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How to Handle This Situation?
#1659813 04/14/11 12:51 AM
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Dear fellow teachers!

I will try to make this story short. I have been teaching X (8 yrs old) for almost 1 & 1/2 years. She hardly practices, doesn’t follow my instructions, gets uptight when I ask her to do what I say. Last lesson, I have reached the end of my patience.

I asked her to play a 4 note quaver passage, but it wasn’t done evenly (I know she can do it). I told her and demonstrated what I wanted, but she refused. She kept quiet, left the piano, went to my table & drew what looked like me, and put in big words ‘EVIL’ and put ‘piano teacher’. I kept my calm, and told her what was the matter? Asked her to try and make an effort – said nicely of course. (This isn’t the first time)

After many attempts, I called the mother & she told me it’s my job to motivate her. I told her, I can only do so much – if nothing is attempted (in my lesson & at home) how can I move forward?

I know that X doesn’t want to do the grade 2 exam, and even told me ‘my mother will blame you if I fail!’ She’s right, the mother is now critisizing my teaching (she did this infront of X who of course sensed this opportunity and cried).

FYI, I am teaching her 3 girls, but she seems unhappy with their progress. (to me, they are doing fine, given the amount of practice they do – once a week!) . Last week, when I told her that her daughter Y isn’t practicing enough, she told me she doesn’t practice because the songs are too easy! She even asked me why give her such easy songs, and said she plays what she likes. When I told her, can you show me the book she likes – the mother says, ‘I can’t, my daughter doesn’t like to it bring to the lesson’ What? I'm telling myself she can't even tackle the easy songs in my lesson. Goodness me.

How should I approach this and tell the mother I wish to discontinue lessons while being diplomatic! Any thoughts?

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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659815 04/14/11 01:03 AM
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Seriously? Just cut them loose. Refund any credits and say thanks, but no thanks. This might seem simplistic but this has gone too far. I wouldn't even try to get such a hostile woman and her wretched progeny onside after what you've been through. You are experiencing abuse from this family and you don't need to take that.

Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659819 04/14/11 01:17 AM
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Either cut them, like Ando suggested, or be more firm - it's kind of a shocker for families like that. It's like they don't realize they are speaking to an educated adult who knows what they're doing.

I experienced this with a family when I first started teaching. The mother was in my face constantly for two months. Eventually, I just said: "Hey, look. I'm not begging for your children as my students. I'm the teacher, and I know what they can handle. If they want different songs, then like I tell them all the time, we'll find a song they like. But this behavior is YOUR problem. I didn't teach them to act out and cry when nothing happened. Either speak to them about this and stop complaining to me because they are misbehaving, or find another teacher."

The mom stopped after that. I still teach her kids, and while they aren't always the best (in terms of behavior, not playing), they are way better and improving each time.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659823 04/14/11 01:36 AM
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+ to ando. This sounds (reads) like TOO MUCH!

Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659844 04/14/11 02:44 AM
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Don't even try to "teach" the family something (outside of music :-) ). Get out of it. This is a lose-lose situation; that mom will never agree with you on anything, she will talk badly about you with others, potentially she can convice about how bad you are the other moms.

there is now way to win this game.

Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659853 04/14/11 03:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Angela76
went to my table & drew what looked like me, and put in big words ‘EVIL’ and put ‘piano teacher’. I kept my calm, and told her what was the matter? Asked her to try and make an effort – said nicely of course. (This isn’t the first time)

Yikes! If this happens in my studio, I'd quickly show the student the door. And I won't be very calm.

The parent sounds awful, too. Oh, my. Just drop them.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659900 04/14/11 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Angela76
How should I approach this and tell the mother I wish to discontinue lessons while being diplomatic! Any thoughts?
Just tell her you will have to finish lessons with her daughters on X date (think I'd make it today if it were me!). Only explain if you wish to (eg they are not showing themselves willing to accept the guidelines of your studio re practising and behaviour in lessons, or whatever), otherwise just leave it at that. Be firm, and don't apologise or blame yourself. Perhaps there are some things you could have done better (like all of us!) but they are not even meeting you anywhere near halfway. Let them terrorise someone else! smile


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1659949 04/14/11 08:47 AM
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"Yeah, that" to everything above me.

My philosophy is that I'm a piano teacher, not a baby-sitter or behavioral specialist. If they'll sit at the piano, and (more or less) pay attention, that's fine, no matter how much they practice. But once they refuse to even be AT the piano - that's it.

