How to set the check points?

Posted by: The Monkeys

How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 01:02 AM

First Happy New Year everyone!

During the holiday season, I have been catching up with many old friends. In a couple of days, I heard 2 horror stories that how their kids had to undo the damage/bad habits after a few years of piano study, one said the teacher went as far as saying that he thought it was possibly better that the kid never learned piano.

Is seeking a second opinion, say every year or so, a practical thing to do? If you are the teacher, would you feel offended if you find out your student's family does this? Would you offer evaluation sessions?

Any other practical, effective way to make sure a student, slow or fast, is on the right direction and not accumulating bad habits?
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 03:47 AM

That's one reason my students enter exams and festivals. Those are very good ways of getting honest evaluations.
Posted by: musicpassion

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 06:15 AM

Examinations, workshops, and masterclasses fulfill this need. I make these opportunities available for my students and often require them.

It helps me as a teacher make sure I'm on track with each of my students and assure their continued progress. Students might not always have their pieces perfect by exam time (sigh... the realities of the real world), but when the comments come back from the evaluater and they're the same as the notes I already made in their lesson plans, it helps me and the student/parent know we're on track. (By the way, they certainly can pass their literature section of the exam before they have the piece at the level I consider mastered).

One other resource I use is auditions before judges, or participation in an adjudicated event.

Yes I would be offended if a student/parent found another teacher on their own to seek an "evaluation" session. No, I wouldn't and couldn't offer such a thing to a student outside my studio - it could create professional problems with other teachers. Of course it's different if the teacher arranges it.

Track the student's progress through an examination procedure. If the teacher doesn't offer anything, then you'd have to consider how big a priority this is for you.
Posted by: keystring

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 06:34 AM

As a student I want to learn how to practice, how to approach pieces, and how to analyze them on my own which can start with simple things even while at a basic level (and would want the same for my child). This won't show up in an exam. The exams that I know (RCM) check sight reading, but festivals don't. I also understand that it is important to have experience playing lots of pieces: the current "40 pieces a year" movement comes to mind. But exams might induce people to do only 3 or 4 pieces a year, which are polished to the hilt in order to get high grades. In short, I don't think that exams alone are the answer.

Might I suggest that it begins by the parent having the right priorities and communicating these to a prospective teacher? Those priorities would be along the lines of wanting the child to get solid and well rounded skills in piano, and the knowledge in music that is needed. There are teachers who are pressured by parents who want their kids to do exams as fast as possible and achieve high grades, and the teachers are prevented from teaching as they know would be best. If these priorities are in place then you'll have a teacher who is working toward them, and you're in sync with that teacher.
Posted by: The Monkeys

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 03:12 PM

Not sure what is a "right" priority. The one I have in mind is to develop the interest, knowledge and skills in music that enable advancement at reasonable pace.

From the stories I heard, both teachers actually have impressive back ground and qualification. The kids all started very young and stayed with the same teachers for 3-5 years.
Then something happened they have to change teachers, when they turn to other teachers, the new teachers were surprised by the fingering etc, to put it lightly. One teacher said there is no way to reach higher level without fixing the problems first. Then they see another teacher, were told the same thing.

I am all for trusted, long term relationship with a teacher, but these stories made me thinking: how to make sure the student grow healthily in a closed circle without external feedback? Should I just trust a teacher for years without doing any reality check?

I told our teacher that current goal is to develop interest and skills in music for life enrichment. My son is doing 2-3 pieces a week, and have done tons of Christmas songs in the past month and half, which was such a joy for the family. So he is on the 40+ a year approach. The teacher is very young, but also teaches RCM level 10 students. She is a very good pianist but again, a very young teacher, we like her but I have no sufficient knowledge myself to tell if there is bad habit developing.

I am a bit hesitated to ask the teacher to put him on the exam track because the horror stories about the exams.

Are exam track and non-exam track mutually exclusive? Is there a balanced approach?

