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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726246
04/03/18 10:58 AM
04/03/18 10:58 AM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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piano2, This student is not following any of the fingering, dynamic and articulation markings, phrasing or tempo after 7 years! I have run out of empathy. He is a fairly intelligent boy.

I was thinking about myself as a student the other day--back to when I was in college and a piano student. My teachers would not tolerate complete disregard for their notations/instructions. I had juries every semester and practiced hours a day to play well. I've also taken swimming lessons periodically, to refine my strokes. I work hard on the drills given, and do my best to improve.

I know I was an exception - always driven to get "A"s, practicing hours a day, while going to college and working, so perhaps it's hard to understand why parents waste their money sending some of these kids to lessons who don't follow instructions.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726247
04/03/18 11:22 AM
04/03/18 11:22 AM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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At the core of my frustration is the belief that I have "failed" as a teacher with this boy. Our job as teachers is to prepare our students to be independent of us - to be able to look at a piece, follow fingerings, as appropriate, dynamics, etc. After 7 years, the teacher should not still have to highlight, notate, and repeat over and over these basic principles.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726249
04/03/18 11:26 AM
04/03/18 11:26 AM
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chasingrainbows, does the student want to play piano differently from how he currently plays? For example, does he want to learn to play harder pieces? Does he want to be able to impress his friends more than he currently does? Something else? Or is he content playing exactly how he currently plays?

Does he want to be taking piano lessons at all?

It seems to me that when people take lessons, the teacher relies on either (1) the student wants to learn what the teacher has to offer (because the student feels a lack in what they can do, or because they want to be well-rounded) or (2) the student agrees to obey the teacher, perhaps out of a spirit of compliance or agreeableness.

It seems to me clear that the student is not interested in (2), obeying for the sake of obeying. So one is left with (1), what does the student want to learn?

I have also met students who (3) do want to learn something, but can't get out of their own way enough to pay attention to the teacher trying to teach the student what the student claims to want to learn.

What do you think motivates your student? Do you think any of (1), (2), or (3) apply to him?


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726273
04/03/18 12:57 PM
04/03/18 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
My teachers would not tolerate complete disregard for their notations/instructions. I had juries every semester and practiced hours a day to play well. .

I hope you don't mind me saying this, but I've noticed that when you ask for advice here, you only take the advice of those who tell you to do very similar things to what you've already been doing, and disregard all others. Or to put it another way, you don't seem very willing to switch tack or change your methods, i.e. try something completely different to your own tried-and-tested methods.

What you've been doing for seven years with this kid hasn't got the desired results. It may be that nothing will. What I'm saying is that you have nothing to lose by trying something counter to your instincts, something you probably never thought of before and instinctively believe "that won't work, so why should I bother?"

Remember the Einstein quote I posted earlier? OK, he was into quantum physics, not music (though he was also an amateur musician). But he was willing to think completely 'outside the box', like: time is not a constant, because the velocity of light is, and they cannot both be constants.

So, how about trying something completely different? I quoted your post about having juries to satisfy every semester. So - why not put him up for an exam like RCM, and let him fail if necessary. At least he will have a written report by an independent assessor that bears out what you keep telling him, because he's obviously not listening to you. Does he respect you as a teacher?

And how about the advice AZNpiano gave about teachng him easier pieces with lots of patterns that sound impressive?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726295
04/03/18 02:14 PM
04/03/18 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
At the core of my frustration is the belief that I have "failed" as a teacher with this boy. Our job as teachers is to prepare our students to be independent of us - to be able to look at a piece, follow fingerings, as appropriate, dynamics, etc. After 7 years, the teacher should not still have to highlight, notate, and repeat over and over these basic principles.

It sounds like the student is already independent of you, just not doing the things you want him to. For some students, our success as teachers is based on whether the student appreciates and enjoys music. I consider being kind and respecting a child’s spirit as part of my job as teacher. I don’t think it’s a good idea to sign a child up for an exam if I thought they would fail, or to teach them a negative lesson.

How do you ask the student to practice fingerings at home? Does he say the fingerings out loud as he plays so that he will focus on it. Does he point at the music so that he notices it? Have you told him that he can’t put a piece hands together until the fingering is correct when hands separate? If he puts it hands together before the fingering is mastered, don’t listen to it hands together at the lesson. Stick with the plan. Reinforce the plan at lesson until there is success.

