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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726816
04/05/18 05:52 PM
04/05/18 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows

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 don't teach formally, but my job does involve educating people (adults more than kids), and with much greater things at stake (i.e. often life and death).

And I use every trick in the book (and out of the book, out of the box, and even extra-terrestrial....) to try to get some people to do what they need to do. With many, it's been over a decade of futility. Some people will never change, will never learn, until it's too late. With others, suddenly something twigs (usually because of a tragedy, unfortunately), and they see the light (as it were)......

But I never blame myself. I can only do my best. Human nature is what it is.


"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."
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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726852
04/05/18 09:34 PM
04/05/18 09:34 PM
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Orange County, CA
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
He's playing Level 4-5 pieces AZN.

That's further than most kids ever get to.

You can relax and know that you've achieved more than what's feasible with this student. You should give him pieces that will make him sound bigger than he actually is.

I've made similar decisions for many kids who are much further along than your student. These students have maxed out. In lieu of musical depth, it's time for them to explore musical breadth. One kid has already passed level 10 (and not by the skin of his teeth, either) but he decided that classical music is not for him, so pop/jazz/contemporary music here we come!


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726855
04/05/18 09:38 PM
04/05/18 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
[quote=Adam.]
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.


If you're drawing that conclusion now, then that's good. Some teachers never make such realisations. Probably a sign that you are indeed a competent teacher, willing to review and criticise your own methods as well as the students.

Make the tweak, increase your own value, it can only work out well for you.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726857
04/05/18 09:47 PM
04/05/18 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows


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.


It's important to listen to your feelings of frustration-- it's a sign that something is not going well (which is why you've asked the forum for ideas). It's normal to feel frustrated and want to solve the problem. I don't see an issue with sharing your problems with other teachers, even if it seems negative. Most of my students are doing fine, but it's sometimes the difficult ones who make me think.

At a workshop I attended, a clinician compared teaching piano lessons to being in a rowboat with the student-- if one party is not pulling their weight, then the other has to put in more energy to keep the boat moving. If the teacher doesn't prepare for lessons or develop their skills, the student will struggle. If the student doesn't practice or take suggestions, then the teacher works harder to motivate and push things along.

If I feel like my energy is being drained, I try to examine what's been going on in lessons, with the student's life, and also with myself-- am I too busy? is my schedule stacked with too many "challenging" personalities on certain days, is my personal life stressed, etc. I also ask myself whether my goals for the lesson are aligned with those of the students, and if our goals aren't the same, then what can be done? Usually there's some common ground between my ideal (helping the student become the best musician they can be) and what the student finds interesting (learning fast pieces to impress friends, playing the complete works of Justin Bieber, whatever.) I don't think it's giving up on a student to re-orient your goals to something less than perfection. One of my students has taken 5 years to get to level 2B-- she is a lovely human of normal intelligence but often does not follow instructions. I have kept from going completely insane by accepting this and celebrating her small victories along the way.
Working harder than the student is tiring; better to have a destination that you can agree on and row the boat together.


Private piano teacher
B. Mus., M.Mus. (piano performance & pedagogy).
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726879
04/06/18 01:48 AM
04/06/18 01:48 AM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
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.

I understand, but this is NOT a teachers' forum. I wish we had one. I really do. But we don't.

Instead it is "mixed group", where students are encouraged to participate, and such students may or may not have one minute of teaching experience. So if you or I post about problems we are having teaching, be prepared to get some pretty off-the-wall feedback.

Some of it will be excellent, but a lot of it is coming from people who haven't walked in our shoes.

I have held back making suggestions, analyses or giving opinions.

I have already said, clearly, that I have a few students who try my patience. It is true that I can cut them loose. You seem to be saying that you can't. But I assure you that I have bills to pay, so I put up with some situations that are far from ideal and hope that they will improve.

That said, I've never endured a situation that I don't think works for years.

For me everything that is really important happens in the first year, and the most important things happen in the first 6 months. If a good foundation has been laid down, if I'm getting cooperation, then things are going to work. I have said before that I am unusually careful about setting down exact instructions and being sure they are followed.

I don't bend, but I have to explain that this is IF students are playing at home. If I know that they ARE playing then I mostly consider it a flaw in my teaching if the playing is getting us nowhere. If there is time being put in, and I see continuing problems, I immediately start checking. What is really happening? Are my directions being followed? Are the students writing down times in which they do whatever they want, ignoring my lesson plans? Do parents report that there is a problem, meaning that they put down time that they are not doing? Are the students reading my directions? Are they trying to follow them?