Re: How to Handle This Situation?
ll #1659966 04/14/11 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by ll
Either cut them, like Ando suggested, or be more firm - it's kind of a shocker for families like that. It's like they don't realize they are speaking to an educated adult who knows what they're doing.

I experienced this with a family when I first started teaching. The mother was in my face constantly for two months. Eventually, I just said: "Hey, look. I'm not begging for your children as my students. I'm the teacher, and I know what they can handle. If they want different songs, then like I tell them all the time, we'll find a song they like. But this behavior is YOUR problem. I didn't teach them to act out and cry when nothing happened. Either speak to them about this and stop complaining to me because they are misbehaving, or find another teacher."

The mom stopped after that. I still teach her kids, and while they aren't always the best (in terms of behavior, not playing), they are way better and improving each time.


I really like how you phrased this. You put the responsibility on the parent and told them what the consequences would be if they fail to follow through. I think this is the best way to handel the situation at this point, so that if you do end up cutting them loose (which is most likely), then you have given them the reason why even if they don't appear to listen. I think it's better than just saying goodbye without addressing the actual issue.

I have had to talk to a parent who undermined me in the past as well, and she didn't realize that she was doing it. When I pointed it out to her, the behavior stopped and the student started to learn.

To the OP, you have to remind her that you are the hired professional here. She's paying you to teach, and you are experienced in this. If she does things to undermine what you are trying to do with the short time that you have with each child, then she might as well throw her money out the window as it will be just as effective. She needs to be on your side, and if she cannot support you and what you're trying to accomplish by getting the kids to do as you say both at home when you can't possibly be there to help, and during the lesson, then there's no point in continuing to teach them.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1660006 04/14/11 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Angela76
She kept quiet, left the piano, went to my table & drew what looked like me, and put in big words ‘EVIL’ and put ‘piano teacher’.


I think this sentence puzzles me the most. I can't believe you let this student leave her lesson at the piano so she could color a picture of you. That must have taken another 4-5 minutes out of her lesson time. This child has a total lack of respect for you, the teacher. That lesson would have been her last.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
dumdumdiddle #1660062 04/14/11 01:00 PM
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And, as a mother (not a piano teacher, darn!), I would add this is a perfect example of a mother behaving TERRIBLY (hence, the behavior of the child).
Any responsible, mature parent would be apologizing to YOU -
and ,actually, you should not even be in this situation !
Cut them loose and don't take them back (my own piano teacher made that mistake with one family and she regrets it.)
Then go celebrate with a margarita! smile


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
piano joy #1660104 04/14/11 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by piano joy
And, as a mother (not a piano teacher, darn!), I would add this is a perfect example of a mother behaving TERRIBLY (hence, the behavior of the child).
Any responsible, mature parent would be apologizing to YOU -
and ,actually, you should not even be in this situation !
Cut them loose and don't take them back (my own piano teacher made that mistake with one family and she regrets it.)
Then go celebrate with a margarita! smile


As another parent, I fully agree. I wouldn't expect my kid's music teachers to tolerate behavior like this. Not to mention, the parent is laying responsibility on your shoulder's for her kid's progress but is only practicing once a week? Give me a break. Enjoy the margarita and your freedom from them! Yikes. Sounds like a teacher's nightmare.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Morodiene #1660130 04/14/11 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
You put the responsibility on the parent and told them what the consequences would be if they fail to follow through. I think this is the best way to handel the situation at this point, so that if you do end up cutting them loose (which is most likely), then you have given them the reason why even if they don't appear to listen. I think it's better than just saying goodbye without addressing the actual issue.
Generally, I agree with this. But she has actually discussed these issues with the parent already, from what I read, though perhaps not issued a direct ultimatum.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1660139 04/14/11 03:28 PM
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This is painted all from your point of reference. You apparently feel that you're doing a great job (and cannot possibly do anything but a great job) and that any criticism is unwarranted. But doesn't this indicate some grounds for criticism? A person who feels that he can't be criticized because he can't do wrong, who expects people to follow his instructions to the letter without question and do exactly what he says, like a robot, and who has little patience for anyone who won't, such a person is going to eventually run into problems with people who won't be ordered around like that. This seems like a situation where some flexibility is in order. That is, an approach where you don't simply order students to do things and then expect them to hop to it.

In any case, can you afford to simply drop 3 students just like that? And as for being diplomatic, I wouldn't even try it, because you seem to be totally incapable of that.


Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Gyro #1660147 04/14/11 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Gyro
This is painted all from your point of reference. You apparently feel that you're doing a great job (and cannot possibly do anything but a great job) and that any criticism is unwarranted. But doesn't this indicate some grounds for criticism? A person who feels that he can't be criticized because he can't do wrong, who expects people to follow his instructions to the letter without question and do exactly what he says, like a robot, and who has little patience for anyone who won't, such a person is going to eventually run into problems with people who won't be ordered around like that. This seems like a situation where some flexibility is in order. That is, an approach where you don't simply order students to do things and then expect them to hop to it.

In any case, can you afford to simply drop 3 students just like that? And as for being diplomatic, I wouldn't even try it, because you seem to be totally incapable of that.



Stopped in again from Opposite Land again, did you?

Did you read the part about the picture with the "evil" piano teacher on it? Seriously...

I know you pride yourself on being the devil's advocate rather than actually giving reasonable comments, but honestly, don't you think you take it a bit too far? Your cynicism in this post is beyond crazy. It's not your job to suspect and dismantle everything presented by the OP. We have to go on what is said when presenting our suggestions. We haven't been given any reason to believe the OP is lying. If we are going to be suspicious of everything, the forum is doomed.

Re: How to Handle This Situation?
currawong #1660160 04/14/11 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by currawong
Originally Posted by Morodiene
You put the responsibility on the parent and told them what the consequences would be if they fail to follow through. I think this is the best way to handel the situation at this point, so that if you do end up cutting them loose (which is most likely), then you have given them the reason why even if they don't appear to listen. I think it's better than just saying goodbye without addressing the actual issue.
Generally, I agree with this. But she has actually discussed these issues with the parent already, from what I read, though perhaps not issued a direct ultimatum.


My reasoning was more, I'm not a prop. And while I'm not going to lower myself to the same behavior as the parent, I'm not going to just lie down and let them think they can treat me however they want. There's a difference between not arguing for the sake of arguing, and knowing your own worth as a human.

Gyro doesn't play devil's advocate. He trolls. And this time, it warrants - in my opinion - a good 'shut up,' because that was just plain rude.


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Gyro #1660421 04/15/11 02:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Gyro
This is painted all from your point of reference. You apparently feel that you're doing a great job (and cannot possibly do anything but a great job) and that any criticism is unwarranted. But doesn't this indicate some grounds for criticism? A person who feels that he can't be criticized because he can't do wrong, who expects people to follow his instructions to the letter without question and do exactly what he says, like a robot, and who has little patience for anyone who won't, such a person is going to eventually run into problems with people who won't be ordered around like that. This seems like a situation where some flexibility is in order. That is, an approach where you don't simply order students to do things and then expect them to hop to it.

In any case, can you afford to simply drop 3 students just like that? And as for being diplomatic, I wouldn't even try it, because you seem to be totally incapable of that.



what a horrible little post. You should be kicked off this forum for trolling and plain rudeness


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Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Angela76 #1660424 04/15/11 02:52 AM
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Actually if his wording was a little different, I wouldn't have much a problem with Gyro's post. I mean he does make a point: We're receiving all info from the teacher and none from the student or the parent, so we are one sided, all of us. Of course with the initial post I can only think that he is sincere, because it reads as such, and the situation is an awful one. After all it's not something the rest of us haven't come across...

The personal comments of Gyro are not worthy of our time, however! frown

Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Nikolas #1660450 04/15/11 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
Actually if his wording was a little different, I wouldn't have much a problem with Gyro's post. I mean he does make a point: We're receiving all info from the teacher and none from the student or the parent, so we are one sided, all of us. Of course with the initial post I can only think that he is sincere, because it reads as such, and the situation is an awful one. After all it's not something the rest of us haven't come across...

The personal comments of Gyro are not worthy of our time, however! frown


One thing that peeves me about this forum sometimes is when people take it upon themselves to cynically pick apart a post looking for ways to entrap somebody or make somebody look disingenuous, or at the very least, deluded or misguided. Unless there is a real reason to suspect something is amiss, I don't think it's right to read such distrust into a member's post. This was needless and negative speculation. We need to have some level of trust in each other unless we are given cause not to. If we don't do that, we imperil the community itself.

Gyro's post was needlessly cynical and more than a little nasty.





Re: How to Handle This Situation?
Morodiene #1661869 04/17/11 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
... I think this is the best way to ***handel*** the situation at this point, so that if you do end up cutting them loose (which is most likely)...


Piano teacher?? Lol made me smile smile


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