Not everyone is going to be excellent at music after 7 years. But if they enjoy their pieces and music in general, then isn’t that the goal?

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: piano2] #2726304
04/03/18 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by piano2

For some students, our success as teachers is based on whether the student appreciates and enjoys music. I consider being kind and respecting a child’s spirit as part of my job as teacher. I don’t think it’s a good idea to sign a child up for an exam if I thought they would fail, or to teach them a negative lesson.


If a teacher believes that his job is done if the student "appreciates and enjoys music", that's not a problem. Though for kids, that might be a problem, as most kids "appreciate and enjoy music" anyway. So what is the point of having a teacher?

What about being able to play the instrument decently?

BTW, it looks like you haven't read all the posts in this thread. I posted earlier about how I reined in my predilection for speed as a kid, reserving it for the pieces I learnt and played for myself. And my improvisations. The reason for that was simply because I was doing piano exams and I didn't want to fail. No student I knew ever failed a music exam, and I wasn't going to be the first.

And I wasn't the only student who enjoyed speeding either. I played duos with like-minded students, one a violinist, the other a pianist. We frequently played stuff that was technically beyond us, often very approximately. Fast and loud. Why? Because we enjoyed the exhilaration, the wind in our hair. We were in our early to mid-teens and enjoyed challenges, and 'conquering' them, however imperfectly. Other kids (boys mainly, rather than girls) enjoyed running fast, playing hard at their favored sports. We enjoyed music in the same way - only not during lessons, because we had our regular 'assessments' (exams) to consider.

Incidentally, I also played chess for my high school - and I took the most risks of anyone in the team. I lost more games, but I also won a lot more. I just didn't like boring draws.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: bennevis] #2726316
04/03/18 03:32 PM
04/03/18 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

What you've been doing for seven years with this kid hasn't got the desired results. It may be that nothing will. What I'm saying is that you have nothing to lose by trying something counter to your instincts, something you probably never thought of before and instinctively believe "that won't work, so why should I bother?"

One of the things I live by: "If nothing changes, nothing changes."

This simply means that if we are doing something that is not working, continuing the same thing is not going to change the results, which gets right back to "insanity is continuing to do the same thing expecting different results."

Sometimes we need to throw in the towel because we have already tried everything we know, it didn't work, and we are out of ideas.

I am in a situation a bit like that today, later, when I start teaching. I'm teaching a boy whose parents do not live together and who seem to quietly fight, behind the scenes. Sometimes the mother shows up but refuses to help, which is not the way I teach. She will use her cell phone for messages and God only knows what else while I'm teaching the lesson. Other times she sits outside the lesson, saying she has work to do.

The father came last lesson, when the mother was not there. It's not a happy situation. I asked him once if he ever works with his son. He said, "No." One word. No reason.

Working with these parents is like working with Pod People.

There is zero cooperation. I have asked for some kind of tracking of how many minutes the boy does, even an approximation. Nothing. It has been made very clear that the boy already has "other advanced things to do" and that no cooperation at all is going to happen re playing several times a week. These are parents who, apparently, just want their son "exposed" to music, and since my communication with them is very poor (they tell me nothing) and since I judge the situation to be potentially explosive, I'm letting it ride for the time being. It's been less than 6 months, but it is an awful situation for me.

I call a situation like this "Grouhog Day", after the movie. The reason I have not already ended the lessons is that the boy is making SOME progress. He's a nice kid. But he's moving at maybe 1/4th or 1/5th the speed of my average students his age, which means he will get to where my average students get to in one year in about four or five years, and where my really good students get to in 6 months.

The only thing I can state for certain is that this will not go on for 6 or 7 years unless there is a huge change, and most likely I will not even have to be the person who ends it.

There are times when nothing we do will change the eventual outcome.

I have two other students, both in their first year, whose parents make absolutely no requirement at all about work at home. They are cousins, two boys. I have told both mothers, separately, that if they send these boys to me, week after week, and they do absolutely no work at home, that they might as well take the money that they are paying me and flush it down the toilet. I used those exact words.