Am I an over-involved parent?
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 03:36 PM

Quote:
how to make sure the student grow healthily in a closed circle without external feedback? Should I just trust a teacher for years without doing any reality check?


I am a teacher, although I hope my parents would trust me in teaching, I still recommend them to have external feedback.
External feedback can be done with exams, festival, competition, master class, workshop etc.
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 03:38 PM

Quote:
I am a bit hesitated to ask the teacher to put him on the exam track because the horror stories about the exams.


The exams itself is not horrible. It would be horrible when teacher/ student/ parents are not in the same page about which level to take. It would be horrible when teacher and student cannot balance the elements in exam plus learning other pieces at the side.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 05:31 PM

RE: fingering

In my experience, this is a make-or-break issue, and it often has nothing to do with the teacher! The teacher could write out every single finger number on top of every single note, but if the student is lazy and "independent minded," then no amount of written-out fingering will cure the problem.
Posted by: malkin

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 07:00 PM

AZN, I am not sure what you mean. Do you mean that students do not attend to recommended fingerings or they do not learn and use fingerings consistently because of laziness or did you mean something else entirely?

As a student, I know I have issues with fingering and consistency that go beyond 'written-out fingering.'
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 07:14 PM

Originally Posted By: malkin
AZN, I am not sure what you mean. Do you mean that students do not attend to recommended fingerings or they do not learn and use fingerings consistently because of laziness or did you mean something else entirely?

As a student, I know I have issues with fingering and consistency that go beyond 'written-out fingering.'

All of the above.

If you have issues with fingering (i.e., figuring out which fingers to use) then your teacher should help you in that regard. I'm talking about students who--even with all the fingerings written out--still opt to use their own "creative" fingering, most of which makes absolutely no sense.
Posted by: keystring

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 07:46 PM

Originally Posted By: The Monkeys
Not sure what is a "right" priority.

I defined them in my post.
Quote:
Those priorities would be along the lines of wanting the child to get solid and well rounded skills in piano, and the knowledge in music that is needed.

Originally Posted By: The Monkeys

I told our teacher that current goal is to develop interest and skills in music for life enrichment.

That sounds good. You did not tell your teacher that you want your child to pass lots of exams super fast, or that kind of nonsense. You might want to check the teacher's priorities; you'll probably find they are along the right lines, especially from what you describe. Is your son doing well, enjoying his lessons, not struggling, communicating well with the teacher?
Posted by: The Monkeys

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 08:23 PM

Originally Posted By: The Monkeys
Not sure what is a "right" priority.

I mean I didn't think there is a universally right priority, we all have to continually adjust it at different time of our life and at different hour of our days.

Originally Posted By: keystring

Is your son doing well, enjoying his lessons, not struggling, communicating well with the teacher?


He is looking forward for his lessons each week, eager to show his pieces to the teacher. Occasionally he come to the piano to play but most of the time needs reminder to practice. At age 8, not sure how should I expect him to communicate with teachers, he follows instructions as he understands, that's about it.

He is enjoying it, but I assume he still can build up bad habits while having good time, thus the initial question. Both of the kids in the horror story had good time with their respective teacher, than hit the wall.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 08:29 PM

Does he have opportunities to play in public (church, school, etc)?

I don't start my students with exams. I start them in friendly festivals where judges write comments and give them a rating. Most students earn medals. Eventually, if they and their parents are interested, they enter more comprehensive exams which include theory, technique, sight reading, ear training, history and repertoire.

Taking him to other teachers can throw his private teacher for a loop. It says you don't trust her. Instead, talk to her about these other opportunities.
Posted by: The Monkeys

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 08:30 PM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
RE: fingering

In my experience, this is a make-or-break issue, and it often has nothing to do with the teacher! The teacher could write out every single finger number on top of every single note, but if the student is lazy and "independent minded," then no amount of written-out fingering will cure the problem.


