My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts

Posted by: SueKZ

My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 04:47 PM

I have been teaching an very nice 8 yr. old student since May. I drive 12.5 miles each way to her house. The reason I do this is because she is the 2nd student I had since starting to teach and I am pretty much doing them a large favor. Thank God they are planning to move closer to my home soon. Here is the issue: This is a family with 3 adopted girls from China. My student is 8, her sister is 5 or 6, and they just brought a 10 yr. girl back form China. So as you can imagine this is a chaotic household. The parents are nice as can be. But during the lesson, this is what goes on: The new 10 yr. old newly adopted kid is getting English lessons in the dining room at the same time my lesson is going on in the family room. In between the 2 rooms is the open kitchen. The parents converse in there amongst themselves or with the other 5 yr. old (the one not taking lessons) like we are not even trying to have a lesson right next to the kitchen (no doors...open concept arrangement). Many times this 5 yr. old and sometimes even the 10 yr old comes and bothers us during the lesson. The parents do nothing. I have to be the bad guy and shoo them off. I got so annoyed with the English lesson in the next room with the 5 yr. old screaming and yelling in the same room as the English lesson (with the mom in the kitchen allowing this) that I walked into the dining room and told them all to keep it down to a mild roar please!!!!!!! SHEEESH.
I do not feel like driviing all the way to this house and doing these people a big favor if this is the stuff that i am going to have to endure. I do not think they are aware of how hard this is for a teacher. You know the type.....oblivious. Can you give me ideas on what to say on Monday to get this resolved. My student has ADD as it is. Its hard to keep this kid focused to begin with. I need advice on how to say all of this to the parents at this point because I am too pissed off already to say it with tact. Also, they do not make the kid practice. I end up making her a practice chart, when frankly its their job and not mine. (its their money...whatever).
THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: david_a

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 05:16 PM

If you can't say it with tact yet, then wait till you can. Usually all you need for tact is a good and nice way of getting your point across that won't make you get emotional.

I would do this little talk at the very beginning of a lesson day, as soon as you arrive at their house, so it doesn't sound like you're just blaming one person or being a complainer.

First you have to get the attention of both the adults at once. This is not information that can be passed by a note on the fridge. smile

Then, maybe this:

1. "It's been really difficult to get anything done in lessons for the past few weeks, because everything we do in music starts with being quiet and listening carefully." (at this point they will likely have something to say, an apology or a defence or whatever. That's good, and listen to them without interrupting.) AND, NO MATTER WHAT THEY JUST SAID, continue with part 2.

2. "We're going to have to have the lessons at my place from now on, unless we can have no other lessons going on and no talking during _____________'s piano time."


Yes you have to be nice, but you also have to say what you really mean and not make it sound like it's optional; because it isn't.



Edited because I hit the wrong key and sent too soon.
Posted by: Wizard of Oz

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 05:42 PM

Just stop teaching them. Simple as that, problem solved!
Posted by: david_a

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 05:47 PM

Yes, that's the other solution. But when you need the money and you only have a very few students, sometimes you can't do that.

I would get away from teaching in people's houses as soon as possible if it were me. Being desperate for money is the only good reason to go to their houses IMO.
Posted by: SueKZ

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 08:11 PM

OK, thanks... you two.
I think I am just going to say that I am noticing that their child cannot concentrate very well during the lessons with all that is going on in the background. And that although she is learning, she is not learning to the best of her ability. **shrug**
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 08:32 PM

Where is your ability to communicate the problem to the parent(s). The solution resides within you since you are seeing a problem where no one else in the family sees the same thing as a problem.

Find your best case scenario and present it carefully with thought and consideration. You might make "I" statements since it is yourself you are representing. "I want to create the best circumstances for my students to receive their lessons." "I need for their to be a quiet environment where my student and I can focus and work together during the music lesson with no interruptions." "Will you please help me?"

You should handle your concerns in an objective way the very minute you notice them by speaking with the parents.

My policy for instance, says, "I do not teach in chaos and confusion." I have been there before myself and it is never good for anyone in the situation. I encourage you not to spend another minute in frustration but to take the steps needed to change it immediately.

I am of the belief that they don't know the effect it is having on you. Since the children were received into the home at older ages perhaps the parents have not established any order to their household because you do say "chaotic". This is certainly a first thing that could happen to help everyone in the family recognize the need for quiet and privacy during piano lessons.