I have another brother and sister who are mostly the same, zero work, and for reasons I do not understand this is OK with the mother. She is not happy, but she is also not going to do anything about it.

In contrast, I have four or five teens who regularly put in somewhere between 250 and 350 minutes a week, sometimes more.

I don't require this. I simply tell them that the more time, the better, and the rest is pretty much up to me. All these students are a joy to teach.

Even the much young students usually come in with well over 100 minutes, which really is VERY little time. That's enough to make progress and may develop into a lot more time on its own.

I've thought about starting a thread called "Groundhog Day", and maybe I will do that later. I assume you all know of the movie with Bill Murray.



Last edited by Gary D.; 04/03/18 03:39 PM.

Piano Teacher
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: bennevis] #2726319
04/03/18 03:37 PM
04/03/18 03:37 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
My teachers would not tolerate complete disregard for their notations/instructions. I had juries every semester and practiced hours a day to play well. .

I hope you don't mind me saying this, but I've noticed that when you ask for advice here, you only take the advice of those who tell you to do very similar things to what you've already been doing, and disregard all others. Or to put it another way, you don't seem very willing to switch tack or change your methods, i.e. try something completely different to your own tried-and-tested methods.

What you've been doing for seven years with this kid hasn't got the desired results. It may be that nothing will. What I'm saying is that you have nothing to lose by trying something counter to your instincts, something you probably never thought of before and instinctively believe "that won't work, so why should I bother?"

Remember the Einstein quote I posted earlier? OK, he was into quantum physics, not music (though he was also an amateur musician). But he was willing to think completely 'outside the box', like: time is not a constant, because the velocity of light is, and they cannot both be constants.

So, how about trying something completely different? I quoted your post about having juries to satisfy every semester. So - why not put him up for an exam like RCM, and let him fail if necessary. At least he will have a written report by an independent assessor that bears out what you keep telling him, because he's obviously not listening to you. Does he respect you as a teacher?

And how about the advice AZNpiano gave about teachng him easier pieces with lots of patterns that sound impressive?


bennevis, with all due respect, as I always enjoy your input, unless you've tracked all my threads, how can you judge me in that way? How do you know I never use suggestions. I often respond tthat a member's suggestions were great, that I had never thought of that, and that I would use them. I ask you to go over ALL my responses before making an unfair judgment like that. Often, members don't read all of posts, in particular, the beginning of the thread, and miss that fact that I have already tried some suggestions.

This student plays in my recitals, and has entered Festivals as well.

Last edited by chasingrainbows; 04/03/18 03:41 PM.

Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: piano2] #2726321
04/03/18 03:42 PM
04/03/18 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by piano2
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
At the core of my frustration is the belief that I have "failed" as a teacher with this boy. Our job as teachers is to prepare our students to be independent of us - to be able to look at a piece, follow fingerings, as appropriate, dynamics, etc. After 7 years, the teacher should not still have to highlight, notate, and repeat over and over these basic principles.

It sounds like the student is already independent of you, just not doing the things you want him to. For some students, our success as teachers is based on whether the student appreciates and enjoys music. I consider being kind and respecting a child’s spirit as part of my job as teacher. I don’t think it’s a good idea to sign a child up for an exam if I thought they would fail, or to teach them a negative lesson.

How do you ask the student to practice fingerings at home? Does he say the fingerings out loud as he plays so that he will focus on it. Does he point at the music so that he notices it? Have you told him that he can’t put a piece hands together until the fingering is correct when hands separate? If he puts it hands together before the fingering is mastered, don’t listen to it hands together at the lesson. Stick with the plan. Reinforce the plan at lesson until there is success.

Not everyone is going to be excellent at music after 7 years. But if they enjoy their pieces and music in general, then isn’t that the goal?



piano2, I used to have students say finger numbers in the Primer level, but not at his level. But I really like your suggestion about not listening to hands together until fingerings are followed (of course, there can be changes to fingerings if necessary). I should also use that method for students who refuse to do hands separate and come to each lesson playing mistakes in every measure.

Last edited by chasingrainbows; 04/03/18 03:44 PM.

Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726327
04/03/18 04:21 PM
04/03/18 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I've had many students for 5 - 10 years, which is a fairly good statistic in our music store. With those students, I am noticing I am less tolerant of disregard for instructions.

