Infuriating students

Posted by: Fordsnack

Infuriating students - 03/06/13 08:38 PM

I'm sure we all have them...

One of mine much to my annoyance insists on coming every week without any books with minimal practice and little desire to make any effort. I have a feeling she only comes so she can skive out of her school lessons for half an hour each week...

I find my self becoming more and more tense each time I teach her. I am not so good at being authoritarian so instead I just suffer my frustration in silence...

She tells me she wants to learn, but despite my efforts to try and make lessons more fun I get nothing. I am wondering if I should call her parents and tell them to save there money.

Anyone got any tips for how to get a student like this motivated?
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Infuriating students - 03/06/13 08:48 PM

How old is she? And how long has she been your pupil?

You could invite her into this learning process, by having a lesson that is pure discussion. What would she like to do with her music? How can you help her do it? What is realistic to achieve this season? What do her parents hope for her to achieve with these lessons? Blah, blah.

Might not work, but if she is over the age of 11-12 it might.

Conversely, there's a tough-love approach: explain to her that from now on, she cannot enter your studio without her materials and a written practice chart for the past week.

You could also offer her the option of taking a break from lessons, or of quitting outright, if you don't care about the lost income.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Infuriating students - 03/06/13 09:22 PM

You definitely need her parents to get involved here. Speak with them, either during her lesson or call them at another time. Talk with them as though you are concerned, that you don't want to waste their money, and that in order for her to get the most out of lessons (and to stay in your studio) she needs to come prepared. That means 1) All the books that you are currently working out of and 2) having practiced for at least x numbers of days for x minutes each time. You need them to be a part of this three-way partnership.

Of course, this girl needs to get on board. Ask her to agree to the above terms so that she can continue and actually learn how to play piano well. Ask her if she is willing to take a leap of faith with you for a period of a month (or whatever time you think will work), and do ask you ask for this time. If it doesn't work, then she can blame you, but if she doesn't do the work, then it's her fault for not being able to play. This sounds simple, but sometimes kids are afraid to try because they are afraid to fail. If you alleviate the stress of success/failure by taking the blame as long as they follow your directions, then that gives them the impetus they need to get started.
Posted by: Polyphonist

Re: Infuriating students - 03/06/13 10:37 PM

I agree that the parents should be notified immediately. The parent can often provide a motivation for their child to do the work, or get involved in some way, which often magically leads to an improvement. Parental involvement is invaluable for a student to progress.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Infuriating students - 03/06/13 11:53 PM

Depending on the age of this girl, I might part ways with Morodiene and Polyphonist.

If she is a teenager, she would likely appreciate your *not* getting her folks involved. You could try to negotiate with her first.
Posted by: theJourney

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 12:49 AM

When kids are motivated they are capable of achieving just about anything.
Until you find out what really motivates her and can tap into this, you will be going nowhere fast, even if (or especially if) you get her parents to spank her into submission.

What kind of music does she like?
How did she decide to take piano lessons?
What other (musical) activities does she love?
Are there piano pieces she listens to or looks up to?
Are there friends or family playing she wants to keep up with or impress?
...

Sometimes people just don't know how to practice and not bringing the books is just a defense mechanism to avoid the pain by trying to avoid having to show how poorly they did during the week. Presumably you have her music as well, at least one of the pieces. Use your time together with a smile to go through the home study process with her. She will have at least practiced once this week and because you are there she will have practiced once correctly too! Do hands apart practice where you play the other hand getting a musical result sooner, etc. Progress can be made at this tempo and the concrete achievement it will bring may be just the ticket to kick start her home study and build her motivation.

Rather than insisting that all students be like your internalized image of how all students should be, why not recognize reality and flex your approach to meet specific needs and specific situations? There is almost certainly a motivated student in there somewhere, as a creative teacher you have to figure out how to find her and let her blossom.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 01:51 AM

You should let the parents know that she's not doing well...

Then you should just sit back and relax your time with her: Tell her jokes, train with her, play games, exchange twits and so on... :P If there's nothing else you can do with her, just have some fun and enjoy your free time with her!

On a more serious note: At some point we do need to realize that we are humans and after doing whatever's possible to motivate a student it still many not be enough. We need to accept that it's not our fault and we need to... just carry on...
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 04:33 AM

I'm guessing from what you said about skiving lessons that you are teaching within a school?