I insist that a parent be present in lessons for small children. If they won't be present, I will only continue in the rather rare situations where the children work entirely on their own, with no supervision at all. This USUALLY means that a parent or parents want to drop kids off and want no other responsibility, and it just does not work.

As kids get older, or more advanced, this changes. Obviously there will come a time when children advance so far that the parents no longer have a clue about what we are doing, unless they are also musicians. At that point I'm fine with kids, of any age, coming by themselves to lesson - so long as I see progress continue.

But within reason I remain in charge. It can't work otherwise. My students are free to discuss fingering, interpretation, what they want to work on next. I'm open to any style of music, and to me becoming more advanced means that you have more choices. I have students bring in things I don't know, and sometimes things I don't really like much. But if they are good enough to play the music, I'm on board.

What I won't put up with is the kind of thick-headed stubbornness that you seem to be describing in this boy. I say what I want. I say how I expect to work. If I get no cooperation, I end the lessons.

This is important: IT ALMOST NEVER GETS TO THAT POINT, EVER.

I'm a man, I'm old, and I have a very strong personality. I have learned to use these things as advantages, because we can use gender, age and disposition as trump cards to intimidate and even bully. I don't believe in doing that. But I work from strength, and that's just who I am.

So I tell everyone, without exception: "If you screw things up, then I'm going to tell you how to fix them. I'll have answers. But if you don't listen to my answers, I'm the wrong teacher for you and you need to find someone else."

Then, when people show me cooperation, and when I see that they are making really good progress, I gradually let them play anything they want, with a huge amount of freedom.

I've never worked with a student for 6 or 7 years whom I did not like and with whom I have not felt comfortable. I've never made it past a couple years when things did not work, and usually things never lasted nearly that long.

That may make me seem like a dictator, a really unpleasant person, but one adult was with me for over two decades and would still be with me right now if she had not had to move several hundred miles away. We still talk on the phone weekly, and I am working with her on theory and analysis. She is 78.
Quote

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.

If you had let this one student go several years ago, would it really have changed your income or your relationship with the store?

If you were a bit more strict regarding people following your instructions, how do you know that you would not end up with more students, who played better? And a more secure relationship with your store?

How do you start small children? I'm assuming the boy you are talking about started quite young, and that an adult was not present in lessons to see what was really going on.

You say that parents just drop the kids off and take off. Well, parents TRY that with me too. The very first lesson I make clear to parents that I work with the parents too, and if there is no parent in the lesson, it may take five years to advance to where I get the average young student to in one year, when an adult is on board.

So I won't even start lessons without this agreement, and I can't remember more than a couple times over the last couple years where I have not gotten this agreement. It's the one "rule" I won't allow violated. There are, of course, emergencies when someone else brings the child. Those are not the usual thing. But if a parent goes back on our agreement, thinking he or she can just drop a small kid off and I'm magically going to make everything happen, we either get that straightened out or it's a deal breaker.

You could at least try to make that change for the parents who are open to having their kids progress much faster.

Last edited by Gary D.; 04/06/18 01:55 AM.

Piano Teacher
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2726970
04/06/18 02:02 PM
04/06/18 02:02 PM
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Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
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.

This is called "expensive babysitting." Any typical piano teacher is going to have oodles of these students. I'd like to consider myself above average, but even I have to put up with these students. As long as all parties involved are content, I have no problem taking money from these people.

Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
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.

"Give up" might be the wrong word. Change your mindset about the type of service you provide.

Let's say I have 20 students in my studio. I'm okay with 18 of them being absolutely horrid at piano, with zero interest. All I need are those 2 brilliant kids who can make my job worthwhile. And at the rate it's going right now, that's the type of studio I'm going to have in three years. Almost all the beginners I teach right now are uniformly hopeless.

Also, are you able to raise your rates at the piano store? A higher paycheck may reduce the pain of dealing with deadbeat students. I recently started raising my rates (not insignificantly) to a certain portion of my students, and I'm surprised that almost all of them stayed on.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2726996
04/06/18 03:22 PM
04/06/18 03:22 PM
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Posts: 4,704
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

"Give up" might be the wrong word. Change your mindset about the type of service you provide.


I'd call this adjusting your expectations.