Over the years, I continue to work with some students on technique-- pre-teen boys who still play with flat, dented or flying fingers, resulting in uneven, unclear notes, concepts learned at the start. Through example, I stress that curving the fingers and keeping them close to the keys will aid in speed, but clarity comes first.

In particular, one student still focuses mainly on how fast he can play. I continue to remind students that fast does not mean good playing. Student played a piece so fast that notes were missed, it was uneven, dynamics, staccato and legato were not followed. . These are concepts learned in the first 6 months of lessons.At this point, I should not have to tell him this at every lesson. This student, and most of my male students ignore fingering notations in the music, despite my highlighting-- I shouldn't have to do this any longer. I was so frustrated, I told him the piece was a mess. I've tried everything, sharing videos, recording him, at every lesson I stress musicality, not speed, but I feel like they just go home and do what they want.

No matter how much I explain, or provide tantalizing presentations on how technique, fingering, etc. all are there for very good reasons, week after week, I find myself facing the same issues. I take some responsibility as I've always focused on a positive atmosphere, and handled critiques gently. As a result, perhaps those critiques were often disregarded because I wasn't taken seriously. How often, or much do you remind students, or insist that these concepts are followed?

Looking at this from the student's point of view: he's been disregarding your instructions for seven years, without consequence. Why should this time be different?

No, you don't want to squeeze the exuberance out of your students, but you shouldn't allow your students to squeeze the energy out of you, either. It may be too late to change this student's ingrained habits, but perhaps some clear separation of pieces learned according to best practices (from the start, and strictly enforced) and the occasional piece played just for fun (as fast or slow as desired, improvisation, whatever) would be something to try with future students.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726328
04/03/18 04:28 PM
04/03/18 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
but not at his level.

So, what "level" do you think your student is really at?

I've had students waltz into my studio having passed level 7, when in fact they are really at level 2. I don't hesitate to educate the parents about their kids' numerous deficiencies.

Most kids can advance one level per year. I've had the little geniuses that can do three levels. And I'm sure right now the dim-wits that fill my studio probably need four years to progress one level.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Gary D.] #2726334
04/03/18 05:32 PM
04/03/18 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

Working with these parents is like working with Pod People.

There is zero cooperation.


I feel sad for this kid.
You may be the only adult who pays attention to him. Maybe the main thing he will learn from you is that humans can treat each other decently.


Having power is not nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.
– Roald Dahl

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: malkin] #2726340
04/03/18 06:23 PM
04/03/18 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Gary D.

Working with these parents is like working with Pod People.

There is zero cooperation.


I feel sad for this kid.
You may be the only adult who pays attention to him. Maybe the main thing he will learn from you is that humans can treat each other decently.

Me too, believe me. It's so sad.

And this is NOTHING compared to some things I've dealt with.

A few years ago I had a little kid, Sean, who was a moxy little guy. He was around 10 when he left me. He already had the kind of "swagger" that you expect at 13. He was SUCH a great kid.

His mother and father were going through a nasty divorce and argued right in front of both me and the boy.

The father kept bring him late to lessons, so one day I asked if he could please get the boy here on time. He went off the wall, screaming and cursing. It was awful.

Then he walked out with the boy.

The mother could do nothing because the father controlled money and was abusive. The father also drank.

It's a tragedy when you have a kid who loves music, loves lessons, and has these kinds of parents.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726363
04/03/18 09:12 PM
04/03/18 09:12 PM
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We could start a new thread "Parents that exhaust our energy." smile


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726368
04/03/18 10:41 PM
04/03/18 10:41 PM
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Well you know, you can lead a horse to water etc.

Free market - Just as your students have a right to pick a different teacher, you have the right to pick different students. I feel this current situation is unfair on you, as you seem to be interested in teaching someone who is actually rewarding to teach. I know there's loyalty and all that, but not when it's sucking the life out of things.

In my experience, which is limited, granted, compared to some on here, having had other practicing pianists around me for the best part of a decade when I was younger, some people respond and some don't. Hopefully I was one of the ones that did, or at least I tried to be. I was interested in playing the right notes at the right speed with the right musical interpretations according to the guides set up by the sheet music, at the very least. And piano was my second instrument, not even my first.