I teach in a school as well as my own private home studio. The school students are the most difficult to work with, mainly because I have little or no contact with the parents. Most take lessons at school for convenience or because they are just too busy out of school hours to go to lessons. Unfortunately this often means they take it far less seriously. The turnover of students is much more frequent as they hop from one instrument to another, often making very little progress on any of them. You get the impression that many of them learn an instrument because it's the thing to do rather than because they want to.

Do you have a line manager like a head of department or director of music?

If so you should definitely speak to them about it. Where I work contacting parents is something that has to be done through the proper channels. I guess it's just in case I say something to upset them haha! We do have a notebook system which works for the ones who can be bothered to read it. Every week I write up lesson assignments and can leave comments for parents. In turn they fill in the practice schedule and can comment back. Of course there are those who never read it because the book stays in the bag all week. These are the ones who regularly turn up having left materials at home because they rushed out and who rarely practice because they have no time. I'm talking about kids aged 5-11 here, might be different with older ones but my school only goes up to year 6.
Posted by: btb

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 05:10 AM

The UK chappie sounds defenceless ... knowing that the student is not making the effort and not being prepared to put a foot down.

The age of the student is critical to any recommendation by members ... once students get into the teen-years, the lure of the Internet “fleshpots”
makes it difficult for a Piano Teacher to counter.

Unless you have bunged into their pre-10 year heads,
the so-called “fun” of being able to play the piano ... hinging on some sight-reading skill (however primitive) ... latter advice is likely to prove vacuous.

Experience however has taught the old-stagers on the Forum ... that success always follows the student playing some keyboard work they REALLY LIKE.
Posted by: Fordsnack

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 06:10 AM

Thanks everyone, I will read through all these posts again carefully and devise a strategy. She is a teenager and yes it's during school hours.

At the moment I am thinking I will have one more shot before getting the parents involved.
Cheers
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 07:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Depending on the age of this girl, I might part ways with Morodiene and Polyphonist.

If she is a teenager, she would likely appreciate your *not* getting her folks involved. You could try to negotiate with her first.



I agree. I was assuming she was younger as that was the direction most of this thread was going.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 07:58 AM

Originally Posted By: Fordsnack
Thanks everyone, I will read through all these posts again carefully and devise a strategy. She is a teenager and yes it's during school hours.

At the moment I am thinking I will have one more shot before getting the parents involved.
Cheers


Ah, this is different, depending on if she's 13 or 17, and what kind of relationship they have with their parents. Have you observed her with her parents at all? Sometimes this can give you an idea.

The one thing that almost *always* works if the students likes piano is to have them figure out music they like on it by ear. Ear training, of course is very important, so why not brush up on that skill? Not only that, you will most likely be helping them with transcribing the piece for piano that was most likely written for a rock band or electronic instruments. This is a very creative process. Ask her to make a list of songs she'd like to learn how to play, and then pick one to start with. Help her figure out how it goes during your lessons. I guarantee you that if she wants to play piano, she will be going home and trying to figure out more of the song and practicing this.

It's not the best thing in the world, but it inspires and gets them going, and that has value.
Posted by: pianogirl87

Re: Infuriating students - 03/07/13 11:06 AM

Supplement with older students. Find out what kind of music she likes and find level-appropriate material for her to play. I find that students tend to not practice when they're bored. If there's not something to work towards, or some great goal, progress will be pretty stagnant. Are there any performance opportunities for her?
Posted by: Opus_Maximus

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 04:08 AM

OT but..

I'm confused by something I'm wondering is maybe a UK Phenomena, since only Fordsnack and Chris have been referencing it - the "During school hours piano". Is there some program or system in Great Britain that allows students to have private piano sessions during school hours, or "Skive" out of school to do piano??? Here in the USA, piano lessons (one on one), are a strictly extra-curricular activity, only taking place after school hours. Is it different in the UK?
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 04:21 AM

Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
Here in the USA, piano lessons (one on one), are a strictly extra-curricular activity, only taking place after school hours.

Actually, some school districts offer piano lab or simply "piano" as a class. I used to teach at a school that's a feeder school to a high school that has a "piano lab" class. They limit enrollment to the number of keyboards in the class, and they give one class "recital" per semester.
Posted by: Opus_Maximus

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 04:58 AM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
Here in the USA, piano lessons (one on one), are a strictly extra-curricular activity, only taking place after school hours.

