to have something to show for that. Even after five+ years of lessons, I'm still feeling quite inadequate. There are still *so* many things I can't do well or can't do at all. You're right, we can be ridiculously impatient.

Yep, adult beginners can be real head cases, huh? \:D Pique, my teacher also praises my small accomplishments. Which is embarrassing, because they are so very small!

Thanks, everyone, for your candor and fascinating answers!
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#953497 - 02/25/05 01:05 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
From the surgeon who told me, when inquiring for lessons, that he was superbly coordinated and had wonderful control of his mechanism and turned out to be the most uncoordinated and awkward student I've possibly ever had to the enthusiastic, hard-working, and excellent students--a dentist and a psychiatrist--I think I've run the gamut of adult students. I had one call and man asked how long it would be before he could play anything he wanted--5 or 6 lessons? Fortunately, he never pursued it. I've had nurses, teachers, real estate agents, grandmothers, marines, etc. As in everything, it's dedication to achieve that counts.

As some posts indicated adults tend to think they should outshine little kids simply because they are adults. If rank beginners then most likely their musical experience is pretty much on a par with the six or seven year old and they need to adjust to the fact that they, too, begin at the beginning.

Some adults have been a joy to teach while others I would have preferred they not come to lessons. Adults are more predisposed to have ideas about their ability than children and that can be a big hindrance in their progress.

The stories abound, I'm sure, of successes and failures with adults. Such is life I think.

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#953498 - 02/25/05 01:22 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Varcon:

 Quote:
Adults are more predisposed to have ideas about their ability than children and that can be a big hindrance in their progress.
How so, Varcon? I had expectations, but sitting on the bench quickly disabused me of the idea that I had ability compared to kids just because of my age and life experience.

Also, teachers, when an adult calls you and wants lessons, do you do anything to check them out to make sure they're serious? If they think it will be a breeze, do you just let them start lessons and find out otherwise?

What do you do if they balk at scales or exercises or something else you want them to do but they don't want to do?

And, just for fun, how many adults have told you that they think learning piano will be easy because they are good typists? Or was it just me? \:D
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#953499 - 02/25/05 01:31 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
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Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Cindy,
Since you were disabused of your expectations you survived. Others do not necessarily relent so quickly. As to 'interviews' and seriousness of purpose, yes, I do ask them what background they have, if they have practice facilities, if they have a regular time they can devote to practice, etc. If, when explaining the requirements for success, they seem to become disillusioned, then I probably won't hear from them again. Some have started lessons but, finding that it is work, don't persist.

If they balk at scales and necessary technical preparation, then I first suggest they re-think their desire to play. Some do--some don't.

I'm really amazed that many do think they have the foundation for playing the piano simply because they can type. From my point of view--and I can do both--I see little relation between the two other than it calls for finger facility. To answer your question--quite a few feel that typing is an entrance to piano playing.

Unfortunately, Cindy, I didn't keep count! \:\(

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#953500 - 02/25/05 03:13 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
OK, Varcon. I'm going to screw up my nerve to ask another question.

I understand that piano teachers get annoyed when students don't practice. Why, though? If the student is willing to cut the checks to make pitiful progress due to lack of practice, why is this so bothersome?
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#953501 - 02/25/05 04:02 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
cranky woman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I think it's a matter of feeling like our time could be better spent with someone who has practiced.

There's a lot more for me in teaching than the $. If a student continuously doesn't practice, I always suggest they go elsewhere. (occasionally missing practice is expected)
I'd rather spend my time with someone who is progressing than just gathering a paycheck \:D
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#953502 - 02/25/05 04:07 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Cindy:

Why? If it's chronic then the teacher is naturally disappointed as little or no progress is being made and that is the object of the lessons. It makes the lesson more difficult as the assigned materials are not practised and thus gauging progress cannot be done, new material likely to be put aside--lots of reasons I guess. The lesson itself might be more of a practice session-guided but a practice session--and the teacher would rather see something accomplished for the week between lessons.