Just sounds like, to be honest these students are lemons. Lost causes, let's be "frank" again. You need to gradually phase them out, and phase new ones in. Or be stuck with them and have a frustrating time of it. But I don't think they magically turn in to responsive students. The choice is yours.

For the record, confusing thread, especially in that middle bit about the bullying stuff, but anyway, I'm used to having every minor discrepancy pointed out to me, every wrong note, every missed dynamic, speed discrepancies, wrong fingerings, everything. And that was when I was an early teenager. And I liked heavy rock music, and flashy fast guitar playing and stuff, but I took the piano seriously. I can't speak for anyone else, but my teacher would get irritated if I hadn't obviously put in my required amount of practice every week. To be taught by him was a privilege. Can't speak for other members of this board, but that was my experience. So I don't think a slightly stern style of teaching is bullying, so long as one keeps it to do with the piano, and doesn't start getting personal with it.

You wouldn't expect everyone to be the best who comes to you, but it just sounds like your current ones are not listening to you really, they hear you but they don't listen. Or understand, seemingly. What you want to see is effort, and it doesn't sound like they're really applying themselves.

I would like to see you trade these pupils for ones that were actually interested in making headway with the craft. And then be quite strict with them in your teaching. I'm sorry if that comes across a bit callous. But I'm sure this would result in great satisfaction for you.

One might also say on the flip side, if this is how you earn your living then you need them for your money, but you still have the right to sack them, there is a limit to what one can take, any job is like that.

Edit - Seems you work in a music store. Does this mean you don't get a say in which pupils you have? If so, the only thing I can think of is to give them stuff that suits their style, that's about all you can do really.

Last edited by Zaphod; 04/03/18 10:50 PM.
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726370
04/03/18 11:00 PM
04/03/18 11:00 PM
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Great thread!
Just between us,
there has been a HUGE rise in autistic people coming into my studio in the past few years.
Sadly, many of the parents are not even aware of their own child's problems.
I'm not a doctor, but I've been doing this a long time...and here's some advice another teaching
once gave me about dealing with problem clients:
Tell them that you don't have any room in the schedule any longer.
This has worked for me in many problematic situations.
Nothing worse than being worn out from teaching, and it is tiring.
After I finish teaching for the day, I open my email to "hey, please listen to my song
and tell me what you think" and I really have to step away and recharge sometimes.


Rob Mullins
www.planetmullins.com
Recording Artist and Jazz Piano Instructor
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726383
04/04/18 03:26 AM
04/04/18 03:26 AM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
We could start a new thread "Parents that exhaust our energy." smile

Frankly, that's where the real problem is.

I can't think of one time in all my teaching years when I've had a serious problem with a young student when a parent took responsibility for what happened in lessons.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Rob Mullins] #2726388
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Originally Posted by Rob Mullins
Great thread!
Just between us,
there has been a HUGE rise in autistic people coming into my studio in the past few years.

This may be because people are told that music helps. I've noticed the same thing. But it is still unclear how Asperger's fits into the autistic spectrum. No one seems to agree, even the experts.

I have tried to work with a couple people who were clearly autistic, and I was not able to get anywhere. For me it was impossible.

But I have two students who are labeled as having Asperger's. One I can teach rather well, and the other is an exceptional young musician who is one of my favorite students.

So I am rather wary of labels.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726389
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This thread exhausted my energy. wink

You mentioned that you were driven to get "A"'s. It sounds like you're more of a perfectionist or purist than what this person is :-)

It also sounds like that may have carried through from you learning the piano, to the success you want to see in your teaching with your own students. (That's not necessarily a bad thing at all).

I'm suspicious that it may not be this student is sapping your energy - but that it may be the way you're responding to him that is, maybe partly due to your desire to see people be the best they can be. . That you mention that you feel like you've failed and not the student only adds to that impression. It sounds like you are quite hard on yourself and have high expectations. (Again not a bad thing, but be aware that it's ok to have exceptions).

I'm not suggesting that this student doesn't have areas to be addressed, or that there's not practical things you can do to put in place (I'm impressed with some of the responses that might work).

But what concerns me is that you seem to be at a point where this is really exhausting you - I think first you need to find away to address the effect it's having in your own life first before worrying about how else you may be able to help your student.