Actually, some school districts offer piano lab or simply "piano" as a class. I used to teach at a school that's a feeder school to a high school that has a "piano lab" class. They limit enrollment to the number of keyboards in the class, and they give one class "recital" per semester.


I know of these piano lab classes with keyboards in the usa, but it seems they are talking about actual 1 on 1 piano lessons, which is quite different from group settings imo.
Posted by: pianomouse

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 06:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Fordsnack
She tells me she wants to learn, ...

There's a BIG difference between 'wanting' and actually 'doing'... You might want to talk about this with her.

If she takes piano as a class - does she get grades for it?
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 07:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
OT but..

I'm confused by something I'm wondering is maybe a UK Phenomena, since only Fordsnack and Chris have been referencing it - the "During school hours piano". Is there some program or system in Great Britain that allows students to have private piano sessions during school hours, or "Skive" out of school to do piano??? Here in the USA, piano lessons (one on one), are a strictly extra-curricular activity, only taking place after school hours. Is it different in the UK?


Yes, where there is instrumental teaching in schools, it is normally in class time. For 4 year I learned cornet like this. Student were given a rotating timetable so we got out of different classes each week, not always the same class.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 09:48 AM

I always had my lessons during school time. My teacher came to my school and taught there all day.
Posted by: bmbutler

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 10:43 AM

Personally, I could not keep taking money from parent's when their child is behaving this way. Talk with the parent's and if isn't resolved, I would fire the student.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Infuriating students - 03/08/13 04:38 PM

One to one piano lessons in schools are very rare in the public sector. Most counties in the UK have a music service which offers instrumental tuition in schools, sometimes at a subsidised rate and sometimes not. It varies. Keyboard tuition is usually in groups and sometimes even whole classes at a time.

My own situation is different. The school where I work is an independent preparatory school. I'm employed by the school and teach individual lessons in much the same way that I do in my private home studio. Parents pay the school for lessons and the school pays me an hourly rate. For this reason it can be very difficult for me to refuse tuition to any pupil. I've had some issues with students over behaviour, lack of effort or practice or even those who just don't seem to want to be there. As said earlier they get weekly comments through the notebooks as well as a full report every term. I pass on problems to the head of department who will talk to parents about things. But at the end of the day if they want to keep paying the fees then I have little choice but to keep teaching them, especially if I want to keep my job.

Not sure if things are similar for the OP.
Posted by: HalfStep

Re: Infuriating students - 03/10/13 10:41 PM

That is really intriguing, my daughter is in an Internationale Baccalaureate school. She has to choose a major in the arts as well as academics (middle school). Her major is performing arts so she has either band or group instruction for music throughout the week. In this case, she plays the clarinet. They also have teachers offer after school lessons. She takes that as well. As far as piano, which is my favorite, it is completely private and out of school. The only offering the school does is Jazz piano. I am in The States.

But, going back to the topic. We all have down times. My kid's clarinet instructor told me she was talented but needed to practice more. As far as I am concerned, she explained that my daughter could be getting far more out of lessons. I spoke to my kid, and asked her if she wanted to continue lessons and she said, absolutely. So although, she may not always be prepared she gets a something out of it. However, she's excelling in school as far as the band (lessons must be helping). As far as piano, she seems to always excel with 1/3 of the practice time I put in. So, in short, I am okay with continuing her clarinet lessons because she wants them. I think it's also important to mention... she's in a very academically rigorous program as well so it's okay to let her balance her priorities. To that, I would always explain to parents if you feel their kid is not getting the most proverbial bang for their buck by not practicing but let them decide if they want to continue. If they choose the latter, find ways to engage the student as the others have suggested. I know it must be tough to do what you do. I am extremely over-scheduled so the weeks I do not practice I tell my teacher to just endure the heck and apologize profusely smile.
Posted by: Fordsnack

Re: Infuriating students - 03/16/13 03:57 PM

Update: so after much deliberation and scheming, this student turns up with her book for the first time ever! I was visibly shocked! We had a discussion about what she wants to get from learning piano and we started working on a Rhianna song despite my inwardly despairing at the thought... But if it makes her happy and helps her progress then I'm happy. So will see how it goes.
Thanks everyone for your help.
Posted by: Jonathan Baker