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

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727008
04/06/18 03:51 PM
04/06/18 03:51 PM
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USA
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ChasingRainbows,

I've been thinking a lot this past week about your situation, and the various comments on this thread. (Lots of good thoughts expressed here.)

I have a few ideas for you, but may I ask you a few questions to make sure I understand first?

I'm not sure what you mean by this:

Quote
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.


Who is the "We" at the beginning of the quote? Do you mean the teachers at the store are allowed to drop students, rather than only the store owners/managers having the power to dismiss students?

Also, what do you mean by "the store really watches retention rates"? Have teachers been let go for losing or dismissing too many students? What does the store do when there are falling retention rates?

I have other questions, but will stop here for now. smile

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727015
04/06/18 04:01 PM
04/06/18 04:01 PM
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Florida
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I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Zaphod] #2727031
04/06/18 04:48 PM
04/06/18 04:48 PM
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Posts: 1,798
NJ
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
[quote=Adam.]
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.


If you're drawing that conclusion now, then that's good. Some teachers never make such realisations. Probably a sign that you are indeed a competent teacher, willing to review and criticise your own methods as well as the students.

Make the tweak, increase your own value, it can only work out well for you.


Full disclosure- when my child was going through the terrible 2's and 3's, etc., sometimes I would get so tired of saying no, or later on, grounding, that I would go into denial mode. Pretty much what I do with some students, since, as others have said, I try to focus on what they do well, and be positive, but the result is not ideal.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2727036
04/06/18 04:55 PM
04/06/18 04:55 PM
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Posts: 1,798
NJ
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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[u][/u]
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
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.

This is called "expensive babysitting." Any typical piano teacher is going to have oodles of these students. I'd like to consider myself above average, but even I have to put up with these students. As long as all parties involved are content, I have no problem taking money from these people.

Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
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.

"Give up" might be the wrong word. Change your mindset about the type of service you provide.

Let's say I have 20 students in my studio. I'm okay with 18 of them being absolutely horrid at piano, with zero interest. All I need are those 2 brilliant kids who can make my job worthwhile. And at the rate it's going right now, that's the type of studio I'm going to have in three years. Almost all the beginners I teach right now are uniformly hopeless.

Also, are you able to raise your rates at the piano store? A higher paycheck may reduce the pain of dealing with deadbeat students. I recently started raising my rates (not insignificantly) to a certain portion of my students, and I'm surprised that almost all of them stayed on.


Teachers did recently get a tiny pay hike. Store gets 30 to 40% of that. You're right, AZN, those students who are committed and do the work make up for the deadbeats, but there are enough of those deadbeats to weigh down my enthusiasm when they come for a lesson. I usually do think, ok, if the family is all on board with this kid's progress, keep on doing my best.

Last edited by chasingrainbows; 04/06/18 04:55 PM.

Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Andamento] #2727039
04/06/18 05:03 PM
04/06/18 05:03 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Andamento
ChasingRainbows,

I've been thinking a lot this past week about your situation, and the various comments on this thread. (Lots of good thoughts expressed here.)

I have a few ideas for you, but may I ask you a few questions to make sure I understand first?

I'm not sure what you mean by this:

Quote
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.


Who is the "We" at the beginning of the quote? Do you mean the teachers at the store are allowed to drop students, rather than only the store owners/managers having the power to dismiss students?

Also, what do you mean by "the store really watches retention rates"? Have teachers been let go for losing or dismissing too many students? What does the store do when there are falling retention rates?

I have other questions, but will stop here for now. smile


Teachers used to be able to have meet and greets prior to accepting a student. The store is attempting to do away with meet and greets. A few teachers have insisted on continuing with the meet and greet. For me, that enables me somewhat to "weed" out potential deadbeats. Likewise, we can dismiss a student. The store would never do that. However, corporate watches our student numbers and our retention of those students. If a teacher can't show a decent retention rate (not sure what the time parameters are), the store will just stop assigning students to the teacher, or can fire the teacher.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: dogperson] #2727041
04/06/18 05:05 PM
04/06/18 05:05 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727043
04/06/18 05:09 PM
04/06/18 05:09 PM
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Boynton Beach, FL
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.

What?? Since when? Is the teacher's name on the list of who is competing? Is the teacher performing? If not, then it's always the student who gets the acclaim or blame.

Perhaps this is indicative of part of the problem. It's fine to be a conscientious teacher who wants to improve, but there's a line one can cross that is not healthy for anyone involved. I think you may need to take a step back emotionally and let the chips fall where they may.