At least that is my perspective on your question. I think you must be a more dedicated and sincere student in your efforts so I doubt that you miss too many lessons and practise somewhat consistently. Am I right?

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#953503 - 02/25/05 04:18 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Oh--and Cindy, you don't need to 'screw up' your nerve to ask a question. If you don't ask you won't know. We all have and will ask 'dumb' questions so laugh and move on. Most questions are intelligent and deserve a proper answer. Ask on Piano World and you can get a flurry of answers and many conflicting ones. That's to be expected as training and experiences are different. So, if you wish to ask me a question directly I'll try to answer as honestly and in as straightforward a manner as I can.

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#953504 - 02/25/05 06:07 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Varcon, it's the avatar that scares me! \:D
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#953505 - 02/25/05 07:24 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
My piano teacher told me about an adult student he taught. She was the type who took great pride in her long, impeccably manicured fingernails... you know, jewels and the whole bit.

He told her after the first lesson, "If you're not willing to cut your fingernails, I can't teach you. I don't know how to teach you how to play correctly when you have fingernails that are that long."

She went home, mulled it over and called him back to cancel her lessons! (At least she knew where her priorities lay.)

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#953506 - 02/25/05 07:47 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
seebechstein Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/04
Posts: 1085
Loc: houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by Varcon:
I'm really amazed that many do think they have the foundation for playing the piano simply because they can type. From my point of view--and I can do both--I see little relation between the two other than it calls for finger facility. To answer your question--quite a few feel that typing is an entrance to piano playing.[/b]
I wouldn't be surprised if they did that brain-mapping scan and determined that totally different parts of the brain are involved in each. They don't seem at all similar to me.

Sometimes I wonder what non-piano playing adults think of any ability I may have. I'm guessing they think it's novel but of little if any use. They certainly don't appreciate the time that was necessary to invest. If you're studying to impress people, it's a losing proposition. They're not worth impressing, anyway.

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#953507 - 02/26/05 12:17 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3415
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Cindy, coming from the perspective of an ESL teacher, teaching a student (esp in a private lesson) who hasn't done their homework is awful! The lesson can become a one-way street. And since my adult lessons tend to be in the evenings, when I have had an adult student who never prepares for class, I find that I get very very sleepy during those lessons. I hate it more than anything and would rather not have the money I get for that sleepy hour. I am sure it's much the same for a piano teacher.
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#953508 - 02/26/05 03:39 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Cindy:

Don't let the avatar 'frighten' you. My favorite breed of dog is the bulldog and the only one I consider when getting a new pet. Faust, my last one, died in July so I'm petless right now. I always take some time in between before getting another. Bulldogs are called the 'gorgeous sourmug' so they look fierce but are one of the most pleasant and agreeable in personality and demeanor--smart too! That's why it's my avatar--not to keep anyone from responding! \:\) Have a great day!

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#953509 - 02/26/05 03:43 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Oh--and I realize your response was 'tongue-in-cheek!' \:\)

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#953510 - 02/26/05 01:43 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
princessclara2005 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/05
Posts: 429
Loc: Dallas, Texas
Cindy,

I think teacher get frustrated when there is no progess made due to lack of practice, that is because we have a heart for the student....becasue we care about them not be able to improve....if we don't care, the we won't get frustrated as long as we get paid....if you have experienced 'no big deal' about not practicing, then you may want to re-consider if the teacher is really serious about teaching.

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#953511 - 02/26/05 02:11 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Varcon, Sorry to hear about Faust. Great name for a bulldog, too.
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#953512 - 02/26/05 07:12 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Yes, I conducted a 'name seach' at school with a small prize for the best name that I chose. Unfortunately there were no original names so I just chose 'Faust' and it worked. BTW, my ID is the name of another of my bulldogs and the name of an angel--which he definitely was. I did stray a bit and had a Boxer which I named Nisus. He was a bit more belligerent in nature but a wonderful dog. I don't like the usual, Rex, Rover, Spot, etc., as you can tell.