Re: Infuriating students - 03/23/13 09:47 PM

I recommend staying in close contact with the parents all the time - I do with all my younger students. Parents out-rank piano teachers for influence by a long shot, so you might as well utilize their influence.
Posted by: missbelle

Re: Infuriating students - 03/27/13 10:45 PM

I am paid each semester per student via a private school that sets up my lessons. some students and parents are wonderful- they read and do the assignment notebook stuff!

others, well, I have one girl that started in January, aged 13, who has yet to even bring a notebook. I tear out a sheet of my own small notebook for her, and I have run copies of music for her, but she only looks at her music at home maybe once a week, as she packs her backpack for piano day.

so, what do I do?

I get her hands on the keyboard as much as possible, and play more "fun" music than a focused lesson working through a book.

I meet her where she is.

I read some great articles about this situation over the summer, stating basically, the parents KNOW their child has not practiced. They believe they are doing a good thing for their child, and as long as they are not berating you for the child's slow progress, all is ok.

(Do keep an assignment ntbk and date the music each week)

Even if they cannot tell a quarter note from a quarter horse, they know they are paying for their child to have 30 minutes or so with a professional music teacher. And if they are willing to pay it, then you can take the money and run a good lesson, even if it feels like pulling teeth--for now the child has to go to the piano teacher, just like we all have to go to the dentist. How do you want her to remember the experience?

Odds are, the student will not sign on for next year. That is ok. You cannot make them practice. You CAN make them nervous as all get out, and afraid of you and the mean lecture they think they will get, or you can do the best with what you have and drag them along at a dwarf snail's speed, but do it with a smile.

Yes, I come home and sound off to my family (without naming students) I am frustrated. But during the lesson, i really do try to keep a smile on my face and keep on encouraging the girl. smile

Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Infuriating students - 03/29/13 11:36 AM

"...You CAN make them nervous as all get out, and afraid of you and the mean lecture they think they will get, or you can do the best with what you have and drag them along at a dwarf snail's speed, but do it with a smile... I am frustrated. But during the lesson, i really do try to keep a smile on my face and keep on encouraging the girl..."

You are clearly of the school which kills more flies with honey than with vinegar. As long as the flies are dead, I can go with either.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Infuriating students - 03/29/13 11:41 AM

Originally Posted By: missbelle
I am paid each semester per student via a private school that sets up my lessons. some students and parents are wonderful- they read and do the assignment notebook stuff!

others, well, I have one girl that started in January, aged 13, who has yet to even bring a notebook. I tear out a sheet of my own small notebook for her, and I have run copies of music for her, but she only looks at her music at home maybe once a week, as she packs her backpack for piano day.

so, what do I do?

I get her hands on the keyboard as much as possible, and play more "fun" music than a focused lesson working through a book.

I meet her where she is.

I read some great articles about this situation over the summer, stating basically, the parents KNOW their child has not practiced. They believe they are doing a good thing for their child, and as long as they are not berating you for the child's slow progress, all is ok.

(Do keep an assignment ntbk and date the music each week)

Even if they cannot tell a quarter note from a quarter horse, they know they are paying for their child to have 30 minutes or so with a professional music teacher. And if they are willing to pay it, then you can take the money and run a good lesson, even if it feels like pulling teeth--for now the child has to go to the piano teacher, just like we all have to go to the dentist. How do you want her to remember the experience?

Odds are, the student will not sign on for next year. That is ok. You cannot make them practice. You CAN make them nervous as all get out, and afraid of you and the mean lecture they think they will get, or you can do the best with what you have and drag them along at a dwarf snail's speed, but do it with a smile.

Yes, I come home and sound off to my family (without naming students) I am frustrated. But during the lesson, i really do try to keep a smile on my face and keep on encouraging the girl. smile




"Even if they cannot tell a quarter note from a quarter horse..."
LOL how funny!
Posted by: malkin

Re: Infuriating students - 03/29/13 06:01 PM

I love the title of this thread "Infuriating students."
Now that Fordsnack's problem with a particularly infuriating student is solved, everyone can get back to the business of infuriating the rest of their students. wink