I believe you can do it.

Betty Patnude
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 08:41 PM

Try the following:

1) Raise your rates immediately.

2) Suggest to the parents that the younger sibling is ready for piano lessons, and extend their lesson times.

3) Market yourself as the English tutor, and give English lessons after the piano lessons are over.

4) Politely ask the parents to sit with the kids as they do theory workbooks or theory packets while the other kid is having the piano lesson.
Posted by: Phlebas

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/27/09 11:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Where is your ability to communicate the problem to the parent(s)[?]


+1

Again: Where is your ability to communicate the problem to the parents?

Repeat: Where is your ability to communicate the problem to the parents???
Posted by: CarolR

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 12:01 AM

"I've been happy to come to your home to teach but I'm finding it really difficult to teach with so many distractions, and (the student) is having a hard time concentrating. I really feel that the only way to make lessons worthwhile for her is to have some quiet time so that we can both focus on what we are doing". If it is too difficult to find quiet at your home I suggest we move lessons to my studio. I believe (the student) it would be a much better learning environment and the student would make much more progress."
Posted by: david_a

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 12:39 AM

Originally Posted By: SueKZ
OK, thanks... you two.
I think I am just going to say that I am noticing that their child cannot concentrate very well during the lessons with all that is going on in the background. And that although she is learning, she is not learning to the best of her ability. **shrug**
This is not going to work. The parents' perfectly correct response to such a lame little statement is to shrug and say "Oh", and to go on just like before. It makes you sound like a whiner, and it gets zero results.

So forget just saying that. You might as well say nothing at all. You are going to have to either take a little bit of a stand here, or else just shut up and deal with it.

Carol's script is likely worded nicer than mine, and maybe you should use something more like it. But whatever you say to them, it has to be something where they are required to make a positive and useful response, and they cannot be given an opening to weasel out of it.

I have learned this the hard way, because I don't enjoy doing it.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 10:27 AM

A couple of things I noticed is that you are obviously upset about this, but also which is not so obvious, is that you feel you are doing them a "favor" in spite of getting paid for teaching their children. The parents are paying you what you ask, correct? You should not, therefore, be feeling as though you're doing them a favor by driving to their houses. Do you charge them extra to cover your mileage and time on the road? And seeing how the household is, is there any wonder why the children don't practice?

You need to instruct the parents on what the lesson environment shoudl be like, but also the practice environment. Do this respectfully, as they obviously do not know there's a problem - how would they if they've never been told otherwise?
Posted by: R0B

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 11:18 AM

You say this is your second student.

Please don't make the mistake of teaching anyone at you own expense.

Your travel time and costs,are possibly more than your lesson fee.

These people are using you, knowingly, or not, and you don't need this kind of situation when starting out.

Stand your ground, and either offer an alternative that is acceptable to you, or drop this student.(in the nicest possible way, of course)

The biggest advantage of being self employed, it that you get to call the shots.
Posted by: SueKZ

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 12:28 PM

Thanks all. (except the snide comments from certain people that had no suggestions coupled with their commentary) LOL.
Those were all helpful suggestions. I am learning the hard way, which is fine, since at least I am learning from it.
Thanks again!
Posted by: Phlebas

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 01:07 PM

Originally Posted By: SueKZ
Thanks all. (except the snide comments from certain people that had no suggestions coupled with their commentary) LOL.
Those were all helpful suggestions. I am learning the hard way, which is fine, since at least I am learning from it.
Thanks again!


I guess I was one of the snide ones, so I apologize. But really, it is important to have the ability to communicate your parameters as a teacher. You really have to be able to say, "I need silence during the lessons, or they will have to be held at my studio."
Posted by: SueKZ

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 01:32 PM

Yep, you were the snide one. LOL. The same way I need to learn the ability to speak up, maybe learning to be less snide could be beneficial when someone asks advice. True? Its not an enriching and helpful thing to read. But I do appreciate you apology!
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 02:19 PM

Still, SueKZ, something could be learned from his comment. Emphasizing the question:
"Where is your ability to communicate the problem to the parents?" is not necessarily a bad thing, as this is the crux of the problem. How are they do know if you do not tell them? You are the professional here and if you feel taken advantage of ... no one can take advantage of you without your permission.

edited to add: We all have learned the hard way. I wish I had this forum when I started out! Do you belong to your local MTNA? That would be a great resource for you and more experienced teachers can give you advice in how to deal with tough situations.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 03:00 PM

I have found that we teach our clients and our students how we wish to be treated by establishing that we, as teachers, also have needs to be met in the triangle of student-parent-teacher.