Ralph

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#953513 - 02/27/05 07:01 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
K.Penn Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/27/05
Posts: 2
Loc: Michigan
Adult students-
what bugs me is they think they know more than the teacher they hired and 9 times out of 10 don't come prepared for lessons by practicing OR by not doing it the way they are asked to. This surprises me since adults are choosing to do this most of the time and you would think they would put more into it than they do. This is probably why I won't take adults as students anymore.

Students parents- what bugs me here is they get in your face and question every little policy and try to get you to "change it" to accomodate them. I get sick of defending myself to parents about fees and policies in regard to lessons. Since I explain all these at the phone interview and then give it to them in writing it just pushes my buttons when they come back saying "I did'nt know that" or "you never said" when I know I did.

Students at recital- when they fumble through its either anxiety or lack of practice. unfortunately we as the teachers I think get judged harder than the student's poor performance because we taught them. no one thinks "boy they messed up because they did'nt practice" they think "boy, this teacher did'nt prepare them properly". Unfair but true. That is my peeve there.

When a student does not continue- if they are'nt enjoying it or don't want the lessons I'd rather that they quit and do what they like. students who get pushed into lessons by parents who want them to play when the student does'nt its a losing battle on all sides. I'd rather fill my time up with students who do want to be there because it puts my knowledge and skills as a teacher to better use than on someone who does'nt. Keeping a student who does'nt just because a teacher wants the money or because they have a certain quota of students in their studio are keeping students who want to take lessons from taking when they keep "dead wood" on the schedule.

When students don't practice yes it bugs me. I have a sign above my piano in clear sight that reads "if you don't practice don't expect me to want to listen". I explain to students that this holds true not just for lessons but for performances especially. It may not be easy learning some things at first, but the only way hard things get to be easy things is through practice. An occassional bad week of practice is expected from students, but when it gets to be consistent every week they need to refocus their routine to fix what is wrong OR consider if they really want to continue lessons or not.

Do I (have I) ever declined a student because of parents- YES. Parents who are going to undermine the system or be a continual problem are'nt worth putting up with, even if the student is exceptionaly talented or studious at learning.
I've bounced students before because I can't work with the parents without them undermining me or causing problems. Some of them have been gifted kids who are exceptionally good. When I mail the records to the new teacher they end up with I let them know that "parents are difficult to work with" or "parents undermine the teacher" so they know what they are getting into. I don't elaborate unless they contact me to ask for details.

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#953514 - 02/28/05 02:10 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3159
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by princessclara2005:
Cindy,

I think teacher get frustrated when there is no progess made due to lack of practice, that is because we have a heart for the student....[/b]
I think this is a good point but does not go far enough.

Even the adults who do practice generally do not make as fast progress as the better children do, certainly not with the same amount of practice time. I practice roughly four times as much as my daughter, and far more efficiently. But she's learning faster.

An even more important problem for the teacher of adults is to somehow accept that most of them will never become really accomplished. The Mozarts in the bunch were already snatched by other teachers when they were 5. If you're dealing with a population of 40 year olds, the chances of an undiscovered Horowitz are really small. The learning process may be tremendously enriching for the adult - but the teacher is likely to hear technical proficiency emerge from only a small fraction of the adults. I think that's really the unconscious disappointment for the teacher. Teachers would like to succeed, and they can with children; adults, like Bob Newhart's patients, tend to never get good. (with rare exceptions) And yet, they are willing to pay their own money, not to get good but to get better.
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#953515 - 02/28/05 06:06 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Another question:

I assume some students are more enjoyable to teach than others. What is it that makes a student a joy to teach? Is the student who can tackle huge, complex pieces more fun to teach than one who is a beginner or early intermediate?

One more question, this time posed in my role as piano parent:

For those of you with lots of beginning students, I would imagine it would be difficult to hear those beginning pieces and exercises again and again and again. How do you keep it interesting?
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#953516 - 02/28/05 06:57 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
To me, teaching a beginner is just about as challenging as teaching an advanced student. I look at the material the beginner is working is as difficult for them as an advanced piece for someone already accomplished. They're beginning to assimilate the information and technique while the other has pretty much done that so I can't quite say it's the same.