Ultimately, it's not your job to make sure a student learns. All you need to do is teach.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727044
04/06/18 05:09 PM
04/06/18 05:09 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Gary D., thank you for sharing your expertise. You are an amazing teacher. I plan to respond within the next or so.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727068
04/06/18 07:00 PM
04/06/18 07:00 PM
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Quote
If a teacher can't show a decent retention rate (not sure what the time parameters are), the store will just stop assigning students to the teacher, or can fire the teacher.


If there are other piano teachers at the store besides yourself, how about a few student swaps between you and another teacher? Are there any other piano teachers there who are having similar problems getting their students to cooperate? It may be beneficial for each of those students to switch to another teacher at the store if they're not working well with their present instructors.

Swapping students within the store itself would not change the store's retention rate. I would hope corporate wouldn't have a problem with that, when swaps could be made in the best interests of the students (and their frustrated teachers).

Just a thought.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727085
04/06/18 08:27 PM
04/06/18 08:27 PM
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Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.

I used to get very uptight about piano competitions. My heart raced as my students played their one or two pieces in front of the judges. I was more of a nervous wreck than the kids.

I still occasionally feel that way, for a select few students that I tend to care more about. Otherwise, the best thing is to feel neutral about these competitions. Most of the time the judges are idiots, anyway.

There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere. And then came the actual competition; the student had a memory lapse the size of Delaware. Two of the three judges cared about "note perfect" performances and wrote very critical comments about not being ready for competitions. Gee. I'd rather not get into the blame game. Nobody wins.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2727127
04/07/18 01:40 AM
04/07/18 01:40 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano


There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere.

Did you do a memory test? Did you make this student play his competition piece starting at multiple starting points?


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: dogperson] #2727129
04/07/18 02:03 AM
04/07/18 02:03 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could

I don't believe a lot of what people say, though in many cases I do believe that THEY believe the things they say.

I certainly give myself credit when students do well with me, just as I always gave good teachers credit for being good teachers for me. I think that's fair.

I don't feel any blame or sense of failure when students don't try. Some just want to be given knowledge, no work, nor responsibility. These are the "Groundhog Day" students. Every week is a repeat. Nothing happens in between lessons.

But I do take responsibility for "missing the boat". There are situations in which I most definitely could have done better as a teachers, with more knowledge.

An example: I have a student right now who drove me nuts for a couple years. She reversed her fingers. Every fingering was wrong. 2 was 4, 1 was 5. But I was at least 50% of the problem, because I had not noticed that she is very obviously mildly dyslexic. In desperation I made her say every finger number, for every measure, hands separate. It was torture for her, and torture for me. I didn't think it was working, but it did, eventually.

But I now know to do this with EVERY student, in the beginning. With some I can drop saying numbers very quickly, because my deal with students is that they don't have to say what they don't miss. But the moment they miss fingerings, I go right back to making them say them.

Now this gets fixed in the first month or so, with students who will have no problems. For those who have problems with fingerings, it takes longer, but no more torture as with this one girl.

The torture was because I did not check for the problem at the very beginning, and that's poor teaching, thus my responsibility to fix.


Piano Teacher
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Gary D.] #2727130
04/07/18 02:13 AM
04/07/18 02:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere.

Did you do a memory test? Did you make this student play his competition piece starting at multiple starting points?

This is the kid who had a flawless memory, and he never messed up except for that one time. He literally embodied the music to such a deep degree, he probably could start from any note and play to the end. The memory lapse lasted maybe 3 seconds, enough for him to stomp his foot and let out an expletive. Then he continued as if nothing had happened.

Some judges have ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to memory lapses.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2727144
04/07/18 04:03 AM
04/07/18 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere.

Did you do a memory test? Did you make this student play his competition piece starting at multiple starting points?

This is the kid who had a flawless memory, and he never messed up except for that one time. He literally embodied the music to such a deep degree, he probably could start from any note and play to the end. The memory lapse lasted maybe 3 seconds, enough for him to stomp his foot and let out an expletive. Then he continued as if nothing had happened.

Some judges have ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to memory lapses.

Some people are fools, and they are frequently chosen as judges.

You said "the size of Delaware". I would never associate a state, even a small one, as only 3 seconds long. Such memory lapses have happened to the greatest pianists on the planet. wink

I have a young student who can't memorize anything, not even a phrase. As impossible as this sounds, it's true!