May be by giving yourself and him a break by ignoring those 'fault' areas for a while, and focusing on the areas that he's improving with more if you're able to. If not it might be by separating yourself from this student.

Your satisfaction with what you're doing is just as important as your students. I do hope you find a solution that works well for you, and I hope I haven't been too forward in my thoughts. I just thought it might be helpful to respond from a different angle.

Last edited by Adam.; 04/04/18 06:17 AM.
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Gary D.] #2726471
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
We could start a new thread "Parents that exhaust our energy." smile

Frankly, that's where the real problem is.

I can't think of one time in all my teaching years when I've had a serious problem with a young student when a parent took responsibility for what happened in lessons.


I agree, Gary D. since I work in a music store, parents drop off the students, then pick them up after they've finished shopping. Many of these parents then expect me to chat with them during another student's lesson, if they ever bother to come into the store.

What frustrates me, is that I sent a detailed email regarding the ongoing issues and got a very brief thank you in response. I doubt that the parent even read it. I asked the parent to listen to his child play the song we are having so many issues with and give me his thoughts. Never heard from him.

The boy is a nice young man, but I find myself avoiding make ups and giving credits for missed lessons, and just generally not looking forward to each lesson.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726473
04/04/18 11:38 AM
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Adam, very thought provoking post.. Thank you! When I started teaching, as most of us on PTF, I was fresh out of college, trained by excellent teachers, and had such high aspirations for each of my students! Over time, as I dealt with students forgetting or losing their music, no shows, missing recitals for "lego" competitions, ignoring assignments, not doing theory work, playing too loud, too fast, etc, not liking any music offered to them, I realized those aspirations had to be lowered.

After some of the critiques some of the students received at the last Festival, I had to take some responsibility for overlooking students' lower evaluations--I have not been consistent at every lesson in assuring that the student follow the basic concepts, and have worried more about being "nice" and "positive" rather than being "honest" as Gary D. has pointed out.

I feel that I've failed in my duty to prepare this student to be independent of me on some level.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726479
04/04/18 12:17 PM
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A story: Around the time when I first joined PW, I decided to volunteer-teach rudimentary theory to a young woman I ran into on-line who was in a situation of poverty in some area of the world where no teachers or material could be had. She was very eager, and was mixing herself up by grabbing things willy nilly from the net. It was wonderful because of the combination of her attitude and my efforts. She was eager.

I told this student that I would teach her for free, but only if she followed my instructions. For me, I could review the theory I had learned and try out my thoughts on how I would have liked to have learned it. While we were in different countries and I had not done this before, I did have my teacher training in knowing how to organize course work which is what I did. In the beginning I guided her with some principles on how she was to work, and I gave feedback for every assignment including on how she had worked if the results were off for that reason. She applied herself each time, immediately. In the way she worked, persevered, manner of doing things, enthusiasm etc.this was a "gem of a student" (as one experienced music teacher told me, when I shared some of it). It was very rewarding.

At the end of this I had the material I had created for the course: sound files, resources and links etc.; an outline of how to proceed, what had worked well. I could have gone on to teach this, and even for payment, but opted not to. Why? Because I wouldn't get the same kind of student, and if it was commercially for money, I'd have to accept anyone, under all circumstances - like you guys (more or less).

There was actually a need for what I had created. I worked through the RCM syllabus using the Wharram book, and many private students over here do the exams for the three levels of rudiments. A British teacher, where ABRSM(?) has the same role, told me how it's hard for private teachers to squeeze this in as well. I saw at least one teacher in this country offer on-line group lessons for the three levels, doing what I had just done. His students would meet in a group lesson on-line once a week, send him their homework, for his feedback individually. I could do that. But I'd be getting students who had to study the material for the sake of passing an exam. They would not necessarily be wiling to work as hard or as hand-in-hand as my "gem of a student" had done. Some might be mistaught about theory or confused about some theory thing because of what had happened in private lessons, so there could be conflict. It might become quite a head-ache, and unpleasant. In volunteer-teaching I could drop a student if that person didn't want to do the work; or the student could drop the lessons if he/she discovered they weren't interested. You don't have that when you're teaching privately.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Zaphod] #2726530
04/04/18 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Well you know, you can lead a horse to water etc.