The 'joy' comes from seeing them progress and understanding what is happening and nurturing their development. Those that respond to the music and work to get something done are the ones that create that 'joy' while the ones that are sluggards are the ones I would hope would quit.

If they improve and progress, then all-beginner, intermediate and advanced- are enjoyable to teach--at least to me.

Your second question--how to stay interested in beginners and hearing the same thing so often--is a good one too. Some avoid the exact repetition by using different courses with students but some use the same books for everyone. I think, for me, it isn't the pieces so much as the response from the student and how quickly they solve that problem. It might be comparable to a teacher of math--they have to hear the endless recitation of tables sometimes or continually work with addition/subtraction, etc. Each year they cover essentially the same material. Certain innovations can help but the basic material still has to be done so that a firm and solid foundation is built. Um . . .Patience is one thing that develops! \:\) Just my 'two-cents' worth.

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#953517 - 03/01/05 04:00 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
TimR Online   content
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3159
Loc: Virginia, USA
Just out of curiosity, how many of you have succeeded in getting adult beginners to a level of technical proficiency?
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#953518 - 03/02/05 08:41 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Hi Varcon

Is it common for a teacher to allow a student to work without giving out specific assignments? I have been studying a little over a year with 2 different teachers and have never been given an assignment by either past my 2nd lesson. I do work on numerous pieces and am self motivated however it seems that a teacher would assign pieces that would be appropriate for learning/developing specific skills. I would love it just once if my teacher said to me "Will, I have this piece that I thought you might like. I want you to work on measures 1-12 for next week.
This piece might help you a bit with your dynamic expression which you seem to be struggling with Is it a normal course of action for a teacher to let their adult students do what they like?

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#953519 - 03/02/05 09:11 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Vintagefingers!

Yes, it is most common for the teacher to select pieces, etudes, etc., to guide the student toward technical improvement, touch gradations, styles, etc. I can't imagine a teacher not assigning pieces that have a purpose to challenge the student in new areas. And you have two that do not? That's interesting. Now some students ask about pieces they like or have heard and are interested in working on. Depending on a number of factors--difficulty among them--then it's nice that the student has some choices and the teacher guides intelligently. The reason a student takes lessons is to be guided I think--not to choose his pieces at random whether ready for them or not. I don't know what your situation is but I would suggest you find a teacher who has a plan for you based on an interview and an assessment of your ability. My teachers said, more or less, 'Do this!' and I did. They were far wiser than I so why not?

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#953520 - 03/02/05 09:19 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
What does your teacher do with you, VintageFingers?
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#953521 - 03/02/05 02:37 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Varcon not to be misleading which could have been assumed by the above post, I am not working completely at random. He has given me 2 different books since completing the Bastien Method books about a month after starting with him (July). I'm currently working on "Succeeding with the Masters" edited by Helen Marsalis. Mostly German dances and miniatures by Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven. I work on them during the week come to class and play what I choose. No specific assignment of what pieces to play or what to work on other than what is pointed out during class.

I generally work on 4 to 5 pieces at a time and continue polishing up the completed ones. Is this the way its suppose to work? Dont you assign specific pieces with specific goals in mind? Yes, he does critique my technique and is always offering tips and advice during the lesson but there is no specific assignment or stated goal from one week to the next, which is a bit perplexing to me. He has indicated that I am his most motivated adult student and my progress is excellent but it still says nothing about a specific direction that I was hoping for when I started with him.

Im beginning to wonder if it has something to do with the dynamics of our relationship. He is a very astute and knowledgeable man, much more so than my last teacher but still something seems to be missing. He has 75 private students and I am his last student on Friday night. We usually run over 15 minutes generally discussing music, recordings and other mutual interest things. He seems a bit reluctant to criticize and is a bit on the shy side. I've hinted to him that I would like more criticism but he replied with acknowledgement of achievement is as valuable as criticism or words to that effect.