If we set some rules in policy or write about our philosophies in teaching, we communicate to them that they each have a role in the success of the piano lesson. It is not all up to the teacher to create success. We need their cooperation and consideration to create the best scenario in which we teach.

Our first experiences in teaching identify things that need our attention. The fact that we operate our own music teaching businesses make us in charge of what goes on in the activities there and under what conditions we choose to teach.

If the idea of a studio policy is new to you, please consider doing some research to find out what is important to you as you continue to build your piano teaching studio.

Google: Piano teacher policies" and that should bring some revelant things to your attention. Also a "search" in Piano World Forum "studio policies" should do the same.

Best wishes to you, SueKZ,

Betty Patnude
Posted by: Phlebas

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 06:26 PM

Originally Posted By: SueKZ
Yep, you were the snide one. LOL. The same way I need to learn the ability to speak up, maybe learning to be less snide could be beneficial when someone asks advice. True? Its not an enriching and helpful thing to read. But I do appreciate you apology!


Well, you had no problem speaking up to me! Twice! laugh
Don't mind me, I'm snide, surly, sardonic.
Bottom line: I hope you can get your student into a lesson environment that works for both of you. Best of luck.
Posted by: Canonie

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 07:08 PM

Now that OP is happy to have received some good advice I just have to ask Betty - Do you really have the words
Quote:
"I do not teach in chaos and confusion."
in your studio policy?

Sounds like you have had some challenges with some families in the past shocked but I'm guessing that you phrase it differently, but maybe not... I am still new enough to teaching to sometimes let things happen that are not ideal.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 09:36 PM

This is actually one of the reasons why I stopped teaching in student's homes. There were usually disruptions of home life (baby siblings crying, TV in another room). I figured it was challenging enough, then add to that time taken away in driving, the stress of traffic and snowy conditions, lugging books around, etc. I had some wonderful students when I drove to their homes, but I realized it wasn't for me.
Posted by: david_a

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/28/09 11:11 PM

Teaching in students' homes also cuts your income in the long run, by wasting all that time travelling during prime lesson hours. I did it when I was starting out, because it got me some experience and a little badly-needed money, but I soon realized that for me it was a dead-end way of doing things.

I have seen advertising for someone who has decided to make a full-time intentional business out of teaching piano in students' homes. I hope it works for them and I wish them luck, but I don't see much potential in it no matter how you slice it. I guess if you charge very high rates and teach only to rich people...
Posted by: SueKZ

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/29/09 01:42 PM

Yea, this is IT for me with teaching in student's homes. Tomorrow I am going to talk to the parents and get it dealt with.
Posted by: david_a

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/29/09 01:48 PM

You may lose a student over this. If you can't afford right now to lose a student, then go carefully.

You know your own situation better than anybody here.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/29/09 02:40 PM

Originally Posted By: SueKZ
Yea, this is IT for me with teaching in student's homes. Tomorrow I am going to talk to the parents and get it dealt with.

While I think this is probably a good idea given your reaction to the situation initially, you may want to be sure to give the parents time to adjust and make a decision. Kind of like 30 days' notice. I think that is respectful and you can tolerate 4 more lessons or so as it is. Just my advice. smile
Posted by: david_a

Re: My student's chaotic household is driving me nuts - 11/29/09 02:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: SueKZ
Yea, this is IT for me with teaching in student's homes. Tomorrow I am going to talk to the parents and get it dealt with.

While I think this is probably a good idea given your reaction to the situation initially, you may want to be sure to give the parents time to adjust and make a decision. Kind of like 30 days' notice. I think that is respectful and you can tolerate 4 more lessons or so as it is. Just my advice. smile
Excellent point. Allowing some "padding" might make the difference between friends and enemies, between keeping & losing a student.

If you have truly decided that this is it, you could tell all your students that as of January 1 you are not able to go to their homes anymore. That makes sense to them and gets you what you need as well.