Free market - Just as your students have a right to pick a different teacher, you have the right to pick different students. I feel this current situation is unfair on you, as you seem to be interested in teaching someone who is actually rewarding to teach. I know there's loyalty and all that, but not when it's sucking the life out of things.

In my experience, which is limited, granted, compared to some on here, having had other practicing pianists around me for the best part of a decade when I was younger, some people respond and some don't. Hopefully I was one of the ones that did, or at least I tried to be. I was interested in playing the right notes at the right speed with the right musical interpretations according to the guides set up by the sheet music, at the very least. And piano was my second instrument, not even my first.

Just sounds like, to be honest these students are lemons. Lost causes, let's be "frank" again. You need to gradually phase them out, and phase new ones in. Or be stuck with them and have a frustrating time of it. But I don't think they magically turn in to responsive students. The choice is yours.

For the record, confusing thread, especially in that middle bit about the bullying stuff, but anyway, I'm used to having every minor discrepancy pointed out to me, every wrong note, every missed dynamic, speed discrepancies, wrong fingerings, everything. And that was when I was an early teenager. And I liked heavy rock music, and flashy fast guitar playing and stuff, but I took the piano seriously. I can't speak for anyone else, but my teacher would get irritated if I hadn't obviously put in my required amount of practice every week. To be taught by him was a privilege. Can't speak for other members of this board, but that was my experience. So I don't think a slightly stern style of teaching is bullying, so long as one keeps it to do with the piano, and doesn't start getting personal with it.

You wouldn't expect everyone to be the best who comes to you, but it just sounds like your current ones are not listening to you really, they hear you but they don't listen. Or understand, seemingly. What you want to see is effort, and it doesn't sound like they're really applying themselves.

I would like to see you trade these pupils for ones that were actually interested in making headway with the craft. And then be quite strict with them in your teaching. I'm sorry if that comes across a bit callous. But I'm sure this would result in great satisfaction for you.

One might also say on the flip side, if this is how you earn your living then you need them for your money, but you still have the right to sack them, there is a limit to what one can take, any job is like that.

Edit - Seems you work in a music store. Does this mean you don't get a say in which pupils you have? If so, the only thing I can think of is to give them stuff that suits their style, that's about all you can do really.



Adam, I still require meet and greets before agreeing to take on a new student. We also have the ability to drop a student, however, the store really watches retention rates, so I hesitate to drop the students that exhaust me, which, right now, would be 4 students.

I just want my students to learn the basics of musicianship, to practice and to hopefully enjoy playing the piano as much as possible. I want them to look back on piano lessons with me with some level of joy, and not regret. However, that doesn't mean I should settle for disregard of most of basic concepts. Many of our students are "lemons" for sure. Transfer wrecks, students who never practice, lose music, forget their books, or are being forced to take lessons so parents can shop in peace.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726562
04/04/18 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows

Adam, I still require meet and greets before agreeing to take on a new student. We also have the ability to drop a student, however, the store really watches retention rates, so I hesitate to drop the students that exhaust me, which, right now, would be 4 students.


I wish I could say "I'm Adam Madam". But unfortunately I'm Zaphod. Or did you mean "Adam and I", Adam being your boss? No matter, unimportant.

Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I just want my students to learn the basics of musicianship, to practice and to hopefully enjoy playing the piano as much as possible. I want them to look back on piano lessons with me with some level of joy, and not regret. However, that doesn't mean I should settle for disregard of most of basic concepts.


Quite right, and as you well know, the two go hand in hand. One without the other is no use.

Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Many of our students are "lemons" for sure. Transfer wrecks, students who never practice, lose music, forget their books, or are being forced to take lessons so parents can shop in peace.


I think you should have a word with your boss (Adam?) - you need to look after your own health first and foremost, both mentally and physically, and if you will allow me to say so, your tone in this thread is one of exasperation, although admittedly it is only written and therefore hard to judge, but I've noticed it. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but one worries about your health in this regard, and I think that it's more important for you to cleanse yourself of this purgatory that you seem to be in by ditching the waste of time students.