Maybe this is good policy for teaching children but Ive always been motivated more by being challenged a bit beyond what I am capable of at a given time. I dont want to give the impression I dont like him or we dont get along, this is not at all the case. I do wonder if maybe he has too many students. I left my first teacher for many of these reasons but with her I got nada constructive criticism after 6 months, it was always "you're doing great".

Well Cindy, I generally start my lesson by running through several scales and chords; open to the music I'm working on and start playing whatever I want, strange eh? How I yearn for him to ask me to work on a specific piece with a specific goal in mind. He doesnt take notes, so far as I can tell, so I expect he probably doesnt remember from one week to the next with as many students as he has. My practice time has fallen off a bit but I expect this has more to do with that pingey sounding Kimball console than anything else

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#953522 - 03/02/05 04:55 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I don't know your teacher, of course, but I can in one way relate to your situation. I was in school in Chicago with an artist teacher, very famous at the time, who went all over the country giving workshops so he was away from school frequently and, when he returned for a few days, I had maybe two lessons today, two tomorrow and one the next day to make up for the lessons missed. At the lesson he was going through his mail while I played, said, 'What's next?' and continued with his mail. At the end of the lesson period he would go to his music file, pull out something and say, 'Have this next time.' I think, out of the time I was with him, he actually said something about the music/playing twice. I switched teachers and quit school.

On the other hand, my other teachers would stop me, correct me, demonstrate, etc. And they made specific assignments too. When in Vienna I would hear, 'NICHT, NICHT!!! Das ist nicht richtige!'

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#953523 - 03/03/05 11:58 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
VintageFingers:

 Quote:
He seems a bit reluctant to criticize and is a bit on the shy side. I've hinted to him that I would like more criticism but he replied with acknowledgement of achievement is as valuable as criticism or words to that effect.
AND

 Quote:
I left my first teacher for many of these reasons but with her I got nada constructive criticism after 6 months, it was always "you're doing great".
A-HA! You know what I think is going on?

I think the prevailing wisdom on How To Teach Adult Recreational Students is not to criticize. I really do. I've heard other people say that they have to drag constructive criticism out of their teachers. I remember that in the early going it was awfully hard to get specific criticisms regarding technique.

Teachers, what say ye? Is that how you tend to handle adults -- less constructive criticism than you might give to a younger student? Is there a feeling that adults are easily discouraged, so hitting them with too much too soon is counterproductive?

Or am I all wet?
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#953524 - 03/05/05 12:38 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
princessclara2005 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/05
Posts: 429
Loc: Dallas, Texas
TimR...

well, I think the reason that adult doesn't progress as quickly is because how they practice, in addition to their ability. Lots of them are seeking fast result, they are not patient enough to deal with all the details when comes in learning. The impression in instrument playing for someone who is new to music appears to be very pleasant and easy, if they have that in mind, they are looking for fast improvement which lead to sloppy practices, which they will fail to have good result and improve.

teacher can shut their ears if they are not so serious about teaching, the reason that we care about lack of progress is that we are seriouse.

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#953525 - 03/05/05 12:50 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
princessclara2005 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/05
Posts: 429
Loc: Dallas, Texas
Cindy

it's more fun to teach a student it he or she is active in thinking, in other words, if there is an interaction between the teacher and the student, it's very boring if it's only one way, like the teacher always give out information, and the student on the other hand, is not really aborbing, then it's pretty painful to go through the same thing over and over again.

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#953526 - 03/06/05 09:51 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
ljohnson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/04/05
Posts: 17
Loc: USA
1. I think Candyman expressed my feelings pretty well on this one. I have found that, more times than not, adult beginners complicate everything. They need to be handled with great care, which is distracting and draining to me as a teacher. A clear syllabus must be insisted upon in the beginning if we are going to get anywhere. Piano lessons are not Karoke nights out! Adults (and children!) need to check the attitude and the ego at the door and just LISTEN. If not, I cannot give them my best teaching
and they are paying me to put up with irrelevant nonsense.

2. Parents must learn to observe and listen at the lesson, not play teacher. I certainly agree that they need to be firm about behavior, but not overreact to the normal ups and downs of learning.
I find it hard to tolerate parents who question my studio policies and try to write them for themselves as they go!