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727192
04/07/18 10:29 AM
04/07/18 10:29 AM
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chasingrainbows,

Good choice of screen name.

I'm seeing your frustration as very natural part of teaching and also learning to teach.

You wrote that you are an idealist and a perfectionist. If you accept all types of students in your studio, I'd suggest developing the ability to shift your sense of idealism and perfectionism from standards of musicianship (learned from your teachers) to how you reach individual students at their level of readiness.

You won't change your personality (and why? it's a great personality!) but you can change your focus, at least in your lessons, from the art of music to the art of teaching. For some students remembering to bring their music to every lesson is a big step. Work on teaching something of value to every student. It's separate from teaching musicianship. Maybe we could say it's a prerequisite. Don't give up your standard, but shift your focus as needed. Try to excel as a teacher. It will happen with small improvements over time. That shift will lessen your feelings of frustration and failure.

(OTOH, want to be a teacher? Get used to dealing with failure, and try, try, try again another day...)

I taught what was considered, at our school, a difficult, intimidating subject. I experimented with lots of different approaches and materials and would briefly explain to the students how certain approaches might work. Those "experiments" worked better than I ever hoped. For me, it was fascinating and really got me engaged with teaching all different types of students. For the students, they started thinking about how they learn and took more initiative. Why not try to invite this boy into his own learning? It might work with him.

This is just one way of looking at it. There's lots of other good perspectives here which could work equally well. Anyone who has ever taught empathizes with your OP. It's not simple.

I hope this is clear. I'm trying to keep it brief. (I need to practice before the day slips by :-)


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727197
04/07/18 11:08 AM
04/07/18 11:08 AM
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Chasingrainbows, something has been niggling at me from the get-go. Your student comes in. He's supposed to play slowly enough, accurately, doing things he's been told for 5 years already. Yet once again he races sloppily through the piece like a happy speed demon. In this scenario, do you suffer through the whole thing and remind him afterward? Or do you stop him right away after the first 8 notes?

I don't usually watch reality shows but I got curious for a while about those court shows. There is one where the judge insists on instructions being followed, and it can go as follows:
judge: What colour was the car?
plaintiff: He's so unreasonable. He dashed off ...
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: As I was saying, he dashed....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: It was an old rattly car. He's so careless.....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: Red

The other person simply can't go ahead and do whatever he wants to do, because each time he's told "Stop". After a while the other person learns, "Every time I don't do as asked, I get stopped. It's easier to do the thing I'm asked to do." Would this work in that kind of situation?

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727227
04/07/18 01:32 PM
04/07/18 01:32 PM
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Thoughts on fingering:

I'm friends with a contemporary composer of student piano music. She, in her straightforward way, has advised teachers to avoid being tied to printed fingerings in whatever edition a student is using.

Some fingerings will work better than others, obviously, but printed fingerings are only suggestions, not cast in stone. (And she has said that sometimes the fingerings she suggests for her pieces end up being changed by the editor by the time of publication, anyway. So what is printed may not even be the composer's intent, and might not work well with every student, given each one's unique physical characteristics.)

ChasingRainbows, how about if you said to your students who ignore fingerings, "I see you're not using the fingerings written in the music. How about you work out a fingering right now that works for your hand, and then you can use that each time you practice the piece?"

That way, you're giving the student some autonomy, but still guiding the process. You could suggest something like, "Here's one way some pianists like to finger a passage like this. What do you think?" If he comes up with something atrocious, ask, "How does that feel for your hand? What about something like this? [Suggest another fingering.] Does that feel better or worse?"

Go all the way through each piece, hands separately, letting the student write in the final decision on how to finger the piece. Letting the student be in the driver seat will make it more likely that he'll not ignore fingerings, because he's had opportunity to think through why certain fingerings do or don't make sense. Also, his own writing on the page, rather than yours or the editor's, may encourage him to observe the fingerings, rather than ignore them.

And for the students who both like to play fast and ignore fingerings, they might see the connection between using efficient fingerings and achieving more fluency. It's easier to play fast when you're not using awkward fingerings.

Or maybe do something silly, if this is up the student's alley, like writing in random, bizarre finger numbers and saying, "Can you play fast using these finger numbers?" "What's the best fingering that helps you play as fast as you like?"