Perhaps you might want to have a word with your boss about a condition being attached to lessons - the student needs the right attitude. Talent is not necessarily required, but attitude and effort is. For example, I attend martial art classes, and this is the philosophy. If one is seen to be not taking it seriously, one will get asked to not return. I've seen it happen many times.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2726590
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
but not at his level.

So, what "level" do you think your student is really at?

I've had students waltz into my studio having passed level 7, when in fact they are really at level 2. I don't hesitate to educate the parents about their kids' numerous deficiencies.

Most kids can advance one level per year. I've had the little geniuses that can do three levels. And I'm sure right now the dim-wits that fill my studio probably need four years to progress one level.


He's playing Level 4-5 pieces AZN.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Gary D.] #2726770
04/05/18 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
We could start a new thread "Parents that exhaust our energy." smile

Frankly, that's where the real problem is.


What the world needs is an academic innovation: a dual major in piano pedagogy and marriage counseling. ;-)


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: JohnSprung] #2726780
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
We could start a new thread "Parents that exhaust our energy." smile

Frankly, that's where the real problem is.


What the world needs is an academic innovation: a dual major in piano pedagogy and marriage counseling. ;-)



I find the whole teachers' is forum exhausting this week.

If I were visiting here, thinking this is typical of what goes on here, I'd run away. This can't be a good atmosphere for students.

The majority of my students, you and old, are cooperating very well with what I ask them to do. The kind of problems were are writing about in this topic are rather rare for me and are not typical of my teaching.

I also seldom write about such problems, because if a student refuses to try what the teacher suggests, lessons can't work. It's as simple as that.

Last edited by Gary D.; 04/05/18 04:16 PM.

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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726793
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Gary, I always thought (maybe erroneously?) that forums were a safe place to share experiences with others who may or may not have experienced those things and hopefully the OP can learn from others' suggestions and experiences. If all we ever posted were success stories, I doubt that forums would hold as much interest and information exchange as they do here.

Some teachers have the luxury to let students go when they don't practice or follow suggestions, but most that I know do not have the luxury. Retention rates are important in music stores and local music schools as well. I'm sorry that\ you felt this topic was exhausting. The reality is if I could, I would let at least 4 students go, but I cannot.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726796
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Zaphod, sorry, I had actually been replying to you, not "Adam." Thanks for your input.

I am frustrated with these types of students. Are there teachers here that are not frustrated with students like the subject of this thread? A student with almost 7 years of study who ignores everything I've tried to impart to him.

I never want to give up on a student, but I think after 10 years of music store students, it is starting to finally affect my tolerance level.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Adam.] #2726812
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Originally Posted by Adam.
This thread exhausted my energy. wink

You mentioned that you were driven to get "A"'s. It sounds like you're more of a perfectionist or purist than what this person is :-)

It also sounds like that may have carried through from you learning the piano, to the success you want to see in your teaching with your own students. (That's not necessarily a bad thing at all).

I'm suspicious that it may not be this student is sapping your energy - but that it may be the way you're responding to him that is, maybe partly due to your desire to see people be the best they can be. . That you mention that you feel like you've failed and not the student only adds to that impression. It sounds like you are quite hard on yourself and have high expectations. (Again not a bad thing, but be aware that it's ok to have exceptions).

I'm not suggesting that this student doesn't have areas to be addressed, or that there's not practical things you can do to put in place (I'm impressed with some of the responses that might work).

But what concerns me is that you seem to be at a point where this is really exhausting you - I think first you need to find away to address the effect it's having in your own life first before worrying about how else you may be able to help your student.

May be by giving yourself and him a break by ignoring those 'fault' areas for a while, and focusing on the areas that he's improving with more if you're able to. If not it might be by separating yourself from this student.

Your satisfaction with what you're doing is just as important as your students. I do hope you find a solution that works well for you, and I hope I haven't been too forward in my thoughts. I just thought it might be helpful to respond from a different angle.


Hi Adam, enjoyed your post. I am exhausted in general with these kinds of students, that, if I taught them privately, I would recommend they find another teacher. Many wonderful ideas have been suggested in this thread. smile

I think that the fault lies with me, in that I've ignored those "fault areas" and haven't consistently ensured that these basic concepts are observed.

Last edited by chasingrainbows; 04/05/18 05:13 PM.

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