3. One part of me thinks that it is OK for a person with anxiety issues not to perform, and another part of me thinks that they are ungrateful for the opportunity that teachers create for them.

4. As a professional, I handle these matters (which rarely occur) in a manner that does not display my emotions. Transfers must be handled professionally be the current teacher and the new teacher. It happens from time to time.

5. Yes!

6. Absolutely. In interviewing a potential student, I have a clear checklist of requirements.
I have found, and I field a lot of calls, that those who display impertinance, make negative comments ("We don't want to invest in a piano, etc.", " I don't think this is going to work" "We don't have time to practice everyday!" (as if this were a betrayal by the teacher to dare suggest these things. ) and just general overbearance,
will be troublemakers. These situations put the teacher in the position for compensating for the parents (or student's) lack of effort, which can easily lead to teacher abuse or burn-out from these types.
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#953527 - 03/16/05 01:06 PM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
1. What do adult piano students tend to do that drives you nuts? Fail to practice? Lie about failing to practice? Failing to lie about failing to practice? Something else?

Inconsistent lessons. Wanting to take lessons at times I reserve for school-age students.

2. What do parents of piano students do that drives you nuts?

Wanting to pay for lessons weekly versus monthly. Parents who want their child to take lessons less often than once a week. (Which I only allow for disciplined intermediate and advanced students who are high school aged or older) Piano students: wanting to use a keyboard for piano lessons. (I can live with a touch-sensitive one for the first 3 months or so of lessons, but after that, a real piano is a necessity). Parents who give me lame excuses for not using a real piano. (How about not having the room for one, when I have students and parents with living rooms half the size who managed to fit one easily?) Clarinet students: wanting to use a school-owned versus a privately-owned/rented instrument. Parents who treat private lessons merely as a means of getting a good start or remedial, as opposed to a long-term commitment. (Only once an issue with a piano student, but its happened 3 or 4 times with clarinet students). Parents who try to dictate what I should be teaching the students, like those who tell me not to do ear training or theory, or who tell me to be strict. Parents who try to negotiate lessons fees, simply to get a good deal. People who take advantage of the teacher. Parents with unreasonable or unrealistic expectations. (I used to teach a clarinet student whose mom wanted her to have her ARCT in piano by the time she finished grade 8 in school! The girl hated piano, too) Parents and/or students who dont read your lesson details, and then fight with you about how they didnt know.

3. When your student is not performing at recital, what exactly is going through your mind?

I don't do recitals yet.

4. When a student decides not to continue with you, does this bother you deep down?

It depends on the reason. If the student is clearly not interested, it doesn't bother me. But if it's a good student with parents who are irresponsible about their child's musical education, it does bother me a little bit.

5. When a student shows up and clearly hasn't practiced their assignment, does this bother you?

No, especially if it's due to illness. Since it only happens occasionally with most students, we do a bit of refresher work on the pieces, and do some theory or listening.

6. Do you ever decline to teach potential students because you just don't get a good vibe from them or their parents?

Yes, especially now that I have the luxury of doing that. I believe in keeping bad karma out, especially since I got rid of my first awful (high school age) student almost a year ago. (now it's really easy!)Now I have a bunch of really good students and parents.

Meri
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#953528 - 03/31/05 07:47 AM Re: What do piano teachers really think?
Teng, M Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/30/05
Posts: 13
Loc: Singapore
1. Finding excuses.

2. Trying to dictate my time table, and almost certainly ends up in a power struggle with me.

3. We've gone through this soooo many times. U've failed me, and I, your parents.

4. No, never. Either u take it or leave it.

5. Yes, pretty much. Esp if this unhealthy 'one way traffic' has been persisting for weeks.

6. Nope. U pay me, and I'll work. Money makes the mare goes round. I can't eat and drink nor survive on people's 'vibes' alone.
And anyway I've taught ADHD, defiant oppressive and behaviourial castastrophe kids. How much more of a brat can your little one be than my previous 'record' holders?
\:\)

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