Lighten the atmosphere with humor. smile

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727230
04/07/18 01:37 PM
04/07/18 01:37 PM
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Perhaps the best thing for fingering is for one to buy music without any, or at least too much fingering in it, and make custom fingering up that suits the particular student, after all everyone has different hands.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727231
04/07/18 01:37 PM
04/07/18 01:37 PM
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You might also slow a student down by having him play the top staff with his left hand and the bottom with his right. What fingering would you use to do it that way? you could ask.

Nothing like playing Twister at the keyboard.

Right hand on the red circle.

Left foot green.

Left hand fifth finger three octaves above Middle C.

Right hand two on bass line 1 G.

YMMV, but you'd be having fun, anyway. laugh

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: keystring] #2727741
04/09/18 05:19 PM
04/09/18 05:19 PM
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Posts: 1,798
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by keystring
Chasingrainbows, something has been niggling at me from the get-go. Your student comes in. He's supposed to play slowly enough, accurately, doing things he's been told for 5 years already. Yet once again he races sloppily through the piece like a happy speed demon. In this scenario, do you suffer through the whole thing and remind him afterward? Or do you stop him right away after the first 8 notes?

I don't usually watch reality shows but I got curious for a while about those court shows. There is one where the judge insists on instructions being followed, and it can go as follows:
judge: What colour was the car?
plaintiff: He's so unreasonable. He dashed off ...
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: As I was saying, he dashed....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: It was an old rattly car. He's so careless.....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: Red

The other person simply can't go ahead and do whatever he wants to do, because each time he's told "Stop". After a while the other person learns, "Every time I don't do as asked, I get stopped. It's easier to do the thing I'm asked to do." Would this work in that kind of situation?


keystring, I'm LOL over your example - a great one and I probably know what Judge you are talking about. I tend to do the opposite of the things teachers did to me that unnerved me. One of those was teachers who picked apart every single measure so that it was impossible to relax in some form and get into playing the piece. I usually have them play the piece first (unless it's more than 5 pages long) then play it again for issues to stop and work on. I consider the first playing to be their "warm up" since the majority of my students never play prior to their lesson. So, yes, I usually suffer first.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Morodiene] #2727742
04/09/18 05:25 PM
04/09/18 05:25 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.

What?? Since when? Is the teacher's name on the list of who is competing? Is the teacher performing? If not, then it's always the student who gets the acclaim or blame.

Perhaps this is indicative of part of the problem. It's fine to be a conscientious teacher who wants to improve, but there's a line one can cross that is not healthy for anyone involved. I think you may need to take a step back emotionally and let the chips fall where they may.

Ultimately, it's not your job to make sure a student learns. All you need to do is teach.


In this particular event, teachers all receive performance schedules with students listed by teacher. Students who move on to the Honors Recital are also listed by teacher on the schedules. I recently heard of a parent who screamed at her child's teacher after a recital in which the student made mistakes. I'm sure there are many parents who think the teacher didn't prepare their child enough to win a competition, or award or perform well in a recital.

I believe it is my job to ensure the student learns enough to eventually not need me anymore. Isn't that the goal of teaching?


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727754
04/09/18 06:22 PM
04/09/18 06:22 PM
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Canada
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
keystring, I'm LOL over your example - a great one and I probably know what Judge you are talking about. I tend to do the opposite of the things teachers did to me that unnerved me. One of those was teachers who picked apart every single measure so that it was impossible to relax in some form and get into playing the piece. I usually have them play the piece first (unless it's more than 5 pages long) then play it again for issues to stop and work on. I consider the first playing to be their "warm up" since the majority of my students never play prior to their lesson. So, yes, I usually suffer first.

lol - I loved it myself.

Thinking: You don't want to be intimidating the way your teacher was, but this isn't working either. Your routine right now means that your student gets to rush through at least once, and in a way he's getting free rein. What if you establish a new routine with this student, and explain why. Something like: you want some kind of warm-up for him, but it can't be a piece because of what he does. When he does start a piece, then before he starts, perhaps one of the things you want him to start doing (play slowly, maybe with counting, at a tempo that you set) - and if he starts to race, you stop him and get him to start again. Might that put the ball back into your court? Maybe - if he does play this way, that you point out how clean it now sounds - how much better - so he has an incentive.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727764
04/09/18 06:44 PM
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Keystring, I will do exactly that at his lesson tomorrow. Thanks! BTW, he actually played really well at his last lesson (after email sent to Dad). Tempo was even, not too fast, no mistakes, almost every note articulation followed. I was elated and he agreed that it was the best he had ever played that particular piece. It was a good lesson.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
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