As a make-or-break issue, would a "good" teacher observe the bad habit and prevent it from accumulating? When the student is at a young age (like 8-10), would a "good" teacher alert/communicate with the parents?
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 08:34 PM

I can't speak for others, but I try to stay in regular contact with my students' parents, especially if I see an issue developing. Good communication is always necessary.

Your son is at an age where habits are forming, so establishing good ones is important. Teachers have different priorities, however, and just because he or she might seem to be ignoring something right now, doesn't mean it will always be so. There may be another priority deemed more important.

But you won't know that unless you ask.
Posted by: The Monkeys

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 11:46 PM

Many thanks Minniemay!

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I start them in friendly festivals where judges write comments and give them a rating. Most students earn medals.


Sound good, I should discuss with the teacher about this when I have an opportunity.

Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Taking him to other teachers can throw his private teacher for a loop. It says you don't trust her. Instead, talk to her about these other opportunities.


I agree that this is a bad idea that may jeopardize the relationship with the teacher, which is the last thing I wanted to do.

However in most festival or exams that I know of, the judges spend a few minutes to comment on a few minutes of well practiced piece by a student. A lot of problems could be overlooked. Also, it is generally a one way communication.

I was hoping to have a longer (an hour), more relaxing and detailed evaluation on the student's progress with some two way communications.

Workshop sounds interesting, how does it work? Where do I look for them?

Once again, thanks Minniemay for the insightful posts, and also KeyString, AZPiano, ezpiano, musicpassion and everyone for the help.
Posted by: The Monkeys

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 11:51 PM

Originally Posted By: The Monkeys
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
RE: fingering

In my experience, this is a make-or-break issue, and it often has nothing to do with the teacher! The teacher could write out every single finger number on top of every single note, but if the student is lazy and "independent minded," then no amount of written-out fingering will cure the problem.


As a make-or-break issue, would a "good" teacher observe the bad habit and prevent it from accumulating? When the student is at a young age (like 8-10), would a "good" teacher alert/communicate with the parents?



AZPiano, don't get me wrong, what I had is an honest question, I wasn't challenging you. In fact I really enjoy your posts, brutally honest sometimes, but really insightful. And colorful.

Cheers
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/01/13 11:54 PM

He's only 8. I'd relax a bit if I were you. He's a bit young for workshops. Most start at the middle school/jr high level.

Have you had a chance to hear other students of this teacher? Are they in exams/festivals/competitions? If so, how do they do?

What is the turnover rate in the studio? Are students staying or moving to other teachers? Does the teacher have a broad spectrum of students or just primarily beginners?

The answers to those questions should tell you more what you need to know.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: How to set the check points? - 01/02/13 01:31 AM

Originally Posted By: The Monkeys
As a make-or-break issue, would a "good" teacher observe the bad habit and prevent it from accumulating? When the student is at a young age (like 8-10), would a "good" teacher alert/communicate with the parents?

Besides poor note-reading skills, poor fingering habit is another one of those common problems among transfer students. But I stop short of blaming the previous teacher, because I've seen my own students (the ones who started lessons with me) struggle with this issue, and if you know me, you'll know how I hammer home this fingering issue from day one. I don't let bad fingering habits develop, but they develop, anyway. What is it they say about you can lead a horse to water?

Some kids are just plain LAZY. They think it's good enough to get the notes right. Fingering? They just use whatever is convenient. Or, for those who are stuck in C position, they'll use R.H. 4 for F and L.H. 5 for C, no matter how awkward or jumpy it gets. They don't get that fingering is contextual, and if you give them an urtext edition (without fingering) and tell them to write out all the finger numbers, they'd be clueless.

The students who conscientiously follow the finger numbers usually turn out to be the best players, as they don't stumble across runs or "run out of fingers" when playing Bach. I do have three pretty good students who somehow got by without being conscientious about their fingering. For one of them, I just pick stuff with lots of octaves and chords, because he can't play Mozart.